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Employees of the digital service provider T-Systems are trained in a jointly designed continuing education program at RWTH Business School

The digital transformation is more than a purely technological phenomenon. It brings data and data analysis skills into the focus of value creation. Thanks to sensor technology and algorithms, products and processes of all kinds become “smart”. Pure hardware is becoming a commodity in many places. This not only calls existing strategies and business models into question but also requires close interdisciplinary cooperation within organizations in addition to new expertise. It is precisely this interplay of factors that poses fundamental challenges for many small and large organizations. But what does it take to implement digital solutions optimally? Support is needed: “Pilots” who recognize the possibilities of digital transformation early on and provide the necessary orientation.

Tailor-made qualification program

T-Systems, one of the world’s leading multi-vendor digital service providers, has recognized the growing needs of its customers and, together with RWTH Business School, has designed an in-house training program to provide even better advice to customer companies in the future: Over a period of ten to twelve months, 20 employees each will be qualified as “Digital Engineers”. The Digital Engineer acts as a pilot for the digital transformation and addresses the associated opportunities and challenges. He supports and accompanies customers on their way into a digital future. The new program has been so well received by both participants and customers that the second round is already underway.

Teilnehmende des Inhouse-Programms Digital Engineer sitzend am Tisch während des Seminars

“The tailor-made qualification program trains experts who combine technological and business expertise and are able to tap, integrate and communicate the building blocks required to develop viable digital solutions,” explains Prof. Torsten-Oliver Salge, Co-Director of the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management at RWTH Aachen University. The program was developed in close cooperation between Prof. Salge as academic director and the human resources development department at T-Systems. Responsible on T-Systems side are Petra Twisterling and Wilfried Bauer, Vice President Digital Solutions.

Porträt Twisterling

"In my view, the added value lies in a spirit of partnership, in the joint design of the program, especially thanks to the different approaches and perspectives - only in this way was it possible to develop and successfully implement this ambitious program".

- Petra Twisterling | Human Resources Development | T-Systems

With this form of continuing education, the company is reacting to the changes triggered by the digital transformation and the associated need for an “all-rounder who can translate the technological, economic and strategic requirements of digitization into innovative customer solutions – in other words, a digital engineer,” says Bauer.

Internal company network

The training is aimed at those who wish to effectively support client companies in the digital transformation through broad information technology expertise, economic understanding, and domain knowledge. A program for “everyone who has always wanted to think outside the box,” says Veit Vogel, Chapter Lead Smart Devices AppFactory at T-Systems and one of the 20 graduates of the first round. The goal is to get customers excited about digital changes and to make digital potential available or realizable for everyone. The focus is on the concrete value proposition to the customer and the development of innovative and sustainable solutions.

Porträt Teilnehmer Vogel

"In cooperation with RWTH Business School, a high-quality continuing education program has been created, which lives from the interdisciplinary, but clearly practice-oriented contributions of the lecturers, and is enriched by the professional bootcamps on digitization technologies from T-Systems."

- Veit Vogel | Chapter Lead Smart Devices AppFactory | T-Systems

Florian Reichert, a graduate of the first round as well, confirms the interdisciplinary approach of the measure: “The program is suitable for experts who, like me, want to work as translators between customer requirements and technical practicability. This ability is becoming more important than ever in digitalization”. It is particularly important to understand and classify the respective challenge or opportunities from the customer’s point of view in the best possible way, to know the scope of the technological and economic solution spectrum, and to orchestrate the iterative solution development together with external and internal experts from various disciplines. The program also has another advantage for the participants, as Reichert reports: “One is better connected within the company and across topics.”

Advantages for participants and companies

Twisterling explains: “We took experienced employees, mainly from the IT environment with a broad technical background, on a journey to qualify them as the switchmen of digital transformation”. Their own professional development is also highlighted during the program. However, not only the participants themselves benefit from the program, but the entire company. Bauer sees great advantages for his company and has correspondingly big plans for his employees: “My goal is for them to be the digital spearhead of our company at the end of this journey. They will make the decisive difference in front of customers with their faces, their knowledge, and their performance”.

Practical and company-based training

The qualification program focuses on the three basic fields of action management, technology and communication, and their interaction. Particular emphasis is placed on practical and company-oriented training. Thomas Kaß, Managing Architect at T-Systems, also describes this as a central advantage of the program: “Instead of extensive discussions about theoretical models, we analyze concrete use cases from practice and get to the bottom of the reasons for economic success or the influencing factors that have led to the failure of promising approaches. The program comprises around 25 training days, which take place over a period of ten to twelve months in blocks of two to three days each at different locations. The attendance offering is supplemented by a comprehensive digital learning portfolio, which serves as preparation and follow-up for the attendance days but also covers complementary content.

Porträt Teilnehmer Paech

"When it comes to digitalization, we are talking about a very rapidly developing and changing topic that affects everything from the IT to the specialist department on the customer side. Therefore, participants in the program should above all enjoy challenges that span topics and roles."

- Florian Paech | Consultant Digitalization | T-Systems

The course ends with a workshop in a hackathon format. The Digital Engineers receive a challenge from a customer and have to formulate a solution concept, develop a simple prototype, and finally present the solution. The first round ran from May 2019 to February 2020. Again, 20 participants are currently on their way to becoming Digital Engineers. In March, the didactic concept was digitalized, thus enabling a smooth start of the program despite the pandemic. For successful participation in all blocks the university certificate “Digital Engineer” of RWTH Aachen University will be awarded amounting to 30 ECTS points.

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