“Digital Together” is the successful change program with which we have almost completely digitalized the way we work at Siemens Healthineers. It requires not just a new IT infrastructure but also – and particularly – a willingness among all employees to change engrained habits.

Katrin Kasper of Kasper Kommunikation spoke with Siemens Healthineers CIO Stefan Henkel about the digital transformation at Siemens Healthineers.

As Chief Information Officer (CIO), Dr. Stefan Henkel is responsible for the digital transformation of the IT landscape at the Siemens Healthineers medical technology company. In this interview, we spoke about new ways of working, fear of change, and the game changer: change management.

You launched a program aimed at digital transformation at Siemens Healthineers in 2018. Can you even stand to hear the word “change” anymore?

Transformation is extremely fascinating. In 2018, I pitched our project to the Managing Board and promised that we would complete it in 2021. Today, I would say that transformation is never truly complete! On the one hand, the technology is constantly evolving. It’s a permanent force driving the need for transformation. And in the process, we need to make sure that everyone working for the company is up to speed, so we can use the new technology to our best advantage. On the other hand, we have to integrate the technology into our business processes in a way that actually serves our purpose: shaping the future of healthcare to improve patient care.

And the transformation simply continues?

We plan in three-year cycles, in which we want to have achieved a certain level of completion. The road we take toward that goal is mapped out each year as we assign ourselves specific topics to address. That sort of openness is essential these days. That’s also why it’s so important to have a shared vision to drive us all forward. For us, that vision is called “digitalize the core” – and it encompasses four strategic fields of action in which we implement specific programs. For instance, how we use technology at our workspaces to collaborate, to reduce our cybersecurity risk, or to digitalize business processes and applications. And that road is never-ending.

What role does the change program “Digital Together” play which you and colleagues from HR and communication launched?

It was the game changer. We didn’t look at the digital transformation as an isolated IT project but rather within the context of our company culture – the principles that we want to guide our work at Siemens Healthineers. For example, we want to be agile and passionate in our work and communicate as partners. And the digital tools help us to interact more quickly, to point out quality issues, or to work together transparently. Because of this approach, the change process has enjoyed broadly based support.

Are you also seeing a cultural transformation?

We’ve seen a significant increase in collaboration across disciplines and departments, and the joy of trying things out. We’ve also seen improved decentralization of decisions and, thus, of responsibility. We communicate more openly and with less hierarchy and we’re getting more feedback. In the past, organizational change was a big issue, fraught with many uncertainties. Now, they’re seen as normal adjustments within the framework of our transformation. Employees are open to traveling this road with us and trust that they will have a say – that things won’t just be forced on them.

But that probably wasn’t always the case. Change takes energy, which has to come from somewhere – most likely from day-to-day work.

There was a lot of criticism early on, and we certainly had to go through a learning curve in the transformation. Some colleagues ended up with extra work, which resulted in negative associations. We didn’t pay enough attention to that in the beginning. In order to make it easier for people to get accustomed to the new ways of doing things, we established a Digital Together University which included tutorials created by employees for employees. Of course, that also took a higher level of involvement. Transformation doesn’t happen without effort.

What tips do you have for companies that are implementing similar transformational projects?

It’s important to look at the bigger picture, beyond efficiency and profit. Of course, we all want our company to be financially healthy. But we have to establish a link between people and technology. The world of work is changing and we as a company have to change along with it. We have to learn new things and work toward the company’s overarching goals. Management has to serve as an example and give their teams the freedom they need to succeed. If you do that, your change will be successful.

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