Meet the Agents of Transformation - Bayerische IT GmbH
Thomas Wolf, managing director, Bayerische IT GmbH
Thomas started his career as a software developer at insurance software vendor iS2, where he went on to progress through the ranks over a 20 year career. In 2018, he joined German insurance company, dei Bayerische IT GmbH, to lead the company’s technology team.
What does it mean to you to be an Agent of Transformation?
Successful digital transformation is made up of many small and challenging tasks, so overcoming these on your own is simply not achievable. I therefore see my role as enabling our talented team of technologists to be able to innovate and develop ideas, create new processes and methodologies and to implement cutting-edge ways of doing things that drive real value for the business.
What do you see as the key milestones or moments in your career that helped you on your journey to becoming an Agent of Transformation?
For the first 20 years of my career, I worked for smaller organizations selling software to large insurance companies. To be successful, I had to really understand the needs of each customer and align our sales strategy and solution to their needs. I was always looking for new ways to make the customer’s job easier.
One example was the introduction of digital signatures – enabling insurance companies’ customers to digitally sign contracts via a smartphone. This was revolutionary at the time, and it took some convincing to get the wider business to buy into the idea. But we started small, took the idea from concept to production, and it quickly gained traction and adoption by our customer base. Today, many insurance companies use the solution and the company I worked for became the market leader in digital signature solutions for the insurance market.
Small innovations can have a seismic impact on a business, but also on the careers of the people behind the ideas. As well as helping to accelerate my career, it really gave me an appetite for exploring how digital transformation could revolutionise the way businesses deliver services to their customers.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received on your way to becoming an Agent of Transformation? Do you have a motto or maxim that you use to inform your approach?
In a large enterprise organization, there is so much complexity that it seems obvious that the only route forward is to have clear and detailed plans with lots of milestones and metrics. But what I have learnt is that – by setting these rigid frameworks – people stick too rigidly to them. You lose the creativity and out of the box thinking that is so important when you want to drive true innovation.
So whilst my team has clear objectives and a sense of the direction we want to go in, I encourage them to think of every day or every project as a fresh start. I champion creative thinking, brainstorming, experimentation. We review and refine ideas as a team. Then we do it again. And sometimes we fail. What we thought was the right solution or path may in fact not be the best way to go. But that’s okay. We don’t just throw the idea away, we go back a few stages and refine again. It’s an important mindshift but it’s a critical component of our culture of innovation.
What character attributes should technologists develop in order to become Agents of Transformation?
Customer-centric thinking is paramount. Put yourself in the mind of the customer and be objective about how your company performs. Why would a customer use this service or buy this product? Would they be satisfied – or ideally delighted – by the customer experience? What frustrations would they feel? Would they recommend your company to a friend or colleague? Then seek out the solution and never give up. If you keep the customer at the heart of your thinking, you will always be on the right track.
How do you approach your own development, in terms of continual learning and identifying new challenges?
I surround myself with smart people, both within the team environment, but also by attending events and conferences with leading technologists and technology vendors. It’s inspiring to listen, learn and debate with these experts.
I also believe that it’s vital to never lose contact with the customer. Understand their business, their objectives and pains, and be ready to step in and offer your support whenever you can. That relationship with the customer is so fundamental to broadening your knowledge and pushing yourself to think differently, building your skill set and improving as a professional.
What skills should organizations be looking for when recruiting technologists that have the potential and drive to become Agents of Transformation?
Success depends on the performance of the team, not an individual, so I look for people who understand the importance of teamwork. And they must fit well from a cultural perspective and bring new skills to the team.
It’s also important to be mindful that technologists with ambitions of becoming an Agent of Transformation will want and need a development plan, access to mentors and training, a career path to follow, and inspiring leaders to look up to. You have to ask yourself – honestly – is this the right place for this person? Can I provide them with the tools and environment they need to realize their ambitions and be truly successful?
How has AppDynamics and application and business performance data helped you to improve the digital customer experience?
AppDynamics allows us to monitor our software and infrastructure so that we can quickly identify a performance issue anywhere in the technology stack, find the root cause and resolve it before it affects the customer. We have created a team of AppDynamics experts within the business – we know the solution well, so internal stakeholders can come to us and we can help them identify ways to improve the performance of their applications and digital services.
AppDynamics Business iQ allows us to track and monitor the customer journey in granular detail. This level of data and insight means we can measure the customer experience at different stages of the journey and see how anomalies impact the customer on a personal level. We can also go a step further and track the collective impact of these anomalies on the business, by linking the application performance monitoring to our key business metrics.
We built custom dashboards in Business iQ to show the technical and business performance of our digital services and use them to report back to different lines of business across the organization. Because the dashboards are tailored to the metrics our business cares about, our stakeholders can see at a glance where the issues are, or what needs to be a priority for the team.
In fact we went so far as to put a huge screen in the reception area of our office to display the dashboards. When anyone in the company walks through the foyer they can instantly see the volume of customers on our website and across our applications, how they are interacting with our services, what products they are looking for, and where any digital customer experience issues might be. Because it’s real-time data it’s hugely powerful. Immediately they are thinking about the customer and how they can help to improve the customer experience. It is all part and parcel of our culture of innovation and putting the customer at the center of our thinking.
What advice would you give to a technologist that is considering AppDynamics?
As the market leader, the solution does everything you need it to do from a technical perspective. But AppDynamics also understands the importance of showcasing the value of the solution to the wider organization. They run a Proof of Value process that takes data and insight from your applications and immediately identifies things you never knew about your business! They demonstrate how the solution will work, the value it will bring, the immediate potential to improve the customer experience and critically, the positive commercial impact it will have on the business.
Do you anticipate Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning taking a bigger role in the future?
The potential for AIOps to further revolutionize the way we work is huge. And for many companies – particularly large enterprises – there are endless processes, high volume transactions, labour intensive or manual tasks that could be simplified or even automated with the use of technologies such as Machine Learning. In the world of insurance, Machine Learning could become a key part of assessing policy risk in relation to medical diagnosis. I don’t see AIOps as something far off in the future – it’s a reality now.
Finally, as an Agent of Transformation, what sort of legacy do you want to leave?
I would like to be remembered for having introduced a new way of doing things – of bringing a culture of making small, micro changes that have had a macro impact on the business and the experience of our customers.
"Success depends on the performance of the team, not an individual, so I look for people who understand the importance of teamwork."
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