Roland Berger launches digital hub Terra Numerata

22 December 2014 Consultancy.uk

Roland Berger Strategy Consultants has launched a new platform – named ‘Terra Numerata’ – which will support large companies with their transformation to new digital business models. With the European-based digital services hotspot, the firm aspires building an ecosystem that will propel established European firms and promising disruptors into the elite of the global digital landscape.

In recent years Europe has gradually been losing ground in the top of the flourishing digital landscape, to among others startup-mecca Silicon Valley and several upcoming digital ecosystems in the Asia. Recent research reveals that none of the 20 biggest internet companies are European (by market cap), with 13 of those companies coming from the US and 7 from Asia. To bring Europe back into the elite, a bold strategy, joint efforts and quick action is required, says Charles-Edouard Bouée, CEO of Roland Berger, and as a result his firm has decided to take the lead. “The need for such a platform is apparent,” he says. “Boosting Europe's share in the digital landscape is the key mission of Terra Numerata.”

European Digital Valley

The Terra Numerata platform will focus on two key areas: boosting the adoption of digital models, and acting as a spark for digital innovation. The digital ecosystem will consist of a broad community of digital specialists, ranging from strategists such as Roland Berger, to technology providers, digital agencies, investors, start-ups, incubators and other digital experts in the field. By bundling the different focus areas, and boosting productive exchange, Bouée expects that European firms will be able to capitalise on the market potential. "Europe's digital business landscape is highly heterogeneous, with expertise and resources spread across the different countries. However, we should not see this as a disadvantage: Networking this diversity among companies, incubators, investors and experts from the different countries, supported by policymakers, may actually be the key to creating new opportunities in tomorrow's digital world," explains Bouée.

The platform’s business model and principles are largely based on the ‘superincubator’ approach of the highly-successful German Rocket Internet, which in essence does the same yet focuses on the market for startups and small firms. Following successful discussions between the firms*, and a shared vision, the consultancy and incubator have decided to join forces, and have as part of Terra Numerata both have taken a 50% stake in a joint venture.

Roland Berger

Strategy-driven decision
From Roland Berger’s view, the launch of Terra Numerata does not come as a real surprise. Earlier this year Bouée unveiled the framework of the firm’s new strategy, in which he shared plans to roll-out sub-brands in certain functional areas (such as Digital) and grow footprint and expertise through partnerships in ‘hotspot’ ecosystems. In the case of digital, the business case is clear. Digital consultancy is by far the largest growing segment in the consulting industry**, and losing out on the digital boom would in the long-run risk the business model of any player that aspires a global position. And although Roland Berger has digital capabilities on board, it has not yet towards the market branded them in a distinct manner done by competitors such as McKinsey & Company (‘McKinsey Soutions’) or The Boston Consulting Group (BCG Digital Ventures’). In addition, the move towards a digital ecosystem hints towards a mindset which goes further than its main rivals – the firm aspires playing a pivotal role in a much larger ecosystem, letting go of the traditional ‘in-house’ approach, but at the same time diverging it from the traditional ‘pure-play’ strategy consulting arena. 

In the case of Rocket Internet, not much has been released publicly on its exact motive for the cooperation with Roland Berger, yet apparent is the benefit it will receive through the strategic and operational expertise of Roland Berger, and access to its boardroom-level client network. Since the IPO a few months ago, which turned founders Marc, Oliver and Alexander Samwer into billionaires, they have repeatedly highlighted the need for capitalising on Europe’s untapped innovation potential beyond startups through scale and collaboration, and with the partnership within Terra Numerata they obviously take the first step.

Charles-Edouard-Bouee, Marc Samwer, Oliver Samwer and Alexander Samwer

Operational mid 2015
Bouée expects Terra Numerata to be fully operations in roughly six months’ time. In the coming months following Rocket Internet more partnerships with digital players in the ecosystem will be sealed, and in the long-run the French-origin Roland Berger CEO foresees “about two dozen partnerships.”

* German media have over the past months hinted that the partnership between Roland Berger and Rocket Internet was fuelled by founder Roland Berger, who recently was given a position on Rocket Internet’s supervisory board. Bouée though denies, saying that the contact between himself and the Rocket Internet owners had come through “a friend from Harvard ", where Bouée studied.

* In the UK for instance, 52% of firms have in 2014 seen a marked increase in digital advisory work.

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