Adviser for digital transformation: How to win in a digital revolution
One of the key messages of the current campaign “Budimo pametni“ (Let's be smart) is that 65% of today's first year students will work jobs which there's no education for in Serbia. Those jobs of the future will be created by companies that survive the fourth industrial revolution and successfully adapt themselves to the advancement of technology that slowly erases the differences between the physical, digital, and biological. On this path of transformation companies are needed help to recognize all new chances that are brought by the new age and to understand how to use those chances. That's where the professionals on this subject come into play – Advisers for digital transformation with among them being the thirty four year old Momir Djekic who leads the team for innovations in the TeleGroup company, one of the 23 members of the nonprofit organization initiative “Digitalna Srbija“ (Digital Serbia Initiative).
How did your professional trip look like and how did you become an Adviser for digital transformation?
I had the unbelievable luck to be born on that “real“ year of 1984 from a family in which technology was an everyday thing. My father is a scientist, that worked on development of rocket systems on a Military-technical institute and in my apartment existed a computer, the ancient eight bite ZX Spectrum. When I was six years old I started to program, and I learned English reading the manuals on programming on the Basic programming language. Only when I was 10 years old I wrote something useful (laugh), and that was a game “sink the submarine“ so that we no longer had to draw patterns for submarines for half an hour before every game. After the graduation on the Belgrade ETF, and after the business school on Bled in Slovenia, I had the chance to work in a corporation, regional software leader, but also a startup company from the world of Fintech, that worked on new products for the financial industry of Australia.
The way the big changes require a fresh look on the essential, that’s how I too, moving in the IT circles, met people from TeleGroup that headed towards the path of change. After nearly twenty years of technological grounding of the telecommunication market, energetic and public sector, TeleGroup company has caught wave of the digital revolution and has started to think about expanding its portfolio of services. It has positioned in its center innovation that corresponds with my view of technological reality. With time, we made our way towards investing in new crystal clear, because of which we formed a team that today is working on innovations in the Belgrade’s co-working space ICT Hub, displaced from the company’s seat. There we are surrounded young and creative people from all kinds of business provinces.
The oldest member of your team for innovation has 22 years. How did you form this team?
We gathered around in the most unbelievable way. On one of the more known technological groups on Facebook we’ve been contacted by a fellow of 17 years with the idea on cooperation. It was shown that exactly that youngest member of the team has proven himself the most agile – in a short period, he has participated on all hackathons in ICT Hub (he even won awards) which brought acquaintanceship to our team, not only to those who live on these spaces, but to a lot of companies that invest in innovations. By his investment, a new energy has awoken that makes us all feel young, and the young are always an inspiration. The young can change in a second. Without a regard to the industry, the young change context and make up ideas without hold. Then, even us who are older, with the planted fear of risk, get motivated to defeat that fear and say “Let's go! Go forward!“.
Was “proto-digital adviser” in the near past or is this interest completely new?
When you cook a quality meal, the base is the foundation or how we say, broth. In today’s, instant world, you rarely see anyone cook the broth out of real ingredients. We use a cube, that we cook for a few minutes so we would get replacement, instant variant of broth. It’s similar in our work too. We too often want to get a solution in an instant, but the point is that we need to let time do its job. However, the ingredients need to be real.
All revolutions of this world are alike in that nothing in them is happening for the first time. We are in the process of change for as long as we existed. The same challenges were had by our parents and their parents – how to find themselves in a new world? My job is, basically, to help people to realize that the digital revolution has started long ago, that all of us are a part of it and to find a way to come out of it as winners.
What exactly is the job of an adviser for the digital transformation?
It’s a word of an essential transformation, in no way a formal. The job of the adviser is to find ways on which the company can innovate, change its business model, to introduce new products or services, and all in the goal of increasing traffic and profit, lowering costs, increasing the operative efficiency and the satisfaction of their users. In these processes the technology is just a tool – no use on its own. As one of the only twenty advisers of the center for digital transformation, established by the agriculture chamber of Serbia, with my female and male colleagues I travel over Serbia and help companies to find ways to use technologies in the best way possible.
How does one company truly digitally transform? What stages of that transformation are the hardest?
The phrase “digitalization” on its own is dangerous because it hides within itself a lot of things we do not know. It’s an alien which, if we are unaware, we can misinterpret. Three concepts are important here: The information that says the following: Little Momir in his 10 year has the game “sink the submarine” from paper translated to an electronic from. So, it’s about converting from analog to a digital form. Next up is digitalization, in which we work on updating processes with the help of technology. Its key element is the thing that connects every industrial revolution – bigger degree of automatization. Only then we come to a digital transformation that surpasses the processes of digitalization. It implies system adaptability to change which is the most important characteristic of survival and secures new ways of sustainable development. There's a saying: “When a snakes changes its skin, it changes. When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, it transforms.“
We live in a time in which almost every company needs to find a way to answer to the digital revolution. The challenges are not only competing companies, but those who come from other places. This transformation speaks of a change in the positioning of the business in the relation to the user – the one who offers a faster and a simpler system gives the user power, the one who did this has made key step and has “erased“ the competition! What is common between Airbnb, Booking, Uber or Car:Go? Because they've put the user in the center and have made a revolution.
People love to try out the new and tell you what they think about it, and usually they don’t have a clue on what they want (laugh), and that is the point of the digital transformation not to ask what the people want but to understand their needs, tendencies and to provide with a solution that will try and confirm what exactly is the thing that suits them. The hardest step is the first, and that is the cognition of the game the company has to play, and that game is infinite. I often meet companies that have all the necessary software, but they do not have a strategy – they only have a tactic. That's a very bad game of chess in which you always wait for someone's move and you're always reactive, but you need to be proactive, always looking for chances and creating moves according to your own wishes. We often hear from companies how they have experiences in work and they don't need a support of this type. My comment on that is an attempt to lead them towards a competition they do not see, that is “under the radar“.
Instead of chasing to find a way to “level” with others, the point is that the digital transformation is a long term process. That’s why there needs to be a strategy, and our role is exactly in helping them with making a strategy and as an organization proactively take part in the process of digital transformation, learning on every step of this long journey.
How do you advise your “proteges” about the future?
The best way to stay competitive in this fast changing time is through constant learning. In that case the key wish is to always keep rediscovering ourselves from the start. However, it needs to be noted that experience doesn’t have a replacement, and to realize it we must live it.