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Danish Companies in the Digital Race

9 February, 2018
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Thomas Honoré

Chief Executive Officer


Recently, the Danish Government announced its digital strategy, which aims at getting Denmark back on track in the digital race. Denmark is losing ground to other countries, especially to those in Asia. The government is therefore launching 38 initiatives that will help Danish SME companies to digitalize. A strong and visionary initiative from our Government, which I am welcoming with open arms. However, companies must act upon this opportunity, otherwise it is a waste of money and resources.

When I read the Government’s digital strategy, I cannot help but think about this old Danish saying: “you can force the horse to the trough, but you cannot force it to drink”.

The Government is coming with a new initiative in the attempt to speed Denmark up in the digitalization race, and this time, the strategy is visionary and realistic. The Government aims at making Denmark a digital hub, make data the new growth engine for companies and help Danish SMEs to digitalize. These are all initiatives that will help Danish companies make a quantum leap in the digital transformation.

This is all very nice. But if the vision and will is nowhere to be found in Danish companies, and the business objective is unclear, we will not get anywhere. So instead of talking technology, we must talk business.

Many companies get anxious when they hear the word “digitalization” because it smells of IT and technology – of nerdiness really! But in reality, digitalization is about business. And that is the leader’s core competence.

Digitalization is about giving companies the ability to address new types of challenges, gain competition on the market and give customers a better experience. And this is how visions should be seen, instead of only thinking Big Data, IoT and Artificial Intelligence.

Once their vision is set, Danish company leaders will naturally get to the “digital trough”. The Government’s initiative, which includes private counseling, coaching and mentoring sessions, is the right step towards envisioning the technological opportunities. But companies still need a wholehearted vision and will.

I often talk to Danish leaders who are in doubt of how they should tackle the digital opportunities and threats, and I have the following advice:

Outside in. All market changes come from outside, for example from a competitor which offers a different type of customer experience. Look at how your customers see you and define how the ultimate customer experience should be in the future.

Think leadership first. If you don’t have the capacity as a leader to define visions for the company, then you should determine whether you have the right leadership team. Even in a small company, you need a leadership team that can think innovatively, be visionaries and act strongly. 

Build on what you have. It doesn’t help to fundamentally change the business model to become digital. If the change is too risky and takes too long to implement, then it is not viable. Focus on what you are good at. This is also relevant on the technology front. Think about what you can reuse, integrate and share rather than what you can replace.

Start small and take chances. Stop making big plans. The market changes quickly and long-term plans are rarely ever completed. It is better to get started with small digital projects and observe how your customers are reacting to your initiatives. But you should also take chances and make sure they are big enough so that they mean something to your customers. Otherwise you are wasting time and money.

Denmark must be digital front-runners to cope with global competition. There is no doubt in that. So my advice to leaders is to grasp the help you can get from the Government’s initiatives, but first of all start by taking a close look at your business model and always take the customers as a starting point.      

Categories: Digital Transformation, Digitization

About The Author

Thomas Honoré is Chief Executive officer and President of Columbus.

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