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Buzzwords about digitisation alone will not get us anywhere

Article taken over from De Tijd (27/04/2021) - By Pieter Suy

Everyone is talking about digitisation, but many company managers still do not know how to start doing this in practice. With Fastfwd Belgium, fintechentrepreneurs Jurgen Ingels and Stefan Dierckx launch a concrete action plan that puts companies on the right track and helps them win time.

They don't want to say it in so many words, but it seems as if Jurgen Ingels and Stefan Dierckx are a bit fed up with the recent deluge of phone calls. The two fintech pioneers - Ingels co-founded the payment company Clear2Pay twenty years ago, Dierckx puts companies in the financial sector on a digital course with the consultant Projective - have built an ecosystem around them over the years, including the fintech investment fund Smartfin Capital and the financial software platform The Glue.

With such a reputation, a fellow manager might get on the phone, especially since the Corona crisis virtually forced companies to digitise at a much faster pace. If you have to explain 200 times which tools there are to do that more efficiently, you start thinking whether it would not be better to develop a manual for that', Ingels laughs.

That manual is now available. Together with Fastfwd Belgium, Ingels and Dierckx developed an action plan that should help companies on their way when they want to give their way of working a digital upgrade. The goal is much more pragmatic than all the charters about digitalisation that we have seen so far', says Dierckx. All respect for organisations like Unizo or Voka who put their shoulders to the wheel, but often it remains relatively high level and, in our opinion, not sufficiently action-oriented. We all know the digital buzzwords by now, but that alone will not get us anywhere.

Management must also be involved

What does Fastfwd Belgium do concretely? First of all, we offer companies the opportunity to find out how far they have reached in the digitisation process', says Dierckx. The consultant McKinsey developed a barometer that indicates where the work points are in your work processes, your organisation, but also your management. Because if the top of your company is not on board, it becomes difficult to implement change. Steven De Haes, the dean of Antwerp Management School, and the Guberna institute for directors are setting out guidelines for the participants in the initiative.

In any case, digitisation remains a catch-all term that many managers assume means they must completely shake up the organisation of their company. But it is often also about smaller things that allow your company to work more efficiently', says Ingels. Why would you still be puzzling together various Excel files today if you have software that automatically combines all that? The only thing is that I notice that people often do not even know that such tools exist.

Junk from San Francisco

That is why Fastfwd Belgium developed a toolbox with the 50 best digital tools for companies. But it goes further than that: participants in the initiative can also visit companies that have already implemented a digital change of course in recent years. Everyone goes along on an inspiration trip to Silicon Valley', explains Dierckx. That costs loads of money, but there are actually more than enough companies here that have already made the digital switch. We still have too much of a reflex: 'It is Belgian, so it will probably not be good'. While San Francisco sometimes produces crap as well.

Belfius, the Antwerp port authority and Kinepolis, among others, are planning digital open days. But the public sector also supports the initiative and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (OpenVLD) says he welcomes it. We were told by the Digital Flanders Agency that 60 Flemish government companies would also be taking part, because many public companies have already made considerable digital progress,' says Dierckx. But we want this to be a Belgian initiative. It must also get off the ground in Wallonia. That is why we are holding talks with the Walloon authorities and the software group Odoo.

Ingels and Dierckx emphasise that this is not a commercial initiative. Companies that participate pay nothing, we finance it all ourselves. We are not asking for government subsidies either. Experience has taught us that it is better to stay in charge of projects of this kind.

Stefan Dierckx
CEO, Projective & Exellys

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