Innovation Management

The digitisation of German companies and authorities

16 September 2015

The digitisation of German companies and authorities

In a joint study, the Universität Hamburg, HITeC e. V. and Sopra Steria Consulting have examined the subject of DIGITAL EXCELLENCE of German companies and authorities. The findings of this study are based on workshops and interviews with experts on digitisation from the economy and administration, as well as on quantitative data collection based on a survey.

Our study shows that many companies have already taken steps in the direction of DIGITAL EXCELLENCE. However, their degrees of preparation for and implementation of the transformation vary considerably.

For many companies it is therefore relevant to learn from digitally excellent companies and to develop and implement their own digitisation initiatives. Companies must ask themselves how they can uti­lise the chances offered by digitisation and react to the risks. The perspectives of DIGITAL EXCELLENCE offer a comprehensive view of the digitisation of companies.

For companies that haven’t started as “digital nati­ves”, the path to DIGITAL EXCELLENCE means that a comprehensive transformation process must be initiated and implemented.
The gaze of companies from various branches quickly turns to the leading companies of the digital economy (e.g. Google, Amazon and Facebook). They have flexible and modern IT architectures, optimise their digital offerings in short cycles and continually develop new digital business models, or further develop those already existing. While these compa­nies are leaders in terms of digital work methods, they are only suitable to a limited extent as role models for the transformation process necessary in other branches, as they haven’t experienced this themselves.

Significant changes in various key disciplines are expected of companies on the path to DIGITAL EXCELLENCE. The study defines these ten disciplines in a model. In order to achieve DIGITAL EXCELLENCE, all company areas must be involved in the transformation process.

Digital lighthouse projects are often drawn upon as an indicator for DIGITAL EXCELLENCE. While the study findings show that these projects can have a positive internal and external effect, this should not be confused with the comprehensive transformation of a company. Digital lighthouse projects are not sufficient to achieve DIGITAL EXCELLENCE. A comprehensive trans­formation is required.

Drivers of digitisation

The driver of the speed of develop­ment is initially the capability to digitise the products and services of a company. In addition to this, it is primarily the forces of “customer and partner”, the “modern working world” and “IT innovation” that increase the pressure for digitisation. Competition and regulation are less important. As might be expected, the pressure for transformation is not as high in the public sector as in the private economy.

Experts initially presented an image showing that the pressure in consumer markets (B2C) is greater than in markets for business customers (B2B). However, the study does not confirm this: The pressure was assessed as nearly equally high for the B2B and the B2C environ­ment by the participants of the survey. The findings suggest that the compa­nies, irrespective of the branch and the B2B/B2C orientation, must transform considerably in order to achieve DIGITAL EXCELLENCE.

Ten disciplines of DIGITAL EXCELLENCE were identified in the course of the study. Combined, they demonstrate the breadth of the required transfor­mation. The ten disciplines of DIGITAL EXCELLENCE can be classified in four categories.

Core disciplines:

  • Digital Leadership
  • Digital Empowerment

Main fields of transformation:

  • Customer and Partner Engagement
  • Digital Platform Management
  • Business Model Innovation
  • IT Architecture Transformation
  • Process Digitisation and Automation


  • Data-driven Agility

Mandatory disciplines:

  • Digital Security
  • Digital Compliance

The findings of the study confirm the relevance of the disciplines. Only the discipline of Digital Compliance was classified as being somewhat less important.

Current status and challenges in the disciplines

On the whole, the study shows that the companies still have a lot of work ahead of them in most of these disciplines. Especially great challenges are found in the core disciplines of Digital Leadership and Digital Empowerment. There are considerable deficits with regard to anchoring the subject of digi­tisation at the level of business management, the establishing of suitable decision-making structures and the competence of the employees.

In addition to this, the study clearly points out where the differences between better and more poorly positioned companies lie with regard to DIGITAL EXCELLENCE. Better-positioned companies possess considerably greater transparency with regard to interaction with customers and partners via a variety of channels. They offer their customers and partners considerably more services through digital channels. Especially pronounced are differences with regard to the central methods for DIGITAL EXCELLENCE. In the case of data-driven agility, better-positioned companies learn considerably more quickly and more systematically from data concerning digital offerings and channels than those more poorly positioned. Because we view data-driven agility to be the central motor of DIGI­TAL EXCELLENCE, the need of many companies to catch up in this regard is especially apparent.


Three fundamental strategies were identified in the course of the study. The first strategy involves the comprehensive transformation of a company. The second strategy consists of the re-establishment of a “digital subsidiary”. Fragmented digitisation can currently be observed in many companies. However, this is not suited to achieve DIGITAL EXCELLENCE.

A series of concrete measures were identified with which the companies are striving in the direction of DIGITAL EXCELLENCE. These include, among others, digital lighthouse projects, the establishing of interdisciplinary teams, cooperation with relevant platforms, as well as the systematic measuring and promoting of the degree of digitisation.

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