In an interview with the COMPUTER WORLD, Wilhelm Petersmann, Managing Director of Fujitsu in Austria and Switzerland, describes what we can take with us from 2021 for the future, explains how the corona crisis and new work are affecting us and outlines the most important IT trends for this year. […]
What lessons can be learned from 2021 in general and from the corona crisis in particular for the future?
It was amazing to me that projects and decisions that were previously on hold for a long time have experienced an incredible acceleration due to the pressure that has arisen from the corona crisis, such as the Managed Work Place area. The positive thing about this crisis that I would like to mention is: Corona is, so to speak, a transformation accelerator that has also led to shorter decision-making cycles.
On the other hand, there are companies that have rigorously cancelled the project portfolio due to the uncertain economic situation – in some cases up to 80 percent. Of course, this is a negative effect. As a result, the year 2021 has become much more volatile for us. We are proud that, despite the corona crisis, we have fulfilled all our delivery obligations, had no incidents and were even able to cover the additional requests for hypercare services from system-critical companies such as banks and insurance companies.
Our conclusion: Companies must increasingly move towards smaller, more agile projects, i.e. make short sprints.
In your opinion, how will the corona crisis affect the IT industry, companies and our society in the coming year?
There are some industries that have benefited from the last few months because there has been an increased e-commerce volume and increased demand for certain goods, for example from the home sector or the construction industry. However, competition for talent is noticeably intensifying in the IT industry.
What were your professional and personal highlights in 2021?
My professional highlight was that we were able to complete a major operation order in the millions at Fujitsu despite the shutdown and a few personal meetings. My personal highlight was the purchase of a home trainer, which is in my home office. Since then, this makes me feel guilty that it is rarely used.
“Corona is, so to speak, a transformation accelerator that has also led to shorter decision-making cycles.“
Which topics do you think should be at the top of the agenda of IT managers this year and why or which IT topics will play a particularly important role in 2022?
The topic of digitization is still very important. The IT managers have to think in three maturity levels:
The basis: Use hybrid IT, enable modern workplaces, support new forms of cooperation. These are the main household tasks, so to speak, the foundation of digitization. And the associated keywords are cost efficiency, flexibility and scalability.
The next level is the employee experience: The goal is to enable the employees of the future to do more interesting jobs through modern workplace concepts and meaningful process automation with the help of artificial intelligence, such as automated claim management for insurance companies, and to free them from repetitive routine work. This is an essential aspect to increase the attractiveness of the workplace, especially in the current shortage of talent, specialists and managers.
And then it’s all about the creation of digital products: Digitization is not only anchored in the workflow and IT service provision, but it’s also about creating digital products that offer customers inexpensive advantages. An example for a better understanding: By recording IoT and sensor driving data such as speed, acceleration, braking behavior, road conditions, etc., car insurers can price an individual insurance policy and thus create a competitive advantage over other, non-flexible insurance policies. Integrating digital topics into products is and is becoming increasingly important!
The last two years have been marked by the pandemic and accelerated digitization and brought us hybrid working models. After the pandemic, the next – bigger – crisis, the climate crisis, has to be dealt with. How do you think companies need to change in terms of sustainability? What specific measures are you/is your company planning for 2022 and beyond?
We have been familiar with sustainability from the manufacturing sector for a long time and it is also becoming increasingly important in the consumer sector that awareness is raised among the general population in the direction of sustainability. There are already many banks that invest according to the sustainability index and, accordingly, issue loans and funds that are specifically designed for sustainable companies.
Fujitsu has been a member of the UN Sustainability Initiative since 2009 and is thus committed to sustainable action in the following four areas: environmental awareness, human rights, working conditions, anti-corruption Implementation is primarily in the areas of production & manufacturing, sales and service provision – we focus on conscious management of sustainability.
“New work and home office bring about a cultural change in companies: along with the greater flexibility, managers have a certain loss of control over their employees. It is therefore important to focus on other types of performance management.“
How well is your company or how well are Austrian companies generally positioned for new work – i.e. distributed teams, home office, hybrid working models, etc.?
New work and home office bring about a cultural change in companies: along with the greater flexibility, managers have a certain loss of control over their employees. It is therefore important to focus on other types of performance management. A big point that has accompanied us for some time and will accompany us for a longer time is the character transformation of the office. The office becomes a meeting zone and creativity zone and is not only there for individual tasks and routine tasks. Modern companies that adapt to this are completely changing their office concepts. The advantage, which is obvious, is a reduction in area, which in turn saves costs. A number of companies in Austria have already taken this path, but only a very few have come to the end of the path. Here it is important not to forget the basic work – for example, access to applications and data, and compliance with the appropriate security concepts – at any time and at any place. We are currently rebuilding our office in Vienna, which will be completed in April 2022.The focus there is on creativity rooms, meeting rooms, customer rooms for meetings and very few “desk-sharing-on-site” workplaces.
Do you think that the tense situation regarding the shortage of IT specialists will improve in the coming years? What can be done in this area?
The tense situation will not get better in the next few years, but worse. We are urgently looking for people in the field of security, AI and generally in the digitization areas and also data analysts, because the topic of data Driven enterprise will continue to manifest itself in the future.
In my opinion, the classic approaches to recruiting need to be rethought. On the one hand, we have to do more university marketing, on the other hand, we also have to offer young talents the opportunity to complete dual study programs – i.e. to enable the mix between work and study. In this context, it is also important to invest in employee loyalty: especially in connection with the topic of home office and virtual teams – it is important to find new mechanisms to give young talents a connection to the company. If a company has clear development paths for young talents internally, this helps to reduce staff turnover – employees should have a vision and see opportunities.
In summary, this means that the recruitment mechanism must change. At the same time, it is important to identify opportunities for starting a career and to implement modern workplace concepts that include flexibility in terms of time and location. Our desire is not only to attract, but also to retain specialized personnel!
This article is part of a series of interviews for which the COMPUTER WORLD interviewed around 50 top managers from the IT industry. You can read more interviews in the next few weeks on computerwelt.at.