Digital Transformation: 2021 call

The importance of digital strategy

In the 2019 call (when I myself was in the consortium of applications, which received 92/100 points), the document Digital Strategy was also included in the scoring. In the 2020 tender, this criterion was no longer there, but this does not mean that it will not be re-included in the 2021 tender. The original purpose of the tender was and still is in the complete digital transformation of the company and not only in the implementation of individual projects, e.g. the project of introducing a new ERP, which is not really digitalisation at all, but computerization. In part, it may even be the case if we set it up correctly and include more than the support of classic business functions, but these are companies themselves and ERP solution providers are rarely capable of. I can say this with certainty as someone who has been involved in ERP projects through various roles in his first business life for almost 15 years. In short, the digital strategy is also a good starting point for assessing what a company really needs in its digital business development and that this is much more than just one project that a company would like to apply for a tender with the desire to co-finance it.

The process of creating a digital strategy also includes an assessment of digital maturity, which is necessary to include in the operation of applying for the tender or its Action Plan other necessary digital transformation activities, which are also specifically scored through tender criteria. But it is even more important that the participants in the transformation are aware through the evaluation process where they are “too short” in digital capacities and therefore in danger that the project will not bring the final results, which will be measured by the contractor. By doing so, they are actually endangering the preservation of the obtained funds in the tender. One is to obtain funds, and the other is to “defend” them with the necessary results to be measured. Measuring results with performance indicators (KPIs) is another area that is included in the development of digital strategy.

Let me also point out that the assumption that smaller companies do not need a digital strategy is wrong. One of the advantages of doing business in the digital economy is that even smaller and unknown companies can e.g. by innovating digital business models with the help of digital technologies, they are taking away a significant market share from larger companies. It’s no coincidence that the average age a company spends on the world’s most famous list of Fortune 500’s most successful companies is only 10 years away. Of the 500 companies, however, only 16 are still on it at the outset.

MSP companies can obtain grants in the amount of 60% of the value of creating a digital strategy through the financial instrument Digital Strategy Voucher, which is available at the Slovenian Enterprise Fund.

Time of digital transformation

The tender has some problems here, and so do the companies themselves, because from the known results of the tender (expected in early May) to the completion of the announced tender operations (expected 30.10.2021), companies will have only about 6 months to implement. The call, as it seems, and it was also in the 2020 call), will allow the application of digital transformation even before the known results or even before the opening of the call. This would extend the course of the transformation to about 9 months, which is still not enough for a comprehensive transformation, but such an approach would at least reward those companies that, despite the tender, have already started their digital business renewal, which is commendable and worth the reward. Otherwise, I can say from the field that most companies are waiting or will obtain funds in the tender and only then start the implementation itself. It sounds logical, but from the point of view of the transformation itself, this is certainly not enough time to comprehensively carry out all the necessary additional activities that will benefit the company in its digital business development. After all, it is not just a matter of obtaining funds and spending them in one or two projects, but at least starting a long journey of business renewal of the company. And that’s actually the real meaning of this call: to encourage companies to embark on this path, and not to let their digital business transformation begin and end with the start and end of the call.

So what do we report

The company is expected to include in the application the following operations:

  • which are in accordance with the prioritization of digital initiatives defined in the process of preparation of the digital strategy (tender operations are only part of the plan for the implementation of the digital strategy and thus digital business transformation);
  • which will provide the necessary results with which the Fund will ultimately measure the eligibility of acquired and used funds (the increase in added value per employee promised in the application);
  • which will have a direct positive impact on the value for the company’s customers, not only on the company’s internal operations (only ERP and / or CRM do not provide this);
  • which will cover the contents and areas that are evaluated by all the criteria of the tender (and there are many of them);
  • and last but not least, which employees (and not just call preparers) will take for granted, as this is crucial for the success of operations and their results.

Who should participate in the preparation of the application for the tender

P4D Digital Transformation tender is a procedurally and substantively extremely demanding tender, so close cooperation between:

  • To the client, who gives at least the initial wishes of the content of the application, and even better, if the operations are determined by the preliminary procedure of preparation of the digital strategy; in addition, he is aware of everything written above, so he will be active in the application and will not leave everything to external initiators to apply for the tender (eg IT providers or companies involved in tenders; both are of course necessary when preparing a tender, but not may take leading roles, at least not in the preparation of business objectives, results and content of the tender, as is all too often the case in practice);
  • Specialists for the preparation of tenders: although in the 2020 tender I also worked with three companies that started the tender on their own without companies that specialize in it, and even scored more than 90/100 points, I would definitely advise companies to due to the necessary procedural and administrative activities and due to the role of “driver”, they are connected with one of the specialists for tenders, who must have at least one successful application for this tender in 2019 or 2020. You will not win with the beginners of this tender. fewer funds available and thus fewer projects approved.
  • For digital business transformation experts: although tender specialists or even IT providers who put themselves in this role often want to take over the definition of content, I strongly advise against it. Neither IT providers nor tendering companies have the appropriate expertise for a comprehensive digital business transformation of companies. They may be able to prepare a correct application for the tender with individual operations, but this does not mean that you will be properly prepared for its successful implementation and results, let alone for a comprehensive digital business transformation, which, as justified above, more as an application to this call. And although it is still attractive, the ultimate goal is not and should not only be to obtain refund of up to 100,000 euros, but an incentive for a comprehensive process of preparing the company for business in the new digital economy. And only a digital business transformation expert can do this with the right quality and results.

Aleš Štempihar is an internationally certified expert in digital business transformation and one of the two experts in the DIHS catalogue with a grade of 5/5. Aleš has 100% successful cooperation with companies in the preparation of 11 applications for the 2019 and 2020 tenders. His business and digital experience are even more important, as he has been preparing business strategies since 2005 and has been dealing with digital since 2013. the business effects of digital business transformation and the necessary capabilities of the company to achieve them to the satisfaction of employees and business owners.