With the IT Agenda 2030 and comprehensive change management, CIO Volker Maennle is fueling the digital transformation at the automation provider FANUC Europe. […]
To talk to us, Volker Maennle wears a T-shirt with the inscription “BOOST” under the jacket. “BOOST will accelerate your business,” he explains the meaning. Actually, the abbreviation stands for “Building operational excellence based on simplifying technology” and describes one of the most important IT transformation projects of FANUC Europe. BOOST is also part of the “IT Agenda 2030”, which the company has been pursuing since 2020.
FANUC Europe is a subsidiary of the Japanese FANUC Corp., which is one of the world market leaders in the field of factory automation. From its European headquarters in Echternach, Luxembourg, the subsidiary supports the 24 European branches with core functions in the areas of sales and service, supply chain, human resources and IT.
When Maennle moved from the technology group Heraeus to FANUC in August 2020, one of his first tasks was to develop an IT agenda. But can it be planned for ten years in advance? – You can, says the CIO: “The Japanese are planning for the long term. After all, a strategic decision for an SAP system, for example, is definitely about such periods of time.“ For him, the associated goal is decisive: the historically grown IT as a predominantly supporting function should change in the direction of a strategic role that enables innovations and fuels growth.
Derived from the IT agenda, Maennle defined a “Strategic ICT Roadmap” for the coming years, which is adjusted every twelve months. “We focus on platforms,” he explains. This usually refers to cloud platforms. FANUC Europe is striving for a “cloud-first” strategy. Only a few systems with particularly sensitive data should remain in-house in the long term.
Maennle has already completed part of the roadmap. One of the key projects is a customer portal, which he realizes with the help of SAP CX Commerce Cloud. The technical basis is SAPS Business Technology Platform. In the midst of the corona pandemic, FANUC Europe also said goodbye to classic on-premise systems such as Office 2013 and migrated to Microsoft 365 within 12 months. The long-used collaboration system Cisco Webex was retired and replaced by Microsoft Teams.
The Europe-wide implementation of an SD-WAN infrastructure has already been completed. A pilot project will start at the end of 2022 with the aim of moving parts of the data center infrastructure to the cloud. It remains to be seen whether FANUC will ultimately pursue a single or a multicloud strategy with multiple providers.
The BOOST project is also critical to the success of the digital transformation and is still in full swing. The CIO is thus pursuing several ambitious goals at once. This includes leaner business processes, self-service and automation features for customers and users as well as a harmonized application landscape with fewer legacy systems, but also a “single source of truth” for important business data and a simplified IT operating model.
Maennle, a graduate in business administration with extensive experience in corporate IT, sees himself well equipped to drive digital transformation at FANUC. Already as an e-business consultant at Burda Digital Systems, he dealt with customer portals for several years. Topics such as UI/UX and e-commerce were among his main focuses. Later, he worked for the technology group Heraeus for more than ten years. As Senior Vice President Global Infrastructure &IT Service Management, he was most recently responsible for all data centers and was involved in projects for the consolidation of SAP R/3 systems. “I benefit from these experiences today,” says the CIO.
Maennle also had to deal with the topic of IT Service management (ITSM) at FANUC. Within four months, he replaced the previous system with a platform from ServiceNow. Employees can now easily obtain IT services and equipment through a digital shop. The IT BOSS refers above all to the efficiency gains associated with this: “This frees up resources for important strategic projects.“
This is increasingly the case in the area of IT security. Like many other CIOs, Maennle reports a sharp increase in cyber attacks since the beginning of the Ukraine war. But FANUC Europe is well prepared against attacks: “We have invested massively and, for example, set up a security Operations Center (SoC) in 2021.“ Since the migration to Microsoft 365, two-factor user authentication has been mandatory for all applications.
Together with colleagues from other areas such as business process management, the IT manager is also driving forward the cross-departmental change management initiative FXX. F stands for FANUC, x for Xponential growth, user Xperience and Xcellence. “We have to take the employees with us in the digital transformation and create an awareness that everything we do is connected,” he explains the background. It should be clear to everyone what the change means for him and his team. For this purpose, the FANUC subsidiary has introduced a number of new information and communication formats.
Every two weeks, for example, team leaders and employees meet for the “Ask the change leader” dialogue format to exchange ideas on current topics. Once a month, executives organize a training event on IT and digital topics, including business intelligence, data and analytics, with “Lunch & LearnX”X”. The change initiative also includes the content hub “Change Microsite FXX, which is open to all employees and management.
Maennle’s organizational anchoring at the top management level is also helpful for strategic IT projects. As CIO, he reports directly to Shinichi Tanzawa, President & CEO of Fanuc Europe Corporation. He also sits on various international committees to coordinate with IT managers in other regions.
Maennle is cautious about broad-based agile transformation projects, as some IT organizations of large companies are currently pursuing: “Many are now riding the agile wave and are completely rebuilding IT”. However, this often does not fit the way internal customers work. “We do it situationally.“
The introduction of the new CRM system from Salesforce, for example, was organized using agile methods, which were supported by both IT and the specialist department. The bottom line is that FANUC-IT in Europe pursues a hybrid approach: in individual projects or project phases, you work according to agile principles, in others you use classic methods or a combination.
Maennle is also critical of the concept of two-speed IT (Bimodal IT), which was once propagated by Gartner. In his opinion, the ongoing IT operation and IT-driven innovations and improvements should be managed by a single team: “The distinction between an old and a new world makes no sense in practice.” His idea of the future of corporate IT fits in with this: “IT will eventually merge with business.“
*Wolfgang Herrmann is Editorial Manager CIO Magazine at IDG Business Media. Previously, he was Deputy Editorial Director of the IDG publications COMPUTERWOCHE and CIO and editor-in-chief of the sister publication TecChannel.