Digitization: No Innovation But Catenaccio

There is no saving from it any more: Digitization has long since penetrated all areas of everyday life, it is the present and the future - there is general consensus on this. That's why companies would be well advised to invest in their digital expansion, they have to in order to remain competitive in the long term. However, instead of innovation, German companies usually take a defensive stance, as Professor Dr. Dries Faems, Chair for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technological Transformation at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, found out in a study on the future of digitization in Germany carried out with IDG Research and Bechtle AG.

The results of the "CIO Agenda 2020" study show that although companies are investing large budgets in digitization, they are focusing primarily on data protection and data security. Thus, they are pursuing a Catenaccio strategy which, having become popular in soccer, focuses on defending their own goals or, in this case, their established services and corporate processes. Instead of opening up new fields, digital innovations serve to strengthen and improve what already exists. This corresponds with the self-image of German companies: Only 17 percent see themselves as digital pioneers, while 46 percent of those surveyed describe themselves as "successful digital followers".

The surveyed companies consider a lack of competence and skills (38 percent) as the main obstacle to realizing their digital ambitions. Legacy of past technological investments (31 percent) and a lack of willingness to change within the company (29 percent) are further problems many organizations face.

Professor Dr. Faems takes a positive view of the prioritization of data protection and data backup, but at the same time recommends a more proactive approach. In many industries, digitization is already opening up alternative business models that make it difficult for long-established companies with a purely defensive strategy to remain competitive in the long term. Unlike in soccer, however, it is not necessary to rely solely on one's own team. By cooperating with external startups, a successful Catenaccio strategy could be combined with approaches that are more offensive.

265 representatives from various corporate divisions of all industries in the GAS region took part in the "CIO Agenda 2020", which was conducted online from November to December 2019.


Article on the study (in German)