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A look back at the 2019 Steinbeis Competence Day

Describing organizational competences as the cornerstone of long-term business success is nothing new – especially in times marked by one series after another of technology trends, convergence, continual change, increasingly connected systems, and the broader presence of digital technology. But what core competences are required to deal with such challenges? Indeed: Can transformation be learned? These are just some of the questions that were examined at the Steinbeis Competence Day in Stuttgart on December 5, 2019.

What competences do companies and organizations require to manage the challenges of digital transformation? How should they deal with ever-shortening technology cycles, the interweaving of different functions and areas of influence, increasingly rapid change, the rising importance of the platform economy, and digital technology now invading almost all key areas of entrepreneurial undertaking? A variety of experts from science and business examined these issues at the 2019 Steinbeis Competence Day, not only drawing on the findings of recent research but also by looking at examples of business practice.

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In her opening talk at the event, Prof. Dr. Claudia Schneider from Ludwigsburg University of Applied Sciences explained the prerequisites and success criteria of digital transformation within organizations. Organizations generally walk a tightrope between trying to achieve reliability (through predictable outcomes, rules, guidelines, the fulfilment of customer expectations, a stable working environment, targets, responsibilities, etc.) and trying to remain adaptable (flexibility, reacting to changes in the environment, dealing with complexity and ambiguity, giving people enough room to assume personal responsibility, decentralized decision-making, etc.). Due to the nature of digital transformation, organizations must be prepared to completely reinvent themselves – and do this regularly – without necessarily having to change the workforce or technical infrastructures, even during ongoing operations. Accordingly, organizational development has to be holistic – smart business models require smart processes, and in turn, these need to be designed by smart people. And smart people need smart organizations if they are to work effectively. To systematically map the different dimensions of such an approach to organizational development, the so-called digital maturity model can be used. Using the municipal construction department in Herrenberg as an example, Schneider illustrated the opportunities and challenges of such a process for areas of public administration.

In conclusion, she explained that digital transformation is a fundamental process of change that can only succeed if certain criteria are met. For a start, the people who lead the organization need to be convinced by the concept and support transformation with conviction – and this requires “a lot of staying power.” People at the top of an organization provide a role model for the others within it to look up to, so people at the top should also be the first to “go digital.” It is also important for all stakeholders within an organization to take responsibility for their own areas. Digital transformation within an organization is therefore not something that should be delegated to staff functions. People working in an organization also require the right skills to deal with new demands – and this is a plea for specific skills development. In addition, Schneider explained that the right resources need to be made available, since digital transformation takes time, money, and human resources! During the transition period, organizations still have to operate on two levels, keeping the “old” world in place while setting up the “new” one.

Schneider also highlighted that – as with any transformation process – opposition, fear, and insecurity are to be expected. It is therefore extremely important to provide sufficient “time to readjust” so that new ideas can be properly understood and developed. This necessitates all-round transparency, involvement, and communication, because ultimately there should be no “bypassing” of processes – people should not be allowed to resort to old working practices and systems.


In the next talk, Sven Göth, futurist and founder of the Digital Competence Lab in Hanover, zoomed in on the challenges and drivers of digital transformation, offering an extremely compelling explanation of the growing importance of exponential transformation and how, in times of change, this leaves less and less room for incremental adaptations. Göth pointed to four key drivers of current change: exponential growth in computing capacity; the emergence of huge volumes of data (including the internet of things); real-time transmission rates through the internet; and artificial intelligence. In his talk, he provided a number of memorable examples of how recent developments threaten to deceive or manipulate us, although they also offer advantages and benefits. These developments include robots, the shift away from human decision-making toward machine-supported decisions, autonomous vehicles, 3D-printed house construction, 3D-printed human organ production, telemedicine, holomedicine, impacts on the world of work, the decreasing relevance of location and time with respect to work, and the decreasing relevance of work performance and work controls.

As a result of these trends, a certain core competence is required: the ability to learn to unlearn. Another question that needs asking is which criteria we will use to measure or assess the future – according to what’s normal, natural, or human, or according to usefulness, damage, or side effects? Evaluating the future and thus also digital transformation thus becomes a question of personal perspective.

Based on this realization, Göth pointed to the following elementary competences for transitioning from the known to the unknown: the ability to innovate, team spirit (especially given the shift away from full-time workers to the gig economy), the ability to change (a willingness to start with people who want and can change), digitalization capabilities (in order to understand the changing world), and finally the ability to assume responsibility (a willingness to make decisions, even if some people are then “left behind”). Göth concluded by appealing to the audience to work together in shaping the future.


The third talk of the day was given by Dr. Michael Ortiz, project manager for business development at Steinbeis headquarters and director of innovation and transfer management research at the Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Institute in Stuttgart. Ortiz introduced the audience to the Enterprise Competence Check X.0 (ECC X.0), a new software tool at Steinbeis for analyzing the competences held by an organization with respect to digital transformation. He started by revisiting the classic ECC, which has already established itself as an instrument for the qualitative analysis of enterprise competence. The ECC highlights how digital transformation and increasing convergence between structures, systems, and technology are driving fundamental change. It also demonstrates that this not only poses a variety of new challenges to businesses and other stakeholders in the economy, but also to politics and society in general. For some time now, business models closely based on data and information have not just been found in the digital space. Even established companies with a focus on classic business models are now turning to data-driven optimizations or even completely new, information-driven value creation scenarios. This realignment of business activities does, however, require a strong degree of flexibility and a willingness to embrace change – organizations need the right “transformation competences.”

The new ECC X.0 makes it possible to conduct a detailed qualitative assessment of these transformation competences held by a company or organization. Aside from looking at competences in terms of how people deal with the drivers of transformation, the ECC X.0 also assesses how they cope with the changes these drivers bring about. To do this, the previous ECC has been expanded to include a fifth competence level: transformation. To understand drivers, the ECC X.0 looks at the digital data competence of a company and its ability to use different types of data to forge connections both inside and outside the organization. This also entails looking at capabilities the model calls ecosystem competence. The analysis also includes a dimension for changes brought about by these drivers in order to analyze the digital culture of the company, its ability to add value, and the digitalization level of the business model. When using the ECC X.0, organizations can decide if they would prefer to use a standalone version, which focuses exclusively on understanding transfer competences, or whether they would like to include other competence levels from the classic ECC model. These may help understand transformation competences within the company on a more holistic level.

After the talks, the audience were invited to be the first users to try out the tool and gain an impression of the instrument themselves. Experienced Steinbeis experts showed how the new instrument offers companies and consultants an opportunity to move successfully into the future. There was also detailed discussion about practical experiences in using different types of software tools to analyze companies.

For further information on the Steinbeis Enterprise Competence Check, go to steinbeis-ukc.de. Information on the Steinbeis Enterprise Competence Check X.0 is available at steinbeis-ukc.de/ukc-x0/.


Dr. Michael Ortiz (author)
Project Manager
Steinbeis Headquarters (Stuttgart)