May 16, 2019

Digitalizing global trade, one customer at a time

by Point-of-View, OpusCapita

Every company has a purpose or should have, for that matter. Our purpose at OpusCapita is to "Digitalize global trade - one customer at a time".

Patrik Sallner

That sounds pretty lofty and somewhat daring in a time when every single business these days is all about scalability.  In fact, we didn’t casually come up with this purpose statement, we spent a long time looking at our own ambitions and how they align with our customers’ needs.

We have heard a few questions (even internal ones) about our purpose and where we are coming from with this bold and yet surprisingly grounded statement and decided that there is no better way to cover this topic than to get together with our CEO, Patrik Sallner for a short interview with him.

Digitalization, isn’t that just another overused buzzword?

Sure, in some ways digitalization is all around us. Even fridges are digitalized today and part of the Internet of Things. But it’s also a fact that while digitalization is more and more changing how we live our lives, it still has a long way to go to reach its full potential when it comes to the corporate world. Gartner finds that most leaders are struggling on their digitalization journey. So, it may be a buzzword but it doesn’t seem to be an easy goal to achieve. Just for example, let’s consider an invoice. Yes, it’s great that an invoice comes as PDF and not by post anymore, but that was already possible 20 years ago. Digitalization goes far beyond that and when companies move beyond this initial way of making something analog digital, they can then begin to allow digitalization to change how they operate. Only then will they unleash their full potential as a digital business where processes can be automated and business models can transform.

Good point, maybe we should quickly talk about digitization vs digitalization?

Yes, those two terms are often confused. Digitization is in some ways a prerequisite for digitalization. Digitization basically means taking information, like a printed document, and converting it into bits and bytes, in this case into a scanned bitmap file, possibly in pdf form.

Digitalization, however, is less about a single document and more about converting whole processes to online, connected digital information. Digitalization happens to processes, departments and businesses when all their information is connected in digital form. It requires a cultural shift as we learn to change how we work with the new tools that enable digitalization.

Digitalizing global trade, Patrik, how did we come to this?

Funny enough, OpusCapita has actually been living this purpose since it was founded in 1984. At that time, we were scanning and printing documents, in other words converting analogue to digital and vice versa. And so have several of the companies that we have acquired over the years.

When we digitalize the processes of one of our customers, they contribute to global digital transformation in their respective value chain. When, for example, Ramirent modernized their source-to-contract process, they also pulled their suppliers with them into an ever more digital world of global trade. No one can digitalize their business alone. Digitalization can create competitive advantage – but it can also create new dynamics in how companies work with their trading partners. Digital transactions happen in real time, you have constant online visibility, you save in transaction costs and manual labor, you improve quality and compliance, and you get better control over your business. You even contribute to reducing the environmental burden of cutting trees and the physical transportation required for paper documents.

But what about this "one customer at a time"?

That’s a valid question. We have to be realistic. We are not going to digitalize all global trade alone - but we can do it one customer at a time.

It also describes how we work with each customer on their own journey to digitalize not just their own processes but to connect them digitally with all their trading partners. A large multinational company has tens of thousands of suppliers, customers and banks all over the world, all of which need to be onboarded and connected in digital ways. In order to digitalize their processes, we need to digitally connect them to all of their trading partners. That leads to a digitalization of their value chain and hence involves taking several small steps in the digitalization of global trade.

Digitalized global trade is not an island. And one could even think of it as a sort of snowball effect.

But why, one customer at a time?

We need to look at each of our customers individually because not every company is at the same point in their journey. Each organization is its own digital transformation journey – some further progressed than others so it’s our opportunity to guide them along that road. And we do this one customer at a time.

 

So how does digitalization relate to OpusCapita’s solution offering?

Once the transactions, connections and documents are digital then our customers can truly automate their processes and achieve superior analytics on them. That isn’t possible if there are paper documents or if manual connections have to be made separately for each transaction. Hence the transformation we embark on with a customer is to enable them to engage in a digital, real time, online and fully automated manner with all their trading partners.

Where is OpusCapita in its own digital transformation journey?

As OpusCapita has digitalized its own processes and offering, we have also grown further away from our earlier owner, Posti Group. In March, we announced a new owner, Providence Equity, who is investing to help OpusCapita in its own transformation journey and internationalization of its business. This ownership change will allow us to better serve our customers in their global digitalization journey.

OpusCapita is not just about selling products. We support our customers’ business objectives as they journey towards becoming true digital businesses. It’s a partnership.