Here at Hoist Finance, we are constantly striving to find new ways of reaching out to, simplifying for and helping our customers. On that topic we invited Micke Ahlström, who held an appreciated workshop with our top leaders in Barcelona, where we discussed what digitalisation means for us as a company. We caught up with Micke afterwards for an interview on the topic of digitalisation that we feel is worthwhile sharing with you:
Can you describe what you mean by digitalisation?
It is kind of a tough word that means a lot of things for a lot of people. I think that one of the important things to do in the digitalisation process internally is to figure out what we mean by digitalisation. Because everyone within an organization usually have their own interpretation.
For me it is not so much about digital, it is more about finding out how different digital and other phenomena are now shaping our future. How it is shaping our industry? How is our consumers’ behaviour shaping that future? The future will be a lot more digitalised than it is today and our transformation challenge is to be relevant in that future. Maybe with totally analogue means. So, the digitalisation for me, is not to make everything in the organization digital, but it is to make ourselves relevant and efficient and having a great position in a digitalised environment.
When did you first discover and take on/start talking about digitalisation as a word and as a mission? How?
It started in different ways. I had my first web agency and my first start up in 1994, this was almost pre internet and the conversations were almost the same back then. We could really see, and it was kind of obvious, that this new tool would transform industries. At that time though, we talked more about the communication impact, how it would transform marketing and media etc. Probably a decade later it became clear what kind of impact it would have on organizations and on whole industries. And I think right now it’s becoming very clear what kind of impact it will have on individuals and thereby on whole societies.
Why should we embrace and not be scared of becoming digital?
I am scared of digitalisation, he says with a big smile. We should be scared, it will change things. If we know that we can do the same things and still be relevant if things have changed, then we do not need to embrace it, but I do not think that is the case. Instead, we need to be a little bit more on our toes because the general speed of change is going up. And it is not really a race towards digitalisation, it is a race towards relevance, both for me as an individual but also as a company, of course. Therefore, I think we should be cautious about how digital is affecting us and our own behaviours, but as soon as we have gotten scared and gotten a sense of urgency, we can use that energy and take the tools and make them productive for us. Both in our private lives, that I think a lot of us have actually done. We are much more efficient and live easier lives with booking stuff and coordinating kids to football practice etc. compared to how we did things before. Now most is a click away. That same development we are of course also experiencing now in our professional life, and we better embrace it.
What are the main pitfalls when “digitalising” a company?
Make sure that it is not focused on technology. Make sure that you include the organization in these changes, and make sure that everyone understands why and what is the aim with all of these digital tools. Then they will become less of a threat and more of an empowerment for everyone. So I think, looking more into the culture aspect, the leadership aspect and prepare the organisation for dealing with speed of change rather than getting great at tech.
Do you need to be a digital native as an employee to fully understand the new digital world?
It is really dangerous to kind of outsource the digital responsibilities and competences to the “new guys” and just recruit young people who knows the “digital stuff”. This is not about digital this is about our core business and it is much more important to have the senior people who knows the business, who are familiar with the consumers and regulations and add a digital layer on top of each and every one of them. That will give them super powers to be even better at their job instead of letting the IT/tech people or the new people take over their actual job positions.
Can anyone or any company ignore digitalisation today?
I think a lot of organisations have tried to find the reasons why just their industry and their company is so specific and has so much regulations and have so much analogue parts and components in their industry, if it is aircraft or real estate or governmental or whatever but my CLEAR insight is that if the world is changing in the speed that it is, it is going to be very difficult to be the same operating in a new environment. If the environment shifts and the speed of change increases, if we don’t increase our speed of innovation in the same pace as the environment the gap is just going to build up. I haven’t seen an industry yet that have not been affected.
Are there any ethical issues that you need to be aware of when digitalizing processes?
I think there will be huge challenges. We see that already now in terms of integrity and especially on larger scale, big elections are being hijacked by trolls and algorithms that have a different agenda than the intended one, for democracy in this case.
And, for the banking industry specifically?
Every algorithm that takes decisions, which is what algorithms do, the one designing these algorithms will need to think about ethical consequences of those decisions. Therefore it is important that this is not only outsourced to the tech people that are good at algorithms but might not know the business, and might not be aware of the ethical implications. So maybe we will see new Chief Ethical Officers in the industry. But this is also where banks have been great previously. Very few other companies in other industries have compliance in the way that you do. So use that competence and expand it into this new era that could be a guidance for a lot of other industries to follow your way of working and processes. Maybe a new revenue model for the future.
A lot of people are talking about that compliance and regulations are holding back development and our chances to stay relevant. But right now, alongside with fintech and healthtech, regtech is a boosting area with a lot of prosperous applications within the regulatory field, so it’s a whole new industry that could give spin offs for companies that are good in that area.