fortiss whitepaper

Successfully implementing a digitalization strategy in SMEs

Digitalization is a megatrend and a key to the Bavarian industry’s ability to innovate and compete. With small-to-medium enterprises however, there is a considerable amount of uncertainty regarding the opportunities and risks associated with digitalization. With this in mind, fortiss and the Technical University Munich collaborated on a white paper titled “QuickCheck Digitalization – Digital Transformation in Bavarian Companies” that outlines the current status of digitalization and identifies problem areas in order to derive targeted recommendations for a digitalization strategy.

One of the great challenges for small-to-medium enterprises (SME) is, and will continue to be, accurately assessing the risks associated with the deployment and successful use of technologies for the digital transformation. Apart from the need for information related to concrete applications, one of the still unanswered questions within many Bavarian companies is what are the prerequisites and measures that are required for practical implementation? This is despite the fact that SMEs are doing a good job of exploiting the dynamics of digitalization, and because of their size, flexible structures and faster decision-making, are well-positioned to more quickly seize the opportunities that digitization offers.

To understand the current status of digitalization in SMEs in Bavaria, fortiss, together with the Technical University Munich, surveyed selected companies in the metal and electronics industry in mid-2020. Under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Helmut Krcmar (TUM), a survey was developed that highlights different areas of digitalization within companies based on current research.

Recognizing digitalization’s potential

The 50 participating companies first took stock of their own situation by means of an online survey. In one-day workshops, the survey team then discussed the results with each of the affected companies, developed possible measures and derived dedicated recommendations for the individual situation. The analysis clearly showed that the companies have their sights on the necessary transformation process. In concrete terms, the companies are planning within the next five years to increase the digitalization of their business model by more than 30 percent. In their estimation, the digital transformation is necessary to optimize existing processes and remain competitive.

While the vast majority of the survey participants have already developed initial projects and visions, one seldom comes across a concrete digital transformation strategy with an explicit realization plan. This is often tied to a focus on the day-to-day business, a lack of roles and responsibilities for the digital transformation, plus insufficient corporate-wide and global coordination. The survey also clearly revealed that digitalization impacts all areas of the company and that a wide variety of circumstances and framework conditions makes the digital transformation a highly-complex endeavor. Given that the technologies for supporting the digital transformation (big data analytics, sensor networks, cloud services, artificial intelligence) are being continuously enhanced, the ongoing development of organization structures and expertise is imperative for the future viability of companies.

The challenge is generating the required knowledge and deploying the resources for driving the digital transformation forward in a targeted manner. However, companies do not often enough identify and embrace the available opportunities. The Free State of Bavaria offers broad support for Bavarian companies to develop and implement individual strategies for digitalization, including funding programs, as well as collaboration with universities and research institutes, which offer financial incentives, opportunities for knowledge transfer and forms of personnel support.

Strategically developing digitalization

The complete results of the online survey and the follow-up workshops will be presented in a concise and easy-to-understand format in the fortiss white paper “QuickCheck Digitalization – Digital Transformation in Bavarian Companies”. The paper also contains concrete recommendations for implementing the digitalization strategy in small-to-medium enterprises. The paper is available for download here. (LINK)

The findings are further encouraging fortiss to rely specifically on collaboration between industry and science. The SME area at fortiss supports small-to-medium enterprises with concrete steps for implementing the digital transformation process. This support includes funding for alliance research projects, research-oriented test environments and platforms, as well as various other measures, such as information events or qualification measures.


Click here to download the whitepaper QuickCheck Digitalisierung – Digitale Transformation in bayerischen Unternehmen.

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