Revolutionizing business: harnessing cutting-edge technologies for digital transformation

Writer Samira Joineau
ict spring 2023 digital transformation
© Henri Collette

Connectivity, IoT, VMs, cloud-native applications, edge devices are contributing to increase performance while ensuring a smooth and sustainable digital transformation. This breaks down physical barriers, offering seamless integration and creating digital services that improve employees and customers’ experience. Make sure to anticipate the key steps for a successful transformation in tomorrow’s economy.

This was the core subject on stage last June 29 afternoon at ICT Spring, where seasoned speakers discussed how to take advantage of the digital transformation powered by new technologies. 

For this Visionary Conference afternoon session, FDI Center Director Dr. Kim J. Zietlow served as Master of Ceremonies. The opportunity to go on a journey with him on various themes from diving deep into the furthest corners of a sovereign cloud, traveling up into space and across the oceans, and strapping belts to experience how the fastest-growing technology company in the world manages times of hypergrowth. Are you in? 

Business powered by new and emerging technologies, such as the cloud

To start off, digital transformation strategist, renowned TEDx speaker and Co-Founder & President of Digitalizuj.Me Vladimir Vulic broke the ice by tackling an insightful topic: Navigating Change in the Age of Digital Darwinism. The workplace has undergone a considerable transformation, notably through the digitalization of some activities and processes whereas human beings have not evolved in this kind of way. The thing is that businesses, and more specifically the workforce, have to adapt to these current and  emerging changes that new technologies bring along. Vulic noted that 7 out of 10 biggest corporate bankruptcies (Thomas Cook, Kodak, Polaroid,…) occurred in the last 15 years. The main reason? Inability to change, to adapt. They did not succeed to change and embrace digital transformation, as they kept their analog way of work. 

“In both business and life, try and dare, try and test out new things, try and cross that line which is often in your mind” – Vladimir Vulic, Co-Founder & President (Digitalizuj.Me) / Digital Transformation Strategist / TEDx Speaker

Citing a famous Darwin’s saying stating that “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one the most responsive to change”, the TEDx speaker emphasized the importance of life-long learning so as to prepare and be ready for the upcoming changes. Besides, the future of management lies in the “Three-Box solution”. What is it? 

The first box is about managing the present so as to optimize the current business; the second box is about forgetting the past, by letting go of the values and practices that fuel the current business and fail the new one; and there is finally the third and last box which is – you guessed it – about the future, so as to create it and invent a new business model. 

This inspiring and dynamic keynote was followed by AWS EMEA Head of Sustainability Tobias Kederer, who took the audience on a journey addressing a top challenge enterprises face today: how cloud computing helps companies drive sustainability and decarbonization. He highlighted that employees, consumers, governments, and communities, expect the private sector to do more than simply maximize profits and instead increasingly focus on creating a world where doing good is also good for both the planet and business. 

“Think big, start small, then accelerate” – Thomas Kederer, EMEA Head of Sustainability (AWS)

According to a world-famous tech brand’s study, “tomorrow’s strongest businesses are likely to be the Twin Transformers – companies that find the new value at the intersection of digital technologies and sustainability. Powered by these twin engines of growth, they’re 2.5 x more likely to outperform their peers”. Hence the importance of “enabling customers at every stage in their sustainability journey to leverage the cloud and accelerate their sustainable targets”. Kederer explained that “data is core to addressing the climate crises”. Overall, data is core to participating in countering climate change and cloud is a great enabler for that. 

Leveraging technology is also the source of incredible (business) success stories. And Deel Country Leader Benelux Dennis Valkema was on stage to share Deel’s lessons learned during its phase of hypergrowth. In just 4 years, Deel grew from a “Y Combinator” project to Deel, the leading all-in-one HR platform for global teams. In January 2023, the company counted 10,000+ customers and $300M Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), and had a $12B valuation. Valkema shared Deel’s lessons learned in four areas with three highlights each. What are they? 

“Your talent is your most valuable asset and has feedback rooted in day-to-day reality” – Dennis Valkema, Country Leader Benelux (Deel)

According to him, it is all about strategy, leadership, and sales, without forgetting about product. The main idea being to trust the process, get comfortable with the unknown, test and retest processes, listen to the team, and keep the business model simple so as to attract paying customers – to eventually compel them to repurchase. All of this, among other ingredients, help optimize long-term growth. 

Collaboration and trust as key factors for innovation

Collaboration is also both an essential and valuable part of business success. Valkema’s insightful speech was followed by a roundtable gathering Proximus Luxembourg CEO Gérard Hoffmann, Luxconnect CEO Paul Konsbruck, and Google Cloud Benelux Managing Director Joris Schoonis, with Journalist/Speaker/Commentator Mike Butcher as moderator. They discussed their recent partnership, which aims to combine security and innovation with disconnected sovereign cloud services. Schoonis explained that there are three layers of sovereignty: data, software, and operational. And to bring these to the local country while meeting all the regulatory requirements, this partnership is essential. 

“[Google] confirmed that [Luxembourg] is the first in the world to do this. Luxembourg is key because of our environment […] and the regulatory experience we have” – Gérard Hoffmann, CEO (Proximus)

Konsbruck further detailed that Luxconnect, as a data center provider, noticed that major companies are progressively migrating towards cloud solutions. And this can sometimes present a harm to their companies as they do not know where their data is actually located. “People want to know where their data is physically, and this is what we tended to solve with this solution [sovereign cloud]; […] and we can guarantee that their data is hosted in Luxembourg”, he mentioned. 

On his side, Hoffmann stated that Proximus’ role is to operate the platform. And another key aspect of the sovereign cloud solution is about “[anticipating] regulatory changes that are coming especially in Europe”, with GDPR, DSA, or DORA (a legislation for the financial sector to come into force in 2025, which will have a lot of sovereignty requirements). He added that “Luxembourg has been identified by Google as a very good candidate for bringing this technology to Europe because it has a long tradition in regulation – mainly in the financial sector. […] As a telco and IT operator, we know that environment very well: this is a good sealing ground for this technology”.

Although some companies can already meet security requirements, Schoonis assured that this sovereign cloud solution is not only about security, but also about trust. “Making sure your data is local, the systems are local, […] we are looking for the next level of security”, he completed. 

Still on the European Cloud Sovereignty, the next keynote focused on a local solution regarding the role of multi-cloud edge computing. Gcore Product Owner (Edge Cloud Product Management) Seva Vayner and emma Founder & CEO Dmitry Panenkov respectfully presented their solutions, and how they worked together in building a sovereign cloud in Europe. Headquartered in Luxembourg, Gcore is an international player in cloud and edge computing, content delivery, hosting and security solutions. 

“40% large european companies a need for a sovereign cloud to address data by the end of 2024, according to IDC futurescape” – Seva Vayner, Product Owner – Edge Cloud Product Management (Gcore)

Vayner stated that Gcore provides a public cloud solution – so data can be stored within the EU – but also specified that the company can also deliver its infrastructure platform services on premise. This means that a given company can have their own data center while benefiting from capabilities which Gcore provides in the public cloud. Both Gcore and emma comply with the European law to protect and store data in the EU. 

Panenkov clarified the meaning of its company emma, which stands for Enterprise Multi-cloud Management Application. Concretely, it is a platform helping companies manage and optimize their usage of multiple cloud service providers. Also, emma deploys, manages, and scales cloud workloads enabling users to make informed decisions about their cloud infrastructure so as to reduce theri cloud spend and time-to-market. Together with Gcore, they “work on building the sovereign cloud in Europe”. 

Besides, Panenkov and Vayner exclusively announced their “new service, advanced speech-to-text model” to translate English into Luxembourgish – created in collaboration with SnT. The idea is to help Luxembourgish companies promote the Luxembourgish language in an easy and educational way. 

On another note, a discussion occurred next on stage to gather CIOs view on the future of IT and leadership. Moderated by Data Natives Founder & CEO Elena Poughia, this roundtable featured BGL BNP Paribas CIO Wealth Management Luxembourg Arnaud Clément, ADEM Deputy Director & CIO Christine von Reichenbach, and Arendt Group CIO Abdelhay Toudma. Reichenbach expressed how challenging the role of CIO is today, as it is “evolving from technical to strategic adviser [to the board]” and refers now as “somebody who is innovating in the company”. This said, she added that CIOs have to be on the lookout for technologies that could be applied to their company. 

Toudma pointed out that the role of the CIO stands “at the crossroads” of tech operations, business, among other sectors – including HR. Considering the (digital) transformation and its pace, “it has led us to drastically change the way we express the needs for support, the needs of budget. And you have to go beyond your role of responsibility of a team to be an ambassador”, he mentioned. 

On top of this, Clément affirmed that the most important now, for CIOs, is “to be a partner for the business, and make sure we can generate value”. Beyond CIO’s important role in change and project management, he specified that a new aspect he sees now regards sustainability: “it is important to use digital, but in a responsible way”. CIOs should stand as a leader for “good” change and inspire the whole business to grow on a sustainable path. 

Still on leadership, Reichenbach expounded that CIOs “have to come up with something that talks to the team. You have to make it visible for them, show them examples”. Besides, Toudma declared that leadership is also “a question of empathy, understanding people and their concerns. You need to be convinced with what you say, team up with people, collaborate with the HR team”. The idea being to do the right thing, at the right moment. On his side, Clément confirmed that “if you try to use technologies that are out of your business range, you are out of the target”, it is hence essential to always focus on both the customers and the business needs. Reichenbach is nevertheless convinced that AI is an efficient tool to make people more productive and optimize business processes and results. 

The ultimate power of digital transformation: between supercomputing and space communications

Addressing the ultimate power of digital transformation through supercomputing, LuxProvide CEO David Papiah came next on stage. He recalled that the main mission of LuxProvide is to provide customers with a “unique platform that combines data science and supercomputing resources, enabling them to boost the success of their most challenging innovation projects”, while it also operates Luxembourg’s national supercomputer MeluXina. In this sense, he underlined that Luxembourg is an innovative place when it comes to technology, and is a “digital trust center in Europe”, listing the MeluXina High-Performance Computer (HPC), the national data exchange platform, 5G connectivity, and soon the national sovereign cloud. 

At the European level now, “Europe has decided to invest a lot of money to create an ecosystem in supercomputer development so as to become one of the major actors in terms of digitalization”, he indicated, notably with the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking. Europe allocates a budget dedicated to skills development with for instance the establishment of the European Network of Competence Centers in HPC so as to foster adoption of HPC, and another to education especially with the introduction of the European Master for HPC. The latter is a pan-European Master’s program by leading educational institutions focused on HPC. 

As the world is gradually surrounded by IoT sensors that are collecting data, which are then stored in data lakes or big data repositories, a platform like MeluXina uses this data to apply it to AI models and/or traditional simulation models. This eventually drives the use of data so as to get Intelligent Digital Solutions: “this result enables [companies] to make decisions based on data”, Papiah concluded. 

The final roundtable discussion of the day was moderated by LuxSpace Business Development and Proposal Manager Kateryna Aheieva, and tackled the following question: Why is space-based technologies relevant for maritime issues? 

SES Business Development Manager Jean Trimbour expressed that “space has completely changed everything through the communications, the observation and the monitoring that are now available”. Spire Maritime Director of Data Operations Mark Deverill continued with the example of space communications: “the global coverage of satellites and higher and higher boundaries enabled maritime applications, […] with operating drones and having much more accurate and added-value services”. 

It shows that, indeed, there are several challenges when it comes to integrating space communications technologies into the maritime market. Trimbour further detailed that the increasing number of space systems (geostationary satellites, LEO satellites, MEO satellites,…) is part of the challenges to overcome, as “we have to make all of these systems interoperable”. Another key challenge is “to be able to serve our end-users with different and specific requirements”. For this, it is paramount to “become more agile, more flexible in terms of providing connectivity”, hence the necessity to have several constellations and several orbits. This helps provide the right services at the right time. 

How about cybersecurity in terms of space technologies in the maritime sector? European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) Head of Unit – Surveillance Pedro Lourenço stated that “the maritime sector is very diverse in the types of assets you need to secure”. When it comes to this, he explained that EMSA’s strategy is to start thinking about security from the design perspective of the service. It is hence essential to involve security from the beginning of the project, and not impose it on top later on. Aside from security in the technical side, but also in “the governance you are implementing and the technologies you are selecting and, of course, in the operations and processes you put in place”. 

Overall, this Visionary Conference made clear that turning digital is essential as of now so as to prepare and be ready to face upcoming changes in the business sector and beyond. All these thought-provoking keynotes are surely a source of inspiration for those willing to brace for a successful transformation in tomorrow’s economy. Hence the importance of leveraging technology such as connectivity, IoT, cloud and, of course, AI.