Austria Connect SEE 4.0: Adapt quickly to digital innovations, change corporate culture, get employees emotionally involved

Digitalization is shaping the future of business, and companies in the Southeast Europe region need to connect and share knowledge to stay on the course of the Fourth industrial revolution and benefit from all the advantages of a connected society.

„We need to change our mindsets – not to think about geographical borders, borders of our economies, their beginnings and endings,“ said Marko Čadež, Vice President of Eurochambers and President of CCI Serbia at Austria Connect Southeast Europe 4.0 this May in Bled.

The event gathered 170 participants, including executives of Austrian subsidiaries, investors, business partners and high-ranking politicians from the region to discuss how to push the economies forward through digital transformation, digital business models, and building strong leadership competence.

Fourth Industrial Revolution

Speaking about the Fourth industrial revolution and the ways it can push economic development further, Branko Žibert, Managing Partner for Eastern Europe at A.T. Kearney underlines that “the digital transformation is about people, and not so much about technology. The role of the leadership is critical.”

Revamping Digital Business Models

When it comes to digital business models, it was stressed that customer choice is in the center, and the business models need to follow this guideline. In the words of Branislav Vujović, President of New Frontier Group and Professor at IEDC – Bled School of Management: “You have to start with your value proposition which is always the first step of how you will adjust the products to the digital economy.”

Leading Digital Transformation

His fellow professor at IEDC – Bled School of Management, Nenad Filipović, says that some sectors in the region are lagging behind when it comes to digital transformation. “My popular example is the insurance industry which is talking a lot about the digital transformation, but is not moving that fast,” explains Filipović.

Companies have to adapt quickly to digital novelties, change their corporate cultures, and get employees emotionally involved. “By far, the first thing is to eliminate fear. Eliminate fear of mistakes, because digital transformation without making mistakes is impossible”, says Filipović.

Leadership Competence

Contextual awareness is crucial for today’s leaders. As Drikus Kriek, professor at IEDC – Bled School of Management sums it up “more and more leaders are required to be able to do things across boundaries, across systems, across teams.”

“Companies have to adapt to the change that is happening very fast. Innovation and digitalization are the future”, adds Vllaznim Osmani of the Kosovo Manufacturing Club.

Austria and Southeast Europe

Southeast Europe is on the rise, and what’s Austria’s position? “Austria is very strongly present in the region. It makes sense to connect Austrian companies and their partners at least on a yearly basis”, says Peter Hasslacher, Director of Advantage Austria for Slovenia, Albania & Kosovo. Stefano La Croce, Deputy Director, adds that there is more and more cohesion of the Western Balkan countries trying to pull the region together and market the SEE region as a market of 20 million, instead of as individual countries.

“Events like this, outside of Austria, really make sense. They bring benefits to the Austrian business communities through networking with so many different companies that are hidden champions and global players,” concludes Stefan Eberl of Schenker&CO AG.

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