Title image for article »Change Is the New Normal«
COLUMN Matthias Schultze

»Change Is the New Normal«

Digital transformation is a comprehensive process that calls for a change in mindset from all employees of a company. "As a first step, we need to get this 'mind shift' right," says Matthias Schultze, Managing Director of the German Convention Bureau. Here he outlines how to ensure this change is a success.

Germany has for many years occupied a top spot on the international market for conferences, conventions and events. To ensure it maintains this success in the future, the German Convention Bureau e.V., as part of its digitalisation strategy, is supporting its members and partners with a series of measures to help them promote and implement the digital transformation. The GCB is also constantly adapting its own processes to the challenges of digitalisation.

The GCB's vision is: "Meetings made in Germany connect the world – digital and face to face." That means that Germany will in future not only be a leader for meetings held in person in Europe, but will also explicitly include virtual and hybrid event formats. The results of the study "Meeting & Event Barometers 2017/2018" underline the growing importance of these types of events, with 23.5 per cent of all events organisers reporting that they arrange hybrid events.

In terms of both internal procedures and processes at companies in the German conference and convention sector, the GCB has identified six areas in which digital transformation is posing challenges.

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Matthias Schultze on "Encourage employees to try out new things!"

1. Strategy

A strategic approach that encompasses all areas of business is the basis for all measures in connection with digital transformation. Building on the roadmap "Conferences and Conventions of the Future", an analysis of megatrends published in 2013, the GCB drew up such a digitalisation strategy for itself and the sector as a whole in 2016. As a dynamic strategy, it is continuously being reviewed and adapted to the rapidly changing environment.

2. Corporate culture

The key to realising a company's vision and strategic goals is having support from each individual employee. This calls for expertise in several areas, and not just technical or methodological expertise: personal skills and a positive attitude to the subject of digitalisation also play an important role. Staff should be encouraged to try out new things, and mistakes should be allowed. To create the right environment and promote this "culture of trying things out", the GCB is focusing on continuous training and new and creative ways of collaborating, such as peer-learning meetings and agile working.

3. Technology

New technologies are at the heart of the digital transformation. The GCB has radically changed how it deals with new technical tools in recent years: employees are undertaking further training in this field and are constantly reviewing the tools used for data management or communicating with members, partners and customers, for example – including at the GCB's branches in New York and Beijing. This technology plays a key role in supporting flexible and cooperative working. New technological possibilities are also influencing the GCB's marketing measures; its portfolio includes webinars, for example, and increasingly often video content for social media channels. The GCB is investigating how virtual and augmented reality, facial recognition and other relevant technologies could be used for its own events.

4. Channels

Digital transformation is having a significant impact on how the GCB communicates with its various target groups. In particular, social media channels are taking up more space and influencing the respective formats that are chosen. With webinars and web TV events, social media posts and digital brochures instead of printed ones, the GCB is also exploring new avenues in the areas of marketing and communications.

5. Customer focus

The "customer journey" is at the heart of all measures and also guides members and partners in implementing digital solutions. A focus on customers is a key factor in success: users are increasingly often expecting individualised solutions at the various points of contact associated with a service or product. An analysis of the various target groups' needs and expectations forms the basis for the definition of "personas". This marketing tool can then be used to develop appropriate solutions and products.

6. Data and analyses

The success of measures and activities must remain measurable in the digital world. Before analysing its data, the GCB therefore defines KPIs (key performance indicators) that can be used to review all communication measures, for example. In terms of digitalisation as a whole, the digital maturity index is the most important KPI for measuring the degree of digital transformation in a company. It serves as a guide for further optimisation of all processes in all parts of the company on an ongoing basis. Change is the new normal; we must accept and accommodate the profound changes driven by digital transformation with dynamic strategic approaches, continuous training and constant adaptation of solutions and products.