The achievement of digital competence is a process, not an end goal. It is a never-ending journey on which new trends are discovered every day. We at ERNI see ourselves therefore also as scouts, constantly looking for new developments, separating the wheat from the chaff. What will have a long-lasting impact on your business and what is nothing more than transitory hype? Achieving digital competence is something you have to do for yourself, though, and the best place to start is with some of the key terms and concepts. This list is continually updated.

Companies today have access to a vast supply of different data. The challenge lies in sifting through this «big data» to identify the right information and gain valuable insights, in order to develop better product and services. Intelligent processing based on «data analytics» turns the raw material – «big data» – into «smart data». Tools and technologies designed to handle large quantities of data, such as Hadoop, NoSQL, Spark, InMemory, and DataLakes, are gradually becoming more mature. New statistical tools such as R and programming languages such as Python and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches considerably expand the analytical options and make it possible to monitor customer behaviour in real time. This enables companies to create forecasting models for the future to reduce costs, increase productivity, and tap into new sales markets.

Over the next ten years, digital transformation will have a major impact on all products, services, and business models, transforming entire industries, resulting in fundamental changes to the way we work. Executives need to take action today if they want to ensure that their company is able to flourish and thrive in this new world. Ultimately, digital business is all about how quickly innovation can be transferred into revenue. The best approach is to invest energy and resources in customer-focused innovation to achieve digital leadership. In this time of digital transformation leading to fundamental, radical shifts in the economy and society, companies need to enact a cultural transformation of their own. Teamwork should be encouraged between digital natives and employees for whom this way of thinking is (still) somewhat foreign. «Digitalisation with a human touch» also means launching initiatives designed to promote a «fail forward» culture in the minds of employees.

Time-consuming and costly business and administrative processes have a negative impact on the success of a company. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be used to delegate routine tasks for software robots to perform automatically. As an example, these might be configured to capture and validate data, process transactions, and transfer information to various IT systems – such as well-structured, highly standardised and high-volume back-office processes in the financial services, logistics, or IT sectors. RPA reduces costs and yields additional economic benefits through the digitalisation of business processes. Manual processes can be abolished and employees can be assigned tasks that add greater value. Other advantages include lower error rates, reduced risk, and higher productivity. It also makes the company more agile, as it is then better able to quickly adjust its processes to changing requirements. RPA will be a dominant trend in all digital industries by 2020.

Traditional databases need a master copy, which must be backed up by a central instance. In contrast, blockchain technology strings together transactions chronologically, and groups them into blocks. This keeps information secure and unalterable. Information is assigned to all participating databases using encryption and hashing, and is reconciled with each transaction. A new transaction is added only after a cryptographic task has been solved and after it has been accepted by at least 51% of the participating databases. This ensures data security. This technology replaces central parties to confirm transactions (for example banks, notaries, etc.).

A blockchain database is primarily designed for asset transfers. It is best suited to payments, security transfers, property transfers or other complex transactions (for example «Trade Finance» in international trade). In general, the more participants there are in a network and the more trust between parties is needed, the better suited to the task is blockchain technology.

 «Smart Contracts», a self-executing transaction logic, can further increase the potential of the blockchain, e.g. via the Ethereum platform.