‘Shaping The Future’

Twenty IT managers from eight Bertelsmann divisions met for the second “IT Circle” module from Mar 27 to 29, to discuss the strategic challenges of the transformation to digital, and its implications for IT at Bertelsmann. 

The “IT Circle” is a two-year global talent management program that was established in 2015 specifically for the development of IT managers, in a close collaboration between Corporate IT, Bertelsmann University and Corporate HR. It is the first Bertelsmann University program to bring together experienced IT managers from various Bertelsmann companies to discuss professional issues and challenges. The “IT Circle” participants represent an international community, hailing from nine different countries on three continents. 

As with the first module, the renowned Spanish business school ESADE was on board once again, with two of its professors, Jaume Villanueva and Pau Contrer, giving lectures. 

The second module is part of the learning journey of four modules that IT Circle participants complete over two years. Under the heading “Shape the future,” this time the participants looked to the future as they discussed the following questions, moderated by Professor Roehl: 

  • What role will ever-accelerating technological progress, especially in fields like big data, data-driven business and platform-based businesses, play for the Bertelsmann Group going forward?
  • How can opportunities for new digital business models develop from these trends?
  • What implications do these changes have for the role and organization of IT?
  • How can the IT community support transformation processes at Bertelsmann? 

The first day of the program began with two lectures by the two Spanish professors. Professor Villanueva's lecture focused on the question, “When does an idea have the potential to develop into a new business opportunity?” Based on the concept of the “lean startup,” he discussed the criteria for successful digital product development with the participants – and for transferring this approach developed for startups, to a large corporation like Bertelsmann. Afterwards, Professor Contreras's lecture focused on the question of how a classic business model - in this case an example from the media industry – can be transformed into a “data-driven business.” The participants discussed what an innovative, agile IT architecture, one that actively supports the business and customers’ needs, might look like.

“Learning disruptive thinking” was the learning goal of the scenario exercise on Day Two of the program. Professor Roehl began by introducing the participants to the method of “future research,” then led them in jointly designing four future scenarios for the key question “What will the role of IT at Bertelsmann be in 2027?”

The Bertelsmann IT Board, consisting of members of Bertelsmann Corporate IT and the CIOs of the Bertelsmann divisions, held its board meeting in parallel to the “IT Circle” this time, to facilitate networking and strategic dialog with the “IT Circle” participants. So, on the third day of the program, participants had the opportunity to present the findings of their scenario exercise to the entire IT Board and discuss the various recommendations for action that had been derived from the scenarios. 

“It is very valuable for us ‘IT Circle’ participants to continue the strategic dialog with the IT Board begun in the first module,” said one participant. “It gives us first-hand insights into the collaboration of the Bertelsmann divisions in the area of ​​IT, and the shared challenges we face.” 

Tom Linckens, CIO at Bertelsmann, also drew a positive résumé: “The 'IT Circle' offers participants an opportunity to examine topics that are important for the future of Bertelsmann, without distractions from their workaday routine. They also give the IT Board valuable impetus and stimulate good discussions.” 

The  “IT Circle” participants continue their learning journey this fall. The third module is already planned for September 2017 under the heading “Act as a change agent.” (benet)