The latest defeat for traditional consultancies – Allianz brings Rocket Internet on board for digitization

03. August 2016

This was the news that everyone in the startup scene was talking about at the beginning of the week: Allianz is joining forces with startup builder Rocket Internet. The details of how this partnership will work have not yet been clarified. It seems that the main goal of the partnership is to accelerate the process of digitization at this traditional insurance company. After Rocket’s cooperation with Roland Berger last year turned out to be something of a flop, it remains to be seen how the partnership will develop this time. Even at this stage, however, it is clear to see that traditional consultants are no longer the go-to partners when it comes to digitization.

Along with many other long-established companies, Allianz seems to be asking itself how digitization can be a success in a traditional company. In particular, it is asking how the switch to digital processes can be made as quickly as possible. To do this, Allianz is now bringing a well-known partner on board. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung newspaper, Oliver Bäte, Chairman of the Board of Management at Allianz and Oliver Samwer, CEO of Rocket Internet announced that they were planning to work together to press ahead with the digital transformation of the insurance giant.

“Why does it take us 100 weeks to achieve what Rocket manages in 100 days?”

The interviewees were very vague about exactly how this would happen. “We want to exchange people and know-how,” explained Oliver Bäte. He said they were in the process of “institutionalizing” this partnership. It seems that the cooperation with the Internet company is intended not only to improve and speed up digitization at Allianz but also to kick-start a change in the company’s culture. “Our employees are good but the culture needs to change,” said Bäte. “It needs to be possible for things to go wrong occasionally without anyone having their head bitten off. Changing this culture requires laborious persuasive efforts and analysis, asking: ‘Why does it take us 100 weeks to achieve what Rocket manages in 100 days?’ To do this, we need to accelerate traditional processes, which is incredibly difficult.”

This is not the first time that Rocket Internet has partnered with a well-known company. In December 2014, the Roland Berger consultancy made the wholehearted announcement that it was planning to embark on a joint venture with Rocket Internet to found a “super incubator.” The grand plans that Roland Berger CEO Charles-Edouard Bouée had at the time have not amounted to much. Although there have apparently been discussions between the two business partners, as yet, the project has not been implemented.

A dilemma for traditional consultancies and an acid test for Rocket

In particular, this shows that while traditional consultancies such as Roland Berger are struggling to be perceived as firms that can also provide credible expertise and advice in the area of digitization, many companies have long since realized that they need to look in other places to find the right kind of digital know-how. The fact that Allianz selected the startup builder Rocket Internet as a partner – rather than a company such as McKinsey, Deloitte or BCG – is symbolic of the dilemma that established consultancies are facing. Such companies lack not only the digital expertise but also the entrepreneurial approach, the experience and the network that is available on the startup scene. They are therefore unable to provide any degree of authenticity when offering digital transformation consultancy services.

Yet this partnership with Allianz is also an acid test for Rocket Internet. To date, the web company has mainly achieved recognition for building and growing startups. The digitization of traditional, established companies has not previously been part of Rocket’s typical repertoire. In this respect, Rocket is pursuing new avenues. It will be interesting to see where these avenues will lead.

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Doris Bärtle ist PR Managerin bei etventure. Zuvor arbeitete sie im Bereich Unternehmens- und Markenkommunikation und im Event Management.

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