Purpose in the Digital Age

Perspective 2019 – Strategy and Technology Conference

Reflection on Perspective 2019

On November 7, Crisp Research invited to the fifth edition of the technology and strategy conference Perspective in Frankfurt’s Palmengarten, which was organized for the first time together with Catalysts as Cloudflight group, to this year’s main topic “Purpose in the Digital Age”. More than 140 IT and digital decision-makers from CIO, CTO and CDO followed the invitation and came together to exchange views on one of today’s most pressing topics: The purpose of digitization initiatives and the responsibility of companies for the digital age of tomorrow. 

Dr Carlo Velten immediately summed up the relevance of this year’s topic in his opening keynote. Social change, progressive automation and environmental protection will be the determining forces in the coming years. The increasing change in values in society means that customers and employees, in particular, are more critical of entrepreneurial action. More and more companies are being asked to take up socio-political challenges and offer solutions through the use of digital technologies. The acceptance of new products and services ultimately depends on whether companies can offer a purpose and credibly position themselves through the development of sustainable technologies and innovative use-cases.

The fact that the relevance of a digital purpose has meanwhile also reached the IT and digital economy was shown by the following contributions of this year’s guests. Daniel Krauss, CIO of Flixbus, used the history of the German flagship start-up to illustrate how important the topic of corporate responsibility has become over the years. Started as a bus company, Flixbus is able to model demand-oriented traffic through the use of data and algorithms. The utilization of buses and trains can thus be guaranteed in the best possible way. In addition, innovative technologies such as operation with hydrogen cells are increasingly being considered in order to meet the increased demands of stakeholders.

Anna Viegener, shareholder and CSO at Viega, showed how the digital transformation in a traditional family business is structured – especially in the Purpose paradigm. Founded in 1899, the company has always connected people with the most vital good: water. Despite its innovative leadership in pipe connection technology, it is essential to exploit the potential of digitisation and to position itself for the coming years. As part of the digitisation offensive, which is driven in particular by the use of BIM (Building Information Modelling), Viega is focusing in particular on the quality of drinking water and energy efficiency. In this context, the shareholder makes it clear that Purpose and Profit are not opposites, but that Purpose – correctly used – has a positive influence on profit.

Taking the audience to the digital playground is what Laura Tönnies concluded with her lecture. At the age of 24, she is the founder and managing director of the Munich IoT-Start Up Corrux and has the ambition to make the construction industry smarter by using technology. Through intelligent networking and monitoring systems, maintenance, in particular, can be optimized. Fewer equipment failures and less downtime on the construction site in favour of higher efficiency and better utilization is the primary objective pursued by Corrux with the help of IoT solutions.

The speakers then met again at the panel to discuss how corporate and digital strategies can be combined with a corporate purpose. Thomas Stoek, CEO of Cloudflight, Laura Tönnies, CEO and founder of Corrux, Anna Viegener, shareholder and CSO at Viega and Daniel Krauss, CIO at Flixbus, moderated by Dr Carlo Velten, joined the discussion.

How is it to work on a project of Elon Musk? Christian Federspiel, founder and managing director of the Cloudflight subsidiary Catalysts, answered this question in his speech. Since 2016, Catalysts has been an investor and development partner in the Hyperloop project which aims to revolutionize the global mobility and transport industry with high-speed trains. The company was able to assert itself against well-known applicants from Silicon Valley and has been supporting the hyper-collaborative project ever since. “We need a revolution in transport. Transport needs to become faster, cheaper and more environmentally friendly”, Federspiel explains the participation in the Hyperloop.

“Germany needs a strong railway”, Jörn Petereit, VP IoT/M2M at DB Systel, started his presentation with this statement. “#StarkeSchiene” is Deutsche Bahn’s project for the future and is intended on the one hand to provide better connections and interconnectivity within Europe and on the other to make a massive contribution to achieving climate targets. In the implementation of the initiative digitalisation in particular plays a special role – more specifically the use of digital twins. According to Petereit, they will transform the railway system into an intelligent, network-enabled and automated overall system which forms the basis for Deutsche Bahn’s future project.

Digital transformation is always an immense process of change. Employees must learn new competencies and skills as well as how to deal with new technologies. In the context of automation in particular, however, there are still many uncertainties and fears that need to be taken seriously and addressed at an early stage. Dr. Lars Schatilow, Leader Digital Change and Transformation at IBM Germany, together with the expert for Change Management & Organizational Behaviour Dr. Hans-Joachim Gergs from Audi, showed how a change process that is caused by the use of chatbots and AI can be moderated and why a self-commitment – a Human Friendly Automation Charter – is indispensable in this context.

The fact that climate protection goes far beyond discussions about CO2 emissions became clear in the lecture by Michael Aspetsberger, Head of Aerospace and HPC at Catalysts. Aerosol detection is a crucial variable for a better and more comprehensive understanding of global climate change. Aerosols are the smallest particles in the atmosphere that can be made visible and measurable by the use of satellite technologies. When Big Data comes into contact with the climate, it is, in this case, a collaboration with the ESA that emerges in which the world’s best algorithm for aerosol recognition was written. Catalysts is thus making a massive contribution to a better understanding of climate development.

Principal Analyst and IoT Practice Lead Dr Stefan Ried as well as Cloud Practice Lead Max Hille from Crisp Research took the analyst’s perspective on the subject of Purpose. In his presentation, Ried pointed out that the translation of digital initiatives into physical reality is indispensable for a credible digital purpose. According to the Principal Analyst, the Internet of Things is in a position to deliver on this promise because it makes the added value of a digital project tangible in the literal sense of the word for the various stakeholders, especially consumers. He also dared to take a look into the future with the conference participants and presented the IT trends for 2020. (You can read a detailed report here in German.)

Looking for the Purpose in the Cloud, Max Hille was eventually successful on his quest. The cloud or cloud computing is regarded as enabler par excellence. Working in the cloud is the basis for all scalable digital projects. Besides, it creates connections between people and working groups, transcending countries and cultures. Especially due to the current developments in Cloud Computing from Cloud Native and Open Source, software products and digital business are gaining an increasing human component.

For the final panel, our guests and participants came together once again to talk about the idea to the implementation of ambitious digital projects. How Digital Dreams at Scale can look like was discussed under the moderation of Max Hille by Michael Aspetsberger, Leader Aerospace & HPC at Catalysts, Principal Analyst Dr. Stefan Ried, Jörn Petereit, VP IoT/M2M at DB Systel, Dennis Birkhölzer, Coach and Consultant at SpinLab Leipzig and Marcel Wyss, owner of UNIVERSAL Feuerlöschgeräte AG.

In the course of the event, it became clear once again that digital education – the learning of new skills and the use of new tools – is a central fundament for the future. On the occasion and theme of this year’s Perspective, Cloudflight decided to support the initiative “Digital Heroes” with a donation of 1,000 Euro to promote the correct use of digital media in schools. Managing directors Gregory Grund and Julia Dietz took over the donation check on behalf of the team.

In conclusion, there is only one thing left for us to do: we would like to say thank you for a great event which also showed in its fifth year how important it is to exchange ideas with the industry. We would like to thank our numerous speakers for their insights into their day-to-day business and the exciting digital offensives. We also would like to thank our sponsors and partners, IBM and TechData, as well as the Funkschau whose support made such an event possible in the first place. And last but not least we would like to thank our participants for the inspiring discussions and conversations!

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