Digitization strategies: best practice with Evonik
"Leading Beyond Chemistry" - translated into German, it means something like "leading beyond chemistry". That is the promise that Evonik, one of Germany's best-known chemical companies because of its involvement with Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, makes us in its slogan. We ask ourselves to what extent this ambition is already being addressed in the field of digitization: Does the promise have to be put on hold in view of the current status quo? Or does Evonik manage to prove its added value to the company even beyond the boundaries of the chemical industry?
Chances and risks of digitization under Corona
In this special year 2020, quite a few companies get into financial difficulties. Evonik, however, is coping well with the crisis according to its own current information - and Henrik Hahn also remains optimistic. Especially with chemical companies, whose customers are almost exclusively within the manufacturing industry, the effects of their dependence on other industries are only noticeable a little later. And yet: Evonik "got through the crisis well" in the third quarter of 2020, which according to the experts was definitely a positive development. Especially in companies that are in close trading contact with the automotive industry, things would look different, for example, as more severe cuts in sales were noted there. Henrik Hahn is certain that it has been possible to speak of positive crisis management so far, especially in view of this.
And nonetheless: There are some Corona-related challenges that are particularly noticeable in sales. Henrik Hahn reports on the lack of personal customer exchange, which has long been considered a characteristic of classic sales, especially for B2B transactions such as in the chemical industry. “Personal advice also makes a difference at Evonik,” the industry still lives from the established sales channels and direct customer contact. However, a step towards modernization must now be dared at the latest, the digitization expert is certain of that. As far as digitization strategies are concerned, Evonik is already well on the way and has made it possible for employees to work remotely for a long time, for example. The concept of “remote work”: Believe it or not, for many companies it is still a new type of work that first had to develop out of the crisis. In the past few months, the acceptance and urgency of digitization in companies have grown.
Changed purchasing behavior due to Corona?
In addition to remote work, Corona has changed a lot in the world of B2B sales, that's clear. The fact that the usual face-to-face field service cannot currently be implemented is definitely one of the challenges with digitization. Another example of this is the lack of trade fairs, which causes stomach ache for many companies in the chemical industry. “After all, we're all in the same boat,” said Hahn. He remains calm: "As 'industry for industry', as the saying goes, our customers are almost exclusively other chemical companies who are currently just as unrepresented at trade fairs as we are due to the corona restrictions." The expert adds But then thoughtfully added: “Nonetheless, business with new customers is more difficult, especially in international competition: Travel restrictions make contact with customers more difficult, so that local competitors can currently take advantage of local advantages. Digitization strategies or digital solutions are simply particularly important here. "
More than ever before, virtual customer care must now be relied on. Evonik's CDO points out that 90% is made up of medium-sized and small companies in the Association of the Chemicals Industry. Now is the chance to promote virtual collaboration and change face-to-face sales in a sustainable and future-proof way. He adds with a grin: “In the chemical and process industries, we all know each other, and I would almost say we all love each other a little, as far as this is permissible. As an industry, we want to tackle major issues such as digitization or sustainability together. ”It is no longer a secret that budget constraints can arise in the midst of the crisis. And the result? Digitization measures are also a question of priorities in companies - and presumably some small and medium-sized companies in particular have other priorities. - Nevertheless, one cannot simply generalize, warns Henrik Hahn. He remains fundamentally optimistic with regard to digitization progress, especially since not every company in his environment is affected by structural cost-cutting measures. So there are already opportunities. On the other hand, Hahn counters the assumption that the crisis alone acts as a turbo for digitization. This also includes the will to draw the right, appropriate conclusions in each company and then to actually set the necessary strategic course, says the expert.
How digitalization strategies can be used to find innovative partners and solutions
Today the question arises: How best to proceed now when it comes to digitization strategies? As CDO, Henrik Hahn has the following advice: Instead of generalizations, individual solutions should be found for equally individual gaps in the company! Experience has shown that he particularly suggests an exchange with other companies in order to benefit from the know-how of others in addition to a change of perspective. This not only includes experience with suppliers or other service providers, but also, in general, shared knowledge as a “driver for innovative digital solutions”. How did Evonik find these strategies for itself? Be brave and try things out! That was one of the reasons that ultimately led to the establishment of Evonik Digital. "Through partnerships beyond the industry, it has been possible to get quite a few stones rolling unexpectedly," says Henrik Hahn.
- An individual problem definition and a targeted step-by-step procedure based on efficient methodology are the be-all and end-all! According to the expert, the key question should always be: "How can I use modern technologies to strengthen my own competitive position?"
- What is particularly important, according to Hahn, but is often not common in the B2B sector: early customer contact! The customer must be involved in important decisions at an early stage. It is important to keep an eye on your customer experience and journey at all times.
The last, and according to Dr. Hahn most decisive factor:
- The initial spark of every company should come from within! Simple outsourcing to universal consulting firms in matters of digitization rarely have the desired effect that you as an entrepreneur are looking for.
And what happens now? Digitization strategies in the future
"Multifaceted and already omnipresent". With these words, Henrik Hahn paints a future outlook in which digitization strategies are indispensable. In the future, he will ascribe particular importance to internal process optimization and the use of AI. Modern processes and machine learning should conquer the market and provide more transparency in supply chains through tower and dashboard solutions.
The future of digitization holds opportunities as well as risks. In the current status quo, it is often claimed that the Corona crisis would finally drive the generation change and thus the takeover of management positions by digital natives. Henrik Hahn sees it differently that such a dilemma can be solved in this way. “This is not a generation conflict; rather, German medium-sized companies are often powerful, specialized and so successful that there was no pressure to question their own patterns of action and thought. Everyone is also a creature of habit, and willingness to change is not a question of age, origin, skin color or other demographic factors, but functions independently of all of this. Incidentally, this also applies to corporations. It's always about weighing the pros and cons of changes and acting at the right time. But that is not a question of the generation, but of the individual assessment. ”It seems completely clear that, according to this thinking, digitization should be understood as a learning process in order to expand internal competencies and thus be able to look to the future with confidence. In addition to a significant increase in efficiency, this ultimately also leads to a more positive customer experience - “So it's worth starting!” Laughs the expert.
The cooperation with startups is often very promising, because they often have exciting, innovative solutions, which are often easier to shape than the solutions of the "big" providers. At FoxBase, for example, we are constantly developing new features for our customers in order to have the perfect software solution for the respective company. With our SaaS solution, the Digital Product Selector, B2B companies that sell products that require explanation are digitizing their sales, which should be part of a successful digitization strategy especially in 2020. The digitization of sales enables early customer contact and enables a customer experience and journey tailored to the individual customer.
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