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Digitale Transformation

CEOs @ CeBIT #3: Sabine Bendiek, Microsoft Germany

Sabine Bendiek has led Microsoft Germany since January 2016, shaping the company's digital transformation. She talks about what matters here in our interview.

16 Feb. 2017
CEO Microsoft Deutschland
Sabine Bendiek, CEO at Microsoft Germany

Ms. Bendiek, in what area is digitalization most changing the world?

Very clearly in the entire world of work. Such as when I enter our new office in Munich Schwabing, where everyone decides anew each day where and how they are going to work. When I experience in our firm, but also with many of our customers, how much easier it is to reconcile the demands of the company with the individual needs of employees. And when I observe how it is not just young people who are integrating technology into their lives.

What role do trade fairs play for a digital company like Microsoft?

I am convinced that we continue to need personal interactions and hands-on experiences even in an increasingly digital world. So we still need platforms like CeBIT that offer the right framework for these experiences. Our goal is to expand the variety of what can be found in Germany. We can only make this happen with partners who develop perfectly adapted, customer-specific solutions using our technologies. So at CeBIT 2017, Microsoft is putting the spotlight on its partners, and presenting its portfolio of solutions in the cluster themes of collaboration (Sharepoint) and communication (Skype for Business), customer relationships (CRM) and resource planning (ERP), via more than 40 partner stands.

The CeBIT 2017 theme is “d!conomy – no limits.” What does “no limits” signify for you personally?

The term “limit” comes from the Latin limes, which basically means a border wall. And border walls are limiting. Such boundaries to thinking and doing are dangerous in the context of the digital transformation. The limits to old recipes for success and old business models need to be adapted, pushed out, and through courageous decisions replaced with new spaces for freedom and innovations. For me, “no limits” means daring to change things even as you recognize and take the risks involved.

You have worked in management in the technology sector for more than 20 years. What was the biggest barrier that you had to overcome during this time?

If I had to call out an exceptional period, it would be the impact of the 2008 economic and financial crisis. Our industry's faith in progress was significantly shaken. People's internal blocks could only be overcome with plenty of personal effort, discussions and conviction – with both customers and employees.

"For me, 'no limits' means daring to change things even as you recognize and take the risks involved."

Cloud computing, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence: Digitization has many facets and some are the subject of constant hype. What area do you see instead as underrated?

For me that is very clearly the human factor. If someone cannot keep up or join in, because they do not have the necessary qualifications, are badly informed, fear for their personal lives or their job, then we cannot create a digital economic miracle. So we have to try even harder to bring people along and create trust – through more investments in digital education and training, more transparency and communication around change processes in companies, and more explanation of how things work and the possible effects of future technologies such as artificial intelligence. Microsoft has made commitments in this area alongside other leading IT companies in the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence.

Where do you see as the biggest potential risk of digitalization? And what should companies do to prepare themselves?

Businesses are facing a unique challenge right now. To survive the competition, they need to become faster and more agile, and work fast at digitalization. They also have to execute a genuine culture change – and such things take time. So companies cannot get around the need to operate at varying speeds. Individually scalable cloud solutions can help them manage this growing complexity, and implement the digital transformation in alignment with the conditions specific to them.

How do you imagine the IT sector in five years?

In five years nearly every business will be a digital business. The IT companies that create the necessary infrastructure for this evolution are more important than ever. At the same time, companies have to be able to adapt to widely varying customer needs. The ability to develop solutions that are both scalable and highly individualized could become a decisive competitiveness factor.