“Covid-19 as a catalyst for digital change”

Online seminar: “Sales of Digital Solutions”, May 28, 2020

Not in a seminar room, but on screen – this is how the participants of a workshop, facilitated by the project team Data Mining and Value Creation, see each other for the first time. Due to Covid-19, the seminar with the apt title “Selling Digital Solutions” takes place online. However, this has long become part of the everyday life of the participants. Despite the different areas from which the company representatives come (heating and cooling technology, machine tool manufacture, stacking and storage technology, hydraulic systems engineering, medical technology, plant manufacturing), everyone agrees on one thing: in addition to the negative consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, there is at least this positive development – digital solutions are now more in demand than ever. 

© Fraunhofer IMW
Alone in the office, but digitally connected

The case study “Do innovations die in sales?” by project manager Prof. Dr. Heiko Gebauer about the digital paradox, published in the Harvard Business Manager of January 2020, serves as a basis for the discussion. It is about the fictionalized case of a company that is internally convinced of digital innovations but has to struggle with a lack of customer response. Potential problems in the expansion of digital business models are analyzed from the CEO's point of view.

Nevertheless, the focus is on the personal exchange between the companies. What are their experiences? Which solutions work well? What other problems are there? And what impact does the Covid-19 crisis have? So now it’s the turn of the participants. Based on previously sent questions, they present their company from the perspective of digital challenges and solutions. Each participant has a lot to report, and so different approaches but also difficulties are collected.

Current projects include the development from a mere product manufacturer to a solution provider in order to offer a combination of hardware and software. Connectivity can be used to make products more efficient and intelligent. With the statement “Make it simple but significant”, one of the participants sums up the innovation philosophy very well. New business models are also being developed, such as “pay-per-use” (customer pays only for actual use of the service) or “outcome-based pricing” (customer pays for perceived value of the service). Of course, applications to simplify or accelerate sales processes and customer interaction also play a major role.

Where do companies see the drivers of change?

In particular, the Covid-19 crisis has been repeatedly described as a “catalyst for digital change”. The openness for remote services has increased significantly, which in turn accelerates internal and external change management. Using digital change for future relevance this brings savings, and also expands the value proposition of companies. In the course of the crisis, the participants felt that acceptance of e-commerce has increased, especially on the customer side. The newly acquired data can also be used sensibly, for instance to improve products and services. This makes it easier to identify and understand the pain points from the customers’ perspective.

Despite all these positive changes, there are of course also many challenges. What is the customers’ willingness to pay or how can they be convinced of the added value? It is therefore not easy to find a suitable pricing model should it be a freemium version (basic product free of charge, full product and extensions with costs) or hardware-plus (hardware equipped with digital additional services)? A further challenge is to ensure compatibility between the products or between hardware and IT solutions. Especially the integration of third-party products often proves to be difficult. However, what use do all these ideas have if the required know-how is not available in the company? There should be more incentives, especially in sales, because here contact points are often lacking. Some of the participants also report competition between digital remote solutions and telephone support.

With so many ideas and challenges, the seminar flies by, but the participants’ desire to exchange ideas is even greater. For this reason, further in-depth online seminars are planned so that the participating companies can continue to exchange information, for example in the form of a focus group.

Further online seminars will also be offered regularly in the future. For instance, the Concept and Method Development team offers the workshops “Exchange of experience for companies regarding the Covid-19 crisis” and “Opportunities for the service business during the Covid-19 crisis”. If you are interested in workshops or online seminars or in an individual exchange, please do not hesitate to contact us! /ar

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Article / 1.1.2020

Do innovations die in sales?

In a case study in the Harvard Business Manager of January 2020, author Heiko Gebauer, project manager of the project Data Mining and Value Creation, addresses the challenges of digital transformation for companies.


The Concept and Method Development team offers different workshops:

  • From connectivity to digital revenue
  • Ideas for date use
  • Competencies for databased value creation

You can find more information here.