Discussion Panel: Digital Transformation for Business Development at Supplier Balkan Expo 2023
On the 25th of October, during the SUB EX – Supplier Balkan Expo, a panel discussion was held on the topic “Digital Transformation for Business Development” and featured the following speakers: Dragana Kiprijanovska – Legal Advisor at MAK-System International Group, Marjan Bogatinovski – Chief Commercial Officer B2B at Makedonski Telekom, Borche Ilioski – COO at Intertec.io, Dimitar Janevski – Managing Director at Digital Office by Inbox, Ivica Peshovski – Chief Technology Officer at Brainster
This panel, which was led by moderator Elena Mladenovska Jelenkovic, served as an opportunity for industry leaders to discuss the process of digitalization, how it affects businesses and share their personal insights and experiences.
What does “Digital Transformation” mean?
The panel was opened with a brief history of the stages in the industrial revolution, how each impacted society as we know it, and a simple question about what digital transformation means. The panellists discussed how digitalization is often used as an umbrella term, and that the topic has many meanings and definitions. They summarized digital transformation as the goal to incorporate new technologies, streamline business processes and increase customer satisfaction.
Digitalization as a leading driver and motivator
The discussion continued as the panellists emphasized the impact digitalization has had to drive forward change in the business world. It was also pointed out that many small businesses are pressured to digitalize as a survival strategy due to the fact that they are competing with large companies which can operate both locally and internationally. Two primary aspects of digitalization were highlighted: internal digitalization for employees, which includes implementing paperless processes, digital certificates, automation, and cost optimization and external digitalization for customer related interfaces, websites, omnichannel strategies, and 24/7 accessibility to services and information. Additionally, a crucial third aspect emphasized the value of collecting customer data to tailor services based on customer preference insights.
Adding value with digitalization
The panellists stressed the importance of implementing ways to use technology to increase efficiency, cut down costs and increase revenue. By streamlining processes and making improving the workflow of employees, the firm achieves higher productivity. Additionally, they emphasized the need for carefully planned implementation processes and strategies when it comes to digital transformation.
Digitalization as a disruptor
A discussion was held on the disruptive power of digitalization and it’s potential to redefine standard business models. Digital transformation can help businesses of all sizes reach their audience better as well as reach new customers without the constraints of physical locations. It was also noted that digitalization can help businesses keep up with rapidly changing trends and consumer wants, as well as make supply chains more efficient.
The challenges of digital transformation
All the panellists agreed that digitalization is an incredibly challenging endeavour for a business, especially smaller ones, but that it still needs to be done if the business doesn’t want to be left behind as the industry changes. The greatest challenges of digital transformation are the costs of the entire process. Digitalization is a lengthy and extensive process which requires the business to completely uproot and change their fundamental operations. The biggest barriers in this process were identified as: the large costs (which include equipment, space allocation, employee trainings), change in organizational structure, impact on company culture and a talent gap for skilled professionals.
Resistance to change
As the discussion regarding barriers in digitalization continued, it was agreed that one often overlooked challenge to digital transformation is people’s tendency to be against change. This paired with a talent gap means that many companies and employees do not know how to proceed with digitalization and are resistant to learning and changing. This ultimately leads to many firms having a low digital maturity. A good point brought up by the panellists was in regard to the unique situation in North Macedonia. North Macedonia is unfortunately struggling with a high corruption rate, and people who benefit from this will be resistant to these changes as digitalization leads to better transparency and simplicity in company operations. It was agreed that while it is a challenge to convince people to change their pre-established systems, it is worth pursuing and pushing for in the long run.
The panellists admitted that whilst digital transformation has many benefits there are also drawbacks. As businesses move towards digitalization, they become more at risk of cyber-attacks and compromising private information. The panellists discussed the importance of big data and methods when it comes to implementing and increasing security standards as well as data protection practices. The discussion then led to questioning where the responsibility of data protection falls as well as the role of government regulators in data protection.
To summarize, the discussion on “Digital Transformation for Business Development” at the Supplier Balkan Expo allowed the speakers to showcase how important it is to embrace digitalization as it can greatly help improve the business process as well as customer satisfaction. Digital transformation has proven to be a huge disruptor, especially for small businesses, as it pushes for change in order to remain competitive on the market. However, there are challenges which include things such as costs, resistance to change and security risks. The panellists also emphasized the need for better data protection and government regulation, as data breaches are becoming more common. Ultimately, digital transformation is a crucial strategy for any business in a rapidly evolving digital world