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Germany’s Top500 need a structured approach to entering the digital age. There is still a high degree of uncertainty about the next steps companies should take towards digitization. To date, the flow of investments to digital transformation has been rather slow. In many cases that is because it is still unclear what customers are willing to pay for. It is time for the companies to gain a better understanding of their consumers’ digital desires.

One goal of this study was to determine which of the Top500 companies are Growth Champions. Year after year, we identify those companies that have particularly high growth rates and are the most profitable.

Two years ago, Accenture introduced an analytical tool – the Digitization Index – to also assess the progress made by the Top500 companies in digital transformation. We also interviewed 247 top managers from large German companies and asked them to evaluate the progress of digitization in their own company and in their industry.

In this study, you can find out what we learned from the Growth Champions and the five things companies can do to advance more quickly along the path to digitization.

Core Results

The Growth Champions among the 500 largest German companies

The Growth Champions are more profitable and have higher growth rates than the rest of the Top500. Accenture defines them as those companies exceeding the average revenue growth of all Top500 companies (as well as their industry peers) and realizing higher profits than their respective industry average over the past five years.

A year-over-year review of the line-up of Growth Champions demonstrates just how difficult it is for companies to maintain their top positions among their competitors. Of last year’s 19 Growth Champions, only 10 can be found among this year’s winners:

A Proven Method for Assessing Progress in Digitization

Accenture used its Digitization Index to measure the extent of transformation in the Top500 companies. By doing so, we gained valuable insights into the progress of digitization in individual industries, as well as among the cohort of large German companies as a whole.

This year, we refined the system of analysis to measure digitization progress in four core business areas:

  • Strategy: In this area, we examined to what extent the Top500 have a strategy for digital transformation in place.

  • Product: Here, we assessed whether the companies are transforming their products into "intelligent“ products or developing digital services.

  • Sales: We also looked at the companies‘ abilities to re-shape the customer experience with the help of digital technologies.

  • Processes: It was important to find out to what extent the Top500 used digital technologies to optimize the efficiency of their internal processes and functions.

Digitization is a C-suite Imperative

Digitization has been promoted and become an essential part of corporate strategies. But who ensures the development of digital initiatives in companies? What financial resources are invested? And who applies the greatest pressure on management teams to realize the potential of digitization?

Accenture interviewed 247 top managers from large German companies and asked them to assess the digitization progress in their own company and in their industry. It turned out that digitization has become a "top-level" issue. However, many uncertainties are still hampering the development of new business models. The Top500 have to overcome a number of hurdles to be able to take full advantage of what digitization has to offer.


Overcoming five obstacles

To date, few companies are setting up digital business models consistently or following a structured digitization plan. Some of the successful Top500 companies choose to deploy their digital strategies over time, continuously modernizing and digitizing their internal processes and infrastructures.

Companies need to understand that new digital business models can only reach maturity if their digital strategies consistently take the end customer’s viewpoint into consideration. Those that consider both the internal processes and the customer experiences – and digitize them in a structured way – can truly claim to be digital companies. However, many companies still have to overcome several obstacles before this will happen. Accenture has identified the five most important ones.

1. Simply start; do not over-plan!

Simply start; do not over-plan!

There is nothing mystical about digitization. A master plan for everybody does not exist. Every company has to find its own digital path – and that path should lead to the customer. There are numerous starting points. In Germany, companies primarily digitize their internal processes. In the United States, companies concentrate on the development of new customer-focused business models. Both approaches can help companies become a digital player.

2. Rediscover the customer and optimize his or her experience!

Rediscover the customer and optimize his or her experience!

Improving efficiency is a good thing, but optimizing the customer experience is even better. Germany’s Top500 have to learn what the Internet companies from Silicon Valley have demonstrated: Digital technologies provide completely new opportunities to not only understand what customers want, but also to satisfy their needs.

3. Do not be afraid of data!

Do not be afraid of data!

People say that data is this century’s raw material. And raw materials are valuable. Companies have to handle them efficiently, and learn to work with them on a broad scale. It is important for the Top500 to seek out new opportunities for harvesting data. However, at the same time, data is only valuable when companies can analyze and understand it. Experts in this field, like data scientists, are in high demand in the digital age.

4. Increase efficiency, reduce complexity!

Increase efficiency, reduce complexity!

The new competitors of the Top500 are companies that don’t need to digitize. That’s because they are emerging now and have never known anything other than digital infrastructures and business models. They are disruptors and have the ability to grow enormously. If the Top500 companies want to meet the challenge these new entrants present, they have to eliminate complexity from their processes and streamline and digitize their structures.

5. Identify new competitors and new markets!

Identify new competitors and new markets!

The Top500m need "radar" that will allow them to identify new competitors as soon as possible. Such competitors are suddenly stepping out of the fog and conquering markets with disruptive business models. The more quickly established companies can recognize the threats, the greater their chances of successfully defending their market positions. On the other hand, new markets might also appear on the horizon and out of the blue when companies digitize their existing product portfolios. Incubators and accelerators designed with a start-up mentality may fulfil this "radar" function.

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