Pedersen & Partners: “Latin American governmental regulations are holding back digital transformation,” Revista Gan@Más

Lima, Peru – Digital transformation began a few years ago in Europe and the U.S.; it is now taking off exponentially in Latin America, and will soon become critically important for business organisations. Fernanda García, Country Manager Colombia at Pedersen & Partners, gave a presentation at the Lima Business Club called “Digital transformation – Talent and culture” to expand on the subject.

Ms. García explained that digital transformation has taken place in two steps: when the Internet first became popular, and then with the spread of mobile devices that allowed people to be connected 24 hours a day. Changes have therefore taken place at a rapid and accelerated rate.

“At the same time, demographics are shifting so that within two years 60% of the companies’ employees will be millennials. Currently, the figure is around 45%, according to statistical data,” she confirmed.

The hierarchical structures of the companies will need to change in order to kick-start the process of digital transformation. Each institution must create its own roadmap to reach a mature structural state that will allow for its modernisation.

In Ms. García’s opinion, digital transformation presents a series of changes and challenges in how companies perceive their value chain, so that each business can best satisfy its customers and consumers. She also indicated that “digital” technology must be at the heart of any business so that companies can begin to build a strategy that will allow them to set the pace and path for the next 15 or 20 years.

Moreover, Ms. García stated that according to Deloitte University Press, only 29% of all global companies are at a level of digital maturation. This is due to the specifics of the individual companies; it is highly complex for an industrial company to achieve full digital transformation, but simpler for an organisation dedicated to the commercial area, such as a retail chain.

Likewise, 63% of the companies surveyed considered that the greatest complexity is to be found in the change of organisational culture, since it is not necessarily simple to put digital transformation into action.

Essential Steps

Ms. García said that three points always need to be covered in order to achieve the cultural changes that allow digital transformation: relationships with customers, business models, and structures within the company.

“In the end, everything affects the people who are part of the organisations, and who are the main agents of change. Digital transformation is based on technology, but it goes far beyond social networks,” she said.

For effective digital transformation, it is necessary to create a map of customer experience, identifying points of contact and how technology impacts on them. A good example is what BBVA did in Spain, allowing people to open bank accounts and make financial transactions from their smartphones.

However, it would be difficult to quickly implement this in Latin countries, as government regulations often prevent changes from taking place swiftly. Ms. García recounted the case study of Bancolombia, which chose to be flexible by creating an innovation unit that was independent from the company structure, so that bureaucracy would not obstruct the creation of new ideas. This decision has also given them freedom to team up with different start-ups and FinTechs, from Colombia and also other countries.

Joint projects and intercompany collaborations are very important; for example, in the U.S., Procter & Gamble developed a training program with Google to take advantage of the digital giant’s technologies, while Google had the opportunity to learn about P&G's training structure.

“There’s no reason to fear openness and exposure, because collaboration is fundamental, and examples such as this are becoming increasingly common worldwide. Don’t forget that Amazon recently bought Whole Foods, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the retail industry – this retail monster now straddles the virtual and physical worlds,” she advised.

The Future

The sectors leading the digital transformation processes are: technology, retail, food, and entertainment. Tomorrow's trades will include professions such as drone traffic coordinator, online image manager, space garbage collector, biotech trader, and virtual currency broker. And in the future, these careers will only last two to three years, because young people will want – and need – to have more than one profession in order to succeed in the digital world.

The Country Manager Colombia for Pedersen & Partners said that innovation is the best resource that companies can count on, and that their leaders must always inspire, give freedom and promote interaction. She believes that disruptive leaders are the ones who demonstrate that they are adaptive, empathetic, and efficient – the ones that allow the approval of new ideas and focus completely on the results.

And within the transformation processes, failure must be allowed, because all changes imply learning. “Companies in Latin countries punish mistakes hard, and they don’t allow their workers to be wrong, while in more developed nations the organisations encourage their employees to make mistakes, because then they will realise what is good and what is bad. They even have a budget allocated for mistakes. Our cultural refusal to accept failure is costing us greatly," Ms. García emphasized in conclusion.

Fernanda Garcia is the Country Manager for Colombia at Pedersen & Partners. Before joining the firm, Ms. Garcia was the Country Manager for Colombia for another international Executive Search firm, where she was responsible for the business development of the client portfolio in industries such as Telecommunications, IT, Consumer Goods, Finance, Oil & Gas and Services. She has extensive experience in consulting and project management in Europe and Latin America with strong knowledge of human resources, change management and business processes. Before moving to the Executive Search industry, Ms. Garcia was a Senior Account Manager for a well-known human consulting firm based in Madrid, Spain. She has also gained experience as a Change Management Consultant at Ernst & Young, where she developed the practice for Colombia, Perú and Costa Rica.

Pedersen & Partners is a leading international Executive Search firm. We operate 56 wholly owned offices in 52 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia & the Americas. Our values Trust, Relationship and Professionalism apply to our interaction with clients as well as executives. More information about Pedersen & Partners is available at

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