“Agility is no longer a trend.”

Demographic transformation, customer centricity and cloudification – in this interview Bernd Appel, Managing Director of Lufthansa Industry Solutions explains how the company is successfully addressing these developments.

Mr. Appel, many IT service providers achieved double-digit growth last year. They expect much lower growth in 2019. Do you agree?

According to current forecasts, we will continue to grow this year. That is because the factors that drove growth last year remain topical – whether artificial intelligence, data analytics or topics relating to security. Of course, our industry is affected by the economic situation, like any other. If trade disputes or Brexit result in a recession, it will affect everyone’s business in equal measure. The shortage of qualified staff could also limit growth.

But Lufthansa Industry Solutions has recently been able to attract more new staff than other employers.

Yes, that’s true. So far we have been very successful in recruiting staff. That is probably because of the company’s special features: Lufthansa Industry Solutions is structured like an SME but with the support of a corporate group. That gives our employees a lot of creative freedom, along with security.
Both are important in times of demographic transformation. In the future, employee retention will be an even more important factor for success. Because, if you want to grow, then you need enough of the right staff. And everyone else needs that too.

Bernd Appel - Managing Director bei LHIND

The factors that drove growth last year remain topical – whether artificial intelligence, data analytics or topics relating to security.

Bernd Appel, Managing Director of Lufthansa Industry Solutions

On the topic of customer centricity, have you noticed an increased demand for customer-centric software?

The level of focus on customer experience depends on the industry. It has increased in industries that are close to the end-customer, such as the automotive sector. In the automotive industry, customer centricity can give you a competitive advantage. And that is exactly why companies are increasingly taking advantage of the technological possibilities. For example, AR applications are helping car dealers by making it easier for their customers to configure a new car.

For a long time customer experience was the domain of digital agencies, rather than IT service providers.

That’s true. Digital agencies often have a decisive advantage when it comes to projects with a focus on CX. They are directly in contact with the specialist department responsible. If the marketing department wants to create a new app, or if sales wants to modernize its CRM, then they often speak to the digital agency they already work with first. If the digital agency has the required IT knowledge, then the company’s IT department may not know about the project at all, let alone its IT service provider.

How can IT consultants keep up, if specialist departments are managing an increasing number of projects?

Here the move towards agile methods helps. Agility is no longer a trend. It is a fact of life, and an important criterion for customers when they award contracts. As an IT service provider, we have the advantage that agile methods have been standard in our industry for some time.
In agile projects and organizations, the first question is: who is the product owner? Today that is often not an IT specialist, but instead someone from the specialist department. They are the decision maker. As owner, they control the budget and are the client of the internal IT department and the service provider. That means they also need information about the technological possibilities and the feasibility of the project. If we support them at that stage, then we don’t need to do any convincing. We can join the project on an equal footing and help move it forward, because the benefits are equally clear to everyone – the specialist department, the IT department and service providers.

Agility is a fact of life, and an important criterion for customers when they award contracts. As an IT service provider, we have the advantage that agile methods have been standard in our industry for some time.

Bernd Appel - Managing Director bei LHIND
Bernd Appel
Managing Director of Lufthansa Industry Solutions

Are there still areas where there is significant demand for advice?

Definitely. Let’s consider the example of the cloud. Even if the technology is established at the company and everyone thinks they understand it, there are still a lot of open questions: How can I best utilize the advantages of the cloud? Which cloud strategy is best for me? Which data should I migrate – and which should I keep? Many companies are asking themselves these questions, not least because of SAP’s cloudification strategy. And they need us to help answer them. Of course, these developments also increase demands in terms of IT security, because companies are moving a lot into the cloud.

The increasing quantity of data is another important factor. Companies have to carefully consider which data they want to extract and process to generate useful information. Experts from the data analytics department can help. Topics such as IT security and data analytics remain current and are becoming increasingly important. That means our industry will have plenty to do in the future.