Martin Hager, Founder and Managing Director of Retarus, talks to the COMPUTER world about 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 the coming year. […]
What lessons can be learned from 2021 in general and from the corona crisis in particular for the future?
Good leadership is irreplaceable in difficult times. In particular, good bosses are distinguished by good communication – without panic and consistently. In German-speaking countries, the saying is often used that talking is silver, but silence is gold. Communication is often classified as not so relevant. However, in times of contact avoidance, in which one hardly meets in person and the personal exchange is missing, communication is all the more important. In the corona crisis, probably everyone has several worries: Will I stay healthy? How does this crisis affect society and the economy? Will I keep my job? At the very least, concern for the workplace can take away good communication in the company from employees. This also means that you don’t promise anything frivolously if you can’t see everything yet. Good communication creates trust and confidence. The catastrophic effects that poor communication can have can be seen from what has been spread about the supposed dangers of vaccination against COVID 19.
Another lesson is: “prepare for the unprepared”. We have benefited greatly from the fact that we have had pandemic plans in the drawer for years, which have incredibly helped us to switch from now on to mobile working right away. It pays to always have the infrastructure up to date in order to be able to react quickly.
In your opinion, how will the corona crisis affect the IT industry, companies and our society in the coming year?
This is a very broad question. It is now a truism that the corona crisis has massively pushed digitization and cloudification. In addition, the communication, meeting and working culture have changed significantly, especially in non-manufacturing industries without direct customer contact. And the conditions of competition are shifting due to different presence possibilities. Personally, I very much hope that the trenches that the crisis is currently dragging into society can be filled up again after the pandemic.
“The catastrophic effects that poor communication can have can be seen from what has been spread about the supposed dangers of vaccination against COVID 19.“
What were your professional and personal highlights in 2021?
A lot of positive feedback from employees. Clear communication during the pandemic. That you have one less worry with us. The possibilities of being able to be super flexible in childcare in difficult times, especially for families – with closed daycare centers and without grandparents who could no longer take care of the children due to the corona-related contact restrictions.
Which topics do you think should be at the top of the agenda of IT managers in the coming year and why or which IT topics will play a particularly important role in 2022?
The transition from on-prem to service, cloud or SAAS is certainly a very important topic. Because managing services requires much less effort than updating software. Other topics, the relevance of which will certainly not decrease, are data protection and European data processing. Here, pressure must be exerted on those providers who are subject to the Cloud Act. Violations of the GDPR involve major, even personal, risks. The penalties become draconian and you can not insure yourself for these cases. Europe must become more self-confident in this area and achieve legal compliance through models such as data trusteeship. Providers like to claim that this is not possible, because everything runs globally on a large platform. Nevertheless, it has been shown time and again that it was possible for other markets, for example China, to have separate installations available.
The last two years have been marked by the pandemic and accelerated digitization and brought us hybrid working models. After the pandemic, it is important to deal with the next – bigger – crisis, the climate crisis. How do you think companies have to change in terms of sustainability? What specific measures are you/is your company planning for 2022 and beyond?
Sustainability starts with developing an awareness of it. We often talk about consumption. Wherever possible, we have always focused on a conscious use of resources. For example, the electricity for the data center in Munich, which we operate ourselves, comes 100 percent from hydropower. With our data centers, which we operate with colocation providers, we have no influence on the electricity mix.
We attach great importance to efficient travel planning – where to go with which means of transport? It is often better to take the train, but not always. When traveling to our more distant branches, air travel cannot be avoided. But often you can combine them with a vacation and then save the extra vacation flight.
We have always paid attention to low fleet consumption in our company cars. Cars with plug-in hybrid drive only get employees who can demonstrably recharge their batteries at home. Even the best battery support is counterproductive if the charging cable is returned in its original packaging at the end of the leasing period.
The longevity of investments is often forgotten. Products must become more sustainable. For example, notebooks, which usually have to be replaced every three years, because then, after numerous operating system updates, they are no longer performant. Individual components such as memory or battery can no longer be expanded or replaced in many devices to increase the usage time.
We can have more influence when redesigning our offices with new furniture. We have deliberately opted for quality furniture. Of course, there are considerably cheaper office furniture. But those who buy cheap, buy twice. And we have the claim to want to use the equipment for at least 15 years again, without sitting at shaky tables.
“Today, at school, children are taught exclusively how to use Microsoft products. This cannot be the school’s job. It has to be much more in the basic training and in arousing enthusiasm for IT and the creative component of it among the students.“
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.?
As a German, I cannot speak for other companies, especially in Austria, and would never presume to do so. Due to our business model, we are used to working in a ticket- and documentation-oriented way. This has been tried and tested over many years and is lived by us in our own agile mix. For us as a company with branches on four continents and several regional locations in individual countries, working in distributed teams has long been a matter of course. That’s why Retarus was ideally positioned for this from the first day of the pandemic-related lockdowns. In addition, we benefit from the fact that we operate our data centers ourselves and have extensive line capacities.
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?
No improvement is expected in the coming years. Every change takes time, the realization that IT professionals are scarce is cheap, but you have to take action to change that.
What annoys me: I came to IT at the beginning of the 80s through school through a computer science inclination group. There, in our free time, under the guidance of teachers and students, we learned how computers work and how to write software. There was no such thing for my four children, who went to school in two countries for 12 to 13 years each, for a long time. Today, the children there are taught exclusively how to operate Microsoft products. This cannot be the school’s job. It has to be much more in the basic training and in arousing enthusiasm for IT and the creative component of it among the students. They should not be trimmed from the beginning to consumers. Industry associations are also massively in demand to support here.
We help ourselves by educating ourselves. Retarus has been a training company for over 25 years and I am proud that over time many of our trainees have won master prizes. And when people who have been trained with us make a career with world market leaders, I am very pleased.
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.