Tech Forum Week: the digital transition to a new future

Published on Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Innovation never stops and, together with technology and digitalisation, is the engine that will build a “new future” for all of us. We spoke about this subject at our annual meet-up with The European House – Ambrosetti during Technology Forum Week, which was held online this year between May 25 and 29.  

The event provided an opportunity to reflect on the best strategies for getting the country going again and the role of the Italian business community and innovation ecosystem on this road to recovery.

Once again this year, there were high-profile addresses that provided insights into how Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transition towards a new “new normal” or a “new future” mediated by technology in a way that will transform people’s lives and the way companies work.

Our Group was one of the main sponsors of the event and was actively involved in the debate with addresses from Chief Innovability Officer Ernesto Ciorra and Carlo Bozzoli, Head of Global Digital Solutions.

Positive sustainable values

One of the main themes investigated during the Tech Forum Week was the role innovation has to play in launching a new Italian Renaissance and in making the country more resilient. “Opportunities are born of difficulty,” stressed Valerio De Molli, CEO of TEHA – Many globally important companies started out in tough times: take Disney, which released the first animated cartoon after the Crash of 1929, or Microsoft, which was founded right in the middle of the 1970s oil crisis. So we have to embrace the opportunities for the country and translate them into a medium-long term programme”. President of the National Innovation Fund Francesca Bria emphasised that “the Covid-19 crisis has brought digital technologies into the homes of millions of Italians through remote working or digital learning. Our task now is to turn that moment into an opportunity for development for the country to reduce rather than increase the differences between the various sectors of society”.

“That is a road we can only go down if we combine innovation with sustainability, just as Enel did some time back,” Ciorra pointed out. “This is partly why we were able to react to the crisis instantly, not just by allowing 55% of our colleagues to work from home but also by using drones, virtual reality and AI to check our assets remotely and thus reduce fieldwork. We were ready because we had already collaborated with over 7,000 startups on 650 innovative projects. We worked away with humility knowing that even small companies can bring big ideas to the mix. That is how you work on the ground in local areas. You create positive values and ensure you are genuinely sustainable. This is the true meaning of what we call Innovability”.

Megatrends and digitalisation

The Covid-19 crisis is part of a series of megatrends highlighted by Peter Fisk, Professor of Leadership, Strategy and Innovation at the IE Business School in Madrid: “The number of over-65s is increasing, the world’s economic centre of gravity is shifting towards Asia, more and more of its population will be concentrated in megalopolises and, above all, sustainability will become increasingly important. Companies need to use digital technologies to interpret these trends and then translate them into increasingly smart, flexible products, services and ways of working”.

Our Group has also measured up in this respect, as Bozzoli was quick to point out: “An entirely cloud-based operating model, a network of telecommunications and assets that are highly digitalised both in terms of generation and distribution, a disintermediated relationship with customers with highly digitalised omnichannel approaches were the key elements in making the rapid reconfiguration of our operating activities possible. Furthermore, a robust Collaboration & Communication platform and having used agile, adaptive operating models for some time both turned out to be invaluable during the crisis. This meant we were able to cope with eight times the normal number of remote accesses to the company infrastructure, increasing the productivity of our agile projects by between 40% and 60%”.

“But the key element was our attitude,” concluded Bozzoli. “And people were central to this. I say it again and again: technology is accessible to everyone, is relatively inexpensive, but the attitude of people needs to be built up over time through constant training.” And, as always, even in this crisis, innovation and sustainability are the focus.

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