Lasting technological benefits: but only if you implement RPA but don’t neglect the bigger picture

When you adopt robotic process automation (RPA), the main focus is on short-term added value in the form of cost savings and efficiency gains. A centre of excellence will enable you to bundle your organisation’s automation activities, define the priorities in a book of work, and manage the successful execution of RPA solutions. But RPA is no substitute for thinking strategically. Whatever you do, you should keep the long term in sight and make sure your process and IT landscape remains fit for the future.

RPA increasingly figures on the management agenda at large corporations, and big banks in particular. Wherever there are opportunities to automate large volumes of manual tasks and close gaps in information process, RPA offers attractive rewards in the form of cost savings, increased effectiveness and efficiency, reduced error rates, and the chance to free up personnel resources for more highly qualified tasks.

RPA solutions are generally used for a wide variety of processes in different business units and divisions. So the key question for management is how to coordinate the RPA initiative on an enterprise-wide basis, combine it with other systems using application programming interfaces (APIs) and enhance it with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), and how to align it with the company’s compliance and risk management requirements. Setting up a centre of excellence (CoE) is a good way of coordinating and monitoring these efforts.

A CoE, often called a competence centre, is where an organisation brings together the management, best practices, research and training relating to a specific topic of focus, such as a technology, business approach or competence. In technology companies, the CoE concept mostly has to do with new software tools, technologies or corresponding concepts.

Targeted use of energies and synergies

A CoE bundles all RPA-related competences and initiatives, trims the overall course, and measures the achievement of objectives. The CoE has a systematic structure and a clear hierarchy (see Figure 1), and is designed to ensure compliance with the relevant external and internal standards. A structured CoE can be set up in house, outsourced to a strategic partner, or operated with a combination of internal and external specialists.

A well-structured CoE brings together the many layers of RPA expertise to create a powerful organisation.

Multilayered excellence

To perform the management and control function for all the company’s RPA efforts, a CoE should ideally include different functions and draw on the experience of specialists.

  • Governance and strategy: This area regulates the interplay of all RPA-related activities and keeps them on track across the company. It’s here that the company defines what it wants to achieve with RPA overall: what legal, regulatory, economic and social requirements are to be met, and how objectives are to be reported and, ultimately, monitored.
  • Change management: RPA applications lead to technological, organisational and process-related changes. Change management provides the corresponding guidelines.
  • Knowledge management: One of the keys to the success of RPA is knowledge of the way things fit together and the different impacts and implications. This section of the CoE is responsible for building, deepening and sharing this knowledge and securing it for the long term.
  • Guidelines and standards: This function regulates the entire technical component, covering areas including certification policy, service management (e.g. for releases), the definition of data models and key performance indicators, and all monitoring with a view to regular optimisation.
  • Technology architecture: When you deploy RPA solutions you need clear specifications for the tools to be used. This area covers the evaluation, selection, licensing, implementation, commissioning and maintenance of RPA instruments. This is also where you address the question of how far the architecture should also include other technologies such as AI.
  • Implementation: This organisational area covers the actual execution of RPA solutions, from set-up through operation to maintenance. The book of work defines the criteria for prioritising the tasks involved. This is also where the organisation estimates the benefits of RPA, defining the tangible and measurable added value it expects its RPA architecture to deliver, and how it intends to reinvest it.
A CoE has various core functions designed to ensure the sustained effectiveness of RPA technologies.

From a centralised to a decentralised structure

Global organisations intending to systematically deploy RPA have a much more complex framework to consider than a company with only one home market. The operating models of their CoEs will differ accordingly. A centralised model will be led by a team with common resources, and will usually be based at the place where the organisation (and its technology) is headquartered. In the decentralised approach, the RPA monitoring function is carried out by different business units, usually geographically separate. The hybrid model represents a combination of these two approaches. What all these approaches have in common is that they are designed to bring together knowledge and controls to ensure that the organisation’s RPA- and compliance-related goals are met.

In a nutshell

When you implement RPA you have to work out how to make sure this new interface technology will deliver lasting benefits. A well-thought-out centre of excellence will help you coordinate your RPA efforts, channel your resources and harness synergy. But there’s more to it than that. The benefits of RPA are primarily short-term: cost savings, greater efficiency, freed-up resources and lower error rates due to manual interventions. This economic immediacy is what makes the technology so attractive. But it’s by no means enough. RPA solutions make your IT and process landscape more complex, and they may lead you to put off thinking about fundamental changes you need to make to your architecture, such as replacing a legacy system. You should use RPA technology as a way of making short-term savings while using existing IT systems, giving you the time and flexibility to make sure your IT architecture meets the long-term needs of your organisation. For RPA to deliver long-term technological benefits, you have to keep sight of your longer-term, strategic initiatives. In other words, implement RPA, but don’t neglect the bigger picture.



Alexander Schultz-Wirth
Partner Financial Services – Business Technology
Office: +41 58 792 47 97

Join PwC’s Treasury Conference 2018 in Zurich on 14.03.2018 and Geneva on 22.03.2018

Explore this year’s topic: The Future of Treasury

Our 2018 programme will be dedicated to the Future of Treasury, with a focus on Fintech, Cybersecurity, and Connectivity, as well as on the changes in the required skills of the Future Treasurer. We will provide context to the current Macro-economic environment and share relevant practitioner case studies.

PwC's Treasury Conference 2018 wille take place in Zurich on 14.03.2018 and in Geneva on 22.03.2018

A great networking opportunity

On top of the knowledge transfer, panel discussions and case studies, we are well aware that this event is an important moment for you to connect with your peers, so ample networking time will be provided throughout the day.

This year’s programme

You can find the detailed programmes and information for both locations on our PwC Event webpage. We are delighted of this year’s excellent line-up of speakers, and hope that you will be interested in the topics they will cover.

Register now and enjoy our Early Bird fees

Special Early Bird fees will apply to all registrations received before February 15th. Click the links below to register now to our PwC Treasury Conference:

> Register to the Zurich session on March 14th, 2018
> Register to the Geneva session on March 22nd, 2018

PwC’s Treasury Solutions Group looks forward to welcoming you at the 19th edition of the event in Zurich and the 12th edition in Geneva and remains at your disposal should you need any further information.

Feel free to contact our experts if you have any question related to this topic:

Michiel Mannaerts,
PwC Switzerland

Sebastian di Paola,
PwC Switzerland

Market design in a world of energy transformation

We are pleased to launch the new Power & Utilities roundtable discussion paper Market Design in a World of Energy Transformation.

Senior executives and experts from 12 countries and four continents gathered in for a PwC roundtable on market design in a world of energy transformation in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together leading players with substantial experience from both the regulatory and corporate spheres to discuss how market design can best evolve to meet the challenges of new energy systems.

Power market design varies considerably in different jurisdictions around the world but everywhere market design faces common challenges. In a changing energy world, power systems are becoming more decentralised and, with that, comes volatility. The need to balance energy resilience with flexibility is adding a new tension to the central trilemma of reliability, affordability and sustainability. The contrast between the similarity of the challenges and the difference in market design approaches offers a great opportunity. What was evident from the roundtable discussion is that there should be no need to invent market design solutions from scratch. Different parts of the world have followed different evolutionary paths and have adopted different policy frameworks. There are things that are done well and things that are done badly everywhere and we can learn from them.

Read more.

The Developing Role of Blockchain

We are pleased to launch the new White Paper that PwC has created in cooperation with the World Energy Council (WEC): The Developing Role of Blockchain.

Blockchain has the potential to change the way we arrange, record and verify transactions, with the underlying model shifting away from a centralised structure towards decentralised systems. It is no surprise then that, outside of the financial sector, the energy sector is seen as one of the industries where blockchain could have the biggest transformative and disruptive impact.

But there are still a number of uncertainties in the way of blockchain which still could limit or even stall its growth due to a combination of technological, regulatory and other practical challenges.

Among the big questions surrounding blockchain are: Will its early potential translate into robust and reliable, practical applications? How sure can we be that its promise of greater cybersecurity will be fulfilled and that it won’t introduce new, possibly bigger risks?

Read more.

Back to the future

Digitisation, urbanisation, globalisation and resource scarcity are all megatrends forcing people to change – and companies to embark on digital transformation. Sharing economy businesses have grasped that what’s hip today and successful tomorrow might not even exist in ten years’ time. For this reason they’re constantly reinventing themselves, hand in hand with their customers. The ability to change requires courage, innovation, self-criticism, and plenty of staying power.

The success of the sharing economy rests on a combination of smart strategy and the ability to rapidly visualise this strategy.

Stress-free co-consumption

People have become so tired of politicians claiming that ‘there’s no alternative’ that in 2010 ‘alternativlos’ was chosen as Germany’s Non-Word of the Year. Indeed there are so many alternatives these days that people are no longer prepared to commit to a single option, but would rather be able to decide according to their moods and needs. Property has become passé because it means stress. “The real luxury is that you no longer have to possess things – you only have to be able to use them,” says Olivier Kofler, head of PwC’s Experience Center. It’s better to leave the boring job of maintenance and administration to other people.

That’s why so many services are now sold on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. This freedom of contract meets a very modern desire for flexibility of options, and is ultimately one of the key factors in the sharing economy. Another key factor is people’s innate inertia: they’re reluctant to move into the future of their own accord. People tend to focus too closely on what will happen in the next twelve months; very few are seriously wondering what will change in the next twelve years. Another factor helping make co-consumption such a success is the scarcity of non-renewable resources.

All these factors have enabled the establishment of a digital economy that doesn’t need any new resources, doesn’t tie people down, and relieves them of responsibility. Consumers are prepared to pay for this – and in some cases pay more – provided they no longer have to bear the burden of ownership, maintenance and administration.

A good example of this mechanism is the electric drill. If you own a drill you’re unlikely to use it for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. In the meantime the drill can sit gathering dust for weeks, if not years, before the next DIY job. Earlier attempts to share everyday objects like this unfortunately faltered. It was only with the advent of the sharing economy that platforms – digital platforms, of course – were created that did away with the stress of ownership.

Unique in many dimensions

Digital transformation is creating momentum in more than one dimension. If you want to harness all this momentum, you have to contend with several forces at once: content, commerce and community. Creating new products and services and offering them to existing or new groups of consumers is nothing new. What’s more of a challenge is entering into permanent dialogue with all the different stakeholders, including your own employees, doggedly finding out their needs, and translating these wishes and requirements into newly designed products and services. Highly digitised companies process their entire knowledge of their dialogue groups in the form of smart data, and then use this data intelligently. This way they’re able to cater to a huge range of changing user needs and refine the user experience on a permanent basis. The sharing economy has thus consummated the transition from the classic business-to-consumer (B2C) model to business-to-people (B2P).

Another huge opportunity created by digital transformation lies in self-cannibalisation. If you embark on digital transformation you have to scrutinise your own raison d’être and ask what you’re there for in the first place. Cannibalising your own revenue model is extremely healthy, because if you don’t do it yourself, someone else will. Look at sharing economy newcomers whose digital platforms have taken the place of conventional intermediaries such as distributors. Alibaba and eBay are prime examples. The middlemen could have initiated this transformation themselves rather than having to deal with the consequences after the fact. If you challenge yourself you can set the pace of innovation and progress and perfect your own competitive agility.

The way the impact of digital approaches is monitored also differs from conventional models. In the digital world, what used to involve phased projects with milestones and acceptance certificates is now done iteratively on an ongoing, simultaneous basis. For this reason you can’t apply proven key performance indicators (KPIs) like profitability and conversion rates directly to digital business models. They require new yardsticks measuring attributes such as entrepreneurial endurance, customer satisfaction and the development of growth or innovation. Measuring performance in a digital context isn’t about defining an unalterable target state. Instead you allow your goal to change, and measure performance in terms of inventiveness, prototyping, customer and employee interaction.

Of mavericks and lateral thinkers

A functioning digital economy rests on people – and a digital culture. To establish a digital culture you need strong leadership that takes in the business as a whole and is able to turn anxieties about imminent transformation into enthusiasm, and risks into opportunities. This way you can develop approaches that unleash enormous potential by bundling the creativity within your organisation and making it available to new markets.

The fact is that companies led by digital-friendly people that actively address digitisation are more successful than those that don’t see the necessity. Of course you can go too far. Simply hiring a chief digital officer and trying to ordain a digital culture from the top down is rarely enough to establish your company as a genuine pioneer. By the same token a middle-aged management that fears new forms of collaboration can become the number one obstacle to new digital models.

Evolution or revolution

There are two forms of digital culture. It can take the form of evolutionary development, with an organisation improving step by step, primarily in terms of processes and costs. The art of progressing in small steps is nothing new, but it can certainly get you to your goal. The second form of digital corporate culture is revolutionary and disruptive. It unleashes a huge amount of innovatory power and is driven by the courage to question and reinvent yourself. Companies taking this approach have to be prepared to completely rethink their market offering and target segments that have previously lain fallow. They have to make everything revolve around interaction with customers and staff. And they have to believe in the power of their disruptive idea. This form of transformation requires a lot of staying power, which can only come with exponential growth.

Where do Swiss SMEs stand?

Large companies are digitising their customer relationships and processes, and are prepared to invest accordingly. In our latest study, ‘Digital transformation: How mature are Swiss SMEs?’ we wanted to find out how far digitisation has advanced at small and medium-sized companies. There are several key findings: The degree of digitisation at Swiss SMEs varies widely. Digital maturity correlates positively with the size of the organisation, and negatively with the age of its management. The companies covered by our study have made internal processes and training staff on digital matters a firm priority. Customer involvement and the customer experience, by contrast, are further down their list of priorities.

This is because redesigning a business model constitutes a more radical departure for an SME than adapting existing processes, and because decisionmakers are still largely overlooking the opportunities presented by new business models. Organisations that have opted to transform their business model now see themselves as more competitive. Most highly digitised SMEs believe the financial investment was worthwhile. Further, more than 80% of study participants predict that the market will change fundamentally in the next five years because of digitisation.

On the basis of our findings we advise Swiss SMEs to take bolder action on digitisation and keep a close eye on their market. Digital transformation can affect the entire customer interaction, all processes and every business model. This means digital transformation has to be a C-suite responsibility. Small, simple digital steps can be enough to achieve significant efficiency gains. Just as important is the experience of industries that have already gone digital, and dialogue with innovative start-ups. It follows that digitisation is not a purely IT concern, but has to be placed firmly on the management agenda. This inevitably leads to the question of the appropriate business model. Ultimately the focus has to be on the customer experience and customer value.

Customers seize power

While we’re on the subject of utility: so-called loyalty programmes are a good way of achieving the right blend of customer experience, added value and digital culture. When designing a programme of this sort you first have to recognise and understand the main drivers of customer value. The goal of any loyalty programme should be to motivate customers to behave in the way you desire and reward them for doing so. At the moment too many loyalty programmes reward customers for something they’d be doing anyway. Experience shows that at most companies a small number of customers account for the lion’s share of profitability while unprofitable customers consume the most benefits. The loyalty programmes offered by certain Swiss banks are a good example of how on- and offline benefits can be skilfully combined. These banks give their clients access to exclusive offers via a specially designed online platform. On this platform private clients can take advantage of discounted leisure packages, while corporate clients get to benefit from innovative solutions for their clients or staff.

The sharing economy provides plenty of opportunities for companies to completely overhaul their business model and make sure everything revolves around the customer. They have to take people’s inertia into account. Is a user really prepared to travel 20 kilometres to pick up an electric drill? They also have to pay attention to the risks to their organisation and balance these out in their business model. If a company outsources specific links in the value chain to other market participants it loses part of its control, and the other players have to take responsibility. Uber drivers, for example, have to take responsibility for paying all their social security contributions. Other risks are that privacy may be jeopardised or automation fails to work properly.

In a nutshell

Sharing economy providers have given life to digital transformation. They foster a digital culture where they’re permanently communicating, interacting with their stakeholders and trying out everything at once. They allow their customers and staff to take part in this process, and work with prototypes. Switzerland has always held innovation and creation in high esteem. Take the process of industrialisation in the machine or textile industries. Now the challenge is to take this sense of responsibility and initiative into the digital age and measure it by the rules of this new economy. The success of the sharing economy rests on a combination of smart strategy and the ability to rapidly visualise this strategy. This way companies can transcend regulatory, geo-economic and intercultural boundaries and open up unique growth opportunities.



Holger Greif
Partner & Head Digital
Office.: +41 58 792 13 86

China’s Cyber Security Law – technical implications

China’s top legislature adopted the country’s Cyber Security Law on Nov 7th 2016. After a third reading by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the law took effect on June 1st 2017. In addition to defining a wide scope of critical infrastructure, it lays the foundations for enforcing penalties on overseas organisations and individuals who attack, breach or insufficiently protect critical infrastructure and/or personal data. Reto Haeni, Leader Cybersecurity & Privacy at PwC Switzerland, explains what companies should consider as the topic has more impact than usually discussed.

China’s new Cyber Security Law focuses to a greater degree on several key topics: keeping personal information secure, combating cybercrime, ensuring network products and services are secure, clarifying the obligations network operators face and addressing sovereignty issues in cyberspace. There are two main aspects to responding to the law, and the second is often overlooked. First, companies operating in China must implement the law’s requirements if they want to remain compliant. Second, organisations with information or systems not located in China must also review their technology architecture, data protection efforts and business processes if they want to minimise the potential risks stemming from the new law.


China’s Cyber Security Law is the next step in the country’s wider effort to tighten rules and regulations governing information security and data privacy. Regulations have previously existed, for example the Administrative Measures for Prevention and Treatment of Computer Viruses and the Administrative Measures for Hierarchical Protection of Information Security. The new law enforces the rights and obligations the government, network operators and users all have in the area of cyber security and data protection. While the law has already come into effect, its concrete implementation is not yet known and a fair amount of interpretation is still needed to apply the law in practice to operations in China. Complying with the law entails several new challenges for both government and business, such as ensuring appropriate network operations, identifying security risks and encouraging network innovation. Each of these steps must be addressed if the rights of all stakeholders are to be protected.

Download full article


Reto Haeni
Partner and Leader Cybersecurity and Privacy
+41 58 792 75 12

Out now: ceo Magazine „Trust in the Digital Age“

Trust is regarded as the ne plus ultra of any interpersonal relationship. And successful business partnerships are formed from trusting ties. Trust emerges only over time, yet it can be lost in a heartbeat. And in the Digital Age, trust is the number one success factor – in every respect.

This is why we have devoted this issue of our ceo Magazine to a very special topic: trust. Trust is in high demand, but low in availability. There are many reasons for this scepticism: new digital technologies, social media, competitors from outside the industry, and today’s seemingly bottomless seas of data.

Our interview partners come from various industries, represent both start-ups and global corporations, and apply fundamentally different business models – but all of them rely on the different perspectives of trust. Urs Rohner, Chairman of the Credit Suisse Group, for example, counts on trust and confidentiality. Susanne Ruoff, CEO of the Swiss Post, links the physical with the digital world. And Bruno Giussani, European TED Director, spreads ideas with added value. Read their stories and many more in our ceo Magazine online.

We wish you an inspiring and mind-broadening read.


Jan-Hendrik Völker-Albert
Head of Marketing & Communications
+41 58 792 18 85

Usability testing done right

In the 1980s a simple blind test sent the world’s largest soft drinks producer into a panic, when subjects were blindfolded and had to decide which type of cola tasted best. Its outcome has gone down is history, as the majority chose Pepsi cola. Spurred into action, Coca-Cola invented ‘New Coke’, a type of cola with a new recipe that it felt was bound to prevail over Pepsi in blind tests. ‘New Coke’ went down in business history as one of the biggest marketing flops of all time. Consumers rejected the lavishly promoted drink and demanded the old recipe back. Shortly afterwards, the company brought out their ‘Classic Coke’.

How did a multi-billion-dollar company manage to make such a blunder over some blind tests? The answer is simple: their assumption that blind tests provide a representation of customers’ real decision-making behaviour was false.

Cutting costs

Let’s move on to acceptance and usability testing. When developing products, services or applications, idea generators, designers and developers make myriad assumptions about the usefulness, functionality, learning capacity and enthusiasm of (potential) users. They can draw upon experience from previous projects, recognised best practice and knowledge that stems from research.

However, it is impossible to understand the intentions, needs, reservations and proclivities of consumers in any detail without engaging with them intensively. Without consumer research and ongoing user testing, pushing forward with a new development means flying blind. The longer this goes on, the more difficult and expensive it becomes to get back on track. Tweaks to the concept are and always have been more cost-effective than adapting already developed solutions. As such, it is worth checking that assumptions are correct at the earliest possible stage.

Figure 1: Cutting Costs

Small steps first

Based on our experience, we recommend conducting acceptance and usability tests as early as possible. Lots of small-scale rounds of testing provide greater insight than a few larger tests. Just five to eight trial users allow any major stumbling blocks and missing functions or information to be identified (Source: Nielson Norman Group). Depending on the hypothesis, those devising the test can adjust the level of detail of the prototype. This allows them to test out their ideas and processes even with paper and cardboard models. As a rule, only detailed optimisations such as form entry and microinteractions require more advanced prototypes.

Do your planning at the very start

Acceptance and usability tests provide optimal results if they are conducted in a systematic way. Having a structured procedure increases the level of quality and the comparability of the tests. This has a bearing on the formulation of hypotheses and the definition of objectives, as well as tasks for test users, such as: ‘Find and purchase an XY-branded vacuum cleaner in the online shop’.

After the tests, the collected data are analysed and the results summarised in reports. The findings are fed into the next iteration of the design or stage in the development process. As we see it, there’s no need to fear processes and procedures. An unstructured test always provides more insight than no test at all.

Figure 2: Usability Optimization

The ball’s in your court

Early and regular acceptance and usability tests reduce the costs of late changes and maximise customer value. Discuss it with us via our Pipeline – and make sure that you don’t fall into the ‘New Coke’ trap’!



Jonas Hager 
Head of UX & Design | Director
Office: +41 58 792 30 92

Data analytics: the new win-win-win

The power used to lie with those who possessed information. But these days the winners are those that recognise and exploit the value of this information. Businesses in the sharing economy have internalised this principle and geared their business models to innovative forms of data analysis and processing. Not only have they achieved obvious success this way, but they’re posing a growing threat to the business establishment, forcing it to question its business models and rethink the way it approaches data and data protection.

Which way is the data wind blowing?

The power used to lie with those who possessed information. But these days the winners are those that recognise and exploit the value of this information. Businesses in the sharing economy have internalised this principle and geared their business models to innovative forms of data analysis and processing. Not only have they achieved obvious success this way, but they’re posing a growing threat to the business establishment, forcing it to question its business models and rethink the way it approaches data and data protection.

This paradigm shift requires two things: bringing together data from many different sources, and state-of-the-art data analytics. Only by combining the two can this data be transformed into knowledge and economic advantage in the form of new data models. There’s even statistical proof that companies that systematically make decisions on the basis of data and modern analytics are able to gain a clear strategic competitive edge.

The truth of game theory

At this point I’d like to make a brief digression into game theory. Game theory models decisionmaking situations where an individual’s success depends not just on their own behaviour, but on other people’s as well. It’s in the sharing economy that game theory has found its link to reality. Peer-to-peer providers have realised that the utility to each individual increases if everyone acts together and positions themselves as part of an ecosystem. To do this you need sufficient volumes of data, knowledge of the relevant market mechanisms, and the right methods and processes. You also need to be able to think in terms of network structures way out of the box.

Winning in the latest dimension

Data analytics enables individuals to exploit the know-how of the mass. The following example illustrates what this means in real life. On behalf of a German doctors’ organisation we at PwC have developed a predictive model for the medication of multiple sclerosis patients. The actual tool runs via an easy-to-use app that physicians can use to improve the way they prescribe medication for their patients and manage their wellbeing more efficiently and systematically. The app draws on more than 190,000 data sets for other MS patients, the experience of hundreds of doctors, and the medical knowledge of other parts of the pharmaceutical industry. The expert tool interprets this universe of data using complex algorithms to make reliable predictions about the patient’s drug tolerance and the development of their health.

This kind of predictive, personalised data analysis benefits everyone involved: the patient gets quicker, more successful treatment and improved quality of life; doctors are able to make better recommendations and boost their reputation; the pharma industry has an opportunity to refine its knowledge of the efficacy of its drugs; and finally, health insurers benefit from lower healthcare costs.

More transparency, more trust

In various respects transparency plays a key role in the sharing economy. The co-consumption model is rooted in the principle of trust in the peer group. If you’re able to offer transparency on the way data are used and commercialised and at the same time add value, you can gain the trust of co-users and win new business.

Reliable data and transparent data handling are also key in dealing with regulatory authorities and other third parties. Doing business in industries such as financial services and healthcare means complying with a raft of rules and regulations, including stringent requirements governing the quality and integrity of data throughout the entire cycle from the moment they’re captured through their use and subsequent deletion. Adequate data security is also crucial. Regulators, supervisory authorities and other stakeholders are shifting their focus from mere reporting to completely transparent data integration. While this is already business as usual for players in the sharing economy, organisations with conventional models are a long way from adopting these practices.

Redefining value creation

Consumers leave their mark everywhere in the digital world. They’re present in virtual marketplaces via their smartphone on an almost permanent basis, and regularly use their credit card for internet purchases. Providers for their part bring these data together to create a tangible profile of their consumers as a basis for future offerings. That’s nothing new. What’s different about the sharing economy is that unlike conventional businesses, it’s able to embed these data in the context of a comprehensive, networked data ecosystem. The sharing economy has grasped the fact that no single player has all the data necessary to derive the greatest possible benefit from it and thus boost value creation.

Data, knowledge and value-added

Any company on the path to a partially digitised or sharing business model first has to define its role within such a data ecosystem. For example it might decide to use external data such as geolocalisation or social media activity to better understand the needs of its customers or optimise customer service and advice. It might also consider acting as a supplier of data, selling it to third parties, for example in the form of data on communication, movement or consumer behaviour.

The monetisation of data – in other words using it to earn money – is a skill that sharing economy providers like Facebook and Google have perfected. Other companies, especially conventional businesses, first have to acquire or unleash this talent, This requires courage, the right culture, uncompromising out-of-the-box thinking, and the willingness to tread completely new paths, some of which will never have been trodden before.

Defining and transcending the limits

In purely technological terms there are virtually no limits on data analytics. Most of the fundamental methods, both in statistics and in more recent disciplines such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, were developed decades before the digital revolution even started. But steadily falling costs of storage and computing capacity are allowing unimpeded growth in the volume and speed of data processing and the possibilities it’s opening up.

The limits of data analytics are more psychological in nature. The question of whether and when artificial intelligence should be allowed to take control and completely supersede human decisionmaking has complex ramifications, and there’s no straightforward answer. People used to make decisions on the basis of knowledge and gut feeling; these days decisions can also be taken using cutting-edge expert systems on the basis of data and models. In the sharing economy, Uber’s vehicles are still driven by humans. But it’s only a matter of time before they’ll be replaced by self-driving cars – cars that are brought in by the community. This dimension raises completely new questions; safety and liability are only the most obvious.

In a nutshell

The sharing economy inevitably has to do with data. Data may not be a priority in some businesses. The fact is, however, that every set of data contains information and therefore utility. The challenge for conventional business will be to recognise this utility and use analytics to commercialise it. Sooner or later decisionmakers will have to deal with the question of data monetisation. They should be reflecting on what knowledge lies in the data they have, and what value this might have for another player. You have to start thinking in terms of unfamiliar forms of collaboration and value creation, and work out your place in the data ecosystem. Considering these things will help you come up with alternative positions, modern forms of networking, innovative business models and markets – and new, extremely attractive opportunities.



Christian Westermann
Partner and Leader Data & Analytics
+41 58 792 2797