The Role Of Digitalization In Driving Business Success
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The Role Of Digitalization In Driving Business Success

Erik Burow, Director of IT & Digital Services Business Area, Vattenfall

Erik Burow is currently serving as the Director of IT and Digital Services Business Area Heat at Vattenfall. He has two decades of track record in managing digital business development to support and further improve companies’ performance in the utility market. Burow is dedicated to driving digital transformation and sharpening the efficiency and growth of Vattenfall. With his businesscentric IT leadership, he has been injecting emerging technology solutions, such as automation, advanced analytics, and cloud computing, to increase the productivity of his business area. As an agile evangelist and fiscally-aware leader, he motivates every team member to achieve success while retaining high-value talent for the long term.

What prominent tools and technological solutions have helped in digitalizing Vattenfall?

Being an asset-heavy company, Vattenfall spends a significant budget every year maintaining and improving its assets portfolio. This, in turn, creates a scope for us to become digitalized. Typically, assets house tons of data, which allows a company to operate more data-centric. But in order to harvest those datadriven opportunities, companies need to have certain prerequisites in order. Firstly, businesses need a cloud-based technology platform in place. At Vattenfall, we have a strategic partnership with regards to Microsoft Azure. We decided on this platform because of its increasing competency and consistency in launching the latest features and functionalities into the market. Secondly, cloud-based platforms usually come packed with out-of-the-box functions, and combining them creates many new features and functions alongside the business value chain.

Apart from technology, businesses also need a competent workforce who are talented in data science and have knowledge in leveraging new platforms and capabilities to increase the efficiency of operations.

Data science is no longer about finding answers from data analysis but about asking meaningful questions and utilizing data to answer them. Finally, the hardest nut to crack is governance and company culture. In digital transformation, data & information governance is one of the most vital components as it ensures the proper data quality of an algorithm or dataset. However, companies are often reluctant to invest in this area as it is challenging to see the first-hand value of this activity. When it comes to culture it is mainly about the people, their working habits, and their participation in driving an organization towards success. As a result, ensuring a people-first culture in a company is an absolute necessity for businesses today, and to facilitate it, they are required to direct their investments in in-depth programs.

Can you exemplify how digitalized ecosystems drive efficiency?

In my team at Vattenfall, we have introduced during the last two years over 25 robotic process automation (RPA) bots that deliver over 30,000 hours’ efficiency. Previously, we needed people to work on these operations manually, which incurred great costs and time. But now, with these bots, we are directing our human resources to more meaningful and varied positions. One of the best things about RPA is that an implementation project takes rather weeks to get to completion instead of months or years, increasing our business’s efficiency and enabling us to deliver better outcomes to customers.

What trends are you expecting to see in the next five years regarding digitalization?

The question is: are companies adopting, applying, and utilizing digitalization in their environment fast enough to create more value for themselves and their customers? There are several technologies and innovations sprawled all over the market, but businesses do not show stealth in applying them. For example, in areas like power plants, technology reflects a tremendous potential and opportunity of saving time and costs for the owners. Implementing technology and innovations at power plants help free the workforce from mundane and repetitive tasks and eliminate the need to scour paper-based files and documents! The adoption of the latest tools and technologies will surely trend in the next five years, and I expect every company to make the most out of it. They will be harnessing the power of innovations like augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence at scale to enable our workforce to work hands-free.

One can find an example of rapid digitalization in the finance industry. Just 20 years ago, the financial trading sector was ridden with manual, tedious jobs. People were employed in the stock exchange and expected to make oncall tradeoffs. But today, almost everything is automated in the industry. Now, they have machines doing micro trading in milliseconds!

If we look at our industry which depends significantly on huge power grids and power plants, automation is key to productivity and efficiency. In present times, we are witnessing an inclination towards decentralized energy production and a rapid increase in its numbers. This, in turn, requires specific automated mechanisms to be put in place that can feed all the local energy sources into a grid. As a result, in the upcoming years, we can expect more data-driven technologies and automated tools to be introduced into the industry.

What would be your piece of advice to your peers?

I would want them to understand that digitalization is not an IT project but about a deep understanding of how a company wants to work in the future. Before starting a career in this field, it is essential to understand one's ambitions and identify the capabilities one needs to acquire.

Digitalization is, in essence, digital transformation, and it needs to be at the core of our daily businesses. It requires proper abilities to execute a successful change. Unfortunately, not many companies have the resources to measure this execution. What it means is we need to measure the transformation against KPIs to have a glimpse of how faster businesses are providing specific solutions to their endusers and how far they have come today as opposed to their position yesterday.

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