Digital Transformation – a German perspective

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Digital transformation or digital business transformation is apparently currently one of the hot topics in the German business world. What puzzles me slightly, is why just now? The digitization trend has been around for ~20 years. Established buisness models have been destroyed or massively changed due to the trend in the last 15 years. E.g. the music industry around 2000 with the start of Napster, the camera sector twice since the introduction of digital cameras and now with mobile phones taking their place. Other often named categories are; retail (Amazon), taxi (uber), movie (netflix) businesses.

So let’s have a look at some data. First, using Google trends we see that the topic is much more searched for in Germany compared to the US.

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-2

The results are interesting. a) The search volume is higher in Germany, even though I used the term English term. b) While both time-series have a clear upward trend, Germany seems to lead the trends. Additionally, it is puzzling as most digital successful companies come from the US and definitely not from Germany.

I thought that the results might be due to a different media attention on the topic, but this is not the case. Comparing the number of articles in “Die ZEIT” and “New York Times” it is clear that NYT wrote more frequently about the topic.

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-3

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Finally, I checked my favorite new source; Hackernews. While based in the US, it covers a broad range of global IT/Tech/business topics.

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-5

The chart shows the irrelevance of the topic in that community. In 2016, users submitted 20 articles which got a bit over 30 upvotes(points) in total. Usually a single good/interesting/viral article gets more than 300 upvotes alone.

So here is my takeaway: a) digital transformation is a business topic not a tech topic. b) it is more relevant in Germany even though the NYT uses the term frequently

Without having more data on this, it is hard to tell why this is the case. I assume, that two key German industries feel the increasing digitization pressure. The automotive industry and the banking sector both struggle publicly to transform themselves towards digital enterprises.

Source code to get the data from the 3 APIS, NYT, ZEIT and HACKERNEWS:

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