DAX companies increasingly report on digitisation measures

Deficits in implementation and accountability

Deficits in implementation and accountability

Berlin, 05 December 2022

The companies listed in the DAX are reporting more frequently and extensively on their digitalisation measures. This is the result of a joint analysis for the "DAX Digital Monitor" by KPMG in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Dirk Stein and Prof. Dr. Tobias Kollmann, for which the annual reports of the year 2021 including the non-financial reporting were evaluated. However, many companies still have deficits in the implementation of digitisation strategies and the anchoring of an associated responsibility as well as know-how in the company.

The topic areas in the corresponding reports are cost reduction, employees and qualification, customers, growth and future technologies. Key figures on digitalisation are also listed, but these are reported very differently, which makes cross-company comparisons difficult. In addition, only very few companies have a chief digital officer (CDO).

Only five companies with their own digital department

In three out of four DAX companies (72 percent), digitisation responsibility and competence are firmly anchored at board level. Where this is the case, this institutionalisation is usually accompanied by a link to other functional tasks (for example, related to CEOs or CTOs). An independent digital board member, a Chief Digital Officer, who explicitly embodies digitalisation responsibility and competence as a separate department at board level, is only found at five companies - E.ON, HeidelbergCement, Infineon, Qiagen and Vonovia.

Supervisory board: employee side with potential

As far as the employer side of the supervisory board is concerned, 80 percent of the companies have at least some digitalisation responsibility and competence. On the employee side, digital competence could only be observed among the members of the supervisory boards in 25 percent of the companies, which underlines a high backlog demand at this point. 

Corporate Digital Responsibility? Not a chance!

None of the 40 companies is specific about corporate digital responsibility in its report. This is surprising because in the future, companies will be increasingly required to account for their handling of data in connection with their business models and processes.

Digital leadership no real remuneration component

In 18 of the 40 DAX companies, digitisation explicitly plays a role as a remuneration component at board level, while in 22 it does not. Accordingly, in most cases there are no concrete incentives for the implementation of a digitisation strategy.  

Voices on the DAX Digital Monitor:

KPMG partner Georg Knöpfle: "Cost reductions continue to rank high in the context of digitalisation. The switch to digital is generally seen as a suitable path towards operational excellence, which should keep the core business profitable or even optimise it. Compared to the previous year's reports, cost reduction with the help of digitalisation has experienced a noticeable boost in importance. Among other things, relevant measures are now named quite specifically."

Prof. Dr. Dirk Stein, FOM University of Applied Sciences: "The anchoring of digital leadership criteria at top management level has slowed down considerably compared to the previous year. The greatest need for action lies in anchoring digitalisation as a remuneration component at board level and on the employee side in the supervisory board."

KPMG partner Jan Richter: "Noticeable increases in the relevant digitisation competences on the employee side should significantly benefit the digitisation success of companies. Especially since major investment decisions in the area of digitalisation are discussed and decided jointly in the supervisory board body."

Prof. Dr. Tobias Kollmann, University of Duisburg-Essen: "Unfortunately, the Covid 19 pandemic has not led to digitisation really becoming anchored in the DNA of the DAX 40 companies. The low number of chief digital officers, the lack of corporate digital responsibility and the questionable subsumption of digitalisation as a purely ecological sustainability aspect, as well as the sometimes daring interpretation of digital competences in the supervisory boards, are not enough to survive in the digital age."

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Thomas Blees

Deputy Head of Corporate Communications
KPMG AG Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft