Headquarters Cluster: New Impetus from Digitalization
Cluster development over three decades
The history of Austria as a headquarters location spanning a period of about 30 years has become an increasingly dynamic one. It began in the 1980s when Austria had a virtually monopoly on Eastern European headquarters. This monopolistic position was lost in the period after the year 2000 due to the eastward enlargement of the European Union. However, thanks to the competencies gained up until then, Austria still managed to maintain its market leadership for CEE headquarters, developing or expanding upon new segments.
Many headquarters specialized in South East Europe or selected growth markets. Vienna broadened its role from a West-East springboard to a business interface functioning in both directions. Austria succeeded in holding its ground in the face of European competition and was even able to expand its role as a bridgehead. An impressive headquarters cluster was created in cooperation with international organizations, universities and universities of applied sciences, service companies and NGOs.
Emergence of agile headquarters systems
We are experiencing several changes in the current decades., For one thing, headquarters are increasingly seen as a function and not as a location. Phillip Nell, Head of the Competence Center for Emerging Markets & CEE at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, even talks about a “headquarters system”. This refers to the ongoing diversification of headquarters models based on a variety of combinations of geographical and specialized responsibilities as well as different forms of operationalization, also encompassing virtual corporate headquarters and person-centered management mandates. The headquarters world is becoming increasingly colorful, mobile and even more agile.
Disruptive change from digitalization?
However, the biggest change is only about to take place. Headquarters could be subject to a process of disruptive transformation if decisions are made in the future with other methods and processes thanks to new technologies. In this case, their crucial role as decision-making centers will be up on the agenda. From today’s perspective, this development will not make headquarters redundant – in fact, quite the opposite will happen! Nevertheless, it could change structures, processes and cultures (!) prevailing at corporate headquarters. In any case, this is reason enough to already reflect upon the whole situation now! In collaboration with the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Headquarters Austria launched a research project on this issue. All corporate headquarters based in Austria are invited to participate in and benefit from this project.