It is no longer enough to shine with first-class machines. If a company wants to remain competitive, it should refine products with digital offerings. Companies are also increasingly confronted with this question in the B2B business. Because the expectations of their customers have changed. Those who have learned to appreciate the advantages of digital services in their private lives do not want to miss them in the office, in the shop, in the factory hall. “Nobody wants to press a switch anymore, everyone suddenly wants to operate their machines with an app”. In the future, competitive business models will focus less on physical products. The software will make all the difference in the future.
5 Steps to Digital Services
If you don’t want to get lost in the dead-end on the way to the future of digital services, you should get help. From your employees, from your customers, from other companies, from partners. The transformation is easier with the following five steps:
Use Designed Thinking
The art is not to think too narrowly. Do not stick too much to your product. Bring together representatives from different departments to reflect on the future of your own company. Just let them spin around without fear of mental taboos:
- What could the business model look like in five years?
- What will your customers be dealing with in ten years?
- Is your product dead in fifteen years?
- Can you build something completely new from what you have now?
Don’t narrow your thoughts, even if they may seem crazy at first glance.
Involve your IT department
Get your IT experts on the table right from the start when planning for the future. These are the people who are programming the future of your company – literally and beyond. Ideally, they can not only get colleagues’ computers up and running, but also provide the real-time data you need for your new business models.
Get partners on board
Benefit from external know-how. The view from the outside can be very fertilizing. Your partners should be familiar with your industry and have a high level of technology and methodological expertise. Use them to clarify what is technically feasible. Which digital services make sense around your product. Determine which services can solve existing and future customer problems.
Listen to your customers
Your customers know best what they want. But ask them the right questions. Otherwise, you’re like the compressor manufacturer who wanted to know from his customers what they would optimize for their products. The answer: more speed, more power. In other words, incremental improvements. So nothing new. But let’s face it: would you have come up with the idea that you would like to rent compressed air instead of buying a compressor in the future?
Share your knowledge and Data. Share platforms with others. With such ecosystems behind them, it’s easier to develop data-driven business models. Don’t be afraid to connect with your customers, suppliers, other companies, and even competitors when that broadens your horizons and opens up digital opportunities for you.
Digital pioneers show how to do it
There are already many medium-sized companies that meet the customer’s need for digitized services, just think of the smart home sector. About 28 per cent of companies offer product-related IT services to their customers. But that also means that the rest of the companies surveyed anywhere, and that’s almost three out of four, do not yet have apps in their portfolio.
Many companies are already showing where the journey is going: for example, a manufacturer of packaging machines who, thanks to digital services, always knows how reliable his machine is currently and presumably working in the coming weeks and months. This allows the company to offer pinpoint, predictive maintenance while offering its customers a new payment metric. Customers no longer have to buy the machine, but order the running meter of produced packaging.
The logistics company, which equips its forklifts with sensors and scanning technology and connects them via a cloud platform, also provides a good suggestion. Result: new pay-per-use sales models. Here, too, the customer no longer orders and buys the mere device – in this case, a forklift. He pays a fee for the weight transported per vehicle. Even an established product such as a commercial dishwasher can be equipped with digital service for the future. The corresponding app shows which devices are working perfectly or how high the filling levels of the cleaning agents are – and then offers the customer an order function for this.
A press manufacturer has gone one step further: he digitized his presses early, gained experience with power grids all over the world and developed intelligent control and power electronics on this basis. The company now incorporates this Data and know-how into modern wall boxes – i.e. private charging stations for electric cars – and has developed a completely new business model thanks to digital services.
What is holding back companies?
Despite these encouraging role models, many medium-sized enterprises are still struggling to develop such digital services. Why is that? First, because they are still successful with the established models and therefore continue to optimize them – why fundamentally change something that works well and what there is a market for? With digital services, this is different – this market is only just emerging. It is therefore a question of offering something that hardly anyone knows today. But what we all need in the future.
Secondly, many medium-sized enterprises shy away from the costs of digitising their business model. And thirdly – and this is probably the main reason – they do not know how to combine and enhance what they traditionally do with new digital technologies. In many places, the necessary IT knowledge is not sufficiently available.
If apps are to be more than a chic but ultimately dispensed decoration, a company must put its products to the test, even if their excellence is beyond question, questioning its previous corporate objectives, think about the direction in which one’s employees are being developed.
This rethinking costs strength and falls into no one’s lap. Companies have to ask themselves many questions: Do I have to digitize every faucet? Which service is feasible, but not available? And which sensible and therefore necessary? The answer: Digital services are only promising if they add value to the customer. For example, because it can control a device via voice. And yes, it may make sense to digitize the faucet as well. Not because we need touch panels to shower. But when the manufacturer digitizes its taps, it gains data. And if on this basis he learns more about his customers and their wishes, the investment is always worthwhile.