On November 21st and 22nd, the annual excursion of the IBM Master in the first semester took place. The class, accompanied by the two professors Katarina Gutownig-Fürst and Rahel Schomaker, went to Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Zagreb (Croatia), to get an on-site impression of doing business in South-Eastern Europe, and to talk to decision-makers that know the region well. The companies visited were PETROL, the biggest company in the energy sector in Slovenia, the popular advertising company Grey, as well as A1, formerly Vipnet, one of the leading enterprises in the telecom and IT-sector in Croatia. Innovation and technological change, strategic management, marketing and brand strategies in a highly dynamic environment, and the resulting challenges and chances for human resource management and personnel policies were the main issues tackled in all companies. A major factor discussed during the meeting with PETROL was how changes in the automotive industry and production of renewable energy nowadays affected the company’s business model. Grey emphasized the relevance of adjusting marketing and advertising to regional factors, and furthermore shared insights into the creative business and digitalization. A1 not only shared the reasons for the current re-branding, but also delivered very interesting project details about digital transformation and training programs in order to prepare employees for the future changes.
The discussion partners our students could talk to were as diverse and high-ranked as the whole program: they are board-members, management or creative directors, or experts that account for technological change, digitalization and innovation, branding, or marketing.
Hence, the excursion was a unique chance to get a deep and comprehensive insight into the current challenges enterprises face in the SEE-region as well as to specific departments. And what do the students say about the excursion? Well, they enjoyed the trip, and emphasize their specific impression of the points that characterize the dynamics and innovativeness of the region and the companies visited:
“A petroleum company leaving traditional paths as a driver of the digital revolution was most surprising.”
“A great example of a formerly state-owned enterprise which went through privatization process and has now become the biggest energy company in Slovenia.”
“… I was very impressed by A1 Croatia’s restructuring strategy; especially by its innovative life-long-learning implications. I think it’s very remarkable that such a big company is able -and also willing - to block three hours each week for every employee just for learning.”
“Very interesting example of how Human Resources can positively influence a company’s strategy, in order to prepare the organization and ease the transition process. Besides from a very modern and high-tech building, the company also concentrated in remodeling company’s culture by creating common spaces, giving up desk phones in order for people to socialize etc.”
“For me this was the most interesting meeting. A key point where I focused was how an advertising agency can affect, increase and recreate a brands perception in the market. Nowadays, very few companies know “why” they exist and what their purpose is. We saw some real examples of how purpose driven marketing made a huge impact to the society, raised awareness and increased sales for the companies.”
“80% hard work and 20% wild creativity are the pillars of GREYs young team in Ljubljana.”