Interview about digital transformation with HR-Executive and CDO

Photo: Bettina Engel-Albustin (Dirk Müller), Jens Müller (Heidi Moser)

The strategic orientation of many companies is focused on digital transformation and the handling of disruptive business models. The digital revolution has also created a new position in management: corporations are increasingly appointing their own Chief Digital Officer or CDO for short, to tackle the mega trend of digitalisation. But what are the most important levers to manage digital change successfully, and where are interfaces to HR management? After all, it is the employees that have to support and shape the change. At Zukunft Personal Europe, keynote speakers Dirk Müller, CIO of Franz Haniel & Cie. and CEO of the digital unit Schacht One, and Heidi Moser, Head of HR at ratioform Verpackungen GmbH, will provide orientation and impulses in a joint keynote. In an advance interview, we spoke with them both about the collaboration between CDOs and HR managers.

Ms Moser, do you see yourself e.g. the HR department as the driver of digital transformation in your company? Perhaps even as a role model?

Heidi Moser: In a way, yes. Even though our CDO is the main driver, HR plays a central role at ratioform. We are like a spider in a web. We are in constant dialogue with managers and employees from all specialist areas, and use these discussions, quite incidentally, to influence the speed of the transformation and to shape mindset.
In recruiting, we take great care to get new colleagues with a digital mindset on board. For me, the key to success lies solely in the interaction of the right new heads and step-by-step change. In this respect, we in HR are a constant driver of change.

Mr Müller, if the Chief Digital Officer does his job well, he will eventually make himself unemployed – do you agree with this statement?

Dirk Müller: That’s what people generally say… But, I’m no longer so sure. If the sole role of the CDO were to push change and transformation, then this would probably be the case. But most of the time the CDO is more a role that has other tasks in the company. In IT or marketing, for example, or he is ultimately the head of a division that drives innovative business model topics forward. So perhaps development is more towards a Head of Innovation and Change in the future. I don’t think such a task will become superfluous…

Ms Moser, what projects have you already implemented together with Ms Elke Katz, your company’s CDO?

Heidi Moser: In 2016, we launched the “New Ways of Working” programme. We are working on changing working patterns and methods, corporate communications, mindset, personnel management and organisational structures in the course of digital transformation. We have consciously implemented this programme in such a holistic way because our leverage lies in new ways of working and behaving for the entire workforce. For instance, the introduction of Office 365 is part of the programme and not just an IT project, because our goal is collaborative work for as many use cases as feasible and possible.

Mr Müller, can a CDO compensate for the management’s lack of digital competence or is IT know-how indispensable for a CEO today?

Dirk Müller: Today’s CEO already requires a certain affinity – but above all he needs to be open to the possibilities of digitalisation. Of course – in digitally born companies you don’t need a CDO – in traditional companies it is often more like a team of CEO and CDO (often also CTO). But, the CDO must then also have appropriate powers in the company and be close to top management or preferably in it.

How do you see the distribution of tasks and roles of CDOs and HR in relation to the digital transformation of companies? Where are there interfaces?

Dirk Müller: The transformation part has a lot to do with HR – HR can function as an enabler here. The CDO makes the potential for change obvious, and HR has the tools and skills to implement the necessary changes.
Heidi Moser: There’s nothing to add to that.

The transformation part has a lot to do with HR - HR can function as an enabler here. Click To Tweet

How do you guarantee that all employees benefit from digital transformation and are able to use the new tools and possibilities efficiently?

Dirk Müller: I can’t guarantee that for the group, of course. However, at Schacht One we focus not only on projects but also on knowledge and networking. Here, we try to pool our knowledge about methods as well as new technologies, and bring them into the group in different formats.
For me, transformation succeeds above all through participation. That’s why we try to work together with our colleagues on practical projects.
Heidi Moser: We launched “Ambassadors of Change” at ratioform in 2016, and invited employees from all areas to participate. Parallel to this, we offered a series of courses in agile methods, designed a company-wide “Agile Driver” programme with colleagues from TAKKT AG and had projects accompanied by agile coaches. Here, too, we took care to train employees, project managers and managers equally. We are currently shifting our focus from the ambassadors to those actively moving forward in order to promote the beacon projects that have been created.
For instance, there is now an Agile Circle in the company where one’s own experiences are shared with agile methods.

Mr Müller, you are CEO of the digital unit Schacht One, Ms Moser, among other things your company offers a BA degree in digital business with insights into e-commerce, business intelligence and IT. What qualities and skills do potential applicants need in order to work in these areas? IT know-how? Leadership skills? Business acumen?

Dirk Müller: My employees are trained above all to identify new opportunities and apply them to the business model. Modern management methods such as Design Thinking and Lean Start-up are used here. In the end, it’s the personal drive to make things happen – coupled with a little start-up attitude. But always with an eye for what is really possible in the corporate world.
Heidi Moser: If I were allowed to make a wish, I would say a little of everything. Since you are specifically asking about our courses of study, I have to say that regarding school leavers these expectations are completely unrealistic. We take care to ensure that they have familiarised themselves with the course content and have knowledge of commercial business models, something that is not so difficult in these days of e-commerce. We want to recruit team players who have ideas and visions and are ready to get involved.

And how do you find suitable candidates for these areas, how does recruiting work?

Dirk Müller: We actually only recruit through our own networks. Schacht One’s positive reputation and the excellent development of Zollverein and the Ruhr area in the context of digitalisation help us a lot!
Heidi Moser: In addition to our networks, we also use the traditional channels. The fact that many of our sites, and therefore the workplaces, are located on the city outskirts, including Munich, often makes recruiting difficult. Nevertheless, we always succeed in attracting the right people to the company. What probably plays a big role here is the possibility for any employee who so desires to contribute his ideas. Especially now, in the course of transformation, there are lots of opportunities to actively collaborate in shaping things and implement them quickly. In 2017, we successfully completed 42 projects as part of our digital agenda. That’s a lot for a medium-sized company like ours, and I can see that word is getting round.

Especially now, in the course of transformation, there are lots of opportunities to actively collaborate in shaping things and implement them quickly. Click To Tweet

Heidi Moser

As Head of HR at ratioform, Germany’s market leader in the retail of packaging for mail order, warehousing and the office, Heidi Moser also places great emphasis on the future of digital business. She was previously branch manager of ACTIEF Personalmanagement – The ACTIEF Group, formerly TIMECRAFT Unternehmen für Arbeitnehmerüberlassung GmbH. She graduated from the Lutheran University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg with a degree in social pedagogy, specialising in “social management: personnel work and organisational development”.

Dirk Müller

Dirk Müller is CIO of the family equity company Franz Haniel & Cie. and also CEO of the Haniel digital unit Schacht One. In these positions, he is responsible for the digital transformation of the entire company and the development of new digital business models for the various holdings and divisions of Haniel. As Chief Information Officer, he also manages and coordinates the strategic orientation and positioning of Haniel IT towards internal and external corporate customers.

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