Every leader has faced their own unique set of challenges during the pandemic. For Siemens CIO Hanna Hennig, those challenges came on the first day on the job when she was tasked with ensuring that over 300,000 employees seamlessly transitioned to working from home. “It happened almost overnight,” says Hennig. The CIO was well-equipped to deal with the feat, having spearheaded huge transformations at E.ON and Osram during her 25 years working in IT. Driven by the desire to harness technology to improve the lives of her customers, her staff and the world around her, Hennig is now leading yet another transformation, as Siemens shifts from being an industrial leader to a global digital leader in the industrial space.

In this interview, Hennig talked to us about how she is delivering that transformation behind the scenes and about how evolving company culture is just as important as evolving technology today.

Despite being the market leader for the last 170 years, it’s really about staying humble and understanding how we can transform every day of our customers

The Industrialist: In conversation with Hanna Hennig

What were the challenges faced during Pandemic?

How did you keep people engaged?

How is Siemens transforming to a global digital leader?

Shortly after joining Siemens the pandemic made global headlines. Can you talk about the challenges you faced?

Hanna Hennig: I started in January this year and the first thing that hit me and my team was, indeed, the pandemic. Over the weekend, we had to ensure that over 300,000 of our Siemens fellows were able to work from home. We were wise enough in the past to invest in cloud-based tools, and that really was the only thing that made us resilient. It allowed us to scale up in a very short period of time. My team was also instrumental in ensuring that our people were embracing the new technology.

Now, unfortunately, we are experiencing a second lockdown. But we are also engaging in ‘new normal’ discussions, planning for how we will one day - hopefully sooner rather than later - bring our fellow colleagues back to the office. At that time, we will deploy technologies that ensure people can book their desks, social distance, and not overload the office with too many people at the same time.

How is Siemens transforming itself from a market leading industrial company, to a global digital leader in the industrial space?

HH: On October 1, 2020, the first and most important statements we received from the board were about reinventing Siemens as a company and ensuring we deliver products with purpose to our society and to our customers. There are four central themes to this, which the board has shared with us and which we’re promoting as leaders.

The first is that we create technology with purpose, which means we enable our customers to provide sustainable solutions to their customers. That might be through factory automation, mobility in smart cities or smart building infrastructure. It could be helping decarbonization by providing decentralized energy solutions, which are managing supply and demand from renewable energy sources. There’s a lot we’re doing in terms of technology with purpose, and a lot we have done over the last 170 years to reinvent ourselves and ensure we’re providing the best outcomes to our customers.

The second theme is about delivering products that really make an impact for our customers and enable them to produce more with less resources. These are, therefore, sustainable solutions.

The third is about empowering our people to make decisions that will enable them to provide the first and second themes to our customers; and to empower our customers by providing the right solutions. And last but not least is a growth mindset. For us, it’s important we’re not too overconfident. Despite being the market leader over the last 170 years, it’s really about staying humble and understanding how we can improve every day of our business.

Four strategic priorities reinventing Siemens as a company to ensure delivery of products with purpose to their society and their customers.

In your role as CIO, how do you drive digitalization of the business forward?

HH: IT is really touching the digital transformation of each company, and at Siemens it’s vital to those four themes. It’s the office IT, where we are supporting our teams with smart assistants and chatbots. It’s the process IT, where we enable ecommerce strategies. And it’s the production IT, where we provide the internal digitization of our factories with IoT solutions, preferably our own. Last but not least, it’s also product IT, where we ensure our hardware field devices are edge-ready or where we make our machine-to- machine communication safe. A new element on the horizon that I will drive, is to support our business to leverage IT with OT technology to define new business models. That could be the capabilities to build SaaS solutions, or to provide edge-as-a-service

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