Digitalisation and enterprises. The Italian landscape between new trends and sustainability
In a world characterised by dynamism towards what is considered the fourth industrial revolution, digitisation, or rather digital maturity in businesses, represents the essential lever for maintaining and increasing competitiveness in national and international markets.
Against this backdrop, a new challenge has emerged for companies, involving all parts of the organisation and forcing them to review the classic concepts of work space and time, to rethink the concepts of flexibility and productivity and, above all, business and leadership models.
This has resulted in a new way of doing business that aims at a model that goes beyond the ‘traditional’ one: a cultural change in which all innovative processes are placed at the centre, affecting first and foremost the intellectual capital that needs the right skills and in which it is necessary to invest more and more resources.
We met up with Professor Sara Caprasecca, Program Director of the Specialized Master in Sport and Lifestyle Management at the Rome Business School, to discuss and deepen our understanding of the digital transformation of companies in a historical moment of radical change also due to the Covid 19 pandemic crisis and the war in Ukraina.
“Companies are adapting to the digital revolution by working on some main pillars, which are not only related to technology, as one might or would like to think. I think the biggest misconception of our time is that digitisation is solely about technology, devices and hyperconnectivity.
I believe that the best way for companies to adapt to these new processes is based on how we work on teams, even remotely, on people and how we teach the new generation the innovative concept of shared leadership. So in my opinion the best practice we have adopted in the last 24 months, driven also by the Covid 19 pandemic, has been to adapt quickly, as a natural evolution of the company, and to do better with the human resources and the technological support we had available.”
The Agile Manifesto
The ‘Agile Manifesto’ is a document drawn up in 2001 by 17 engineers specialising in software creation with the aim of defining the key values and principles of ‘agile development’: a reasoned synthesis resulting from the analysis of the various existing development methodologies.
The manifesto is based on 4 values and 12 principles that twenty years later continue to influence the way software is created. The agile method is opposed to the ‘waterfall’ method, a term used to define the working model process that requires, for its development, that all requirements decided in advance are completed and defined, with no room for change.
On the contrary, the key improvement of the agile methodology involves an approach that can support changes in business requirements with a set of values to guide the way forward.
“I believe that digitisation is driven by a few main pillars contained in the Agile Manifesto, which basically states that interactions between individuals should take priority over processes and tools used for business models. Customer expectations, and customer collaboration, should take precedence over, for example, documentation or contract negotiation, which is not the case in most companies. In fact, what happens most of the time is that there is some sort of confusion between the value of the company and the expectations of the customer. And so, unfortunately, the only way to go faster, because technology is super-fast, is to run after customer expectations.””
How digital stimulates growth
The accelerating adoption of digital facilitates the expansion of companies in markets, enabling them to reach large volumes with lower investments.
Digital transformation, understood as the integration of technology in all areas of the business, for a company means making sales processes more efficient, increasing productivity, but above all modifying growth strategies also in relation to customers, who are among the main players in the market, who are increasingly informed, demanding and knowledgeable about the services of the knowledge economy.
“Digitisation allows us to have very low impact software, so we have very cost-effective ways, for example, of creating automated marketing campaigns even by sending e-mails. We can open social media accounts and create innovative and interactive content. So we can plan from the very beginning something that will make the customer feel understood and involved and personalise the experience by diversifying it.
A new marketing concept quite different from the one of the last 30 years: a disruptive strategy based on presence, on keeping up to date with trends. So I think maybe the key word can be ‘anticipation’ and that automation is a good tool to support human empathy to understand when customers increase their interest and when they decrease it.”
The Italian Landscape
The digitisation process in our country – as pointed out by many – lags behind the main European countries due, according to Italian business leaders, to a lack of specific skills, the limits of legacy IT technologies, excessive bureaucracy and traditional hierarchical leadership.
In recent years, however, Italy has made significant progress in the transformation of its business models, which has resulted in growth and organisational agility that have made digital transformation an integral part of operational processes.
From the perspective of digitisation, we have some good news and some bad news: Italy is increasing its market related to artificial intelligence. We had an increase of 27% in 2021, which is basically about 380 million in Europe, which is twice as much as in 2019.
Another piece of good news is that 53% of small and medium-sized enterprises – which represent more than 99% of the industrial economic fabric – are investing in artificial intelligence-related projects, especially in the manufacturing, banking and financial services, and insurance sectors.
The bad news is that in the EU scenario we occupy 17th position if we consider the level of digitisation of the economy and society as a whole. Moreover, almost 60 per cent of Italian households still do not know how to use the web well and there is even 10 per cent of the population that does not have a good internet connection. We are still struggling to understand the difference between fake news and real news: so it can be said that even if we are growing, we still have a lot of work to do, and from this point of view the National Recovery and Resilience Plan will be a key driver, as digitisation and innovation are among its objectives.”
In this period of strong technological innovation, it is important to emphasise how ROI, the acronym for Return on Investment, remains a very important indicator for every company and how digital obsolescence can influence it, because digitisation has now become an imperative and no longer a choice. The new tools available, the ability to retrain staff, the investment in intellectual capital, horizontal leadership, the growing popularity of machine learning, quantum computing and cybersecurity represent today’s trends for the workforce of the future also in the landscape of Italian companies.
“Today we are witnessing within companies the development of new trends from an operational and interaction point of view. Very important are certainly the progress made on the side of better and more transparent communication within teams, with a dynamic focused on autonomy, also thanks to smart working. There is greater trust in machines and workers and an alignment of actions through more frequent feedback. The direct consequence of this new corporate culture is a strong attachment of employees to the company’s values, whereby they are willing to commit themselves more enthusiastically to achieving goals.
The new trends are also based on automation, artificial intelligence projects. In this scenario, Italy is trying to implement contactless services and two-factor authentication to ensure a faster response to customer expectations. Companies are also improving data protection and blocking functionality to protect themselves from external threats.“
Digital and sustainability
Digital technology is increasingly proving to be a tool for achieving sustainability, a fundamental aspect of contemporary business models.
A real challenge that also represents an opportunity not to be missed to create a more resilient and responsible labour market in the face of future crises. In addition, attention, also at the political-international level, is focused on ethical issues related to technological innovation.
“Today, many companies are accused of greenwashing – a practice sanctioned in Italy by the Iap and the antitrust – that is, of using sustainability as an excuse for marketing. So, in my opinion, if we want sustainability to go hand in hand with the digitisation of our projects and goals, we have to ensure that it is not just a façade strategy, a fake commitment to the environment in order to enhance corporate reputation.
The environment asks us to consume less and above all not to waste resources and this can be done in many ways, from recycling electricity to choosing to use a cloud server instead of the old data centre. I also think it is important to address sustainability from a social point of view by overcoming diversity and the gender gap, promoting inclusiveness and multi-ethnic and cultural integration.”
Graduated in Humanities and Massmedia Communication, she is specialized in Digital Communication and Strategies, holds a Master in Digital Transformation for SMEs at Talent Garden Milano in 2017 and a Master in Blockchain Management at Blockchain Management School in Rome. She is currently studying Cognitive Science of Language and Action with a focus on data ethics. Teacher of Digital Marketing since 2017, she is director of the master Sports & Lifestyle Management at Rome Business School and she cooperates as Digital Consultant for web agencies. She also works for Talent Garden Milan as a Community manager.