Digitalization in business – interview with Jowita Michalska

Jowita Michalska CEO
Jowita Michalska

Interview with Jowita Michalska, whose mission is to equip Poles with the necessary digital competences. That is why she established the Digital University foundation, which, in cooperation with leading American universities, such as MIT, Harvard Business School, Stanford University or NYU Stern, educates leaders in the field of new technologies. Jowita organizes, among others educational programs for management, training and conferences such as Masters and Robots or HRevolution. She is also the Polish ambassador of Singularity University, an educational think-tank from the Silicon Valley that educates and inspires leaders to apply technologies that face the great challenges of humanity.

What is digitalization based on and how does the application of digital solutions look like?

Sundar Pichai CEO of Google and Peter Diamandis founder of Singularity University both agree that in the next decade there will be two types of companies: the ones that will include the artificial intelligence component into their DNA and the others that will go bankrupt.

In practise digital transformation is a common word but for now not so many companies connect it with a concrete strategy and changes in the structure of organization. A variety of technological solutions can be introduced depending on the: industry, the stage on which an organization is right now, financial and human resources. In general, areas in which technology, especially artificial intelligence is most frequently used are data science and reporting, digital client, digital finances, robotics and automation and cybersecurity solutions, block chain and the Internet of Things just to mention the basics.

Technological development in general introduced new types of companies and marketplaces and it can bring both great opportunities and threats for the company. This is especially visible in the industries in which the model of business is changing or a parallel ecosystem which connects the traditional and virtual model of operation is emerging. However, it is not about the use of electronical sales or marketing channels but the implementation of completely new service delivery concepts which use end-to-end technological solutions. Nowadays, it is not sufficient to be the leader in business and offer top quality products or services. In the digital economy only the companies, that can predict what customer expects and meet the expectations, count.

It is now the responsibility of each CEO, the management boards and company to look closely at the strategy and on that basis make decision on how operative model after the digital transformation  would look like and how to reorganize the structures and processes. Many companies buy the latest technological solutions from different providers and make superficial changes, that according to professor Andrew McAfee from MIT can be called Digital Fashionistas. Only the companies that will manage to introduce technological solutions in a way that will support the whole model of operation and provide the competitive advantage, can think of themselves as Digital Masters. However for now there are still only a few such companies.

Where does the digitalization work best? Which sectors of economy should introduce technological solutions?

There is no such sector today in which the digitalization is not necessary. Each branch and type of business should be focused on the preparation of digital strategy. During pandemic pharmaceutical market evolves and in general goes through a indepth change. Clients don’t only expect better drugs but they want a better healthcare and a therapy tailored to their individual needs. So the pharmaceutical companies should develop a new strategy in delivery process. On the other hand thanks to the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence and data science the companies start to discover new drugs even more quickly and find new applications for existing medicaments. Thanks to the application of the Internet solutions manufacturing industries can set up the supply chain in a new way. In general so called ‘4.0 industry’ consists of solutions enabling the creation of intelligent factories, reduction of material consumption, control of the machine usage and reducing the number of accidents in factories practically to zero. Education, healthcare, financial, marketing, service and entertainment industry- all these industries will be transformed in the next decade whether they want it or not. Digital transformation is a huge change for all business areas known today.

What new opportunities does business digitalisation offer? How to introduce new technologies in own business? Where to start the whole process?

The digitization process should take place in two ways – the first step is to consider the company’s target strategy and weave technological solutions into it – first at the general level, and then into individual company segments and processes. The second, equally important area to be developed is people and organizational culture. Technology is only a tool, to be able to efficiently manage it, we need educated, motivated and open to changes staff, which is the biggest challenge for companies today. Therefore, one of the first steps in the company’s digital transformation process should be mapping digital talents and planning a long-term employee education process.

According to a research “AI&Skills” conducted on 12 thousand workers and managers across the world by Microsoft, companies notice the greatest benefits from technologies, when they connect implementation of technology with employees’ technical and soft skills development. More than 1/3 employees from Poland admit that they do not seize the opportunities given by the artificial intelligence. The biggest part of participants (44%) are slowly discovering the possibilities of technology and conduct first experiments with the use of it. It shows that among big Polish companies we have two speeds organizations that differ in applying the technology and the development of skills in that field.

Which technologies are most often used in companies?

Today it is worth looking at technologies through their convergence, and not individual technologies, because only thanks to their combination we can observe how new opportunities are built, new business models and new ecosystems emerge. The key technologies used in business today include: Artificial Intelligence including machine learning, big data, sensors and the entire Internet of Things, drones and robots, virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing or blockchain, just to mention the basic ones.

What difficulties may entrepreneurs encounter when implementing digital solutions?

Above all, the people and the company’s culture are the challenge – most of the staff work in their companies or industries for many years and have got used to a specific job, solving problems in a specific way. It is very difficult to switch people to new thinking, to make them not afraid of changes, but to make them curious. Therefore, in parallel with work on technology, it is necessary to start educational and adaptation processes that will allow employees to find themselves in the new reality and become a support for the development of technology in our company.

Which trends in the field of automation in companies are currently noticeable?

Today, companies have enormous volumes of data from a variety of sources. Collecting data on the condition of the company, our clients or the market situation is not complicated. The real challenge is the ability to select data important from the point of view of the organization, their dependencies and draw appropriate conclusions from them, which will provide access to the information needed at every stage of the decision-making process. The biggest and fastest change that we can make in the company today is to improve and automate the data processing process and focus it on gaining a competitive advantage and adapting it to our most important business needs. We then begin to actually see the potential and possibilities, and we finally begin to really get to know our client.

IT deparment is mostly seen as male sector. Are many women active in this male-dominated industry today?

The IT industry is indeed historically a very masculine sector, but more and more programs invite women to start learning in areas related to technology (today, according to a WEF report, max. 20% of women work in technology-related areas). We are also starting to see women in managerial positions in IT, who, in turn, are very good at working with people and support the process of employee transformation. However, it should not be forgotten that the digital transformation in the company is not a task only for the IT manager. Here, for example, HR and the entire management board, headed by the CEO, will have a huge role to play and today are obliged to understand technology and be actively involved in the digitization process.