Transforming Operating Models

EY Switzerland and Forbes DACH invited female business leaders to the second instalment of EY's event series 'Women in Industries', which took place under the title "Transforming operating models".

The very second, I had finished my opening question, Hanne de Mora leaned forward in her seat. “Klaus”, the entrepreneur started, “can I be really blunt?” She followed this by saying that “there’s nothing new about how we operate our companies.” A rough 30 minutes before the second installment of EY’s event series “Women in Industries” in Zurich was supposed to discuss the transformation of operating models, de Mora's answer came as a surprise. Has it not become common sense that everything we thought we knew about running companies is changing as part of the digital transformation?

Yes and no, continued the founder of Zurich-based consulting firm a-connect. While de Mora negates entirely new operating models, she does admit that the speed with which change is happening is unprecedented. Ending her train of thought: “Businesses will have to adapt much faster to changing circumstances.”

The event represented the second time Forbes and EY worked together to bring together mostly female business leaders to discuss specific aspects of the digital transformation. The first one took place in April, when female executives from the likes of Microsoft Switzerland (in the form of CEO Marianne Janik) and industrial giant ABB (CFO Alanna Abrahamson) talked about the importance of business strategies.

What followed de Mora’s (highly welcome) bluntness was a highly interactive and thought-provoking discussion. Speakers this time included Nicole Burth Tschudi (CEO of Adecco Group Switzerland), Fabian Wehren (Partner of EY in Switzerland), Jill Lee (CFO of Sulzer) and de Mora. The discussion touched upon topics such as new business opportunities, attracting the best talents, creating the right company culture and finding new compensation schemes. In the end, the participants agreed on two things. First: Even the best operating model is nothing without the right people executing it. Second: The digital transformation will bring not only challenges, but also many new opportunities. It’s not surprising that both points feed right into the underlying idea of EY’s event series: Giving female leaders within Swiss industries a platform to become visible. Because, as Harvard professor Iris Bohnet has shown time and time again: We believe what we see. So, if young people see female CEOs, CFOs, entrepreneurs and managers discussing the future of the business world, they will realize that they themselves are capable of achieving such personal success as well.

In the end, and this fits very much to our approach at Forbes, EY does not push for D&I out of starry-eyed idealism. Robin Errico, Chief Risk Officer for EY in Switzerland and the company’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion, describes it elegantly: “In the end”, says Errico, “people will realize what a big benefit it [meaning D&I] is.” Even more, as the benefits D&I are the stuff capitalists' dreams are made of: More innovation, the best talents, and higher profits. In the end, the operating model represents a certain way of how companies function, of how employees work together. Attracting the right people to realize new opportunities will only be possible if companies make sure their teams perform as best as possible. Here, D&I is not a ‘nice to have’, but a must. Let’s just hope that this change also increases its speed – soon.


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