It’s a tough judgment Jansson and Andervin are passing on Swedish leaders and Board members. Many have not kept up with the developments – something that can bring dire consequences in both the short and long term.

“It’s easy to relax when you have your hands on a large market share. Some companies have become a bit too complacent and have not been working proactively to meet customers needs. Just take the taxi industry, where Uber took the entire user experience to a new level. It rocked the entire industry and proved that the other players did not have a clear understanding of the social and cultural landscape. You can’t be unable to deliver on service, user experience and customer engagement. That time is long gone,” says Jansson.

Jansson and Andervin recently released their book Leading Digital Transformation (in Swedish: Att leda digital transformation), which guides leaders through the three phases of change processes and provides the tools needed to lead successful transformation. The book is also used as a point of reference for SSE Executive Education’s new program of the same name. That the target audience for the book and the program is Board members, business leaders and policy makers at Swedish companies is no coincidence. The top of the hierarchy is where the major changes must be made.

“Swedish Boards must do their homework and realize that the transformation applies to everyone. Everyone has got to improve their knowledge so that they can be competitive on a Board or management team,” says Jansson.

Andervin adds:

“In Sweden, we’ve been fantastic when it comes to startups in recent years. But when it comes to traditional businesses things move too slowly. More and more studies show that Swedish companies are lagging behind from an international perspective, and it’s scary. So it’s more important than ever to bring up these issues in the boardroom. The higher up the better.”

Peter Myhrström, Program Director for the Leading Digital Transformation program at SSE Executive Education, says:

“The digital transformation is something that all touchpoints in business and society must respond to. We’re not just talking about digitilization as a new way to communicate or collect and process data. Digitilization forms an integral part of the business model and, in the end, something that companies must master to survive.”

To start the transformation journey, the company needs a common vision of what digitilization means to them. Many operate under the illusion that digitilization is an IT project or communication project. But the fact is that a smart transformation includes basically all areas – everything from corporate values, strategy, organization, processes, infrastructure, data and analysis through to the revenue model, touchpoints and relationship work.

“Only a tiny part of digital transformation is about ones and zeros. The important thing is changing the individual and the culture of the company. When a Board has decided to adapt the business to a digitalized world, the first step is to review where they are, what actions are needed and then create a step-by-step plan to develop skills at all levels. Everyone must be involved – from the Board of Directors to programmers and receptionists,” says Andervin, and continues:

“A good example of a traditional company that succeeded in its digital transformation is Trelleborg. This industrial company has realized what actions needed to be implemented, and management has supported employees internally and worked intensively with skill-building at all levels.”

Trelleborg has much in common with other Swedish companies that have successfully completed their digital transformation. Often, there are several common denominators. Jansson and Andervin list the main checklist items for companies that managed to keep pace with the development:

  • They look truth in the face and base their actions on reality.
  • They make sure that digitilization has an impact on the entire company – from values to internal efforts and in communicating and addressing the market.
  • They are dynamic and flexible, and use external analyses to identify the early waves of change they should manage.
  • They work actively to strengthen employees knowledge to be able to ride these waves of change and they recognize the difference between digital skills and digital literacy. If the employees do not have a stimulating environment to work in, they can never become digitally literate.
  • They take on a shared responsibility and do not employ any “digital alibis.”
  • They understand that they need to be faster, more agile and flexible.

Since the 1960s, SSE Executive Education has helped companies through various types of transformation, for example through its consortium programs, which support Swedish enterprises with internationalization. The consortium programs were developed by SSE Executive Education together with partner organizations, all of whom share a long-term vision of structured management and leadership development. The programs provide participants with an enriching exchange of experiences between companies and organizations, as well as an opportunity to influence the course design.

Fact box:

  • SSE Executive Education is launching a new program, “Leading Digital Transformation.”
  • Through sustainable strategies and techniques, the program empowers you as a leader to lead your organization towards digital maturity.
  • The program includes digital motivational lectures with best-practice cases, digital tools for measuring an organization’s digital maturity, key indicators and tools to drive digital transformation, and the development of a strategic action plan to lead digital transformation in your organization.
  • The program is geared towards decision-makers with the mandate to drive organizational development and digital transformation.
  • For more information, visit


Feel free to listen to SSE Executive Education’s podcast (in Swedish) on digital transformation with Joakim Jansson, Marie Andervin, and Åsa Paborn, publishing director at UR:

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