Microsoft and Daimler chiefs took to the stage to share their experiences of transformation, as well as addressing some of the key challenges faced by businesses in the digital age.

Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche acknowledged the automotive industry is still in a state of flux, as connectivity, autonomy, the shift to electric power, and the growth of mobility sharing platforms are set to redefine the car business.

“We know that 10 years from now this industry will be totally different: we’ll have some of the same competitors, and we’ll have a number of totally new competitors. If we continue to do what we did so well, we’ll be toast,” he said.

The car boss highlighted how the nature of business is changing, as companies find themselves fulfilling multiple roles in the value chain. “In this world, these limitations blur, and you’re a supplier and a customer and you’re a competitor and a cooperation partners all at once”.

“Yesterday, the most important part was to lock your engineering department so that nobody could copy anything. Today when we are talking about these systems, we are convinced we have to do it open source, because we need the capabilities of the whole community,” Zetsche said.

Discussing the transformation Microsoft has gone through in recent years as it has reinvented its business, CEO Satya Nadella said that “core sense of purpose and identity that the brand itself telegraphs is something that has to be treasured. But at the same time, you have to be able to challenge the status quo”.

He noted: “I always think that some of the technology shifts are quite frankly somewhat easier to do. The things that are hardest are the business model shifts. That gut-wrenching experience of that massive hit you’ve had, essentially running out of gas and then having to invent something new that’s not only going to be strong but also deals with all of the declines, that’s when you really build the muscle.”