In terms of the digital transformation of industry “we as IT people have to learn to speak a language the business understands,” says Thomas Seuring, CIO of SQS, one of the world’s biggest specialists in software quality.
SQS, which is headquartered in Cologne, Germany, employs 200 people in Ireland. In 2013, it began the expansion of its Irish operations with the creation of 75 new jobs.
In June last year, it emerged that SQS is to create 20 new jobs at a new Global Centre of Excellence it is establishing in Ireland after signing a collaborative agreement with the Innovation Value Institute. SQS is investing €200,000 over three years in the project. The new centre of excellence will be located in the new SQS offices in Dublin.
Seuring has more than 25 years of international experience at a senior executive and strategy level and takes a strong and analytical approach to implementing projects using methodologies like Design Thinking and SCIENTRIX Multi-Lense Cube.
Prior to joining SQS, he was CIO of Panasonic Europe and prior to that he was head of corporate IT at GETRAG systems, the world’s largest provider of transmission systems for manufacturers including Mercedes.
He also held the role of CIO for Europe, Mexico and Latin America for Daimler-Chrysler.
Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology rollout across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?
I started in March with SQS and found out that there was a lack of joined-up or integrated systems. SharePoint was quite commonly used but on a global architecture level there were hundreds of applications, and the companies we had acquired had yet to have their applications integrated. So we needed to look for synergies and harmonise and scale applications.
In the last four weeks, we have embarked on a new strategy called ERP 2.0 where we identified the pillars of SQS the company and then what processes and services and solutions we will deliver globally. Rather than different applications in different countries, we will have one set of applications for all over the world. One finance and control system, for example.
ERP 2.0 is one of the biggest undertakings company-wide that SQS has embarked upon to develop a whole new architecture landscape.
What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?
The strategy is to streamline and refine our IT architecture. Also, in a certain way create a base of standards so it is easier to integrate acquisitions.
What we also want from a strategic standpoint is to define one solution that can deliver all the needs of the company in terms of consulting and working with customers.
What we need is a whole new platform to make all our data work together, we need to underlay it with a complete new business engines platform for pulling together data, for consultants’ reports, for KPIs, etc.
Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?
Today SQS employs 4,600 people and we are growing strongly through acquisitions in Europe and the US. We are building a new operation in India and we will grow very quickly to 6,000 people.
The strategy path for SQS in the next year is to grow to 8,000 people.
The imperative is to ensure we have a singular set of applications that everyone is using and that it is elastic.
We are building a secure architectural landscape to ensure we can support this fast growth.
In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?
The biggest priority is to implement a system that can integrate more and more data. In terms of big data, we have to be able to fulfill this complete digital transformation and to deliver base from which management can get all the information they need to make decisions for customer-handling and so on in a very quick way.
Digitalisation for big data is a very big topic and it will be a big part of our ERP 2.0 strategy as we try to pull everything together.
Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?
We have a small team that really understands business applications. They are superb technical people who can solve any problem.
With this new ERP 2.0 project there are only a few people who can speak business language and understand the needs and challenges of the business and turn these needs into a solution.
What we need from this digital transformation of our landscape is also people transformation. 95pc of our IT team are operational people and the remainder are business-supporting, but we have to change this as part of our new strategy for next year.
My personal standpoint is to increase the business part to 60pc with the remainder operations. But operations should not focus only on systems but business needs. I don’t want to see people running around trying to fix email servers.
What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?
The board understand that I am focused on where IT needs to go to support the buisness. I am delivering for the business. I help them to make payroll and run compliance for reporting on the controlling side.
These are services and we as IT people have to learn to speak a language the business understands.
What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?
My personal view is the internet of things will drive enormous growth in the area of big data. They are not separate topics. Big data is coming from more and more machines talking to each other and we have to be able to understand this data.
I come from an automotive industry background and I see what is happening with connected cars and smart industries and how this will make manufacturing more and more intelligent. Machines are talking to each other and this is automating supply chains, this will be the future.
This will require strict standards to make sure that the data is actually meaningful.
In terms of smart industry, you can start to make sure your production line is more flexible and machines can talk to each other and take over orders.
What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?
We have started to implement a methodology called the Multi-Lens Cube.
It is normally a very easy and simple way to manage in a cube and grid base the linkage between IT and business.
Everything is based on cubes that can be mastered and ensure linkage between different sub-strategies.
The automotive industry is strongest on standards and controls to fulfill just-in-time deliveries with suppliers in bulk and integrate changes.
Everything is linked and it is complex, but if you have standards you can use matrixes in a certain way to ensure everything is linked together and manage the complexity.
What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?
As well as ERP 2.0, we have to take a big look at our actual infrastructure. Right now with strong growth our infrastructure needs to keep pace and allow growth to continue, due to the modernisation of infrastructure and move to the cloud.
One project has involved removing the complete management of local and wide area networks to a completely outsourced model.
Thomas Seuring will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming IVI Autumn Summit on 17 September at Carton House.
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