CeBIT: Digitization And Why It Is Different This Time

Kai Goerlich

CeBIT, one of the largest IT conferences, opened this week in Germany. As at CeBIT every year, the IT industry is positioning itself and previewing what the future will bring. As CeBIT says, it is all about the digital transformation and the “D!conomy” – and that is all about connecting people, smart machines, devices, and sensors, according to the news stream.

We could say “nothing new here” as we’ve been digitizing since 1970, but a deeper look shows that there is indeed more to it. First of all, the omnipresence of the Internet of Things at CeBIT shows, as we’ve said before, that the IoT is at digitization’s center (view IDC’s IoT white paper). Browsing through the various use cases – IoT, machine to machine, people to machine, Industry 4.0, and sensors – we can already envision a future where IT will be ambient in nearly everything we do in business and private life, how we work and shop and communicate. Actually, IT loses that IT feeling, as it’s not restricted to PCs and mobiles anymore, instead spreading to devices, machines, and things.

If we are technically able to get connected everywhere, what matters the most is communication – and this is about data exchange. The CeBIT news around Big Data, cognitive computing, HANA, and AI show that what matters the most in the ongoing digitization is capturing data from all these diverse sources and processing it in real-time for insights and communication.

We are certainly not in a fully digitized economy yet, but CeBIT shows not only that the IT industry has ideas for digitization, but a wide range of companies in all industries are already steaming ahead with use cases and projects. Yes, we see a lot of marketing at those trade shows, but the fast-forming consortia for open IoT standards clearly shows that much is at stake and speed matters.

This marks a significant change from the earlier years of IT, when we first had a technology wave followed by a rather slow adoption by business. But the most fundamental change we can observe is that the IT industry is being transformed in parallel, as digitization will not stop at any industry borders – and not with the IT industry either. Certainly, IT is becoming embedded in everything modern businesses do, but now it isn’t stopping there. The years of slow adoption are over; today companies adapt faster. They produce their own IT, proactively disrupt their own business models, and become IT companies themselves. What CeBIT shows is that this digital transformation is no longer driven by the IT industry alone, and that it has a much broader base than ever before.

The IoT is moving quickly into the enterprise, but Who Will Lead Development of the Internet of Things Inside the Organization?


Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network. His specialties include competitive intelligence, market intelligence, corporate foresight, trends, futuring, and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.