German IT Leader Congress: what IT can learn from music and football

The German IT Leader Congress brought together IT leaders, managers, CTOs, CIOs from all over Germany, working in middle and large size companies across various industries: construction, healthcare, automotive, manufacturing – to name a few.Over the two days, attendees and speakers for the event discussed the main issues in IT in Germany and where it is still needed. They also suggested solutions for overcoming these.

The main challenges for IT in Germany today

1. Infrastructure challenges

A lot of the discussions at the German IT Leader Congress revolved around network infrastructure. In Germany, fiber optic data cables, which are at least 20 times faster than a regular DSL connection, are barely available outside of big cities. Also, in 2015, Germany was one of the EU countries with less than 1% of homes using fiber-optics broadband. (source)

Image sourceEven if it’s one of the strongest economies, Germany takes one of the lower positions when it comes to network infrastructure.This means slower internet speeds within and across the country, which is a pretty serious problem. Even if there are plans to invest in IT infrastructure and catch up to date, Germany has a lot of ground to make up.

2. Legacy systems

Besides network infrastructure, Germany is also battling legacy technologies. A lot of companies use software solutions that rely on older technologies or even outdated processed for tasks that require a higher capacity or a higher performance. When automation, AI and chatbots are increasingly used in production environments connected to enterprise systems, outdated processes based on Excel block efficiency and take up a lot of time.As it has invested a lot in existing solutions, Germany is a bit afraid of change mainly because technologies evolve very fast. Additionally, it tends to have a preference for comfort, routine, and safety, with a slight apprehension of new technologies. However, if Germany doesn’t jump on the innovation wagon, it risks losing their current position as one of the world’s leading economies.Yet, even with awareness of this risk and the fear that accompanies it, the investment in the next step is yet to be made.

3. Data security

Cybersecurity is also a topic Germany pays very much attention to. Generally, they take all the necessary precautions against getting hacked or against unauthorized access to their system. Security is highly important for them, and to some extent, it casts a barrier towards speeding things up in the direction they want to go.

Existing threats

The situation wouldn’t be so dire, were it not for existing outside threats.The problem isn’t so much that Germany isn’t using new technology. The problem is that there are countries and companies that are way ahead of it.Take, for instance, car manufacturing. With a little over 5.5 million vehicles produced in 2017 (source), Germany is currently the third largest car manufacturer in the world. Yet, Daimler, which produces Mercedes, is currently way behind Tesla, which produces electric vehicles.Threats aren’t coming only from companies. They also come from other states. China, for example, was often mentioned due to its advanced robotics and digitization. Despite the political perspective and despite the fact that it’s not a democratic country, China is one of the major worldwide investors in technology. Moreover, it’s one of the world’s leading adopters of new technologies, with varying degrees of digitization across industries. (source) Their situation actually became an advantage for digital development as everything moved forward a lot faster when the state made a serious push in that direction.

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How to bridge the gap and become an IT leader

The overall message of the event was pretty clear: Germany must immediately take small steps toward investing in new technologies. This applies both to infrastructure and enterprise applications.To this end, a lot of the speeches delivered by professors, bloggers, authors, and journalists were centered around motivation, change and the courage to change. While some presentations featured a lot of market examples, others focused on the start small and fail fast mantra in order to mitigate risk and impact, but keep moving forward.Joey Kelly, one of the members of the Kelly Family gave a very good speech on how to achieve goals. Their story is impressive: as a family, they started singing on streets and after that toured as a family. Everything the Kelly Family achieved was due to the fact that they use the same strategy a company would use to work together towards their goals. Even if they don’t do shows anymore, Joe Kelly settled in Germany a long time ago. He currently participates in a lot of physical contests, and he’s very active. Also, he challenges himself regularly (walking from Warnemünde to Zugspitze Bavaria, for example), maintaining the motivation to achieve his goals.Another great speech came from Urs Meier, the second best referee in the world. He talked about making decisions, and how hard that can be. Sometimes, you have to make decisions on the fly. Often, as a referee, you have just a few seconds to give a new chance. You know that some of the audience will hate you, but others will love you.Even if things aren’t looking very good, there is an interest for change.

To sum up

With threats coming both from companies and other countries, the risk of lagging behind is very real. If Germany won’t start doing something about these areas, others will gain momentum, possibly even overcoming them. Germany’s situation is similar to Switzerland’s, which lost the leading position to Apple as the former sold more watches over last year. (source)Just like Joe Kelly and Urs Meier, IT leaders need to set goals, stay motivated and make decisions towards achieving those goals. The secret is getting started, starting as small as possible. Starting small provides enough encouragement to spark a change, mitigate risks while moving forward.With Asia and America in the lead in the platform economy, Europe – and Germany included – needs to step up its innovation and development game in order to stay relevant.

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