Strengthening competitive position with digital solutions - Interview with Chief Digital Officer Franz Braun

March 29, 2017

In March, Franz Braun assumed the newly created position of Chief Digital Officer at Bilfinger. With his focus on customers and his extensive business experience, Franz Braun will drive the development and provision of digital solutions in the future. Braun was previously Head of the Executive Management at Bilfinger Maintenance. In the interview he describes his aims and challenges

Mr. Braun, what are your primary goals in this new function?
There are plenty of goals, as the majority of our customers are dealing with the issue of digitalization and starting initiatives. We have to get to grips with it and tackle customer needs together with our people who are operationally responsible. It is important to me that we develop our own ideas and solutions in order to take on an active role. Our customers expect this more and more too.
I would also, together with my team, like to help ensure that we are using digitalization to improve ourselves internally. Digital solutions should help our efficiency and, in particular, our teamwork significantly improve. Due to our history with numerous acquisitions, there is still a lot of potential for improvement here to secure our market position in the long term and to expand. Currently at Bilfinger, there are already many excellent digital solutions, which unfortunately are only implemented regionally. It is important to actively support the roll-out of these solutions in other regions and to drive this forward.
Last but not Least: We are looking at whether there are opportunities to develop smart solutions with start-ups or research institutes. However, we have to take into account that we are not Google or Amazon and use our means carefully. For this purpose, we have already developed an evaluation tool in order to systematically review whether an idea or digital solution is useful and achievable in a manageable time frame.

How do you want to achieve these goals?
We have put together a small team with whom I am starting work immediately on a general strategy for the Group and the individual projects. It is important to me to have younger employees in the team alongside the more experienced colleagues, as they have a completely different perspective of digitalization and contribute a lot of new ideas. My task now is to manage the process with my experience in order to quickly push forward achievable solutions together. The exchange with operational colleagues will play a key role in this.
We already have digital solutions and approaches established in many places in the Group. The focus now has to be on exchanging knowledge. Through close cooperation we want take digitalization at Bilfinger to the next level.

How do you plan to coordinate the activities in the Group with your team?
When I start my role, I will be on the road a lot, publicizing our strategy for digitalization at Bilfinger. We want to get lots of colleagues involved directly and make them enthusiastic about the prospect of working together as part of a shared process. As part of the development of our Bilfinger Maintenance Concept (BMC®) I contributed towards making sure that we take a leading role in the competition with this digital solution. The BMC® is just one example for the great solutions in the Group. That is why I believe in our innovative strength. The digital transformation offers Bilfinger as a Group significant business opportunities if we are able to improve our networking in this area of profit from each other’s knowledge.

How do you think the continuing digitalization will influence the industrial services?
Digitalization will bring significant changes for the role of industrial services. Many customers expect interactive networking and the involvement of a service provider in their core processes, as the expected connectivity between systems, new technologies and methods, such as predictive maintenance, knowledge-driven services, online KPI dashboards, digital twins – just to name a few central key words – can only be fully used through the link to the customer system.
For this we need need development partnerships between customers and industrial service providers. New business models such as innovative services are also needed. Customers will observe the markets closely. By positioning an in-house digitalization team, Bilfinger is taking a clear stance on the market.

Do you make use of smart products outside work?
Digitalization in business is of course reflected at home. As I do a lot of sport – mountain biking, road biking, jogging – I have been using digital solutions for a while now and I am excited by the possibilities. They help me to improve and plan and do things more efficiently. At the same time this also gives me more freedom to do other things. I see the digital world as an asset for my private life as well. But of course, they do not replace personal conversations or experiences either. I hold this belief in both my work and private lives.