Interview with Dr. Stefan Henkel, CIO, Siemens Healthineers AG

Siemens Healthineers is a leading medical technology company with a strong foundation in in-vitro diagnostics, image-guided therapy, and in-vivo diagnostics. Siemens Healthineers also provides a range of services and solutions to enhance healthcare providers’ ability to provide high-quality, efficient care to patients. Its installed medical devices help treat patients in hospitals around the world, with more than 240,000 patient touchpoints every hour. Siemens Healthineers’ customers are healthcare providers, such as large hospitals, physicians, research institutes, laboratories or even state-organized healthcare systems that are driving innovation programs.

Siemens Healthineers talks about "Digitalizing the Core." What is the strategy/philosophy behind it?

Dr. Stefan Henkel: “Digitalizing the core” encompasses four IT focus fields to drive the digitalization throughout Siemens Healthineers: The first field is called Innovation for Users. This means, we want to give all our internal IT users the kind of excellent digital experience that they are used to from the consumer sector, independent of applications used. Innovation for users means, “putting the user in the center.” This starts with our core IT and includes user innovations and expectations, covering applications, PC workstations, or mobile workstations of sales employees or service technicians as well as office workers.

The second field is Digitalize Processes and Services. Aiming to accelerate the digitalization of business processes, this field is about the end-to-end connection of applications and data. Many individual steps are necessary to reach our goal. It's not enough to have a smart mobile or tablet device when you meet the customer. Our sales employees and service technicians also need online access to digital assets, such as access to customer information or brochures. All the related processes that put this information at their fingertips must be seamless, secure and in real time.

The third field is Cybersecurity. This refers to guiding and protecting Siemens Healthineers toward continued safe and secure IT operations in times of digitalization.

Finally, DigIT—the digital transformation of IT itself—enhances the digital capacity and capability of IT. Within this field we are enhancing our own competencies in dealing with change and continuously adapting to new requirements, by enhancing our skills.

What will it take to get there?

DSH: I am absolutely convinced that our current IT function is very well structured. But I am also convinced that the IT function has to move forward to meet the requirements of a digitized world in three to five years. So today we must work on driving our internal IT transformation in the same way that it is being driven in the different parts of the business. This includes, for example, even stronger service support through automation, remote services and virtual reality.

Cloud solutions with a secure infrastructure will be essential, allowing employees to access services directly. Although we are well on our way with our cloud transformation, there are still many changes and step-by-step innovations to be made.

How can internal IT better support the business?

DSH: Siemens Healthineers needs us to quickly provide technological expertise in digitizing processes and applications. This requires us to be more agile, improve change management and develop fast Scrum teams. The faster we do this, the faster we can support the business on an ongoing basis. But smaller optimizations can be driven and scaled very quickly with the appropriate setup. For example, we are currently upgrading our Customer Services service management platform, working very seamlessly together with business process owners and Accenture in one agile team.

Achieving agility is harder than it sounds. It involves getting away from large, one-off expenses. On the one hand, we in IT must find reliable partnerships more quickly in order to outsource and leverage our partners’ capabilities without losing speed. Agreeing on a common quality system with the partners and handing over the services securely can be challenging. When setting up a service, it is important that the internal IT department works closely together with the partner, so that the partner can contribute its core competencies. The internal IT team knows the entire IT landscape, the business and special features. You can't expect that from an external partner. As soon as the application service is set up and based on standard components, the actual integration between both parties becomes easier.

Much of what you have said is causing massive changes for the workforce. How does Siemens Healthineers deal with change management?

DSH: Of course, it is very important to us to understand the technology. The important thing is, that all technology would be of little use to us if we didn’t also take people into account. Every one of us is affected day in and day out by technology changes. We can only master the continuously growing complexity together. We must anchor this way of thinking in our (corporate) culture. With targeted change management together with our Communication and Human Resource colleagues, we can promote such a culture at Siemens Healthineers, help overcome fear of new technologies, and guide and accompany people through the changes.

According to this, change management is very important and must be placed at the heart of digital transformation. By this I mean the permanent, action-driven implementation of change management. It's not just a soft skill topic. Change means consciously enabling more slack time to explore and try-out, simplifying structures and initiating new forms of work across the organization. A good example: We have a new approach in connecting with the finance function where we created a digital lab for finance and IT-talents to collaborate.

Which business department do you support most?

DSH: The finance function is currently one of the most active because it has recognized that it has many processes that can be accelerated and improved with the help of digital technologies. We also call this “intelligent automation,” because you need to precisely analyze processes, before you can turn Excel sheets and logic into a reliable and intelligent automated process.

Another business entity very engaged in digitalization is our Customer Services business; customer services by its nature of the business is constantly investing in automation and even more now in digitalization to upgrade and innovate their service offering.

Does the R&D department also make inquiries?

DSH: Yes, we also receive R&D inquiries, but for a slightly different reason. R&D is interested in customer behavior and market change insights from big data analytics. Although we are already relatively far advanced when it comes to data analytics, we will have to do even better, particularly when it comes to merging data streams. This is a difficult topic because there is no big bang there either. You proceed step by step and try to identify focus areas and potential improvements.

The constantly growing amount of data, which is also generated by device sensors, is another reason for using the cloud. We have been operating big data analytics with our products since 2006. In the meantime, we have to store gigantic amounts of accumulated data, which can push a conventional database to its limits. Then you ask yourself: How do we structure our data lakes—for me this is a network of data lakes. There is not one large data lake, but different data lakes for different applications. But all of this is still a broad field for research, too. We still have to differentiate from case-to-case and decide in each case: What´s the pain point? Which data could help me? And then we build a data sheet, including a concrete application.

Many thanks for this interview!

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