Predrag Nikolić, Managing Director Of The Centre For Digital Transformation

Greatest Support To The SME Sector

The Centre for Digital Transformation (CDT) is a national project for coordinating and implementing digital transformation in all private sector industries, with a special focus on SMEs

Approximately 900 companies applied for the Programme of Support for the Digital Transformation of SMEs during the previous period, with as many as 130 of them having to date implemented defined solutions, for which they received 50 per cent of co-financing – explains the CDT’s MD Predrag Nikolić.

What guided the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry when it decided to establish the CDT in 2018, with the support of German international development agency GIZ?

The intention was to launch the process of supporting the Serbian SME sector, with the support of German development agency GIZ, following the conducting of comprehensive public opinion research.

It was determined that a high percentage of Serbian companies lack awareness of the importance of digital transformation, and that companies wanting to take the first step didn’t know where to turn for help. In tandem with the selecting, educating and certifying of consultants in the field of digital transformation – who subsequently visited companies across Serbia and helped them in the transformation process – work was also undertaken to change the awareness of the general public, because changing the way people think is the first step towards implementation later.

The CDT has so far implemented two rounds of certifying digital transformation consultants, which were conducted according to the procedures and under the supervision of the Austrian Economic Chamber, so CDT consultants possess a certificate that’s recognised internationally. The CDT is currently implementing the third round of educating and certifying digital transformation consultants, but also – for the first time – consultants specialising in artificial intelligence.

The CDT has so far implemented two rounds of educating and certifying digital transformation consultants, with a third round currently being implemented

How aware are our companies when it comes to the importance and positive impact of digital transformation?

In this sense, our job encompasses multiple areas – organising and building up the infrastructure required to provide assistance to businesses in this domain, but also thorough work on education, i.e., raising awareness of the importance of change. It is very important for companies to grasp that this isn’t merely about following technological trends, but rather is a question of their long-term survival on the market and their inclusion in supply chains. The CDT was selected as the Serbian Ministry of Economy’s partner on the implementation of the ambitious Action Plan in the field of digital transformation because, among other things, we have generated direct interest in inclusion in various programmes among almost 1,500 companies over the last three years. A significant number of companies has implemented technological solutions developed through consultations with our consultants.

Has digital transformation been accelerated by the crisis that we’ve yet to emerge from?

The global crisis caused by the COVID- 19 pandemic has only confirmed the necessity of changing the way business is done. The aforementioned altered conditions for doing business prompted the CDT to react very quickly and adequately, by developing – with the help of GIZ – two programmes to provide swift support to companies facing operational problems. Practice has shown – both in Serbia and in the EU – that the companies that had already taken significant steps in the area of digital transformation prior to the pandemic were incomparably more resilient to the new crisis, because it was easier for them to switch to decentralised operations; that they managed to reach their customers and clients easier and quicker; and that their financial and business flows suffered less disruption as a result of the crisis.

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