Innovation? First culture, then technology

Michele Caprini
In brief
After a long experience in Accenture which saw him participate in important international projects in various industrial sectors, Luca Menegardo has since 2017 held the role of CIO in Dainese SpA.

Retex We talk and write a lot about ‘digital innovation’ but, if not understood correctly, there is the strong risk of trivializing its meaning and effect.

LM Digital innovation is a complex process, driven mainly by the evolution of demand. It originates from many observation points, has a wide variety of trigger points, prompts many questions and an equal number of answers, and cannot just rely on advanced technological choices. It concerns the culture and the way of being of a company and its market, the way of working and collaborating in its totality and not the individual areas.

Retex Can we try to map a course of action?

LM I believe that what we are doing at Dainese is one of the possible options. The restructuring of internal processes in recent years has been primarily organizational, working closely on the development of an integrated process chain with our Chief Operations Officer, responsible for all activities up to the finished product, our Chief Commercial Officer, responsible for the activities from the warehouse to the finished products on the market, and our Chief Financial Officer. Digitalisation is the support to this organizational model.

Retex How has the health emergency affected all this?

LM I can say that the impact was not easy, but we were able to address it in the right way. Our omnichannel model is solid and balanced; in 2020 our e-commerce sales grew by 90%, and the same rate of growth is expected for 2021. Our wide and diversified network of partners responded well, benefiting from an increasingly digital go-to-market strategy. We launched a new B2B website for collecting orders from wholesalers, remotely managed our sales meetings, and with our custom works service our customers can tailor their garments, both in-store and online.

Luca Menegardo

Retex We often discuss the Italian delay on digital innovation. E-commerce, for example, has an impact on the total distribution equal to one third of that of the United Kingdom. In more advanced markets, such as the United States, retail is markedly technocentric. Is there an actual gap to be filled, and how?

LM Italy is much older than the United States, and even more than Asia, not only in culture but in age. The difference is unavoidable, but a lot of attention is needed in the timing and ways of making innovation. World trends are an important reference and must be recognised very early, but they cannot be implemented with the superficial application of models that penalize an important part of our ecosystem.

Retex In short, plain and simple common sense.

LM Precisely so. I can have an advanced system, but I must always have to take into account the many customers throughout the territory still inclined to use a paper order form, and the resulting relationship with our sales structure. Innovation is a continuous practice of improvement, not an ideology or a theoretical exercise: the value of change lies in the rationality and timeliness of choices.

Retex Aiming at the progressive search for balance between the inside and outside, then.

LM The goal is to go at the same speed. The consistency between market rhythms and company operating rhythms is a value to always be pursued, moving further forward without leaving no one behind. The same consistency must be the prerequisite to the internal change, in the relationship between the organization and technology. You may introduce very advanced ERP systems, for example, but they will never justify the investment without the adaptation of the old functional and operational models which reduce, or cancel, their expected benefits. If, for example, you change system without changing your order management and logistics processes, you won’t go far.

Retex Changing processes and their technological application is not an easy task in terms of corporate culture.

LM In fact, it is not a simple operation, but a detailed and complex one. Change management is an overarching systemic approach to transition, all the more necessary the more ambitious the organizational goals are. This must not only be implemented but whenever possible anticipated, and the entire corporate structure must be up to the task.

Retex Do medium-sized Italian enterprises respond well to market demands?

LM I think that Italian companies respond well during periods of accelerated change. Attention, though, must be paid to the yardstick used. There are indisputable excellences where innovation proceeds more slowly, but which however remain so. I also think that against all expectations or generalizations, important signs of readiness to change have also come from the public administration. In Italy, for example, e-invoicing has been a considerable boost to innovation, much more than elsewhere. Finally, I would like to point out the absence of an external context hostile to change in this direction.

Retex Is the supply of technologies and skills in our country adequate to the needs?

LM Sometimes it is even too much. In my opinion, what is missing is the rationalization of the supply and demand cycle. Unlike other countries, we are not used to designing roadmaps with long-term goals and actions. After all, it is part of our tradition to be very good at managing opportunities and much less planning.