We spoke to Gunnar Menzel – Chief Technology & Innovation Officer North and Central Europe and Master Architect at Capgemini – to discuss his experience of digital transformation within the technology industry.
Gunnar’s story is part of a series of articles highlighting the rise of digital transformation within the technology industry, and the evolution of working practices as a reflection of this.
Gunnar’s career is one that has spanned several decades and multiple disciplines. In 1988, Gunnar attended a 2-year course in programming, one of the first of its kind in Germany at the time. In 1991, however, Gunnar was required to join the army Gunnar ended up joining a team of software developers and built upon his skills in coding for the army. Rather than the required eighteen months, Gunnar remained in the army for four years. Afterwards, he started a position in the Deutsche Bank, where he worked almost 5 years.
“That was quite exciting because it was the time when the internet was starting. So, while I was doing my programming degree there were no mobile phones and no internet whatsoever. Well, actually there was the start of the internet across the US mostly connecting different Universities and research institutes. However, it was not the same as today. When I joined Deutsche Bank in 1995, I was lucky enough to work in completely and innovative new area: online banking. Back in the early-mid 1990 you had to either call or visit a branch of your bank to for instance withdraw money. Online wasn’t a thing. However, with the advent of the Internet Deutsche Bank wanted to see if there was value in allowing customers to transact in this new way. So, I was asked to lead a project to develop and deploy a client server system for online banking. The first time we put it live, the only thing you could look at on your account was your account balance, which was, due to the batch drive nature of the backend systems, a couple of minutes old. I still remember doing big presentations to the board of directors of Deutsche Bank, which was quite intimidating. And then they asked the question ‘what is this internet?”
In 1999, Gunnar relocated from Germany to Manchester and in 2001, he started a new position at Capgemini.
“IT Architecture is my passion, which is about designing solutions. The reason I joined Capgemini back in 2001 was because it had, at the time and still has, in my opinion, the strongest and best IT architecture capability in the market.”
In his time at Capgemini, Gunnar has progressed significantly through the ranks
“I joined as a fairly senior consultant, I guess, and was then promoted to Senior Manager and then an Associate Director within the first 8 years. It’s all on the back off various large engagements that I lead from an architecture perspective. I think the obvious for my progression was that over the years I increased my experience and expertise in particular technology areas. If you have experience and expertise in a particular technology area, you make an impact and might get new opportunities which comes with more responsibilities and invariably you get a promotion for being able to take on more responsibilities. It’s kind of this cycle of deliver excellent work, deliver quality, and you’ll get rewarded for that.”
His current role requires him to work closely with others across the world on thought leadership material. Amidst the rise of digital transformation, Gunnar’s role revolves around making the most use of technology within this.
“It is about using or applying technologies like Cloud or AI, in such a way that enables our clients to improve their performance or increase their reach. This is where it comes back to the architecture discussion. As with technology comes complexity. And as an Architect you will focus mostly on how to manage that complexity, understand what’s actually right for an organization and detail how best to make use of that technology.”
During his long career, Gunnar has aided in the implementation of digital transformation projects.
“If you ask business leaders what digital transformation is, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to really define it. Yet, it’s quite simple. Digital transformation is all about using technology to radically improve or change the reach of the business. It’s about making sure that you enable, or you serve your customers better, or you’re using technology to make a bigger impact. That’s what digital transformation is all about. Now, the way you do it is to have the capability of the staff and you also need technology, like Cloud, for instance, or AI to drive the digital transformation. The key point is that digital transformation is more than just technology. Cloud or AI are just a vehicle to reach an outcome with the real objective for a digital transformation is to use these tools in such a way that you’re making an impact, or you increase your reach among customers, for instance”
Gunnar’s sector is constantly changing and evolving, leading to endless opportunities for innovation and discussion.
“We are still in the early stages. We haven’t even seen the amount of innovation and the impact that these innovations will make to our lives yet. If you look back at the last five years and you project the amount of changed that happened within that period forward, it seems that there is much more to come. Aspects like quantum computing, for instance have developed so much over even the last 2 years. Or AI and cloud; two key technologies that undoubtedly make a huge impact in years to come. The IT sector is blessed with so much demand, and so much work happening over the future years, probably more much more than we have seen in the last 5-10 years.”
“An example I’m particularly proud of, and I think has made a huge impact, is the furlough system in the UK. Within 4 weeks together with HMRC we developed and put in place the job retention scheme. The solution included new digital service based on a microservice architecture onto HMRC’s digital platform, hosted in the cloud. The system collects information from employers and pass this into a risk and compliance process to ensure the accuracy and legitimacy of the claims. It then makes electronic payments within six working days. Following the public beta launch, the service processed over £1.5 billion on the first day alone. Over the following week, it processed 600,000 claims valued at £5 billion. And amazing achievement within such a short period of time and I think a great examples of a digital solution”
“One piece of advice I would give is have a fairly good idea of what you want to do. And think in phases or steps. Expect to change your role every six months, maybe every year, sometimes maybe 18 months and be flexible and don’t worry too much about longevity. You may say ‘I want to stay here now for years’; that’s also absolutely fine. If you want to progress in your career, I recommend making best use of the capability to support it that Capgemini can provide you with, and the more you understand yourself what it is you want, the better Capgemini can support you. Be aware of how you want to use the group to help you progress in your career.”
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