Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation in Light of Executive search

This year’s newswire offers industry insights on the so called phenomenon / megatrend of Digitization. It includes a survey of more than 300 responses by business leaders across all sectors and of more than 20 viewpoints of C suite executives as experts in the field. What stimulated our interest in this topic was the awareness of the globally evolving digital landscape and the local clients’ discussions about missing digital skills & hiring digital experts.

Senior leaders have clearly understood that in today’s business arena, traditional measurements of success are no longer valid and that is why developing a different set of strengths that embrace the digital reality is of a profound importance. In this digital economy the set-up of the 21st century workforce is high in the priorities’ list of the CEOs agendas.

This rapid change on skills required as well as on leadership traits needed, fall under a general transformation necessity which is evolving in the marketplace. It is sweeping across all departments and functionalities, seniority levels and everyday business life. Existing Jobs are updating their content while new Positions are being developed in novel specializations and business areas. An experienced professional from a management consulting firm, expert in Re-engineering, during a casual conversation, commented; ‘I have concluded that it’s not only about setting up the right processes and implementing the most innovative IT solutions but having the right people in place to do so’. Such “right people” are individuals with agility, flexibility, pioneering and leadership skills who can lead this transformation and act as change agents. To this extend, talent acquisition and executive assessment are essential for those corporations that have a clear understanding of the necessity of a Change Culture. As there are no boundaries in reaching candidates globally through technology and assessment processes are improving in speed and efficiency through digital tools, talent acquisition is catching up to this rapid wave of digital transformation.

An important part of talent acquisition is finding the right leaders to envision drive and implement this Digital Transformation, who can cultivate the necessary culture to embrace this change. To quote an inspirational businesswoman who embodies the contemporary profile of such a thought leader, Carla Harris:

"A Leader is someone who Leverages, out-of-the-box thinking and other people’s ideas, Empowers business strategy, is Authentic and generates trust, is Decisive while also believes in the power of diversity and is able to Engage team members by developing an inclusive culture while taking Risks."

We hope you enjoy this issue of Newswire, find it relevant to your business endeavors and are inspired to take action!

Digital Transformation Survey 2017


Digital Transformation is sweeping the world of business regardless of industry and specialization. To enhance our understanding of this phenomenon within the Greek market we conducted a survey, of 350 respondents from various industries and positions, to shed light on how digitization is shaping the Greek economy landscape. With 71% of respondents classifying DT as "Very Important" for their Organization and, on average, ranking their company’s engagement in Digital Transformation as 7 out of 10, the power of digitization is evident.


Maturity stage of DT

The maturity of digitization in most Organizations is at a Standardized stage (27.9%) and more importantly, at least one fourth of the Organizations have reached a Dynamic level of Digital Transformation.


Value chain parts transformed

Marketing & Media as well as Business Intelligence / Analytics / CRM are the top value chain parts expected to primarily be digitized, followed by Sales and Operations. (Chart 1)

Driving factors

New Consumer Behaviors and Mobile Usage are the main external factors driving the shift toward Digital Transformation.

Deciding factors

Resistance to Change is the most important drawback that could inhibit the success of Digital Transformation, thus, unsurprisingly, Culture and People is a vital internal factor necessary for the success of DT. (Chart 2 & 3)

Areas of Evolution

Big Data & Analytics is the area most expected to evolve (73.7%) while Mobility & Cloud Access and Internet of Things (IoT) follow as additional areas awaiting major digital changes.

Areas of evolution numbers

Transformed functions, roles and skillsets

The areas/functions in highest short-term demand for transformation are Performance Marketing, Digital Media and Analytics, E-Sales, Social Media, and Customer Experience. Traits identified as essential for ideal candidates in these “digital” roles are Agility and Speed (68%), Innovation (56%), and Leadership & Influence (52.4%). Notably, CEO’s, GM’s tended to value a Results Oriented mindset more than HR’s, while the opposite was true for Innovation. (Chart 4)

Employment in DT era

In this DT era, employment prospects in digital related roles are ranked as 7 out of 10. To cover new company needs, the highest ranked recruiting method is Networking and Executive Search is a close second. In the Executive Search process, great value is placed Expertise/ Market Specialization (80%) and Professional and Unbiased Assessment (60%).

Areas of evolution numbers

Career steps

With this changing landscape of the markets in mind, when considering a potential career step, 63% value Compensation, 57% Prospects and 52% Seniority. Interestingly, respondents below the age of 30 diverge, and mostly value Influence, Entrepreneurship and Work Life balance, while the age group of 50+ focuses on International Experience, a factor mostly neglected by others. Finally, women value Work life balance more than men while the opposite is true for Entrepreneurship. General satisfaction with Organizations’ attention to the above criteria is only slightly above 50%. (Chart 5)

Respondents Demographics:

The majority of respondents were men (74%) between the ages of 40-50 (47%). The most represented position was that of the CEO/ General Manager (33%) and HR (18%), followed by Commercial-related roles. The most represented Business Sectors were Consumer Products and Services (30%), Financial Services (14%), and Technology (13%). Finally, it should be noted that 53% of Organizations have current E-Business as a revenue stream and 86% have International Activities.

Respondents Demographics

Setting the Foot: the Greek Consumer Overlooking 2020

We are witnessing the growth and decline of consumerism and traditional media, the birth and growth of technology and digital life, all in parallel with a constantly changing political, social, and values-crisis environment in our country. We are living through high-speed changes that affect our lives at a macro and micro level and have resulted in the development of two major phenomena: the economic crisis and the boom of technology.

The Forces of Change: the Economic Crisis

In 2015, more than 50% of Greeks declared having a higher than 50% reduction on their income since 2010, while virtually all Greeks admit that their income, personal or family, has decreased by 44% within the last five years. In order to face this reality, the majority of Greek households have reviewed and reduced their expenses down to the absolute necessities, seek out the best bargains and offers, and consider all possible options before making final financial decisions. (Graph I).

The Forces of Change: the Boom of Technology

Greeks are becoming more and more digital: almost four out of five Greeks ages 13-74 are using the internet; notably, it is the older generations that are lately boosting the Greek digital universe, with ages 55-64 having reached 50%, and 65-74 boasting a 27% internet penetration. (Graph II). This growth can be attributed to four parameters:

  1. rapid mobile/smartphone evolution — more than three out of five Greeks currently have a smartphone, (Graph III & Graph IV),
  2. fierce competition between Telecoms providers, which has equipped seven out of ten Greek households with broadband internet,
  3. social media/networks, with two out of three Greeks having at least one social media profile (Graph V & Graph VI).
  4. lastly, e-commerce: more than one out of three Greeks made at least one online purchase during the average quarter of 2016, and this trend is rapidly increasing among both genders, featuring — travelling, entertainment technology — and products and services such as fashion, accessories, beauty, cosmetics, health, and FMCG’s.

New Values, Same Needs

New Values, Same Needs

These two major forces of change have given rise to a whole new set of values and trends in our society. Consumers have switched from cool to stressed, from spontaneous to carefully planned in their purchases, from pleasure seekers to smart shoppers, from big spenders to careful pickers, from socially indifferent to socially sensitive, turning their focus from appearances to inner substance. Anything they choose to pay their attention, or allocate their budget to should be worthwhile, earning its value in money or attention. Particularly the “millennials”, are a special generation, clever and critical of anything old, who embrace innovation, are self-proclaimed “future creators”, and make their choices based on experience. Generally consumers are becoming increasingly demanding, asking brands and corporations for honesty, transparency, respect, and reward.

The Business “Physics” is changing: Customer Experience is the Key to Success

In all markets (including the Media), a new way of communication is emerging. In the past, we used to have a rather one- way communication, with mass media conveying their messages to passive audiences while major brands operated in less crowded markets with fewer options available to consumers. Today, the physics is different: we have an empowered audience and the media are faced with attention scarcity while brands struggle to “get into” consumers limited budgets, needing to convince them of their “raison d’ etre”. Particularly in services, customer experience, the feeling with which a consumer exits from an organizations’ touchpoint, is the key to success. Needs for security/safety, variety/change, personal treatment and connection should be covered, and consumers need brands and organizations to treat them on a one-to-one level, developing an equal relationship. Consequently, word of mouth has become the most powerful promotion tool; in Greece, 38% of consumers make at least one recommendation to a friend or relative every day, which makes NPS (Net Promoter Score) an absolutely meaningful KPI for monitoring qualitative performance of any brand. Yet, it is not enough just to monitor NPS; a deep dive into the NPS data is needed in order to extract more interesting, actionable insights and close the loops!

The Necessity of a Collaborative Vision in times of Digital Transformation

Companies around the globe should be well aware that technological innovation is a key strategic topic, which disrupts many known business models, pushing organizations to invest in new technologies, invent new business models, re-organize internal processes, etc.

From a technology perspective we have seen evolutions from expensive investment in infrastructure towards cheaper and more transactional cloud models, a new “trial & error”, scrum based way of development and the increasing importance of “open source” versus proprietary.

But Digital Transformation is much more than tools & processes. There are a number of important findings on the front of work culture, HR policy and employee engagement:

  1. Working local to working from anywhere in the world

    The new generation does not see the necessity to work from one office, close to home, requiring companies to accept a mindset of working anywhere, anytime. Planning tasks and work agendas will become more flexible and talent recruitment will become global.

  2. The hiring criteria “good for 40 years” shifts to a desired competence life span of “maximum 10 years”

    People will need to continuously learn and quickly develop new competencies, in multiple environments, bringing the age of the “golden watch career” to an end.

  3. A shift from an “improve on all fronts” philosophy towards a focus on single talent excellence.

    From a developmental perspective, excelling at one talent will become vital to allow competition in a broader and more competitive economy.

  4. Mindset change Mindset change from “knowledge is power” to “sharing knowledge is power”

    Of course not all corporate secrets will be thrown out on the street. However, sharing knowledge affects the valuable asset of perception, branding the company or individual as experts and making Thought leadership the norm.

  5. A shift from serial careers to parallel careers

    People will have more career paths simultaneously. Working in a competence culture instead of a job culture will allow individuals to work for several employers or companies at the same time creating a more open perspective on economy.

  6. Failing is no longer a stigma

    Failing will no longer create a stigma but will be seen as a natural path to successful entrepreneurship.

  7. Winning as a team over winning individually Winning as a team over winning individually

    The new generation is more driven by social acceptance, team accomplishments and their role in such rather than individual successes.

  8. Experience over luxury and wealth

    The younger generation is also no longer motivated by economic incentives and luxury. The trend of choosing experience over luxury and wealth rose with social media. Corporate Social responsibility, work & private life balance have become more important than financial remuneration.

  9. Instant satisfaction over patience

    E-tools, social media, etc. have created a mindset of instant satisfaction. It’s important for companies to realize that the next ecosystem of customers, employees, and partners will expect faster and more efficient reactions to their needs.

    In the culture described above, reducing time is a solution for instant satisfaction, more balance with private life, sufficient learning and training to develop competence.

    To this end, we need a collaborative mindset through the formation of ecosystems and platforms for start-ups or larger organizations. The benefits of such an endeavor are shorter learning curves, faster access to key decision makers, and quicker access to international markets, technological productivity, and time efficient hiring processes through stronger reference networks.

To summarize, Digital Transformation will change employee and workforce recruitment, onboarding, assimilation and retention. Consequently, companies need to learn how to reduce time and work as efficiently as possible.

Source: A summary based on the presentation of Mr. Jurgen Ingels, serial entrepreneur, for Stanton Chase Belgium.

Educating Digital Transformation Experts

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can offer substantial business value to organizations, with the possibility to transform them and disrupt their sectors with innovative services and new business models. Traditional technologies (ERP, CRM etc.) and recent advancements ranging from mobile technologies, business analytics and e-invoicing to Internet of Things, smart devices, robotics and Artificial Intelligence, offer great opportunities to large and small organizations, supporting their competitive position. The main aspects of Digital Transformation are the support and formation of business strategy with ICTs, the re-engineering of processes as well as organizations, the digital innovation of products/services, and the enablement of new digital business models.

Various studies identify three main elements that companies are transforming as part of their digital maturity progress:

  1. The transformation of internal processes through the automation of typical operations, the enablement of employees via collaboration and information tools, and the support of decision making through business analytics.
  2. The transformation of customer experience through a better understanding of their behavior and preferences, sales and marketing processes optimization, and multichannel customer service points.
  3. The transformation of business models through digitally extended businesses, radically new and differentiated business models, and the development of new markets and global reach.

The main pillars of a typical successful Digital Transformation project include:

Digital Transformation

It is a true business transformation initiative since it demands continuous inventions, the technological evolution is exponential and it requires catalyzing into action all functions of the organization. It is essential to improve existing skills in order to successfully implement Digital Transformation projects.

At the Athens University of Economics and Business we started a new MSc degree for part-time and full-time students in 2016 (called Management Sciences and Technology) that gives emphasis on these Digital Transformation skills. The goal is to support the upgrade of the role of key IT personnel from purely technical into more managerial positions, as well as to enable junior managers in all sectors of the organization to lead Digital Transformation initiatives.

Digital Transformation

From Large Corporates to the New Digitally Empowered Startup Ecosystem

Markets today have become increasingly unstable and competitive. In Greece specifically, due to the crisis, the idea of jumping on board a start-up may seem daunting at best. However, succeeding at such an entrepreneurial venture is not as impossible as one might think. Startups become successful when they solve a real, tangible problem. For example, blueground, founded in 2013, took advantage of a gap in the market and offered a differentiated and cost advantageous accommodation solution to business travelers. Blueground does what hotels and serviced apartments fail to do, and offers its guests greater, standardized quality, lower pricing, larger spaces, and a home-feeling. Filling such supply driven “gaps” in the market, meeting consumer's unanswered needs, and solving real problems, is how startups can truly blow up.

Once launched, the next step to success for a startup certainly involves technology. The process of a company's Digital Transformation needs to start from within the company; organizations must first learn internally how to operate in the digital space and then turn towards their customers. At blueground, technology can be found in both internal processes, such as an in-house developed system for property onboarding and account management, as well as external, such as a proprietary online booking engine and payment platform. Technology is essential in increasing efficiency, reducing time and cost of operations, and, consequently, allowing management to focus on growth.

Thanos Geramanis

Another area where startups can continue to flourish is digital innovation, meaning the active development of innovative, new, and intelligent ways of improving customers' interactions and experiences. For example, at blueground, recent technological advancements include a mobile app for guests and a corporate booking tool for HR and Travel professionals. Specifically, the mobile app simplifies and enhances guests' experience, giving immediate access to all information related to their property, allowing instant messaging communication with technical support teams and locating important points of interest in their neighborhood. The online tool for HR and Travel professionals allows corporate clients to book accommodation very quickly and gives them a complete overview of their corporate bookings. It is not always necessary to 'innovate' across all areas of your business; sometimes, it is just enough to integrate or transform existing technologies into the business or service.

Finally, in the world of start-ups there are no boundaries, unlike in other businesses. Especially with the opportunities technology offers today, achieving global reach in a startup company is no longer an impossible dream. Just as an example, blueground recently launched two more countries, is present in Athens, Istanbul and Dubai, with a 3x year-on-year growth and plans to expand to fifty cities in the next five years, reaching global leadership in the hospitality industry.

Having worked for more than 16 years in large corporations, moving to a small startup was not obvious or easy. There are many business elements that are of paramount importance; cash flow management, internal processes, brand equity, IT systems and many more. Personally, I joined a startup team for a very concrete reason; the desire to create and own something new, that holds value. In startups you need to be agile and creative, inspire and convince others in spite of doubts and take risks, while continuously learning and adapting. The excitement that characterizes the startup world and its endless opportunities only solidify my belief that I made the right choice.

At blueground, our mission is to provide business travelers and expats a premium hospitality experience, making them feel at home away from home. Ultimately, our success is grounded in the identification of market white spaces and utilization of technological resources. Hopefully, in this changing world, startups can adapt their business models in a similar way and entrepreneurship will not only become a less daunting project but an exciting opportunity to create companies that grow, expand and improve the global market as a whole.

Time to Revolutionize your Business Model

What - A Digital Economy

Hyper connectivity founded on the Internet, Mobile-Smart devices, Data Analytics and Cloud technologies, has shaped the digital era. Digital Transformation has radically improved business productivity and retail consumers embraced the convenience and vast selection of online catalogues early on, and so did the price transparency, multichannel free-shipping and satisfaction-guaranteed policies which followed. These new connectivity levels between people, businesses, devices, data, and processes fuel the digital fire and the rapid growth of new business models.

Andreas Apostolidis Image

Why - Capitalizing on Opportunities

The opportunities for Greek companies and in particular SMEs are profound, starting with leveraging technology to execute more efficiently existing business models, and with a greater reach to customers, suppliers, vendors and partners. Digitally mature companies demonstrate much higher profitability and business growth compared to industry averages while several reached in record time the top ranks of fortune 500. Still, the largest opportunity arises once an organization gets to digital maturity and realizes the potential of transforming the business model, accounting for both present and future shifts. Uber for example, is now the world’s largest taxi company without owning any vehicles, while Facebook is the world’s most popular media owner without creating any content. Similarly, Amazon turned its enormous computing capacity built to support its own retail operations into a revenue stream and its most profitable business segment by selling capacity via Cloud services during non-peak hours. Capital investments in technology are not a barrier anymore, and the focus has shifted to offering superior customer experiences at affordable costs by integrating related products and services into sophisticated industry wide solutions.

How - Building Operational Excellence

What Why How

Transforming an organization to provide such outstanding experiences to increasingly savvy and fickle customers is an enormous challenge. It goes beyond meeting their service expectations to proactively engaging and offering a new level of value proposition. But as a start, it requires the development of new organizational competencies, revolving around the capacity to be more agile by digitalizing all processes, addressing the dark side of cyber-threats, and building enterprise-level governance around the customer journey across all channels and touchpoints. Reaching this level of digital maturity is not a function of IT, but a business function, preparing the company for quick adoption of emerging business models. Thriving companies are then digitally-ready to harness collaborative digital networks for innovation and ecosystems building, increasing their reach and transparency, while providing a seamless, Omni-channel, contextual, and personalized brand experience.

Moving Forward - The Management Perspective

The grand challenge for senior executives is to invent an effective organization to drive this transformation, inspire a strong unifying vision, and navigate through the needed culture change. It requires strong leadership to implement enterprise -level governance overcoming internal silos, rethink structures, and provide clarity and transparency around key areas; ranging from channel and marketing strategy to innovation-based investments and strategic partnerships. It is about shifting decision-making increasingly towards data algorithms and rule-based decision trees, fostering a culture of fast testing of ideas and continuous incorporation of learnings. Effective talent management and continuous people development will be key, given the growing gap between swiftly evolving technology and the slower pace of human development.

Digital Transformation has reached the tipping point where it is not just part of the economy; it is the economy, with every industry having examples of businesses already reaping its benefits. When an organization understands its physical and digital asset inventory, it can operate with agility and precision previously unimaginable. This should be a call to action for executives in every company to set a clear Digital Transformation roadmap, not necessarily focusing on the IT investment, but rather on the transformation of management intensity needed.

Digital Entrepreneurship

What were your main drivers in deciding to enter e-business and shift from corporate to entrepreneurship?

Vasilis Andrikopoulos Starting from a personal standpoint, having spent twenty-one years in FMCG companies and working in commercial businesses and industrial corporations taught me how to achieve excellence. Additionally, through a number of M&A and Investment activities, such as, an M&A activity in DIAGEO Plc., the Joint Venture of Olympic Brewery with Carlsberg, an investment in Green Cola and others, I was exposed to entrepreneurial and investment mentality. YODA was an exciting entrepreneurial opportunity to create something unique and capitalize on my capabilities. The external environment signs were positive in the e-supermarket territory as well; low penetration in Greece and high potential for developing the market. While consumers want and need brick-and-mortar stores, time remains a valuable asset. People choose to channel their energy in productive activities and eliminate the time spent in non-productive ways, such as waiting in queues, parking, and carrying items.

Vasilis Stasinoulias After twenty-five years of experience in Retail it was time for a change. I was fascinated with the food retail industry but the options were limited, since in Greece the sector shows no investment. Simultaneously, my interest in the future and professional ambition remained strong. Thus, facing a food retail market that reaches €10 billion in size with only approx. 0.3-0.4% emanating from online channels, I realized that digital is the future. Yiannis (Chitos), Vasilis (Andrikopoulos) and I combined entrepreneurship with finance & operations and retail backgrounds and Your Online Daily Agora was born. Being an entrepreneur and owning your own business is different from a corporate career. Risk becomes more dangerous yet necessary. Fortunately, I had entrepreneurial experiences in my corporate tenure, albeit in more defined structures, which fostered my inclination to flexibility and need to create new things.

Vasilis Andrikopoulos The starting point in such initiatives is to build a team where one completes the other. Another fundamental part is that you have to be professional and stay true to what you stand for.

What are the obstacles, learnings and opportunities in Digital entrepreneurship?

Vasilis AndrikopoulosIn Greece, market and customers are not mature yet. We need to "teach new tricks" of shopping to consumers which takes time and money, since raising awareness requires promoting and advertising in alternative channels, such as social media, Google, etc. Overall, the idea is simple but the implementation is complicated, especially considering the endless supply of tools/options available in an online business. Infrastructure remains key and differs from an offline business. Flawless execution, Customer Service, and Supply Chain functions are crucial for loyalty.

Vasilis StasinouliasIn e-business, you learn to implement, adjust and start again. Abroad practices lead the way. E-business in Greece is a small market that needs to grow. The speed of growth depends on us. We have to train the market through our initiatives so that consumers prefer the online shopping experience. A major difference between an online store and a brick-and-mortar one is related to purchasing behaviors. A consumer will easily visit an online shop but conducting an actual purchase is not as probable. In physical stores however it’s difficult to enter, but once the customer is there, purchase is a given fact. Additionally, in a physical store information about the customer is limited. However, online there are amazing tools at our disposal and endless information available. Yet, mistakes in an e-business have a greater cost, with the business being completely exposed to consumers. As such, excellent execution and performance are essential.

Stasinoulias - Andrikopoulos image

What is, and will be, the USP of YODA and what are your future plans?

Vasilis AndrikopoulosFlawless Execution – Expansion – Improve the shopping experience for our customers by improving the Look-and-feel of the web site, optimizing use of time, speed and other services available – Increase number of products delivered to customers – Offer solutions to other businesses.

Vasilis StasinouliasThe essence is to offer completed services, meaning look-and- feel, ease and speed of order processing and satisfactory price and promo initiatives. In addition, excellent delivery is vital; it is all about the end-to-end supreme Supply Chain.

Vasilis Andrikopoulos Another key to our operation is the training of our staff. For example, our Customer Service employees, who come in contact with our customers and must establish trust, undergo continuous training. Also, Delivery service employees are not just drivers but rather sales people, representing YODA and the brand.

Digital- a forward looking perspective

Vasilis StasinouliasPhysical Retail dropped by almost 20% the last years. Online is on the rise, new players emerge and long-term investments are foreseen. Persistence, patience and consistency in what you do will lead the way. Focus on training to grow the market and build it to move forward. Excellence in execution, performance and customer experience must be retained.

Vasilis Andrikopoulos The analysis of Big Data forms another key opportunity for corporations and the public sector. In addition, as time becomes the most valuable asset, new initiatives that offer services towards that direction will thrive; the opportunities could be abound. Developing and growing in digital execution and training consumers to shop online is also important.

A Management Perspective on the Media Industry

For the past decade, game-changing products and services have been introduced into our lives. Technological revolutions such as search engines, social networks, cloud computing, robotics and AI are disrupting every industry. During that process, incumbent companies are being eliminated while start-ups, agile and adaptive, are thriving.

Stressed yet?

There’s more. While this is taking place, executives hurriedly try to catch up, jumping on the “technology that will FINALLY solve our problems” bandwagon, hoping it will prove itself their saviour.

It will not.

So, let’s pause for a minute. This is not a case that argues for an embrace of a new, shiny technology. Instead, this is a case for organisational values and behaviors, this is a case for organisational culture and whether “changing” is ingrained in it.

Stavros Drakoularakos side image

Case study - The Media Industry

One of the main industries at the forefront of the digital disruption - maybe due to its mass appeal maybe due to its public nature - is the media industry. The popularity of PCs and laptops gave everyone a glimpse of things to come in the previous decade. The magazine & newspaper industry felt the pain first, with radio and TV following suit. And then came the smartphones.

Most failed to adapt; acknowledging that the business model that brought you to the top is the same one that will lead to your downfall is not an easy task after all.

Executives hurriedly started investing in digital technologies and hastily adopting “digital first” tactics but it was too little too late. The void was filling with new companies. 24MEDIA is one of them. At the beginning of the millennium, while everyone was pondering whether to be “digital first” we doubled down on that and instead went "all digital".

This strategic approach steadily started nurturing digital competencies and when opportunities presented themselves, we were uniquely positioned to act on them.

Here’s a high level list of them:

  • Newsroom efficiencies. From editing to publishing, from text to video, from social media posting to analytics reporting, our newsroom staff is able to qui
  • In-house technology. Whether it’s snap elections or a huge sports event, a media company needs to be on top of it. Creating custom &, platform-friendly (eg mobile) products is made possible by our obs
  • Real-time analytics. Every time a user visits one of our news brands all navigational/time-spent questions are answered instantly thus providing vital real-time insights to our editorial and sales tea
  • Economies of scale. Catering to one news brand is difficult when it comes to hardware (servers) and software (CMS). Catering to 10+ news brands, as we currently do, is next to impossible without investing in critical infrastructure. Bulk purchases of bandwidth and one-CMS-fits-all, create har
  • Diversification. A crucial one. Sometimes, a way to keep pushing forward is to look into other industries. Hence, we have started investing in education, start-ups, and conferences and lately in phy


Digital is neither hardware, nor software, nor a magic pill fix. It is a way of approaching and doing things, from strategy to HR and from internal processes to external approaches.

And if you feel that the digital revolution roller coaster ride is ending anytime soon, hence you can take a break from constantly building on your strengths and improving your weaknesses, I can assure you: It is not. It is only slowing down in order to accelerate faster than ever at the next turn. Buckle up.

A Mandate Feasible for All

Nowadays, the world is not just connected by the internet, but lives through it as well. When we plan a trip, when we share personal and public moments with our friends, when we keep up with the news, when we conduct any type of market search we use the internet through any available device. Today, 3 billion people are connected online and in the near future (before 2020) this number will reach 5 billion, with the internet embedded in 15 billion devices.

Simultaneously, companies today can achieve global reach and expand in the global market if they take advantage of the tools and opportunities the internet provides. Not long ago, advanced technologies were exclusively available to multinational businesses. Now, however, digital tools –email, documents, maps, search engines, cloud services – are available for all. Once, small companies were restricted to local markets and clients/ customers. Through the internet and digital tools it is now possible for these businesses to cross geographical borders and attract customers from all over the world. It could be said that we are now entering the era of the "small-multinational" company.

Grigoris Zarifopoulos side image

In the case where a company does not wish to pursue international endeavours or global expansion, it remains essential to understand and initiate a digital transformation of the organization. And this, for the simple reason that today, consumers across every market and customers across sectors and industries have become digital customers.

More also needs to be done in order for companies to be able to utilize and fully take advantage of the opportunities and potential capabilities the internet offers. This is not exclusive to Greece and the Greek market. According to research conducted by the European Committee, half of Europe’s population (47%) lacks essential digital skills, while in the near future, 90% of jobs and employment opportunities will require such digital knowledge. As a result, by 2020 approximately 700.000 job positions will remain open. Thus, it is clear that the digital transformation of every company needs to start with the training and development of digital skills of the employees at every level of the organization.

The internet is changing the way we communicate, the way we do business and the way we live our lives. It offers opportunities for global expansion but beyond that, along with other technological advancements, it offers companies a chance to grow and develop unconventional business models. The internet is opening doors for smaller companies in markets where, 10 years ago, there weren’t even windows. As digital tools take over and consumer behaviour changes, traditional formulas for success are proving less effective. Today, Digital Transformation is necessary and feasible for all companies to succeed and constant technological advancements only solidify this truth.

Navigating the Unknown

With more than half the world’s population now online, the Internet is no longer simply a media outlet or a platform to use during your work. It has become the platform on which our civilization learns, communicates, transacts and does business. Companies that develop online face multiple challenges such as, lack of expertise, unprecedented complexity and in many cases an old school mentality, applying old theories and practices in a new world. Overall, the biggest challenge is realizing how uncertain and unknown such a "new" economy/ market truly is.

Alex Karageorgis main image

Coming from the Media and Marketing side of the Internet myself, it still amazes me how what we believed to be “facts” are constantly challenged. Previous competitors become partners and new technology renders old business strategies obsolete overnight. In Marketing, for example, we used to seek to own the distribution channel and prided ourselves on our databases used to build loyalty cards to attract repeated business. Today approximately 10 years later the rules have changed. Distribution of products now happens online – We sell our products to Amazon or we pay Google to advertise them. We use external databases to reach our clients and our partners seem to know more about them than we do. We establish our presence in the new digital Malls such as Viber and Facebook. Why do we do this? Because customers now belong to platforms and marketers no longer believe that by “Building it – They will come”. Media that used to “own the consumer” is now battling to retain his/her attention in a world full of devices and distractions, where content is consumed faster than it is created. The challenge becomes to create value for consumers in a more effective and efficient way than others.

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Working at a start-up which since 2006, operates across borders and cultures, what becomes clear is that we need to develop new methods of doing business. We need to create products faster than large corporations, a process which requires constant research and evolution of the right business model. The necessity of adaptation to remain competitive in emerging markets creates the need for constant evaluation and appraisal of results and design tests. As part of this journey in the digital world we must become experts in multiple disciplines. Marketing skills are mixing with Technology skills to create experts who understand how to merge the two and how to address customers that exist in an interconnected world. We are constantly challenged to identify, hire and train individuals, usually digital natives but rarely from the digital business world themselves, in order to succeed in our business design.

What we have identified as the biggest challenge for a business such as our own, is accumulating and sharing knowledge while educating our people to the level of a multinational conglomerate, with far more limited resources available. In the digital world, knowledge is earned online, through practical experience and the study of best practices, which however, quickly become obsolete if not implemented. As an organization we now actively seek out people whose core skill is the ability to learn. This education phenomenon in my view will cause a huge business disruption in the future. Our industrial revolution paradigms cannot support our needs in this developing digital era and it will become necessary, as we accelerate our consumption of knowledge and education, to evolve our learning models as people and corporations shift to life-long learning, enabling us to truly understand our ever changing jobs and business goals.

The Journey from Entrepreneur to Investor and Opportunities in Tech

One might argue that the only way for someone to grow significantly professionally is to become a bold and reckless risk taker. On the contrary, I believe that one needs to be open and eager to explore options and then when convinced take small steps with calculated risk. Life is full of opportunities and options, as long as someone is willing to explore them. My personal story is a vivid example.

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The first option presented was when I was a student at the National Technical University and a friend shared his idea to create the first Greek e-tailer. I could have ignored that option but I chose to embark on the journey of tech entrepreneurship believing in the idea and the people. was born and that’s how I was exposed to e-commerce and digital in general. However, I didn’t jump on tech entrepreneurship wholeheartedly. I first took a 2-year formal business education in New York and then a 2-year dive in the lucrative world of management consulting with Boston Consulting Group. Only after that course did I realize I wanted autonomy and impact on the course of a business. Therefore, it was in 2004 when I consciously took the risk and became a full-time tech entrepreneur. After 4 years and having learnt a lot about e-commerce it felt as a natural evolution to continue and explore other digital business models that would become the next disruptors. This eagerly led me to join and co-create Openfund, a small Seed fund in 2008. Being exposed to new business models I eventually became an angel investor. I loved the opportunity to partner with great founders like Nikos Drandakis from Taxibeat, constantly learning about new Ventures and their challenges and then apply those lessons learnt to other startups. A bit before, due to the difficulties of the Greek economy, that threatened the viability of, I had the existential urge to launch together with other great cofounders.

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The progress of, of doctoranytime which was also launched in 2012, as well as Taxibeat that got international funding and ventured globally, offered me a deeper view on tech startups as well as their needs. Furthermore, as an angel investor involved with Greek startups like e-table, nannuka, douleutaras but also many international ones, I could see the disadvantage the Greek tech ecosystem had comparing to the international ones. We had low access to significant capital as well as relevant experience. That made me think about the need of a larger Venture capital fund, able to share international best practices and willing to create a supporting and synergistic ecosystem of great founders in relevant businesses. That led to the creation of VentureFriends a 20m euro private only fund which launched in Feb 2016. Since then VentureFriends has supported 20 startups helping create the new generation of tech entrepreneurs from Greece.

We are ahead of a tech entrepreneurial transformation, which has already happened globally and will now also happen in Greece. Tech startups are democratic; rely on driven and well educated human capital, can scale very quickly and demand relatively low and easily available capital. An additional asset of the Greek environment is that there are many great people who are willing to take risks because of the depressed economy and lack of alternatives. Therefore, I can only be very optimistic about the future of digital entrepreneurship, which creates a great opportunity for driven startup founders and employees, for investors and for Greece overall.

The Paradigm of Digital Transformation in the Banking Sector

What are the main business strategy objectives that lead to digital strategy and create a new “organization”?

The objective of a Digital Transformation is simple: to digitize the organization end-to-end.

As with every transformation, digitization has to be aligned with business strategy. With recent technological advancements, the Holy Grail of every enterprise is the successful digitization of its current business model and establishment of a new one that generates profits based on digital technology. This is achieved through an end-to-end digitization, digital mastery.

Financial institutions specifically, face the threat of digital disruptors who, by developing innovative financial technology-based business models and services, put at risk the revenues and, eventually, the very existence of financial institutions. This is happening for four (4) main reasons: Customers are demanding advanced digital services, technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace, entry barriers are removed, and VC funds are available.

Consequently, the objective of a Digital Transformation in banking (and other sectors) is to provide customer experience excellence based on digital technologies. This way, the bank will be able to address its customers in a more sophisticated way, increasing revenues and profitability. To excel in customer excellence, banks have to optimize customer journeys to fit with the bank’s business strategy and priorities. During this journey, the touchpoints that a customer visits most are digital, but even at physical touch-points, technology can be used to provide the customer with unique digital experiences. For a successful customer journey mapping, banks have to apply the design thinking methodology. When design thinking is mastered, the bank can apply it across the organization, to product and service design, always utilizing digital. Regarding customer experience excellence, customers expect personalization. In the era of digital abundance, personalization has to be elevated to the level of individualization.

But that is not enough. Apart from an external focus (the customer) an internal focus (the enterprise) is necessary. In addition to digital customer experience excellence, banks have to also emphasize digital operational excellence to simplify operations and reduce costs. To excel in operational excellence, banks have to apply the lean methodology in conjunction with design thinking. This way, a bank will end up with sustainably reduced operating costs and processes that are less complicated for customers.

Digital Transformation spans across the organization. How is it governed?

Depending on ambition, maturity and time pressure, a bank can establish the Digital Transformation program following one of two approaches.

One approach is to establish “skunk works”, a new, separate unit that will build the new digitized business model and its infrastructure, launch it in production and, when mature, merge it with the “old” organization. This approach is taken when resistance to change is high and time is of paramount importance.

The second approach is to establish a “digital factory” within the bank and apply the digitization in parallel with the current operation. If the resistance to change is not significant and early implementation is not crucial, this approach allows for a deeper and sustainable digitization. Even before implementation of this approach commences, the proper governance has to be in place. To achieve excellence and to infuse digital and innovation into the DNA of the organization, banks have to centralize all digital initiatives, channels and services under the supervision of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO). A frictionless cooperation between departments is of vital importance. Methodologies like design thinking require cross-functional teams to be in place, offering various skills and mindsets. This calls for a clarification of roles and responsibilities for all participants, be it departments, heads and team members.

Usually, the most crucial phase is implementation. How is Digital Transformation implemented?

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Implementation is the most crucial phase and requires a parallel action on four axes: culture, organization, technology and metrics.

When Digital Transformation is implemented, the organization starts to resemble a high-technology enterprise, as such, culture development is essential. An innovation mindset has to be established across all units. Top management has to demonstrate its risk tolerance attitude and invent proper compensation schemes related to innovation. An education program has to be established and training sessions on new technologies, new methodologies and new ways of working have to take place. A regular and systematic communication of progress will fill any information gaps re-fueling trust of top management and program participants alike.

Banks tend to operate in hierarchically organized areas. The CDO has to organize her/his area in a way that all crucial units and functions are under the CDO’s span of control. These units should include the digital channels (e-banking, mobile banking etc.), the self-service channels (ATM and the likes), the contact center, customer experience management (customer feedback management, customer journey design, user experience management), digital marketing (web sites, social media, web analytics, performance marketing), advanced customer analytics & big data and the innovation center. Managing performance of these units requires a new set of KPIs and measurements that suit the digital ecosystem.

A robust but modernized core banking system, a middle layer that provides KPIs and an Omni-channel front-end are essential. Data elasticity to allow personal finance management, utilization of the cloud and substantial but controlled outsourcing are also extremely important. Specifically for digital a bi-modal operation of IT allowing for agile implementation and continuous innovation is valuable.

What is the future role of the digital function and the CDO?

Once Digital Transformation has sufficiently advanced and digital has become a vital ingredient of the bank’s DNA, once the organization is ready to launch new business models based on digital technologies, then the CDO can organize a federated center of digital excellence. This will oversee the digital initiatives running in the business units of the bank and closely monitor and evaluate new digital technologies, new business models and best practices and evangelize their value to the bank.

On the other hand though, digital technologies advance at a pace much faster than banks can absorb and convert them to products and services useful to their customers. Does this mean that Digital Transformation and the CDO are here to stay? Or that the new, digitally-enabled business model will be the dominant one – and the CDO will evolve to one of the most important roles for a bank?

It is very early to tell but this is certainly an adventurous journey, so fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride!

The three Pillars of Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is a hot topic for companies across the globe. Executives in all industries are using digital advances such as analytics, mobility, social media and smart embedded devices as well as improving their use of traditional technologies such as ERP, to change customer relationships, internal processes and value propositions. The following three components form the foundation of Digital Transformation.

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  1. Transforming Customer Experience

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    Customer Understanding: Customer behavior is no longer the task of a specialized unit that runs non-stop market research studies. Technology enables companies to have real time signals about the status and sentiment of customer satisfaction. Some utilize Social Media or capitalize on previous investments in relevant systems to do so. Furthermore, the omnichannel nature of customer shopping brings forward new challenges regarding the way customers understand and respond to this new reality.

    Top-Line Growth: Companies are using technology to enhance in-person sales conversations. For example, some companies ease the customer experience by simplifying their processes through a digital plug-in. Retailers can automatically load a customer’s last online shopping list onto their e-commerce site. This streamlines the shopping process, allowing customers extra time to look at other products.

    Customer Touch Points: Companies with multiple channels have to provide an integrated experience. Multichannel services require envisioning and implementing change across customer experience and internal operational processes. In Retail, such an example is the home delivery or pick up option. Another example is the use of social media to answer client complaints quickly and cost efficiently.

  2. Transforming Operational Processes

    Process Digitization: Through automation companies can refocus their people on more strategic tasks. Digital platforms enable the global rethinking of retail processes to make customer journeys more effective and control cost of execution.

    Worker Enablement: Separating the work process from the location of the work. Employees now have the option to work from home, do not have an assigned desk, and use networking tools that enable virtual communication.

    Performance Management: Transactional systems give executives deeper insights into products, regions and customers, allowing decisions to be made on real data and not assumptions. Managers are now able to compare status across sites or dynamically reallocate people across work shifts or stores.

  3. Transforming Business Models

    Digitally Modified Businesses: The current challenge is blending the old with the new in a productive and effective manner. The topic of sales from stores vs e-commerce activities is at the forefront of the management debate. Universally, ecommerce sales but also store based profitability are desired, a combination that is not always feasible and thus, digital platforms are necessary to provide the solution.

    New Digital Businesses: Companies are also introducing digital products that complement traditional ones. For example, sports apparel manufacturers are selling GPS and other digital devices that can track a customer’s workout. Retailers seek to follow the entire life cycle of their products in order to constantly inform and remind customers about their maintenance, replacement, and recycling.

    The Take-Away: Digital transformation requires strong leadership. However, it also requires a vision for what parts of the company require transformation. Retailers in all industries and regions are experimenting with — and benefiting from — Digital Transformation. Whether it is in the way individuals work and collaborate, the way business processes are executed within and across organizational boundaries, or in the way a company understands and serves customers, digital technology provides a wealth of opportunity.

Digital Transformation as Part of the Modern Business Culture

The rapid changes we are experiencing in our economic and social environment have a direct bearing on business, through a relationship of multi-modal interaction. The ability of businesses to adapt to ongoing volatility, as a precondition for sustainability, requires adequate evaluation and recognition of developments, flexibility and swift reaction. Obviously, in this process, technology and its applications are emerging as a key instrument for change within businesses as well. However, digital transformation as a mere choice and investment in state-of-the-art technology cannot produce the desired effect, unless it is combined with a change in the business model.

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The experience we have gained from the challenges we face in the insurance market, in particular, have now brought us to the realisation that the adoption of modern digital technology needs to be complemented by drastic changes in the company culture, governance structures and functions in order to create value for all stakeholders. Nowadays, a change in the business model of insurance activities means applying lean methodology, simplifying products and services, adopting new, agile operating models that eliminate complexity in administration and encourage staff participation, opening up to collaborations – with other organisations, with the business and academic community, the public sector, etc. – and of course, searching for new ideas that can spur innovation. All these elements, which mark a substantial change in the business model and which can benefit significantly from the use of digital technology, constitute the culture of an organisation. Therefore, digital transformation acquires a meaning only in the context of a strong organisational culture.

Quite logically, digital transformation should serve a robust business plan. The example of INTERAMERICAN is characteristic in this respect, since we have strategically linked digitisation to innovation and performance optimisation in every aspect of administration, with the aim of constantly creating value. Focusing on our customers, we offer technological support in insurance and quality in service provision. We support sales with digital tools and we have introduced the first online insurance product in Greece – Anytime. We enhance our ability to manage a large number of customers with the use of digital applications and control operating costs more effectively to the benefit of both the company and its customers. The use of digital technology has led us to underwriting automation, making management more dynamic and objective, and speeding up operations, such as contract issuance and payment of compensations. A strategic key to the digital transformation of INTERAMERICAN is the alignment of the Business and IT sectors. Today, we are also investing heavily in Big Data Analytics, focusing on Data Governance. The aim is to ensure the proper recording, quality, management and processing of data. Besides, this is also required by the new EU General Data Protection Regulation.

It is obvious that in recent years consumer needs and behaviours have changed; so has the way people obtain information using the new possibilities to compare and choose between products. The internet and social media have become an intrinsic part of daily life, while millennials expect their customer experience with an insurance company to be similar to that of Amazon and Google with which they have grown up.

Fully aware of this reality, we, at INTERAMERICAN, are already creating the prospects for the company’s digital transformation with a vision based on what we have identified as five key structural elements: strategy, people, processes, data and technology. We are excited to start expanding on these areas and embark on this never ending journey.

“Going Digital?” HR is a Key Enabler in this Transformation

“Going Digital” entails new ways of working and a new mindset. As such, Digital Transformation requires organizations to address important “soft” aspects and the HR function can be a key enabler towards that direction.

In the Digital era we need to move away from the hierarchical or geographical silos and work in cross-functional teams across geographies while enabling and encouraging networking. Building employee awareness, readiness and understanding of key behaviors and mindsets required, is a critical starting point. While such behaviors could vary, openness and change receptivity are key skills that HR should cultivate, enabling adaptability in a non-predictable future. We need to support the development of our people but it is also essential to blend our internal talent pool with selective external hires and bring on board outside perspectives and digital know-how. Lastly, decision making has to be fast and harness the power of big data in an information flooded world. Leaders must evolve, adapt and demonstrate capability to lead with courage and HR must support them in creating a culture that encourages innovation, cooperation, transparency and a “test and learn” mentality.

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The cement industry is expected to join the adoption curve of digitization later than other industries. Digitization of the manufacturing industry will be enabled by enhanced computational power and connectivity, big data analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, improved human machine interaction and digital to physical conversion like 3D printing and advanced robotics. The application of digital is expected to have direct monetary benefits through improved cost efficiencies and improvement in the way we work in terms of processes, performance management and organization.

TITAN Group leadership has early on appreciated the significant impact digitalization will have on our business. In this respect, we have conducted a survey with external consultants to assess and benchmark our “Digital Readiness” in terms of Strategy, Culture, Organization and Capabilities. The results of this exercise will define our priorities and action plans for the next 3 years.

As a starting point, we introduced Digital Transformation as a key theme of our future plans in order to increase our employee’s alertness and readiness and align our leadership teams with our goals. We have also clarified the behaviors and mindsets needed in order to succeed. We operate in a “Vulnerable, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous” (VUCA) business environment. Thus, we strive to preserve the elements of our culture on which the Group’s growth has been based during the past 115 years but simultaneously shed old habits, blending our culture with new behaviors that allow evolution and active growth. To this end, in 2015 we established the “Leading the TITAN way” behavioral platform which communicates clearly to our people the behaviors expected of them in order to grow and succeed together in this challenging environment. Since 2015, a Group wide project has been in progress to upgrade and unify IT systems, data and processes and by 2020 our people across the Group will be able to work with enhanced digital platforms and streamlined processes in an environment which is attractive for digital savvy professionals and millennials who have “digital DNAs”.

Digital Transformation is full of challenges and opportunities. HR has a strategic role in this transformation and HR professionals need to evolve their mindsets and be active agents of change in order to grasp this opportunity and enable their organizations to succeed in this exciting new world.

Driving Change in an Evolving Grocery Landscape

Grocery retail in Greece is probably the last large market that managed to delay being disrupted by technology. Both brands and consumers maintained old habits for a long time, but the last couple of years this has changed. Consumers are gradually altering their shopping habits mainly due to lack of time and/or money. In addition, technology developments are raising consumer expectations, increasing the pace of technology adoption, for communication, information access, entertainment and convenience. At the same time, most brands are taking their first steps in the digital world with a time lag, much to the dissatisfaction of many consumers. In the grocery industry, the shopping mission differs each time. Consumers’ purchasing habits are mainly defined by a combination of two factors; the need per se and the time they are willing to allocate to satisfy that need. This is reflected in the increasing use of various shopping options available, depending on the shopping mission. Convenience, specialty and online stores as well as various digital tools and new players (disruptors), are some of the alternatives. As such, a large proportion of consumers have already developed an Omni-channel behavior, not knowing or being concerned about the term per se. For those the experience received at each digital touch point needs to be relevant, personalized and must add value.

At AB Vassilopoulos, we are moving towards that direction. We have developed new Digital touch points (web site, e-shop, corporate app, m-commerce app, in-store kiosks etc), incorporated the Digital channels in our Communication Strategy, made our content compatible across touch points and finally our mission is to integrate Digital throughout the whole organization and not just a specialized unit.

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Having an integrated Omni Channel Strategy in place facilitates customer experience improvement while increasing the effectiveness of communication and strengthening loyalty. To develop a robust and successful Omni Channel Strategy, top management commitment to the Digital Transformation of the business model is necessary. Next, technology related enablers must be in place and silos must be absent. For an integrated Omni Channel Customer Experience, leveraging customers’ data to provide cross-channel personalized experiences is essential. The 3 most important technology trends related to Omni channel we closely monitor are: a) fast analytics and how to get meaningful and valuable insights from big data, b) personalization engines, as a composition of recommendation engines and content management systems, that can effectively enable personalized, consistent and relevant communication and c) Artificial Intelligence and machine learning that will bring to life new automated communication service channels, recently demonstrated by chat bots.

Ultimately, in a constantly evolving grocery landscape, as a progressive retailer, we are transforming our business model to develop new ways to attract and retain customers. We will not only continue in this ever-evolving process but will strive to set the example for others within the grocery industry.

An Archetype of Digital Transformation

What is Digital Transformation? In a nutshell, it is the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models so as to engage digital consumers more effectively at every touchpoint in the consumer experience lifecycle. Ensuring brand relevance in the age of the connected consumer and integrating all social, mobile, web, ecommerce, service efforts and investments to deliver a holistic consumer experience are the main drivers for businesses to Digital Transformation.

Our digital strategy is based in

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In Listening, the key point is that we DO listen to our consumers. Thankfully, there are many tools nowadays, which allow us to monitor the digital space on the spot, covering not only websites and blogs but also most of social media. Consumers today have the power to comment, criticize, rate & review on a continuous basis. Therefore, our presence is required to quickly respond, reply, reward, and leverage all of our consumer knowledge gathered from different sources to address specific business issues. By digging into various areas like Consumer Engagement Services, Consumer Insights & Market Intelligence, Digital tools like Google Search, Facebook Insights, Digital polls and combining all these with comments, mentions, hashtags and mainly photos we gather from e-listening, we are able to add value to data.

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In Engaging, a “test and learn” mindset is of great importance! Since our priority is to successfully engage our consumers, our motto is “Fail fast and try the next innovation”. Mobile is at the heart of our strategy, meaning everything must first be mobile. Community Management is not just uploading content but also data analysis, consumer insights identification, and content strategy. It is also critical to orchestrate Digital media to communicate the brand ideas. In this fast evolving environment, media are constantly changing, moving to automation through programmatic buying and teams must be alert to utilizing any untapped opportunity and increase the efficiency of the media investment.

Finally, the most critical factor in Digital is that of Inspiring and Transforming. The key here is to include the whole organization in this transformation. Our first step was opening Digital Sessions on Social Media to all employees and implementing a Reverse Mentoring program with digitally capable younger employees for the Management Committee. Marketing teams were essential in developing numerous training sessions, workshops, webinars and a unique “DAT” project. The Digital Acceleration Team is a holistic series of Digital, Social Media and E-commerce courses carried out by top professionals in the market, assisting participants with implementing their Brand Digital Strategy and leading teams towards Digital acceleration. The success of the program led us to repeat it and upgrade it, as well as expand it in Sales teams with a clear focus in E-commerce.

The company culture has changed and people have started thinking beyond a campaign mentality in digital strategy. But digital transformation never ends and there is a lot more we have yet to learn.

How Digital has "Taken Off" in the Airline Industry

When it comes to Digital Transformation airlines have come a long way this past decade. Still, the big challenge is ahead and there’s more work to be done. Digital is not an end in itself, but a tool that can fundamentally change how airlines operate. There are three main domains on which this transformation takes place Retailing, Data Management & Analytics and Customer Experience.


In order to improve Airline e-retailing, products, services and pricing decisions should be enhanced, targeting the right customers with precision and accuracy. We are working towards that direction, aiming to improve the speed and quality with which we can offer differentiated products based on time, route, market and customer needs. Another key differentiator is to provide the right user experience. As products and prices are often similar across different travel providers, Aegean is continuously investing in easy and transparent online processes, offering additional travel products and services throughout the trip while enhancing payment capabilities.

This does not come without challenges. Key pain points are Legacy Technology systems, inherited from the pre-internet age and paper-based industry processes, which result to limitations in retailing capabilities as well as lack of a single customer view. Several initiatives, some guided by the International Air Transport Association itself, are aiming to improve reservation and distribution structures, simplifying current internal airline processes for better product placement and better service delivery.

Data Management and Analytics

Customer knowledge, built on data & analytics, enables decision making on offers and services throughout the entire customer journey; from pre sales to post flight:

  • Online sales targeting
  • Email and Social Media marketing
  • Taking real time decisions when customers interact with digital channels
  • Interaction with call center and customer service departments
  • Pre and post flight communication
  • Airport services
  • On board crew knowledge of HVC and their preferences
  • Loyalty engagement
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Often data transformation initiatives take too long because too much effort is spent in synchronizing IT systems and building data infrastructures before any action starts being implemented. Promoting a more agile approach by starting to utilize and act upon known and already structured data on various touch points and prioritize based on importance is our approach.

Customer Experience

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The customers’ journey begins before arriving at the airport and continues after landing. Airlines utilize digital technology to stay connected with the customer, providing pre-flight, real time, and post-flight information. This information relates to destination, partners’ services (like accommodation/car rental) departure gate and flight status, automated baggage tracking, real time information to the customer in case of baggage mishandling and more

Mobile is an important enabler and passengers expect more interaction actively initiated by the airlines. Also, machine learning techniques are gaining ground and airlines are increasing utilization of bots for operational and customer service purposes.

Our objective is to complement exceptional interpersonal services offered on board or through our customers service centers, with digital offerings that will have customer relevancy, be available when the customer needs them and facilitate the passenger’s journey throughout all connection points.

The Promise of a Successful Digital Transformation in Pharma

Challenges & Opportunities

Pharma differs commercially to FMCG, ICT and Banking industries on bringing pharmaceuticals to the patient. It is a highly regulated environment, with direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical marketing banned in most markets. Ads that refer to a medical condition or therapeutic area cannot name the brand. It is hard to build a great brand experience when you cannot even name the brand, let alone introduce new commercial approaches.

In such an environment, innovation can provide a strategic advantage to pharma companies that embark on the Digital Transformation journey.

Why digital?

Digital Transformation can create value for pharma companies, increasing patient adherence through personalization, providing value added services to healthcare professionals through omnichannel, and use data to enable real-time market insights and decision-making.

What is happening externally & internally

Mobile globally is empowering patients and healthcare professionals, personalizing brand experiences, shifting patient journeys and democratizing content – in real time. It is the main driving force shaping the external environment and pushing digital transformation forward within pharma companies.

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So far, leveraging digital multichannel capabilities such as emailing, apps, web portals, online/ virtual communities of patients & healthcare journalists (HCJ)/ bloggers and remote detailing orchestrated through a central CRM strategy, set the foundation steps in the transformation journey. We are just starting to crack the power of analytics and mobile with new digital channels, designing and delivering for in-depth healthcare professionals understanding, and driving brand awareness and experience through patient customer journeys.

How do we get there?

Delivering successfully on Digital Transformation is a long-term commitment for pharma companies that first have to face a conservative culture carried on through the last couple of decades.

  • Task a dedicated team to drive Digital Transformation while appreciating the internal culture balances and putting significant effort into changing management, leveraging sales reps and key influencers as change agents throughout the company.
  • Ensure strong senior management support early on and key influencers and stakeholders’ alignment. Get the message across the organization that the current approach is not working anymore and raise awareness on the pressing need to shift the way of working.
  • Implement a clear plan focused on high impact activities, actively involving patients and healthcare professionals, through digital initiatives that affect multiple touch-points on the business value chain.
  • Embrace a “fail-fast” culture of experimentation - starting small and continuously iterating through new approaches until the right solution uncovers itself.
  • Be flexible. A close eye should be kept on operating cross-channel metrics directly connected to brand objectives and allowing timely, informative decisions and shifts to the approach.

Future Outlook

If throughout the transformation journey, patients’ and healthcare professionals’ needs drive initiatives, Digital Transformation can succeed and deliver on the promise of becoming a strategic advantage for the company.

Building a digital strategy that provides real outcomes is not a one-off process; it is a journey - it is a continuous effort to make sure that you get it just right.

The Digitization of HR: An Opportunity to Grasp

The Digital Transformation of HR is reality and not buzzword. It has infiltrated our lives and changed how we communicate and how we work. Driven by the boom of technology and globalization, Digital Transformation affects everyone, in all areas of our working life, regardless of company or industry size and origin. In the HR department, there is a great opportunity for the change that we are discussing. The new way of generating wealth and the dominance of the knowledge economy put focus on talent and innovation as the main sources of growth and development. At the same time, by automating processes and jobs requiring lower skills, knowledge workers and businesses can place more emphasis on producing higher added value goods and services. Additionally, if we also consider the Internet of Things, the technological infrastructure, and the subsequent information gathered, then it’s clear we face a revolution in the field of Human Resources.

The three main areas that are radically changing for HR due to Digital Transformation are as follows:

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  • Corporate Culture: the more complex, uncertain and impersonal the work environment becomes, the more the knowledge workers need to have proper and personalized guidance, as well as recognition of their work. Providing meaningful work, motivating employees, while creating a diverse and inclusive environment where people feel valued and respected, should be an integral part of company culture; at least for organizations that wish to attract the best talent from the market.
  • Employee Experience: available online platforms have significantly changed the experience of employees in the workplace. From the very early stages of attracting and hiring talents, to the feedback process and to day-to-day friction with the company, interaction within the workplace becomes faster, more immediate, more transparent and more employee focused.
  • Employee Engagement: Employees’ commitment to their company is no longer based on the promise of lifelong employment; there is a psychological contract linked to the company’s values, the quality of working environment, the leadership style, and the contribution of the company to society. These elements seem crucial considering that, in the near future, a large number of our employees will not have direct employment with our companies (gig economy). Undoubtedly, the use of Digital Transformation as a springboard for deeper changes in our departments is an extraordinary opportunity for HR.

We could further influence the leadership, management and overall results of our companies by:

  • Being the “culture architect” to change workplace culture, through emphasizing corporate values and coaching and empowering managers and leaders.
  • Providing the infrastructure, processes, and systems, that will enable employees to have the best possible workplace experience; focusing on speed of change, transparency, dialogue, and accountability.
  • Strengthening relationships with suppliers and partners to create a culture of lasting communication and interaction with the external environment.
  • Changing the role of HR by enhancing competencies in Marketing, Data Analytics, and Strategic Workforce Planning and Networking with the external environment.

HR has come to realize the change we have been discussing for years. We are not talking about just a change in systems or processes, but rather a change in mindset. We can make the difference. These are exciting times and the opportunity is here for us to grasp it.