An early start is key to success

Everyone is talking about digitalization. Almost every branch of industry and all areas of business are affected by it. Controlling is no exception and digitalization will lead to significant changes. This means it is especially important to keep up with developments and to address the challenges early enough. Professor Dr. Weber stressed the necessity of agile mindsets and practices in his welcoming speech at the WHU Campus for Controlling in Vallendar on September 8. This year, the conference attracted a record number of participants in the event’s 10-year history with around 150 managers and controlling experts taking part.

Professor Dr. Jürgen Weber

In view of the complexity of the topic and the range of challenges it poses for businesses, the Campus addressed the subject from two perspectives: The first three presentations dealt with a general view of the phenomenon of digitalization in business and the finance function, while the other three looked at important specific aspects of digitalization.

Professor Dr. Utz Schäffer introduced the topic by combining the IMC’s latest empirical findings with conceptual considerations. This lead to his calling for changes to be made to the controller’s task profile, toolbox, and mindset, if they don’t want to be left behind in the digital world. Dr. Marcus Kuhnert (Merck KGaA) und Stefan Genten (Altana AG) addressed further fields of activity in their talks. Both CFOs are responsible for large companies operating in different markets and have already devised concrete strategies and roadmaps to exploit the opportunities posed by digitalization.

The second part of the program at the WHU Campus for Controlling was devoted to specific topics in the field of digitalization. Jannis Friedag, Director of abdea GmbH, reported on actual experiences of controlling in start-ups with digital business models; the so-called “pure players”. Dr. Sven Schiemann, Director of Future Marketing GmbH, identified a number of areas of activity in which controllers can accompany the digital transformation in marketing. Finally, Professor Dr. Hans-Dieter Herrmann, who is also well-known for being the sport psychologist of the German national football team, gave Campus participants insights into the world of a small group of high performance teams, namely football teams. High performance teams become increasingly important during the process of digitalization and his remarks gave much food for thought with regard to this year’s Campus topic.

All in all, one key theme emerged from the conference with the main message being: The changes resulting from digitalization are so profound and encompassing that we cannot afford to wait before jumping on the bandwagon. The learning process must start now: What steps must be taken and how? In what combination and in which order should they be carried out? There is no lack of knowledge about how to approach it. And there is a huge opportunity for controllers to play a central role in this transformation. If they don’t grasp the chance, in words attributed to Michail Gorbatschow, “Those who are late will be punished by life itself.” 

The 12th WHU Campus for Controlling will take place on September 7, 2018.

Professor Dr. Utz Schäffer