Digital transformation within the German Convention Bureau: Why adopting a digital mindset is key

Author: Matthias Schultze, Managing Director GCB German Convention Bureau e. V.

A few years back, we noticed how things within our industry started to change: Unsurprisingly, the rapid progression of the digital transformation that affects all aspects of our professional and private life didn’t leave the meetings and conference sector untouched. As an organisation, the GCB German Convention Bureau is not only committed to support and prepare our members and partners for the disruption brought about by the digitalisation. We also realised that to be able to do that, we also need to change how we work and think as an organisation. Embracing digitalisation with all its challenges and opportunities requires a fundamental mindset shift that affects each part of an organisation. At the GCB, we have therefore identified six areas that need to be considered for a successful digital transformation process:

1. Strategy

As the digital transformation involves every business unit, everything has to start with a digital transformation strategy. More than ever before, a holistic approach is needed to ensure that the entire organisation and every employee is on board. Our vision of “Meetings made in Germany connect the world – digital and face-to-face” expresses what we want to achieve and based on our overall corporate goals, we work with a dynamic strategy that is constantly reviewed and modified. We realise that in a fast-changing environment, strategies need to be adaptable, too. Doggedly holding on to them does not reflect the realities of our digital world.

2. Culture

Our vision can only come true and our strategy can only be implemented if our employees really believe in it. The passion and engagement of each and everyone are important components. In this context, it is vital to enable people to play their part in “making it happen”, i.e., you have to give them the right tools, enhance their skills where necessary and put trust in them. Encouraging a culture of trying is also part of the process. More often than not, making mistakes carries a stigma which prevents people from giving it a go in the first place. Therefore, a credo of “try new things and learn from when they don’t work” is important. To create the right kind of environment and to foster the necessary innovative spirit, the GCB uses new methods of collaboration, with a focus on peer learning meetings, ongoing training, creative methods and agile working.

3. Technology

Obviously, technology is at the core of the digital transformation. How we work with technology at the GCB has changed considerably in recent years and reflects overall changes in work and private live. We focus on acquiring new skills and constantly review the tech tools we employ internally but also externally to provide services to our members. From data management to communicating with our international branches in New York and Bejing – technology is crucial to enable our staff to work flexibly and collaboratively.

Our member services also reflect our growing tech know-now, e.g., the GCB team produces webinars and has considerably upped its video content output for different channels. For our own events, we look at how to use virtual reality, augmented reality, facial recognition and other relevant technologies.

4. Channels

The digital transformation has had a considerable impact on how we communicate with our stakeholders. Social media and the formats that perform particularly well on this channel have come to the fore. When we think about communication, we look at four different elements: the different channels available, such as our website, newsletter and social media platforms, our key target markets Europe, USA and China, the different stakeholders and, most importantly, the content of our communication. Orchestrating these elements with the user in mind, is key for successfully addressing our members and other stakeholders.

5. Stakeholders

In our digital world, customer centricity is a crucial success factor for any business. One size fits all is a thing of the past. Customised solutions based on individual needs a must. We have taken a very close look at our different stakeholders, be it meetings planners, our members or the press, and carried out a persona analysis to make sure that we are aware of all the different needs our audience has and can provide a range of suitable solutions and products.

6. Data and analytics

Progress is not possible without measuring results and for that we need to define KPIs prior to analysing our data. For instance, we closely monitor all our communication measures and look at how the individual channels perform. On a more general level, the digital maturity index is the key KPI for measuring the digital transformation level in an organisation. Measuring and optimising every process in every part of the business with the ultimate aim of reaching the state of transformation for each one is essential.

Change is the new normal

Having highlighted it at the beginning, let me reiterate the most important thing to realise when embarking on the digital transformation journey: For any of the above to work and to have the desired outcome, a fundamental shift in perspective needs to take place first. We all know how difficult it can be to implement change in any organisation. However, in the rapidly changing world we live in, we cannot afford to not to rethink our processes and way of working. Therefore, a shift in mindset is crucial in order to seize the opportunities of the digital transformation. Change is the new normal!