Digital transformation to foster the effectiveness and efficiency of learning in tertiary education

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of Higher Education Institutions, with possible implications on their effectiveness and efficiency. The next step is to look beyond the emergency and leverage on the recent experience.


Mara Soncin, Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Organization, School of Management Politecnico di Milano

Tommaso Agasisti, Full Professor of Data Analysis for Public Management, School of Management Politecnico di Milano


The digital transformation that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have been undertaking over the last years has been strongly accelerated by the Covid-19 emergency., The key breakthrough for the near future is to understand how to shape the future of education by exiting the emergency mindset and leveraging the aforesaid acceleration. The turmoil on the digital transformation of HEIs is twofold. One the one hand, the digital turn can support the effectiveness of the educational system and its ability to support student’s academic success. On the other hand, digital technologies affect the input-output structure, with a possible impact on the efficiency of HEIs.

Regarding effectiveness, students will highly benefit from digitally supported learning, which allows a higher personalisation of the learning process and a higher level of flexibility in learning activities, whereas the amount of data coming from digital sources enables a profound investigation on how learning happens. The dimension of performance on which the greatest amount of evidence is available is that of student achievement, which can be evaluated as the grade obtained by a student in an exam in a certain discipline or in a test specifically designed to assess the competences gained through the online tool (i.e., experimental design). Evidence on this is mixed; however, it generally shows the higher effectiveness of a blended model comprising both in-presence and distance learning experiences compared to both the remote only and face-to-face only education delivery modes. Traditional and digital models can therefore be combined to foster the effectiveness of learning.

Furthermore, the digital transformation of higher education is expected to grow even faster in the next future as it allows broader accessibility and hence allows to meet a growing demand for tertiary education, as well as to improve efficiency and sustainability by generating new financial resources. HEIs are increasingly investing in digital tools that substitute or complement traditional education, pursuing objectives that range from driving student recruitment to innovating pedagogy and supplementing on-campus traditional education. Indeed, the digital transformation provides HEIs brand new teaching possibilities and a higher scalability (i.e., a potentially very high number of students can enrol in the same virtual environment), partially bending the economics of education and the cost structure of institutions.
The compound effect on HEIs is potentially disruptive and is affecting both the structure of the inbound inputs and outputs generated by institutions. Still, the introduction of digital tools requires high initial economic investments (especially in technological equipment) and entails additional costs for teaching assistants and extra support to students and faculty in order to ensure the quality of the learning experience in a digital context. In turn, this increases education delivery costs, and therefore, the cost-effectiveness ratio may not necessarily be in favour of the digital mode.

Based on all these considerations, HEIs should progress strategically towards the digital transformation of learning, which is first of all an organisational transformation of the faculty, and only secondly is a technological matter. In turn, the way in which the strategy is implemented will affect the resulting gain in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.
The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation, and now it is up to HEIs to boost the consequent effectiveness and efficiency gains.


Digital transformation and i-Flex, enable your business to deal with changes

The entire world is changing. This has always been the case but in the last few decades the phenomenon has accelerated as never before. It was not so many years back that we witnessed first the industrial revolution and then an information technology revolution  ̶  now a new way of conceiving the world has arrived, from several point of view. It can be seen both in the goods we are using, and related technologies. Let’s think of smartphones, and how many things multipurpose devices have enabled in our lives. It can be seen in human interaction and relationships. Let’s think of social media and how they have turned our lives upside down. Let’s notice the sales services like e-commerce or sharing services like house-sharing, car-sharing, right up to the simple sharing of software/hardware instead of downloading/owning it.

The rules that worked until few a decades ago for industry leaders, the famous “too big to fail”, may no longer be valid nowadays, since incumbent industries can be destabilized or even devastated overnight by something better and cheaper. Bezos himself, founder and CEO of Amazon, said in 2018 to his employees, “I predict one day Amazon will fail”. He is aware that disruptive innovations are continuously happening. Every business knows that it’s mandatory for survival to adapt to environmental and economic changes. To compete with younger, fresher and lighter startups with their disruptive innovation it’s necessary to have the ability to surf the waves of the digital revolution and be able to handle digital transformation. Options could be either succumbing or getting the enormous benefit from it.

Hence, digital transformation is not only a trend of the moment, but is overwhelming businesses, and, in a kind of Darwinian evolution, selecting only those firms that are able to foresee the opportunities and threats. It embraces all the functions of the business. Everything can start precisely from the strategy of a business. Many new business models have been devised in this period by those who have the vision to see business opportunities which did not exist until the day before. It’s necessary to re-adapt the strategy processes in order to be able to recognize and welcome the changes. Or just to stop a startup hindering the work you have done until now.

But recognizing incoming change may not be enough. It’s necessary to be able to manage the change. The internal organizational structure may need to be updated in order to host more flexible processes or a simplified structure that can implement new strategies. Timing is important for business competition, being reactive is vital. A key aspect that has been introduced by digitalization is the ability to test and revert back. Digital technologies have a pivotal role in the implementation of BPM (business process management) principles.

Those changes will impact the business overall. Examples are multiple. Operations have been drastically reconceived. It’s being talked about Industry 4.0 and Agriculture 2.0. IoT systems entering firms. Digital innovations are becoming part of all production services, not only reducing costs (leading to adapting cost strategy) but mainly improving product quality (adding the differentiation and quality strategy) and enabling higher customer intimacy in the services provided. The market itself is being hit by new ways of being in contact with clients, attracting them and extracting analysis and trends from customers. Everything starts from customers and ends with customers. New branches and jobs are created in the omnichannel marketing area. Also neurosciences are fed with tons of data for their inferences. Data is an important asset in a business, maybe the most important. It makes it easier to perform internal management control or get external insights. Branches like Big Data, Deep Learning or Neural Network find their space in the new mechanisms, or create their own new ones.

Digitalization is also updating the ways of interacting with credit, or of getting funds. New forms of financial services are being introduced that allow differentiation in sourcing or investments. It’s changed the way to approach innovation as well. Depending on strategies, relaxing the confines of internal research and being open to new ideas from outside could be options that would make it possible to generate a significant impact in the differentiation and innovation of a company’s own products or processes.

Those I’ve just mentioned could be only a few suggestions about what digital transformation could mean for present and future businesses, and for society as a whole. It’s a wide argument that is impossible to cover in just a few paragraphs. And it’s in constant evolution, following its characteristics and prospects. Learning and being able to handle all the aspects and functions of a business is becoming crucial. The i-Flex MBA program offered by MIP Politecnico di Milano wants to raise attention with regard to evolving digital trends. It’s structured to place the traditional MBA topics alongside emerging tendencies, revisiting the offer with a view to digital transformation tools and instruments which enable new competences. All the subjects mentioned above, and many others, will be part of your journey, both in the i-Flex MBA program and, more importantly, in your future working life.

Digital is no longer a reason for competitive advantage, rather, it is a reason to succumb if you have not adopted it in the right way.



About the author
Vito Conversano

Chief Information Officer @ San Marzano Vini SpA with extensive international experience in IT & strategic consultancy for fortune 500 companies. Creative, Curious, Travel lover. Passionate about discovering new concepts, learning continuously and developing new ideas.


Digital transformation: now or never

Professor Antonio Ghezzi presents the International Master in Digital Transformation: from the strategic to the organizational repercussions, moving from the need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset to managing a now inescapable change. For every company


Digital transformation yes. As long as you talk about it in the right way, deeply understanding its nature and repercussions for companies. «Today we’re seeing an abuse of this term on the part of many groups, in order to position and reposition themselves», explains Antonio Ghezzi, Associate Professor and Director of the International Master in Digital Transformation at MIP Politecnico di Milano. «What we need to do, instead, is to establish the boundaries of this concept. Too much emphasis risks leading to an inflation, with a bubble like that seen with dotcoms in the early 2000s. Instead we must try to understand the nature of technological waves, what they can bring to business and how the role will change of managers, who can no longer ignore the transformations underway».


An opportunity even for the smallest

According to Ghezzi, implementing a digital transformation leads first of all to transformation processes that must be interpreted. «The first theme is of a strategic nature. Through the combination of different technologies, new markets can be created. In addition, the nature of competition changes, it evolves, abandons the shapes of the past. The second theme is of an entrepreneurial nature», continues Ghezzi. «This phenomenon leads to the emergence of new business opportunities, that you need to know how to seize. Creativity becomes fundamental, from this perspective. And it allows startups and all these born digital companies to compete with companies that are much more structured». The third and last theme is the organizational one: «It’s difficult to implement a strategic plan, if the organization isn’t aligned. And then you need to think of the impact of digital: what impact does it have on the macrostructure? And the microstructure? Are there the appropriate skills to bring forward the plan?».


The digital company must experiment

Obviously, the role of the manager becomes fundamental in the face of a change that is inescapable and so necessary. «It’s important to recognize that, by now, the world is digital», explains Ghezzi. «Even those who have managed to position themselves in a confined space must know that, sooner or later, that niche will be eroded. To find new paths, companies must experiment, investing a little bit in different directions, learning to test the quality of their choices, to understand which are the best. In such a turbulent context, where discontinuities aren’t only of a technological nature, classic planning becomes impossible. This has also been understood by the largest companies, which are now starting to imitate this approach that up until now has been typical of startups». To face these challenges, according to Ghezzi, the entrepreneurial mindset is ideal: «The search for business opportunities must be constant. The discontinuity in which we live forces us to do so. Unless companies want to be supplanted. Think about how much digital companies like Amazon, Airbnb, Uber have achieved in such little time».


From know-how to know-where

However, you need to know the technologies in play. Better yet, you need to know where to find them. «We’re moving from the know-how model to the know-where model. It’s unlikely that a single company possesses all the technologies that are now characterizing the digital transformation. If we put artificial intelligence at the top of the pyramid, descending we would see that this will require machine learning, big data and data collection that can happen at the consumer level, or through the Internet of Things. And all this data, then, has to be put into the cloud. So it becomes hard for a single company to manage this complexity, and for this reason it becomes important to know where to find these digital services».

MIP Politecnico di Milano has created the ’International Master in Digital Transformation in order to train professionals at ease in this environment. «First of all, we provide general management fundamentals to our students, along with notions of marketing and finance strategy. Then we examine the technologies closely, evaluating their managerial impact. The third part includes an analysis of lean start-up and design thinking approaches. Students will have the opportunity to put into practice what they studied. There’s no better moment than now to enrol. Organizations that don’t put into place this process risk ending up on the sidelines», concludes Ghezzi.

Building a Roadmap for the Future of Global Manufacturing

Conversation with Marco Taisch
Professor of Advanced and Sustainable Manufacturing Systems, and Operations Management, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano
Scientific Chairman of the World Manufacturing Foundation
President at MADE, Competence Center on Industry 4.0



Tell us about the path that led to the World Manufacturing Forum: why was it launched, and what are its objectives?

Since first edition of the forum held in 2011, the World Manufacturing Forum is organised yearly by Politecnico di Milano with financial support from the European Commission. In 2018, thanks to Confindustria Lombardia and Regione Lombardia, in order to give stability and guarantee an expansion of activities, we created the World Manufacturing Foundation, which organises the annual event and deals with various initiatives.
The Foundation, created as an open international organization involving regional governments, companies, trade associations, industrial and non-industrial, therefore has the strategic objective of restoring the centrality of the manufacturing sector in the political agendas of various countries.

The main tools put in place are the World Manufacturing Forum, that last year attracted around 1500 people in three days, and the World Manufacturing Report, a yearly white paper that, through a process of consultation with experts from the world of business, academia and policy makers, collects opinions and offers visions for the future on a specific issue, which are relevant to manufacturing, suggesting key recommendations.

In the first edition, in 2018, we addressed the issue of the future of manufacturing as a lever for creating economic and social well-being; in the second, last year, we focused on the fundamental skills required by the sector. And this year, in the event that will take place on 11 and 12 November, we will talk about artificial intelligence.


The 2020 edition of the Forum has a unique flavour, a flavour relating to distance, but also to post-Covid recovery. What kind of edition will it be?

The format of the event will change due to the need for social distancing, but only in part: it will take place at the traditional venue in Villa Erba di Cernobbio with a maximum of 200 participants, with worldwide streaming.
We asked ourselves, like everyone else, what will be the impact of Covid on the manufacturing sector at regional and global level, and to give us an answer we created the “Back to the Future” project (the quote is intentional), new this year.
We “decomposed” the complexity of the problem into 14 sub-themes and created 14 working groups accordingly, each one coordinated by an expert (managers, representatives of the associative world, policy-makers, academics), who were asked to discuss and analyse the impact of Covid on their area of expertise, and to give recommendations.
We have already shared online, with the public, several drafts of documents and videos, produced by these workshops, whose results will be presented on the first day of the Forum, on November 11. On November 12 we will present the World Manufacturing Report.
If I can give a little preview, next year we will talk about digital transformation as an enabler of manufacturing sustainability, thus bringing together the two most important trends in the sector.


We come from the epic situation of Industry 4.0. How can digitisation in the factory world be a competitive advantage for boosting production and starting up again faster? 

Before the pandemic, it was “normal” to say that digitisation was the competitive advantage, and that’s the way we characterised the 4.0 industry. Now we have changed the statement: it is no longer an advantage, but a business prerequisite.
During the lockdown we saw how digitisation ensured business continuity for many companies that had already invested in this area. For others, unfortunately, there was nothing to be done.
It was a tragic way of realising, undoubtedly, that it affected those companies which, out of ignorance or inertia, had not paid attention to this technological trend.
In our country in particular, which was slower to adopt new technologies, the pandemic has accelerated the awareness of the importance of digitisation.


Large companies and small businesses: who has the advantage in this fourth industrial revolution?

Large companies have been digitising in our country for some time now, even before the “National Industry Plan 4.0” of 2017. Small and medium-sized enterprises, were, in fact, lagging behind. It was thanks to the plan, and the planned tax incentives, that they became aware of this opportunity for modernisation. Paradoxically, it was by talking about tax incentives that it was also possible to train in the field of technology, and this had a huge impact on the cultural growth of our country on these issues.
It is very important that the national plan has continuity over time, and that it is not a one-off incentive, to enable businesses—especially small ones—to plan and build a training and expertise programme. And today, to do so, they have several tools at their disposal, such as the Digital Innovation Hubs, and especially the Competence Centers. The Politecnico di Milano has put itself in the forefront of this last tool by creating MADE, a competence center that, gathering the skills of multiple departments, coordinates the work together with 44 other partners from the academic and industrial world.


What, in your opinion, are the 3 key words on the evolution of digital transformation in factories over the next 6 months?

First of all “servitisation”, i.e. the development of new business models that are being created thanks to new digital activities carried out in remote industries.
And then the second, “remote” or, if you like, “industrial smart working.”
Finally “resilience”, meaning adaptability, reconfigurability and flexibility of the factory and the supply chain.

«First of a kind Global Business Program designed to teach applied Shared Services expertise»

Starting in September 2020, a new set of online courses will focus on Shared Services, processes and capabilities that can be shared among the various business units of a company — including finance, purchasing, supply chain, human resources, and information technology. These courses are offered for the first time.

With the aim to professionally certify executives in Shared Services, a critical corporate operations area, the Professional Global Business Services (P-GBS) Certification will be a transformational learning experience for participants. These courses are from MIP Politecnico di Milano, in partnership with renowned advisory services firm Inixia.

Inixia will bring their practical executive leadership expertise, drawing upon years of practical operational experience in leading best-in-class Fortune 20 Global Business Services (GBS) organizations. Inixia’s distinctiveness lies in its unique capabilities of having created an industry standard certification, called Professional GBS.

Made up of several modules, all will encompass the best of the global business community, taught by an international faculty composed of industry founders and experts, including world-class shared services and digital technology strategist, Filippo Passerini.

With over 30 years of business-building career with Procter & Gamble, Passerini will be one of the key industry leaders giving insights, guidance, and testimonials throughout the program. He said:

“Global Business Services is a proven model and a fast-growth industry. In addition to helping businesses increase efficiency and reduce costs, it’s a strategic enabler for innovation and innovative business models. However, up until now, there was no structured training to provide professionals in this area with the required knowledge, competency, and skills. It’s an honor and privilege to make my experience available to such a mission, together with my distinguished colleagues and the top-notch MIP School.”  

Taught entirely in English, the unique set of online executive courses will allow participants to develop new skills, essential for the enhancement of their managerial professionalism within the Global Business Services market. As well as this, the courses are flexible and can be adapted to suit client’s specific needs.

“We can work with clients on an à la carte basis, creating different tailor-made streams of in-person courses leveraging modules from across pillars to suit the different types of roles their people may occupy across their organizations” said Sergio Terzi, Associate Dean for Executive Education at MIP Politecnico di Milano.

Participants who complete all three pillars of GBS Training Modules and the GBS Strategic Leadership Modules will be certified in the P-GBS discipline by Inixia and MIP Politecnico di Milano, a widely recognized and highly sought-after industry accolade.

Global Business Services: the GBS Certification Program comes to MIP

Filippo Passerini, considered one of the world’s top experts in Global Business Services, illustrates the advantages of a GBS strategy.

A strategy aimed at large companies, thanks to which it’s possible to reduce costs by exploiting economies of scale, freeing up resources from the most repetitive tasks and transforming their business model: «It basically is a matter of aggregating services within a company, when these are dispersed or duplicated in different organizations. This is the essence of GBS (Global business services)», explains Filippo Passerini, director of the GBS Certification Program for MIP Politecnico di Milano.

GBS explained by professionals in the sector

«I had the fortune to build and manage GBS in Procter & Gamble (P&G) for over 12 years. Our business benefited enormously, both in terms of cost reduction and innovation. I would now like to create value for other companies and for individuals, sharing knowledge and skills», explains Passerini. «I’m very satisfied to be able to work with MIP for this programme: it offers an infrastructure that allows you to effectively go to the market and certifies the educational rigor of contents. The latter will be developed by Inixia».
Inixia is a consulting service whose advisors all have concrete experience with GBS and shared services: «They are people who, like me, had worked for P&G, whose GBS model is considered to be a real benchmark. Inixia was created with the aim of setting up a certification programme that allows people to obtain a qualification in this area».
Indeed, GBS can’t be improvised, warns Passerini: «There is a specific sequence of steps to follow, that leads to better results more quickly. There’s a strategy to follow and this is also why it’s important to gain specific skills».
At the same time, the numbers speak clearly: in 2018 the value of the global shared services market amounted to 56 billion dollars, a figure that is expected to double by 2025.
Equally tangible are the advantages for companies: a cost reduction of up to 50%, together with a tripling in value creation. The areas of application involve almost all of a company’s operational services and processes, in any sector: finance, human resources, supply chain, purchasing, IT, marketing and sales processes, customer and consumer service centres.

GBS and the digital transformation

It would be wrong, however, to think that GBS, by now with a twenty-year history behind it, is a static strategy. Just think of the impact the digital transformation has had on the organizational structure of companies. «Digital is a great resource», explains Passerini. «The current organization of companies forces us to use resources, human and material, in low value-added but necessary operational processes. For example, the billing cycle, payments to suppliers, or salaries for employees and many other internal processes: they’re essential activities, but consist of repetitive steps that don’t add value to the core business. GBS is an excellent platform for the digital transformation: these processes can be automated and further optimized by applying new technologies. In this way, efficiency and effectiveness are increased, resources are freed up for more strategic tasks. The benefits can vary widely, from “simple” cost reduction to an engine for innovation of the operational model. And that’s where expertise becomes important».

How the GBS Certification Program is structured

It is for this reason, then, that the GBS Certification programme was created for MIP. «These are short online classes lasting from six to 12 hours», explains Passerini. «The course is structured in five levels. It starts with the Foundation level, which addresses the basic principles of GBS. This is followed by what we have called pillars: Service Management, Operations Management, Transformation. At the end, there’s the Leadership level, after which you obtain certification. We conceived it a little bit like a path that follows a sort of managerial seniority, aimed both at those are at the beginning of their experience or in more operational roles, both senior managers and GBS leaders. It’s a real process of professionalization, to use an English term that I find very appropriate in this case. The goal is to train highly competent people».

Milan: living and leading a digital transformation

Save the date! From May 25th to 28th Milano Digital Week will promote more than 600 events to spread the digital culture: at its third edition, the main topic will be a focus on an Open and Sharing Experience.

The initiative is part of a wider program to push the city of Milan towards a digital transformation, both offering an appropriate digital infrastructure and fostering the awareness of the potentiality of digital skills among the citizens.

The involvement of the people is also encouraged through the Open Government project, which invites the citizenship to a new participative culture, for example, allowing consultations on city budgets.

Both companies and people are now able to exploit the opportunities of the OpenData project, that allows whoever is interested to download various datasets, for instance about events, medical information, scholars, air quality, or cars.

Milano Digital Week will also offer the opportunity to meet the ecosystem of startups that is growing across the city. The environment of incubators, places of innovation, and co-working spaces is the fertile ground where young professionals can cultivate their ideas and develop their projects.

Shared workplaces are available all over the city and boost the spread of the agile working culture: whoever wants to can rent a desk or a meeting room, wherever and whenever needed.

Alongside those, the city is also home to many different co-working spaces: regardless of the business, a freelancer can find a community to join, build relationships and share knowledge and equipment.

Why in Milan? Because here you can find business opportunities, a network of mature companies and venture capital, digital and transport infrastructure, and a mindset for hard work that has been the pride of the city for centuries.

A strong communication network supports the digital transformation of Milan in a smart city.
OpenWifi offers free internet access in many different public buildings across the city.

Public transportation reaches every corner of the city and with the app, any user can buy tickets and gather information on the service.

A widespread bike-sharing service, car sharing and scooter sharing integrate the opportunities for mobility.

Moreover, Milan is one of the most attractive destinations for innovators, startuppers and wannabe entrepreneurs. Thanks to its ecosystem of startup incubators and accelerators, Milan represents a great opportunity where you can breathe life into your ideas and enjoy an engaging environment for growing your business. An example for all is the renowned PoliHubthe Innovation District & Startup Incubator of Politecnico di Milano – which in 2018 was able to collect more than 1,200 business ideas.

In addition to the digital opportunities and high quality of courses, we, as students at the MIP School of Business, can also exploit the power of continuous learning through the FLEXA Platform and a wide community of alumni to improve our network and find new opportunities for our growth.

For everyone who is looking for an opportunity to grow: Join Milan, enjoy Milan!

About the author
Fabrizio Liponi

My name is Fabrizio and I work as a tunnel engineer in the construction of Underground Line 4 of Milan. Born, raised, studied, living and working in Milan: I love my city and I’m proud to take part in building its future. Travel addicted, I love to meet people and different cultures.

At MIP Corporate Education is digital

The educational offering for companies moves completely online in the face of restrictions due to Covid-19. A passage facilitated by a teaching method conceived to be versatile, flexible and at the service of companies, as Davide Chiaroni explains

Education doesn’t stop. It continues, but online. This is also true for the Corporate Education offering of MIP Politecnico di Milano which, already largely based on a digital experience, accentuated this characteristic to meet the needs of companies. «The experience we gained in recent years with D Hub, our e-learning platform, not only allows us to continue to make our educational offering available», explains Davide Chiaroni, Associate Dean for Corporate Relations at MIP, «but also to remodel it on the basis of unforeseen needs that emerged during the Covid-19 spread».

Take advantage of time for

There were three lines that MIP decided to pursue in this extremely delicate period. «In the first place, we wanted to show that we were there for our businesses. We did so by broadcasting through our digital channels a free webinar on the impact the coronavirus is having on the economy, addressing urgent issues such as smart working or the supply chain in this moment marked by such a significant disruption», explains Chiaroni. «The second front will be opened shortly: it involves the D-Hub Management Skills platform, available until the end of 2020, which will house the over 950 clips produced by our business school. It’s an initiative aimed at employees, company collaborators, associations and foundations. A real ad hoc library at the service of companies, a tool with which to transform this period of exceptional difficulty into an opportunity to relaunch through the training of one’s human resources». Lastly, a third point: «While on one hand some companies have reduced their business, on the other many companies in specific areas such as the pharmaceutical or financial sector found themselves faced with the task of managing data and projects at a much faster pace. This means that people need to be trained to act in a faster and more efficient manner. For them we are making the effort to further redesign our digital educational offering, because that foreseen for the physical classroom is clearly not practicable at this time».

Understanding and acting: the Corporate offering

However, our course offering isn’t changing. The last two years, in particular, have been characterized by strong demand for courses tied to digital transformation, big data and analytics, but also to the world of marketing and e-commerce: «There are two axes that guide our offering, Understanding and Acting. The part tied to Understanding has the goal of helping companies to understand the changes underway, the challenges they face and their training needs». Acting instead, says Chiaroni, has a more operational approach: «These are more in-depth and longer programmes, with the purpose of transferring skills, knowledge, ways of taking concrete action». These two lines intersect with a transversal axis, that of the target: «In both cases, our courses cover the needs of both of more junior and senior managers».

A platform conceived for the Corporate world

Educational flexibility and versatility are possible thanks especially to a strong digital identity. A path undertaken already in 2014 and which in 2019 took shape with the inauguration of the D Hub platform: «It was created with the corporate universe in mind. We wanted a platform that could be fully used when someone is on the move, which could be accessed with the corporate login, and that would integrate all the necessary educational tools. We offer hundreds of digital capsule courses, recently expanded and created also thanks to the participation of companies. There are videos that include evaluation tests, in addition to metrics that allow us to evaluate the educational effectiveness of the capsule courses themselves, and therefore to fine-tune and improve them. Our goal is to provide an education that is truly digital, and not simply computerized», concludes Chiaroni.

The product isn’t enough. B2B and the challenge of the digital transformation

Digital also revolutionizes the relationship between supplier and customer. The keywords of companies thus become marketing and service

Marketing and B2B companies: a new, but already essential, combination. Until recently it was the commercial department that was responsible both for the establishment of a reputation with companies and the conversion of those companies into customers. With the digital transformation, the landscape has changed. Italian companies, historically not very attuned to marketing, have suddenly become aware of its importance.
Giuliano Noci, Professor of Strategy and Marketing at Politecnico di Milano, explains this to us: «The change derives from two elements. One is of a technological nature, the other tied to a decline in the results of traditional commercial networks».

Technology requires a closer relationship with the customer

The technological component that requires B2B companies to focus on marketing involves two aspects: «First of all, it is no longer enough for a product to be technologically advanced. To be attractive, it must work in a certain way, according to the customer’s expectations», says Noci. «The relationship between supplier and customer is revolutionized, where the latter doesn’t so much buy the product, but the service associated with it. Traditionally, B2B companies have always boasted a great knowledge of what they sold, which however didn’t correspond to an equally thorough knowledge of the customer and their needs. Marketing is today the tool with which to establish this new intimacy. And it’s here that the second element tied to the technological aspect comes into play: the boundaries of competition are changing. Organic and systemic analyses of the business context, competitors and customers become crucial. Only by knowing all these factors is it possible to intercept trends and respond to the needs of customers, supplying them services that otherwise would be provided by someone else».

The relationship, before the transaction

On the other hand, the performance of commercial networks on which companies have relied until now aren’t comparable to what they once were. This requires a strategic rethink, according to Noci: «The industrial buyer adopts behaviours similar to those of private individuals who buy online. They build up a network of possible purchasing alternatives and only afterwards meet the supplier. This means that you need to think about building an omnichannel system, starting from the classic web site, and also encompassing social media, like LinkedIn. To manage all these new elements, the integration between marketing and commercial departments becomes unavoidable, so much so that function of the latter increasingly resembles that of advisor to customers».
These changes require companies to alter operational paradigms: «The model to look towards will no longer be transactional, but relational, because new technologies sublimate the human dimension. Likewise, one doesn’t need to think in terms of product, but of service. If a company concentrates solely on the product, it can generate operating margins only on that, while the real challenge and the real earnings are tied to services connected to the product itself.
It takes courage, especially for small companies, which can take advantage of greater flexibility: step out from your comfort zone and understand how to position yourselves in a network of businesses offering services», advises Noci.

For managers the challenge is cultural

In this process, managerial figures become fundamental. «They don’t just have to be extremely competent and possess marketing and strategic skills. Since they must guide companies through a change that is above all cultural, they must boast great leadership skills, with allows their lead to also be followed by those who have worked in a different context for many years» concludes Noci. In this perspective, the short courses in the B2B marketing area at MIP have the goal of providing concrete tools to cope with the growing importance of the digital transformation.


With digital platforms, the manager becomes an innovation designer

In an increasingly digital context, the role of the manager will resemble that of an architect: a more charismatic and less operational figure, capable of developing visions and building relations


Digital transformation and management of innovation: what is happening in these two areas, so important for the future of companies? It was the theme of the workshop entitled Digital transformation and Innovation Management: Opening up the Black Box, held 19 and 20 December at Politecnico di Milano. Among the academics who took part, there was also Professor Carmelo Cennamo, of the Copenhagen Business School. «In an increasingly digital context, the manager’s role will increasingly resemble that of the architect» says Cennamo. «In an economy based on digital platforms, they will have the task of designing new relational architectures with other companies. They will have to evaluate whether it makes sense for the company to use their own platform or to rely on third parties, to understand what role and what strategic position their company must take on within this structure. It is an evolution that brings the figure of the manager closer to that of designer, making it less operational. But the manager remains a charismatic figure, able to develop visions and imagine new configurations in the value system».

Modularity, complementarity, flexibility

The key to this change is digital platforms. «They are platform-based ecosystems that function via relational structures, where companies are interdependent and share a set of related activities», explains Cennamo. Digital platforms have two main characteristics: «The first is modularity. It means that the various activities within a platform can be complementary, but nonetheless remain independent. The second element is indeed complementarity. Coordination is thus encouraged, which takes place because of the peculiarities of this system. It’s a world where classical contractual relationships disappear, in the name of greater flexibility».

Large and small face the test of disruption

A change of this nature has significant repercussions on all companies, big and small. «The potential is absolutely disruptive» says Cennamo. «We are witnessing a progressive disintermediation, which brings together previously disconnected actors. Platforms help to put an offer directly on the market, thus creating a liquid market that easily overcomes the limits of the traditional one». For small businesses the advantage is considerable: «It’s possible to go past local markets, reaching an immensely broader range of potential customers». For larges companies, especially incumbents who have always offered premium type services, things are a bit different. «Let’s take the example of high-end hotels, which enjoyed privileged relationships with their customers. For them, a more liquid market also meant a more transparent and competitive market. And this entailed a certain difficulty. But the same goes for banks, which look with apprehension at the advent of fintech companies. With digital platforms, those who had no assets managed to find value».

The importance of “vision” for the manager

From the digital platform to cognitive enterprises, the distance isn’t far. «The company has always been a structure that received inputs and sent out outputs, often material. Today the raw material to be processed is data, fundamental for those who want to exploit technologies like big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence… The evolution is this. However, there are two risks: on one hand, small companies may find themselves with a volume of data that is too small, insufficient for the technologies we have mentioned. They could thus be forced to rely on someone else, a bigger player. On the other hand, managers must not blindly rely on data processed by artificial intelligence. Because you also must know how to interpret this data, and to read it critically. A real manager will never be able to do without their capabilities of strategic vision», concludes Cennamo.