Digital transformation is just the beginning: a company’s journey
Many business leaders feel ready to embark on the digital transformation. The question is, what do they want to accomplish with new technology-driven approaches beyond simply digitizing existing processes or lines of business? Some forward-looking companies, aware of the pointlessness of going through a digital transformation exercise for digital transformation, intend to do more with the new possibilities that technology opens up to them. There has to be something meaningful and purposeful on the other end, like promoting socially responsible approaches, that makes it all interesting for employees, customers, partners and the world at large.
This is the path forged by Viessman Group, a 104-year-old climate control solutions company, which recognized that digital transformation means more than just adding new technologies – it means unpacking newly acquired resources to promote sustainability, opportunities and new solutions to upset. problems. “Define the goal of your organization, make sure everyone understands it and make it an integral part of your offerings,” says Max Viessmann, CEO of the Viessmann Group. Viessmann, which runs a family business based in Germany with 13,000 employees in 75 countries, is in the process of transforming itself from manufacturer to digital service provider. Ongoing initiatives include the provision of smart devices that communicate the health and condition of customers’ homes or offices to Viessmann’s monitoring departments, research and development of systems using alternative energy sources such as the hydrogen or solar energy, and other green initiatives.
To stay ahead of the game, Viessmann supports a constellation of venture capital units – VC / O – that support the growth of emerging tech companies and tech companies. “We are incubating many business models outside of our core business, but still linked to our core business, because we have seen that we have to learn a lot and we have to engage in an ecosystem”, explains Viessmann. This includes investing in artificial intelligence and quantum computing companies. “It’s clear that if we don’t embrace digital technologies, we wouldn’t be able to be successful. We invest in companies that are seriously disrupting our base, other industries, and we engage with them.
Viessmann’s investments cover two main areas: deep technology and clean energy, with a philosophy of investing in core technologies as they emerge, and then creating specific solutions on top of these. technologies over time. Areas of investment include Internet of Things (IoT), artificial and machine intelligence, advanced technological hardware, enterprise software, distributed ledger technology, cybersecurity, augmented and virtual reality and autonomous systems. “When people start to invest in AI or quantum computing, it’s super generic early on when the technology is developed or adopted,” says Viessmann. “But at some point you’ll see that a technology has a horizontal impact on many industries, it’s usually a good investment. But it also helps to understand how it can be applied to our own vertical. This is why we invest in horizontal technologies, because we can understand it much earlier than other companies.
Currently, the company is an investor in IQM, one of the largest quantum computing companies in Europe, as well as space companies EnergyTech and PropertyTech, which focus on delivering digital solutions based on given to living and working spaces. The word “digital” is even disappearing from the corporate lexicon, says Viessmann. “If you look at our strategy in 2017, it was still big digital scale, end-to-end supply chain management – lots of buzzwords, and a little fuzzy maybe. sometimes. Today everything we initiate has to have that digital element or it just doesn’t give us a competitive advantage. In our strategy for 2025, we do not use the word digital, because it is not a building block, it is just a factor of hygiene. Things are now on a higher level.
This includes initiatives to integrate more software and AI capabilities into its product lines, enabling company technicians to predict and resolve issues at customer sites before they arise. Solutions can be downloaded automatically to customer facilities, without a technician having to arrive on site. “We are able to optimize and update systems throughout their lifespan,” says Viessmann. “Our service partners can anticipate if something is wrong, so they can fix the problem before it even happens. A problem can arise with a device over a period of 20 years, depending on different conditions. Technology helps us understand some of the patterns. ”
At the same time, there is not necessarily magic with AI, emphasizes Viessmann. “AI is such a big word, and it obviously helps a lot of fairness stories to write,” he points out. “But if you just look at the deep learning side, you just understand if there is a pattern and can adjust what the algorithm is about to do, based on the learning and pattern that has been recognized. AI allows you to deal with this complexity and make it much more productive and efficient, which you wouldn’t be able to control manually or if you had a static algorithm that just goes in and out. For us, it’s not rocket science, it’s just about understanding the models and learning from them. ”
This, in turn, elevates energy efficiency to new levels, thereby reducing carbon emissions resulting from coal-fired power plants, he continues. Using software-driven installations supported by AI, switching to alternative energy sources without the expensive labor required in the past. “We use technology to reduce the time wasted on inefficient commissioning processes and inefficient service processes,” he says. “An hour and a half exercise, now it’s done in a fraction of a second.”
It’s not technology for the sake of technology, emphasizes Viessmann. “We want to have the most positive impact on the environment and living spaces, and anything that helps us achieve this from a technological point of view is worth trying,” he explains. . “A few years ago, IoT was a generic term. We have invested in protocol or communication companies that have enabled IoT. It was clear that vertical solutions within sectors would be created. We have therefore created our own solutions for the climate and energy side of things, based on the technology available. ”
Digital transformation has not only meant providing digital services to customers, but also transforming the corporate culture of the company. Employees are encouraged to develop ideas that often result in piloting and production. For example, when the Covid pandemic struck, a group of employees took materials around the company’s factory and created ventilators for Covid patients, ultimately shipped to hard-hit areas like the India.
The Covid crisis, for its part, provides many lessons for corporate social responsibility, says Viessman. “The pandemic has shown us all how deeply we can be affected by a change in our environment,” he explains. “A pandemic shows us who we are, not who we think we are. There is a curve to the pandemic. But if we take a look at some of the consequences that result from progress on climate change, it shows us all that it’s not just going to go away. ”
Businesses need leaders who are looking to achieve sustainability and a bigger goal. “Make it yours,” Viessmann urges. “It is our primary responsibility to look beyond our bottom line and see the impact we have on the environment, and how far we can actually improve it. Every business must become a climate solutions business. It’s got to come straight from the hearts of the people who already believe. We need to focus on the responsibility we have for the future and be aware that the way we live today will impact future generations. If that’s part of the reason people buy your products or engage with your services, then it becomes a real part of your DNA.