Germany's Digital Pioneer 2022
Interview with Dr. Frank Schönthaler, CEO
Dear Frank, congratulations on the special award from the F.A.Z. Institute! PROMATIS took first place in the IT service provider category as part of the study “Germany’s Digital Pioneers 2022”. The respective industry winner receives 100 points and thus sets the benchmark for all other examined companies within the industry. In the course of this top ranking, we have prepared a few questions for you:
What are the challenges German companies are facing with regard to digitalization?
What the appeals of politicians and business leaders have failed to do over many years, the mutually reinforcing crises of our time have easily managed to do: a megatrend has grown out of the will to digitalize, giving digital technologies access to every conceivable area of society and the economy. This applies not only to Germany, but also to Europe and the entire world. The prerequisites for this, however, have to be met: The existence of a comprehensive, reliable, secure and high-performance digital infrastructure. Digitalization as a core competence in school, academic and company training is particularly important. But the availability of skilled workers for the design, development and operation of digital business solutions is also a fundamental building block. In this context, quality is at the forefront, and with regard to the interdisciplinary workforce, it has long been a question not only of technology, IT and business administration specialists, but also of social science and humanistic disciplines. In the course of globalization, a multilingual and multicultural workforce is also required. And last but not least, agility in the form of the ability to change, speed in strategic, tactical and operational terms is an essential factor for companies.
Which areas of the company do you think are the frontrunners, and which areas still need to catch up in terms of digitalization?
A look at our customer base shows that a lot is currently being invested particularly in the customer journey. Whereas in the past this meant only support processes, especially the customer experience (marketing, sales, and service) is now becoming more important. In addition, we are currently fine-tuning the employee journeys in our markets. Especially companies with core business processes that are based on recruiting and talent management rely on large-scale human capital management solutions. Another exciting area that has already seen a lot of digitalization is enterprise performance management (planning, forecasting, monitoring, analysis). However, I see the digitalization of the supply chain as THE top issue par excellence. After all, supply bottlenecks and trade barriers (sanctions) have shown us (in terms of maximally volatile supply chains) how vital it is to have predictable processes that serve to safeguard the existence of companies. Those who cannot react quickly in these times and plan various scenarios – also with regard to compliance guidelines – will find it difficult to survive in the market.
What does digitalization mean from an ethical point of view?
Nowadays, ethical aspects always come up in the context of digitalization. Due to my volunteer work as president of the board of trustees at the Integrata Foundation for the Humane Use of Information Technology, this topic is an important aspect for PROMATIS; not as an end in itself, but with the claim to provide our customers with future-proof solutions at all times. Consequently, innovation or digital innovation (artificial intelligence, dealing with blockchain and IoT) is one of our key priorities in this context. In addition, “more quality of life through IT” is also important to us, especially with regard to developments in artificial intelligence. This automatically puts the topic of “ethics and AI” on our agenda. An additional motive is that we want to provide the PROMATIS workforce and our digitalization experts with interesting, future-proof jobs at the forefront of innovation.
The study showed that a medium-sized company like PROMATIS is also ahead of the other major IT service providers. What does that imply?
I would like to invoke the term “hidden champion”. As a medium-sized company, it is certainly easier to lace together the strategy mix that is digitalization-innovation-employer attractiveness-profitability, and implement it quickly and sustainably. Particularly when it comes to innovation, but also when it comes to presenting our attractiveness as an employer, we benefit from a close cooperation with the universities near our sites, with KIT and the University of Muenster at the forefront – for example through joint research projects, practical training activities for students, talent recruiting, and working student programs.
Sometimes, however, what it takes is size. That’s why we successfully and happily work together with large partners such as Oracle, Deloitte, Accenture, EY or KPMG – on a national and international level. This gives us the flexibility to combine forces quickly and in a targeted manner, as well as agile performance processes that allow us to build cross-company value chains.
Getting started following Katharina's example
Dear Katharina, your career at PROMATIS has been nothing short of spectacular. Why don’t you start by telling us how it all began and what kinds of activities you participated in?
After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Information Systems from Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, I started working for PROMATIS as a Business Consultant in October 2010 – in fact, I first discovered PROMATIS by a fluke via CareerContacts at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). When the topic of consulting came up, the first thing that came to my mind was “Consulting? I’m fresh out of university – who am I supposed to advise?”. But then I just went for it, and here I am!
In the course of my numerous customer projects, I have mainly been involved in the introduction, use and training of standard business application software, jetting around the world for PROMATIS in the first few years – Budapest, Milan, London, Vienna. That was quite exciting and eventful. For example, I worked for years at our customer Hutchison Drei Austria in Vienna and was able to focus on finance and accounting, cost accounting, controlling, consolidation, project accounting and controlling.
What do you particularly like about PROMATIS or what has shaped your professional life during this time?
I had the chance to get to know many different people, cultures and projects. That’s a level of diversity that you don’t find everywhere. At PROMATIS, we meet at eye level and communicate directly and in an uncomplicated manner. I feel particularly happy that I am accepted and respected as I am and that my work is highly valued. I also try to pass this on to our “newer” PROMATIS generation and in this way contribute to shaping the future of PROMATIS.
This appreciation was ultimately reflected in the way you climbed the career ladder?
Yes, that’s right. Not only was I appointed Head of the Horus Knowledge Community Finance and am in charge of further developing the area-specific knowledge bases, but I am now Head of Business Unit NetSuite and a Management Board member of the PROMATIS Group. I now have my own team that I am very proud of, and with whom I am able to handle many interesting and challenging projects. I am still involved in projects as well as in pre-sales up to support.
Wow! But how do you take time out and recharge your batteries, especially on stressful days?
Since August 2019, I’ve been getting up early several times a week, throwing on outdoor clothes and volunteering as a walker at the animal shelter – meanwhile I’ m doing it every day, which has definitely changed my life in a positive way. That’s a lot of miles that take my mind off the computer, but it’s also a lot of fun and a lot of dirt. But above all, it allows me to look at current problems and their solutions from a different perspective. I also like to do yoga and bouldering with colleagues. In general, a healthy work-life balance is very important in consulting. That’s often difficult at the beginning, because especially starting out in consulting can be really engrossing.