In order to better serve businesses of all sizes across central and eastern Europe, Telekom Austria Group created a new subsidiary, A1 digital, earlier this year and named Elisabetta Castiglioni as the CEO.
was formed to help businesses with their digital transformations by initially offering Internet of Things services and cloud-based ICT solutions that build upon existing data center capacities in Austria and the Telekom Austria Group 's other markets. In this Telco Transformation Q&A, Castiglioni -- who was the last CEO of Siemens Global Media Business, part of the Siemens IT Solution and Services division -- talked about digitization being more than just products, who should lead digital transformations, and how to help customers change their corporate cultures.
Telco Transformation: Can you talk about the importance of digitalization for businesses?
Elisabetta Castiglioni: Absolutely. So, digitalization is at the core of the business transformation. It's not an IT thing, but it's at the core of the entire business transformation. So what we see is digitalization happening on various levels.
The first one is customer interface; the custom digitizing of the entire customer experience. The second thing is processes, internal processes, operational excellence, targeting operational excellence. Then you see new products and services, such as migration from, let's say, being a hardware supplier into software and then a services company. The fourth pillar of digitalization is the interface to your partners and suppliers.
So we see digitalization really being pervasive, a thing happening all over. Each individual company will have to choose [what to do] since you cannot do everything at the same time. They will have to pick and choose where they start from.
TT: Do you help them with that process? Do you say, what is your goal? What would you like to do first?
EC: Yes. So we have services in place, especially if you're looking for IoT, that can optimize the operational excellence, for example. That is something that if you want a quick win, if you want to go the next level of productivity, that is a good place to start. But at the same time, we can also help companies transition from being a product company to being a services company. We can help you do that. We have helped companies do that.
TT: Do you work with small, medium or enterprise-sized companies?
EC: On the IT side, I would say no company is too small, no company is too big. It depends on where you can add value. Digitalization is happening on so many levels that there are ways for us to help, especially on the IoT side. Maybe just in one part of the value chain, but we can do that very well.
On the cloud side, I would say the typical customer for us is a midsize company, an international midsize company. I think it's important as we design products that we design them from the lower end. You know, it's easier to scale up than to scale down. Our products should be able to scale up.
TT: How would you describe your company?
EC: We position ourselves two ways. One is as a partner for digital transformation, in cloud or IT businesses. The second thing is we are regional. We are conscious of the fact that we are operating in our region, but for our region we want to be an important, strong player. That's our positioning in the market.
TT: What is on A1's roadmap this year, and over the next few years? What are the top priorities and challenges?
EC: We are positioning ourselves as the partner for digital transformation. As I said, there are those four areas in which we can help. So that's really where we are developing our portfolio and expanding our portfolio into, and cloud in terms of software-as-a-service where we have a cloud marketplace. We are, obviously, continuously expanding, in terms of also targeting more industry-specific offerings. Then it's infrastructure-as-a-service. Then IoT with various targeted use cases in targeted verticals.
TT: Who should be the decision-makers for digital transformation; CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, chief security officers or IT leaders?
EC: It really takes rethinking. Rethinking even of what business we we in. That is why digitalization is not an IT project, but it's a CEO project. We believe that nowadays there isn't a CEO that can afford not to have digitalization on their agenda, so it's a strategic program. It will actually decide the future direction of the company. That is why I think you need to make it really the top of the agenda for the CEO. In Europe, I think the vast majority of the companies are really putting this in the forefront. I do think it is all over Europe.
It has to be the CEO because there will be so many activities that will go on. That person will need to empower his or her team to really implement them. If you don't have that person that leads from the front, chances are that you will not be successful. That is why I think it must be at the top of a CEO's agenda.
TT: Security is a big issue for businesses. How do you ensure data security?
EC: Absolutely, security is mandatory. Security and privacy, obviously, are mandatory parts of any offering. We have certified data centers that we keep in line with regulations and with high standards.
TT: How do you help companies make the cultural transformations that are needed for digitalization?
EC: You can change culture, but first of all, as the CEO you need to lead by example. You can only be credible if you do what you're saying within your own company. Obviously, agile is all over the place. You need to not only talk agile, but act agile. I think if you implement some of these principles into the culture of your customers that helps them also transform.
The way we work within our company, but also with our partners can help transform cultures. It's a long process. It's something you have to step up to every day.
TT: What are the biggest misconceptions about digitalization?
EC: Digitalization is not a project within a department or some departments. It's a fundamentally new way of thinking and it should be really a CEO subject at the top of the agenda. It's which business are we in today, which business will we be in tomorrow and how do we go from here to there? It's really a fundamental change that is happening.
TT: How do you define "digital transformation?"
EC: It's not only about technology. It's the business models. It's the ways of working that are maybe the more difficult parts. It's the customer experience and really working on what is it that the customer will experience in their journey with us? And working backwards and defining everything you do in the light of that.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation