We’re running a series of previews and interviews that look ahead to the first InternetRetailing Events B2B Summit, to be held in Berlin in January.
Today we hear from Markus Birkel, head of IT at German healthcare products business Medi Gmbh & Co on the challenges that face B2B companies as they move their business online.
InternetRetailing: Tell us about Medi and its customers. Is ordering online important to them?
Markus Birkel, head of IT at Medi: Medi’s products and care concepts make it one of the leading manufacturers of medical aids and appliances. Around 2,400 employees world-wide make a major contribution to people feeling better. The product range includes medical compression stockings, adjustable compression systems, supports, orthoses, thrombosis prophylaxis stockings, compression garments as well as shoe insoles. Furthermore, over 65 years’ experience in the field of compression technology have been channelled into the development of the sports and fashion product brands CEP and ITEM m6. With its worldwide network of distributors and own branch offices, the company delivers to over 90 countries all over the world. In some countries, including the UK but not Germany, shoppers can order directly. We sell directly to consumers in those markets and we also sell our sports and fashion product ranges directly. Our customers, such as specialist retailers, hospitals and clinics, are now asking more and more to order online and they also want services like 24 hour delivery. That’s a big change.
IR: What is the Medi experience of digital transformation?
MB: That’s the part I’m responsible for – and it has been a big change. It has changed the way we work today. It speeds up a lot of things and we can work more efficiently than in the past. But change management is an important part of digital transformation – it’s about introducing it to the team, explaining and showcasing some of the possibilities. That’s a daily task for me.
IR: What has helped with doing that?
MB: It’s important to explain the topic and show what it is about to the people who are affected. People are always scared when something new comes along, and you need to work with them and convince them that it is a positive thing. It all depends on how they are affected. Some people are very motivated to test out new systems, but other people are scared. If you can explain the big picture behind it, most people understand and follow the idea. If people are not clear, and not willing to move a new way, you need to spend more time on convincing people. Sometimes you also need to make tough management decisions.
IR: What benefits have you found as a result of moving towards digital?
MB: We have been starting to learn more about our customers. It will be a big benefit to know more about them in the future. In the long term, it means we can offer better services and products. In the short term, you find new efficiencies and digital workflows being created. I think the big benefits are efficiency and cost savings. In the long term wewill fulfil more of our customers’ wishes and needs.
IR: How do you see this developing in the future?
MB: You need to be prepared for everything that come along. Since we work with health insurance companies, it’s always possible that procedures will change. It’s also important to look at business models, to work on different possibilities and provide more customized products. We take ideas from the business and see how we can use the technology to support it.
IR: Aside from your own part in the B2B Summit, what are you looking forward to about it?
MB: I’m looking forward to talking to people who are working in similar situations, about transformation, about B2C and B2B- and the meaning in bigger companies as well as in traditional companies.
Markus Birkel will be chairing a discussion on digital transformation in the B2B environment at the InternetRetailing Events B2B Summit in Berlin on January 25. To find out more, visit www.internetretailingsummit.com/internetretailing-b2b-summit-europe. Contact Lee Price (Lee.Price@internetretailingevents.com) if you’re interested in applying to attend.