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The disruption of established business models and the erosion of traditional markets have opened the eyes of many businesses to the fact that digitalization will fundamentally change industry throughout the world. There is a tangible sense in the current discussion going on in industry that something needs to be done about this – urgently. But often, the prevailing opinion is that as long as a company embarks on plenty of programs, and those all have something to do with digital transformation, then everything will somehow sort itself out. This kind of approach is of little help to business enterprises.

Digital transformation is by no means an end in itself! It’s not about companies making sure they’ve “gone digital” with this or that process. These days, the aim of companies should be to align their business strategies and processes in such a way that they can even survive or succeed in an increasingly digital world in the first place.

To erect signposts for this new direction, the following guiding principles might help. Companies that have been successful in their respective markets for years already possess some excellent strengths. It is imperative that they remain conscious of these strengths in order to develop a willingness to think differently, based on this knowledge. To do this, it’s important to detach oneself from product thinking, or the idea of selling products, and develop an understanding of how products only act as a physical manifestation of the power and potential – the competences – of the company.

The big question that needs to be asked is: What will these competences actually mean to companies in the future against a backdrop of intensifying digitalization?

One could be more specific with this fundamental question by structuring competences into external and internal factors. On an external level, competences are about developing a clear, new focus on the market. In concrete terms, that could mean no longer selling products for example, but rather selling the services that go with them or offering smarter products in the future in combination with digital services.

The job of management is to put flesh on this idea – or new orientation – in crystal-clear terms. Then, based on this focus, internal competences have to be adjusted by implementing the digital process patterns that will be needed for this new orientation and digitalizing existing processes. Sooner or later, whether this is actually carried out or succeeds will decide the fate of many companies and define their future-readiness.

This current edition of Steinbeis Transfer magazine provides you with examples of some completely different approaches to tackling new, future-oriented business. We hope you enjoy the read!


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg W. Fischer is director of the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Computer Applications in Engineering at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, where he is also a professor of production management and virtual factories. In his work at the university, he has been supporting companies with the planning of digital transformation for many years.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg W. Fischer (author)


Christian Wotzka is Managing Director of NEOPERL GmbH. This company offers innovative solutions revolving around drinking water and has been working with the experts at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Computer Applications in Engineering for several years.

Christian Wotzka