“Digitization must move to the center of business models”

In an interview with the COMPUTER WORLD, Thomas Ziegler, Chief Customer Officer at NETCONOMY, describes what we can take with us from 2021 for the future, explains how the corona crisis and new work are affecting us and outlines the most important IT trends for the coming year. […]

What lessons can be learned from 2021 in general and from the corona crisis in particular for the future?
This crisis has clearly shown society and thus also the business world that the overall situation can change quickly within a very short time. This means that you not only have to adapt quickly and efficiently, but that from one moment on the other sources of income or sales channels can fail for a long time. In terms of the future for companies, this means that the highest possible flexibility and the switch from one channel to another must be seamlessly possible. Described in one term, the new direction must be “no-line”. It’s not just about the interconnection of online and offline channels, but about establishing contact, transaction and business finalization across all touchpoints in the same quality. Only this allows companies to continue to meet market demand without significant restrictions, even in times of crisis.

In your opinion, how will the corona crisis affect the IT industry, companies and our society in the coming year?
The behavior of society has changed sustainably due to social distancing and restrictions. As a result of this crisis, there has been a significant increase in digitization in absolutely all areas of life. Video telephony among relatives, distance learning in schools and a significantly higher willingness to work from home are just a few examples of this. The IT industry plays a central role in this upheaval. It’s not just about implementing technology, but also harmonizing it with the revenue streams and business models of your customers. As a partner for this digitization, it is also essential to understand the business model of its customers in order not to exploit the technology opportunities as an end in itself.

In addition, those companies that have so far taken only a few digitization steps must catch up quickly and clearly in order to remain competitive on the market. For all those companies that are successfully working on the market in a digitized way, this change in their customers and the increased expectation of alternatives offers the opportunity to once again clearly stand out from their competitors. Because for all areas, this changed interaction and purchasing behavior will continue even after Corona and thus digitization must move to the center of many business models.

“The competition is usually just a click away, which means that an exceptional user experience is as central as never before.“

Thomas Ziegler

What were your professional and personal highlights in 2021?
Professionally, 2021 was a challenge in many areas. On the one hand, the changed working conditions in our own company, but also the change in the interaction with our partners and the market. Fortunately, however, this year was a very successful anniversary year (20 years of NETCONOMY) and as a company we were able to overcome the ongoing challenges of our customers together. Especially in the field of machine learning and business model innovation, we were able to implement new exciting extensions of our customers’ business areas (visual search, data orchestration, voice search, AI-based order orchestration, etc.).

Privately, my personal highlight was the completion of my construction work at home, which required significant attention in these troubled times. In addition to all these challenges, it was enriching, despite distance learning, to exchange ideas with my students in various lectures this year as well.

Which topics do you think should be at the top of the agenda of IT managers in the coming year and why or which IT topics will play a particularly important role in 2022?
In addition to ongoing digitization, the core of the task will be to enrich the business models with intelligent and exciting functions for customers, but also any processes in order to clearly stand out from the competition. The competition is usually just a click away, which means that an exceptional user experience is as central as never before. As already mentioned, many IT managers will also have to deal with this year and next year what a “no-line” strategy can /must look like in the future in order to be ready for the next changes and to minimize the restrictions and risks as much as possible.

The last two years have been marked by the pandemic and accelerated digitization and brought us hybrid working models. After the pandemic, the next – bigger – crisis, the climate crisis, has to be dealt with. How do you think companies need to change in terms of sustainability? What concrete measures are you/is your company planning for 2022 and beyond?
We have already focused on sustainability in recent years, as we also have a responsibility as a company here. In addition to the CO2 compensation of travel and work equipment used, we have also focused on the greatest possible sustainability in procurement. This year, too, a sustainability report will be prepared internally in order to uncover potential gaps and close them. As far as companies are concerned, this is, in my view, a central responsibility that none of us can ignore and which must be a central component of business models.

“Those who are best prepared for New Work will also experience a significant advantage on the labor market, while maintaining efficiency in the provision of services. We have made this evaluable in our company and proved that this form of cooperation does not bring any disadvantages.“

Thomas Ziegler

How well is your company or how well are Austrian companies generally positioned for new work – i.e. distributed teams, home office, hybrid working models, etc.?
Even before the crisis, we had a strong focus on distributed teams and therefore the complete switch to purely virtual working from the home office was not a big problem. We give our employees the choice of how much of their working time they want to work remotely in the future, in order to also react to the changes in society. This concept is accompanied by several measures that strengthen the company identification of the individual employee and take into account the team structure.

In general, some, but in my opinion far too few, are currently intensively engaged in switching to a remote or hybrid working model. Those who are best prepared for these new conditions will also experience a significant advantage on the labor market, while maintaining efficiency in the provision of services. We have made this evaluable in our company and also proved that this form of cooperation does not bring any disadvantages. However, it takes much more than just providing work equipment, which is probably the reason for the reluctance in some industries.

Do you think that the tense situation regarding the shortage of IT specialists will improve in the coming years? What can be done in this area?
The future in this area lies in the targeted training of these IT specialists, as the shortage of skilled workers will continue to worsen in the coming years. Within NETCONOMY, we have set up a continuous training management in order to meet this realization. It consists of its own academy across all roles and a continuous traineeship program. This will enable us to ensure stable growth in the future as well and to cover the increasing demand in the projects with the required quality.

This article is part of a series of interviews for which the COMPUTER WORLD interviewed around 50 top managers from the IT industry. You can read more interviews in the next few weeks on computerwelt.at.

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