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Analysis and opinion Updated: 23 Dec 2015

Francisco González presents 'Reinventing the company in the digital era'

BBVA Chairman Francisco González today presented a new book called Reinventing the company in the digital era. It contains the thoughts of specialists from different fields of knowledge on how the revolution driven by information technology is transforming the principles we use in our work and business activities. Apart from Francisco González, the participants at the presentation included other co-authors: Philip Evans (Boston Consulting Group), Alison Maitland (London Cass Business School), and Celia de Anca and Salvador Aragón, both from IE Business School.

Reinventing the company in the digital area and Francisco González

Reinventing the company in the digital era is the seventh volume of the annual series published by BBVA, which explores the important questions facing our times. The series is part of the OpenMind project, which is a digital knowledge community providing free access to books as well as articles, interviews, videos and infographics to a growing audience.

During the presentation Francisco González pointed to the more than 180 authors around the world who already participate on this collaborative platform. Their aim is to help people understand the continuous changes that are reshaping our world.  He said, “Few questions are more relevant for our future than the change in technology. We are in the midst of the greatest technical revolution the world has ever seen.”

He then spoke about how technological and digital changes are already affecting the financial industry. “Although they work in an economy and a society undergoing a transformation, banks continue to operate as they have in the past. Nonetheless a new digital eco-system is emerging in which startups, developers, designers and big digital companies are interacting, competing and collaborating at the same time. “Many banks are going to be left behind,” he said.

However in Francisco Gonzalez’s opinion the technology revolution is not the biggest challenge facing banks. “They need to redesign their processes and operations, and redefine their corporate structures, the way they work, their skills and their talent,” he added.

“BBVA is reinventing itself in a way that goes much further than technology. It includes the corporate culture and organization. In this process we have learned two fundamental lessons: first, the rate of change is accelerating. Second, we are ready to move forward more decisively with our transformation and take advantage of an enormous opportunity to lead change in the industry.”

“Our basic strategy is to continue working on change. This is the key to maintaining leadership and maximizing the value of our advantage in the exciting times that lie ahead,” he concluded.

Celia de Anca and Salvador Aragón, professors at IE Business School, have studied the way collaboration has become one of the features of the digital era. In the collaborative economy, they said, “People increasingly organize their lives in small clans, similar to those of the past. These can function with the same ease whether they are close or remote.” They define this as tribal behavior and defend its role in economic activity.In their opinion companies cannot force people to feel motivated or impose creativity. But what they can and should do is “harness the collective energy of the new tribes to encourage new ways of generating innovation within organizations.”

Alison Maitland underlined the growing importance of women in the economy. “Women,” she said, “account for half the population, more than half the university degrees and dominate consumer activity.” She presented figures showing that companies with a greater presence of women on their boards of directors and in their management teams enjoy better financial results.

Ms. Maitland, who is a senior visiting fellow at the London Cass Business School, believes “a subtle gap is opening up with regard to the western model of masculine domination that characterized the 19th and 20th centuries.” She believes this gap is manifest in the increasing feminine nature of leadership styles, in the decline of the hierarchy and the rise of soft power. Other factors include the importance of feminine purchasing power, the disruptive effect of the internet, the power shift from West to East and the change in roles and attitudes of men in the workplace and in the family.

To conclude Philip Evans spoke about the increasing acceleration of the technological change despite the global recession. “Around the globe, people in the business world are aware that something sudden and drastic is happening.”

Mr. Evans, who is a senior partner of the Boston Consulting Group, explained that we are faced with disruptive technology that is transforming companies. Managers do not know how to deal with this. He cited some indications of this change: “Ninety percent of the world's accumulated data was generated in the last two years. Of this amount 99% is digitized and more than half is suitable for access via IP. This means that – technically – it can be uploaded and published on the internet. Potentially half the world’s knowledge could be stored in a single document.”