‘Moving IT’ – Bertelsmann’s Second IT Summit

On Jun 20 and 21, about a hundred IT managers from all Bertelsmann divisions attended the second IT Summit, hosted by Bertelsmann's Chief Information Officer Tom Linckens. This time the chosen venue was the historic Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen. A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site since 2001, it stands nearly unparalleled as a symbol of change.

The transformation to digital at Bertelsmann requires change in IT as well. The first IT Summit two years ago under the motto “Be part of IT” marked the launch of Bertelsmann’s IT Community and the joint IT Roadmap. At this year's second summit, Bertelsmann CIO Tom Linckens purposely opened another chapter in the collaboration, which was reflected in the summit motto “Moving IT” as well as in the emerging IT topics on its agenda.

“The topics that we rolled out together with the ‘IT Roadmap’ since the last IT Summit have been successfully mainstreamed in the Group and are being steadily developed,” says Linckens. “Now, with the second summit, we would like to go one step further and provide even more support for the digital transformation of Bertelsmann’s businesses. We can best do this together, and with our IT Community’s collective technology expertise. The important thing here is to bring together the Group’s experts to share best practices on the most important technology trends, such as robotics process automation or machine learning. The IT Summit was the ideal way to get the ball rolling on this.” 

‘Digitalization is relevant to all of our businesses’

The agenda of the two-day summit featured a combination of presentations and keynotes, as well as interactive agenda items where they were able to discuss and reflect on the diversity and shared challenges in the field of IT. On Day One, twenty projects selected from all of the Group’s divisions were presented. Short video interviews introduced the customer and business perspective in addition to the technological view. Among other things, this clearly illustrated the IT Community’s great potential for benefitting from other divisions’ experience and skills through direct exchange. At the end of the project presentations, the participants nominated what they felt were the three best projects.

After a sightseeing tour of the Zollverein colliery grounds, the evening event was devoted to a mutual exchange of ideas. Bernd Hirsch, Bertelsmann's Chief Financial Officer, welcomed participants with a short speech in which he highlighted the work achieved by the IT Community. “Digitalization is relevant to all of our businesses,” he said. “There is not a single business within Bertelsmann that is not impacted by digitalization and the progress of technology. And that is why IT competencies and skills are a crucial success factor in the competitive landscape. Since the last summit you have achieved many successes and I am also here to congratulate you for your various achievements on behalf of the Executive Board.” The winners of the IT Community Project Award were then honored by Tom Linckens. 

Digitalization as a never-ending process

The strong momentum of technological development and the associated challenges for the IT Community were the focus of Day Two of the event. It began with presentations by Peter Sondergaard, Chief Analyst at Gartner, a leading U.S. technology market research company, and Peter Großkopf, Chief Technology Officer at Solaris Bank, in which Arvato Financial Solutions owns a ten-percent stake. Sondergaard talked about the ever-increasing speed of technological progress and the great potential for disruption, while Großkopf emphasized that digitalization is not a project, but a never-ending process – a challenge that Bertelsmann, too, must face in all areas.

The rest of the day revolved around this challenge. In the lead-up to the summit, the IT Community had identified the first technology-themed blocks and prepared them for presentation and discussion at the event. They included three focus topics: the impact of artificial intelligence/machine learning on media and services businesses; the intelligent automation of business processes in the context of robotics process automation; and analytics and visualization in the big data environment. In individual workshop groups, the participants discussed these topics extensively so as to develop a shared understanding of future initiatives relating to them.

The feedback from participants in the second “IT Summit” was very positive overall, as epitomized in a comment by Sue Wierenga, Chief Information Officer at Alliant International University, part of the Education Group: “We have a great time networking within the IT Community at the Summit. 15 countries are represented – we’ve got a great band. It is like brothers and sisters of IT and we got to learn a lot from each other.”

Daniel Weßling, Director IT & Consulting Central Europe at Arvato Financial Solutions, added: “The cultural change is a wonderful thing to see and really will enable us as Bertelsmann for the future so that we are ready for new great IT projects and further digital growth.”

The fact that the IT Community has developed very positively since the first summit was evident in the trusting exchange and constructive dialog throughout the event. The participants endorsed this cooperation to strengthen technology skills, and actively want it to continue in future. Corporate IT has a coordinating role in this process, bringing together supply and demand in communities of interest.

In the follow-up process to the IT Summit, specific next steps will be agreed by the IT Board, the body in which the divisional CIOs meet regularly with Corporate IT. (benet)