There Are a Lot of Hidden Champions in Germany

Europe, Your Digitalization: a talk with Detecon CEO Heinrich Arnold

Has Germany been left behind when it comes to digitalization? Is Germany at risk of mutating into a digital developing country? Dr. Heinrich Arnold, Detecon CEO, has convincing arguments refuting this thesis and believes that all the horror scenarios are fiction. As a leading technology and management consultancy from Germany, Detecon has set itself the task of making the general public aware of successful digitalization projects. The Detecon jubilee event in 2017 as well as other actions have been used to present examples of successful digital transformation Made in Germany.

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Heinrich Arnold, CEO Detecon
Prof. Dr. Heinrich Arnold

Detecon: What concrete digital success stories à la Digital Change Made in Germany were presented on the occasion of Detecon’s 40th jubilee?

Dr. Heinrich Arnold: For example, Uli Huener; Head of Innovation Management at EnBW, reported on how the analog company EnBW was rigorously transformed into a web company. He shared his experience and described how, with the aid of digital technology, it was possible to optimize both the product and the interface to the customers. Another example: Nils Stamm, CDO of Deutsche Telekom AG, demonstrated how customers help other customers through the use of social platforms – and they have been doing so for seven years! His story described one example of how Telekom has succeeded in adapting to the changes in communication demands of customers in the age of digitalization and social media. These are only two examples of many success stories. We must create a counterpole to the reports in the media, which often cast a negative light on events, and show that Made in Germany is a leader in the digital transformation of tried and proven business models. 

In the middle of the 1980s, Detecon employee Friedhelm Hillebrand was involved in the invention of the text message (SMS) and is regarded as the grandfather of WhatsApp and its fellow apps. To what extent does Detecon continue to be a digital thought leader today?

Detecon has been an active shaper of digitalization from the very beginning – long before the official term “digitalization” had even been coined. The company was founded in response to the development of digital communications technology. The demand for expertise was revolutionary. Detecon was also a development company for the build-up of the first German mobile network and for T-Mobile itself, which was established within Detecon – “incubated” as we would say today. But even today we aspire to being a pioneer for digital technologies by thinking beyond digitalization. Digital followed analog – and what comes next? In the meantime, we are talking about a so-called hybrid combining physical products and digital features in such a way that combined business models result. The objective is to expand physical products by the addition of a digital ecosystem. One question concerns the technology, another is the requirement of a fundamental rethinking of how things are done in the company.

What are concrete examples of hybrid business models already in existence?

One good example is the intelligent connectivity platform Home Connect, which Mario Pieper, CDO of BSH Group, presented to us. With Home Connect, users who are away from home can manage and control various household appliances using their smartphones. New digital contact points give greater depth to the customer relationship. The platform is already available in all product categories with various integrated features in 28 countries and represents yet another outstanding example of a digital success story.

Could the term hybrid be used synonymously to mean “integrating”?

At a minimum, the integrating character is a fundamental component of hybridity: the objective here is intelligent connectivity and communication! It seeks to expand physical products by the addition of a digital ecosystem. By the way, integration was also a subject of our “Best of Best Exhibition” during our jubilee celebrations, which we realized in collaboration with selected partners. We brought together the best from projects and use cases in the sectors Internet of Things, future production, and smart mobility, areas that are currently moving the world and will continue to do so in the truest sense of the word in the future.

Using a miniature truck exhibit, our T-Labs colleagues demonstrated an example of low-cost, ultra-fast prototyping – the remote control of vehicle air conditioning they presented is the first step to IoT applications in the transport sector. Second example: We at Detecon, in collaboration with Software AG, realized the show case of a digital twin in production using (IT) edge in the Fischertechnik factory. This was the digital simulation of a production facility in real time with intelligent production control and predictive maintenance. We are already collaborating with SAG on the development of further scenarios for realization of the digital twin.

Topics relating to security and AR/VR are also the talk of the town at the moment; the SCADA Security project of the T-Labs colleagues is aimed at early recognition of attacks on critical infrastructure in a proprietary hardware solution. The holomarketing app from the colleagues at T-Systems Multimedia Solutions mirrors digital products in holograph projections closely resembling reality. So a real space offers room for a virtual product – which brings us back to the combination of analog and digital!

What is needed specifically to drive digital development forward? 

Partnering is an essential success factor when the aim is to model a functioning, digital, and global ecosystem. We must keep one thing in mind during the implementation of new business models: we can move closer to our goal of realizing worldwide coverage only through cross-industry and international cooperation of companies, research institutes, and digital startups across company borders. The aim is to bring together existing competencies without each participant being required to realize them itself and to turn on the turbocharger for a high-performance ecosystem. In short: to ensure a multilateral form of cooperation. Partnering, think hybrid, and speed up! are the new guiding thoughts. Germany has already internalized this creed and defined its role in the global, digital ecosystem. 

And how do consultants influence intelligent partnering?

First things first: the manner in which products and services are created is changing radically. Away from large, cascade-like steps to smaller, agile concept parts that support the possibilities of the trial and error principle. As part of this transition, the role of the consultants is changing as well. We need team-capable specialists who can deliver all the way to implementation on the basis of trust and personal experience. In the future, the skillful combination of business and technical skills with creative competencies will be a decisive factor for success. The consultants of the future are the ones who, among other things, work and orchestrate as part of a multidisciplinary team. Acting as matchmakers, they will bring together the dimensions of demand and capabilities. In other words, consultants are also drivers and realizers of intelligent partnering. 

In conclusion, this question: Where does Germany stand now really?

Germany is not a developing country – quite the contrary, it is a leading developer country. And Detecon has been right at the forefront for more than 40 years. We emphasize and deepen the successful interplay of physical and digital, of co-innovation, co-creation, and successful partnering. There are a lot of hidden champions in Germany. We have had a glimpse at some of the players who belong to Germany’s digital elite and who are writing digital success stories Made in Germany. We at Detecon are more than happy to contribute to these successes and share our experience with our clients and partners. 

Thank you for the interview!


The interview was conducted by Cosima Brock.

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