Leistungen // Laterales Management

cebit - showcase exhibition for big companies

Although it has frequently been declared dead, CeBIT is going ahead again this year. However, in times of disruptive, digital change a digital fair is an anachronism. Everything is changing so quickly that communication is a matter of permanent importance – and should not be condensed into one week in the year.

Digitalisation of the economy is not IT

There is a practice that we like to apply in commercial companies: it's called the Via Negativa. This is what we are going to apply to CeBIT now: CeBIT was once established as a computer trade fair but over the years it has developed around the area of computers. But now "everything" is IT. My new Mercedes consists of at least as much digital as analogue technology.

CeBIT is the abbreviation for "Centrum der Büro- und Informationstechnik" (Center for Office and Information Technology). The abbreviation BIT which stands for the smallest unit of information in a computer should be a very nice idea. However, CeBIT is clearly a completely antiquated name. And it has never been a trade fair for office technology. How offices can be arranged in terms of architecture and communication has namely always been reduced to IT. Office architecture does, however, have something to do with technology and culture. And culture and communication are more than technology.

Display area for big companies

But CeBIT could always have been a fair for innovations. A fair where people talk about everything that is possible with hardware and software and how this changes communication. Therefore, the interesting part of CeBIT 2016 was the discussions about the flood of data caused by digitalisation. Andreas Hausmann of HP Enterprise said for example: "We will not be able to manage the current flood of data with the existing IT and the available concepts for computers." And Jürgen Müller of SAP added: "We need a new generation of computers."

At US digitalisation events there is discussion and reporting on fashionable topics concerning what is currently happening on the technological level and how companies should address it. That does not happen at CeBIT. Instead, there was a discussion in 2016 by the CEOs of Deutsche Bahn and Telekom about their aspiration to understand their customers. It was announced that from 2017 people would be able to use the internet in German trains. Wow – you could really feel the energy of change with 260 listed digitilisation projects at Deutsche Bahn. CeBIT is not a fair for innovations; unfortunately, it is a very boring show window for presentations by big companies.

Without cultural change and digitalisation

In the next few years digitalisation will jeopardise 60% of all jobs in Germany. Consequently, companies are facing serious changes: How will they be managed in the future? How will decisions and co-operation take place? How will people learn and create innovations?

Unfortunately, the cultural change brought about by digitalisation and the question of how companies handle this transformation together with people in the companies, customers and suppliers is not part of the official CeBIT.

In summary we may say that CeBIT is a fair for information technology and not for digitalisation. The latter, however, would be an opportunity for the future. But then the fair would have to change its brand. Companies have been responding to this for a long time and have been including CDOs instead of CIOs in their boards. We will see how CeBIT turns out in 2017. Those who have been declared dead frequently survive longer – if they are in a position to transform themselves.