As CENIT’s new CEO, you’ve only had the chance to meet a few of our staffers – because of Covid, many of us spend most of our working days at the home office. How do you manage to get to know your colleagues in this situation?
To make up for the lack of encounters in our CENIT Lounge, I go walking through the offices and talk to whoever is available. I like to do this anyway – I come from a region in Germany where people have an outgoing nature, and otherwise I feel that something’s missing.
Beyond that, I actively organize meet-and-greet opportunities with colleagues. We always find some way to bridge the gap – in Year Two of the pandemic, the web meeting format is no longer a hindrance to a relaxed and open exchange of views.
So if Covid does get in the way, we use Teams. Health comes first after all, and I respect it when someone prefers a remote meeting. That’s perfectly all right with me.
Together with Kurt Bengel, I’ve also been on the road quite a bit, traveling within Germany but also to our international locations wherever that was possible. We managed to organize these handover meetings at our important branch offices in France and the US. Romania is next, but because of the pandemic we had to have virtual meetings with Japan and China – for now.
In this way, I managed to benefit from many inspiring encounters with the people who make up CENIT.
How would you describe CENIT’s culture? What defines us as partners in digitalization?
The market talks a lot about “trusted advisors”. CENIT is one of the players for which this role has been second nature for years! It’s precisely the part we play, and so it’s no surprise that we support major businesses on a continual basis, for years and decades.
Along with the attributes and abilities needed to act as a partner in digitalization, we bring a certain down-to-earth quality to the table. That’s right and good because it’s where our can-do attitude and our hands-on mentality comes from. But sometimes we tend to be a bit too modest in the way we present ourselves.
Perhaps a bit of international savoir faire can help us in this regard. We deal face to face with major decision-makers in our markets, both at customer level and with our partners, and we should feel comfortable making this known to the outside world.
What made you want to head this particular company?
For one thing, it’s a portfolio perspective. I’ve always been a great fan of software products that need some explaining, that’s been with me throughout my career.
Also, I believe that CENIT has the prerequisites for outstanding business success. The high degree of expertise is very apparent to me. And beyond our technical excellence and our best-in-class solutions, there’s our impressive clientele. CENIT supports European and to some extent global hidden champions, as well as major players like Daimler, Airbus and Allianz.
All this contributes to a very exciting foundation on which we, as a team, can build the next stage of our growth. That’s an exhilarating challenge for any company manager!
You have an international leadership biography. How will CENIT and our stakeholders profit from that?
There are different aspects to this, depending on the stakeholders. Let me examine some of these, starting with our customers.
In the B2B world, we in Germany tend to focus on our excitement about the technology. In doing so, we sometimes fall short in communicating the actual benefits to our customers. Why should they in fact decide to make a specific investment? This is an approach that’s familiar to me from the Anglo-American part of the world. There, they focus more on the advantages and improvements the customer will gain from buying a certain software. And these aspects must be addressed.
Thinking from the customer perspective also means that together we give our business units and competencies visibility in order to showcase all the development opportunities we offer our client businesses.
Another task that I see for CENIT staff all around the world is eliminating silos: We must see ourselves as a single entity. We recognize our internationality and leverage it as a positive force. From my family background and my professional experience, I have seen for myself how enriching it can be to engage in cultural exchange. This is an impulse, a spirit which I would like to impart to the CENIT community and the way it develops.
I also contribute an international perspective to management regarding the way we interact with strategic partners, investors, banks and other capital market institutions.
With partners, awareness of common ground grows when one views things from a global perspective. This is where you meet at eye level.
My style is also influenced by Anglo-American perceptions when it comes to capital markets. I believe in transparent communication. It should be natural for us to talk about what we are working on, what values we are creating and what might not be going ideally at the moment. In this way we build trust, bind our investors to us and attract new ones.
One field in which I would like to bring CENIT as a whole up to international standards is the way we deal with ESG guidelines. Our position and our reporting on the three challenges environmental, social and corporate governance are fundamental to how we are evaluated on both the capital market and the employment market. Talents question what a company stands for. They don’t just want to do a 9 to 5 job making whatever product. They measure themselves against the underlying purpose and want to recognize themselves in what they do: “At CENIT, I drive digitalization in manufacturing and the financial industry. My AI simplified assembly processes for that plane up there, and the insurance app on my neighbor’s cell phone was created by my team.”
What goals have you set – for yourself personally as CEO and for the company? How would you describe your vision?
Our leadership team has just completed a process aimed at strengthening our vision for CENIT. “We are the champion of process digitalization in product lifecycle and document logistics“, is one of the guiding principles we subscribe to.
We pool our resources to work toward this vision. We are gearing up for a development path toward an EBIT of about 10 per cent. That’s the goal line. This growth won’t just be organic, it will also be driven by acquisitions – in Europe and the US over the next five years, and thereafter perhaps in other markets as well.
My goal for myself is to lead CENIT as a company where the staff are thrilled to work. In my view, there are two perspectives involved here.
The first is the success perspective: Most people want to work in a prospering environment. You have to keep coming back to this aspect. If things are going forward, people want to be part of it.
The second, complementary consideration is that employees want to be able to recognize their individual contribution to the company and measure it against the company’s targets. I have to know how important what I do every day actually is and how it relates to CENIT’s vision. I’m convinced that this creates flow and unleashes additional resources. Target-setting and similar mechanisms only produce limited motivation in terms of going the extra mile. It makes a big difference if I do something because I’m convinced of it and enjoy it. This is what we have to foster among our employees. At CENIT, people should believe that the time they put in is spent meaningfully.
Another objective I have set for myself is to build a team that’s good enough to make me expendable, so that when I reach the end of my useful service life I can hand CENIT over to a better successor. Someone who will lift the company to the next level and go beyond what I may have been able to do.
Which market trends do you see as particularly profitable for CENIT?
First I’d like to mention cloud technology, which has finally become popular with decision-makers in Germany as well. There is less caution, there are fewer concerns and reservations. Many people understand now that purely on-premises installations can no longer meet the expectations they have of their business processes. They have to find new roads, and those all lead to the cloud. The cost benefits lighten the load.
We can extensively consult for and fully implement the step into the cloud with respect to the product development process and document logistics – so here I see us ideally placed at just the right time.
The same applies to the digitalization trend generally. Currently, there are several catalysts driving digital change in the private sector: certainly the Covid pandemic, but also public subsidy programs aimed at bringing industry up to digital world market level, as well as the transformation of information technology in industrialized nations which is finally getting off the ground.
As a result, business has a growing need for Trusted Advisors, and as I mentioned I believe we are ideally placed to serve the manufacturing sector as well as the financial services and insurance industry in this role.
One topic which we plan to address more heavily is robotic process automation, or RPA, in combination with artificial intelligence. I see enormous potential for this technology in most of our target markets.
To make your vision a reality, we’ll need an inspired and energetic team. Like many other companies, we too are looking for new talent. A question to a new CENIT recruit: What makes us the absolutely right choice?
I know only very few companies on the market – and I mean not just in Germany, but internationally – that have such a future-oriented portfolio. Here at CENIT, we are working on the future of digitalization, and doing so in teams of experts which address these issues at a truly unparalleled level. Being part of this must speak to anyone with a passion for exciting challenges.
We find ourselves on the cusp of fundamental change. The market and its special workings are seeing to that. I have a few ideas, and there will indeed be change. This environment and the many tasks facing us will automatically produce a wealth of opportunities to get ahead. All the more so on an international playing field! What potential job applicant would want to miss out on those chances?