Published 01. Dec. 2021

Siemens Mobility’s Bernhard Karollus: Mobilizing Digital Change Towards Hybrid Work Culture

Remote working is here to stay and CIOs will play an important role in the transition towards hybrid work culture
Digital Transformation
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At the heart of hybrid work culture and digital transformation in IT, CIOs play a pivotal role in nurturing these initiatives to ensure their organizations maintain consistent business growth in a volatile market. From data and analytics to cyber security and more, the CIO will push the Digital Strategy of organizations to the next level. 

As the Head of Regional IT EMEA2 for Siemens Mobility Austria, Bernhard Karollus shares with us his insights on digital transformations, post-pandemic growth, and the key technologies for organizations making the shift towards new work environments.

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The Transition Towards Digital Transformation

Digital transformation and change culture continue to be the main focus for IT leaders across industries. The pandemic has shown that organizations that are agile enough to incorporate digital strategies while prioritizing flexibility will be the ones that survive.

For Bernhard, however, identifying the challenges shouldn’t be the focus. Instead, keeping the organizations focused on the big picture while understanding what it means to embrace change culture should be the priority of CIOs.


What remains as major challenges for companies in achieving digital transformation? How do you, and Siemens Mobility, approach these challenges?


Defining remaining challenges would mean we know a target state. I perceive this approach as wrong. We are playing the infinite game, tackling the challenges of today, realizing there are new ones just around the corner.

As part of Siemens, we are concentrating on the platform economy and digital ecosystems when looking at the very broad picture.


Are organizations still resistant to change? What can those in IT leadership roles do to nurture the culture of change?


Tough cookie, because there is no general response to this question. There is a wide range of positions towards change even within single organizations. 

Avoiding the view and prejudices of one’s own IT bubble helps to understand the pace that a specific organization can take when going through massive change. As a permanent activity, I like the approach of small life hacks to nudge diverse parts of the organization and single employees to embrace change.


New Work Culture and Hybrid Environments 

With over 60% of companies allowing or incentivizing remote work, it’s clear that the home office is here to stay. While there are still challenges in complete remote working, the idea of hybrid working culture is an area in which IT leaders need to consider seriously.

However, the transition towards new work culture comes with its unique pitfalls, and Karollus outlines the challenges and how Siemens Mobility approached the idea of a hybrid workplace environment.


What are the pitfalls the CIOs should be aware of when transitioning into and implementing new work cultures?


When the pandemic started, the challenge for IT was to act quickly and provide technology solutions. Implementing new work cultures is a different corporate challenge with employees and a complex mix of stakeholders involved.

Technology is part of the solution but considering the digital dexterity of your workforce, resistance to change, and close attention to the interests of other stakeholders should be carefully considered.


What was Siemens Mobility’s approach toward a hybrid workplace environment?


We are using a holistic new normal approach with our HR, real estate, IT, and EHS departments joining forces to provide a wide variety of components building the hybrid work environment of the future. It all started with top management attention when our CEO announced 3 of 5 days working outside of the office wherever legally possible. 

What should I add? Tone from the top plus all relevant organizational units working together simply is a successful approach.


Incorporating Emerging Tech and Modern CIO Traits

The journey towards a hybrid working world will require IT leaders to work hard to build and maintain team dynamics. At the same time, investing in tools that will help further strengthen their business strategy can go a long in establishing a solid foundation for a successful new landscape of work

From initiating small-scale PoCs to encouraging the adoption of emerging technologies, Bernhard shares his insights on how Siemens Mobility faced these challenges and what other IT leaders need to be aware of in their journey towards a new working world.


What are the key investments in emerging technologies that companies need to focus on in the transition towards hybrid work culture?


Companies should derive their investment focus from their business strategy using tools like technology radars and core technology definitions. Gladly, many technologies can be tested in small-scale PoCs or garage projects when looking further down the horizon, while others looking at industry or topic leaders can provide guidance.

There is only a very limited technology scope that Siemens in general is not active in when it comes to digitalization. Siemens Mobility is part of the Siemens innovation ecosystem and has defined corporate core technologies. 


What are the strategies for IT leaders to encourage team growth and collaboration while maintaining talent wellbeing in a hybrid environment?


There was never something like a one-fits-all solution in the productivity/wellbeing equilibrium. Even less, when it comes to growth and collaboration. Especially as managers of managers, IT leaders, in my opinion, are well-advised to be members or partners to decisions that influence the large picture of the new work environment, actively shaping it.

At the same time coaching your direct reports openly and inclusively, while carefully optimizing team structure will shape teams that grow and collaborate in a good way. 

A word of warning: all the teams within one’s organization are different, there can be conflicts between different areas of responsibility due to the more and more individual approach of leaders. These need to be sensitively managed or avoided.


Finally, in the post-pandemic world, what are the traits that CIOs and IT leaders should possess to lead the workforce and the overall organization’ into the new working world?


Closeness to all business and support functions units is key for sure. Being open and having a team that is open to challenges from whatever topic field will not only allow to lead the workforce into the new working world but also one’s organization.

And finally, nothing told us as the pandemic did, that continuous learning is key to overcoming the challenges from permanent change.

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