CTO Sessions: Bernd Gross, Software AG

What makes an effective tech strategy? "Start small, think big, move fast."

Name: Bernd Gross

Company: Software AG

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: January 2019

Location: Darmstadt Headquarter and Düsseldorf, Germany

Bernd Gross is CTO of Software AG and CEO of Cumulocity GmbH, a Software AG company, and the world's leading independent Internet of Things (IoT) software platform provider based in Dusseldorf. With more than 25 years of international experience in the IT industry and in management positions, including in the Germany, UK, Finland and Silicon Valley, USA, Gross is one of Germany's pioneers and masterminds in the field of digitisation, cloud computing, Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.

What was your first job? My first job was in telecoms, working as a Product Manager.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, Technology is one of my biggest passions - and for me software has been always the most fascinating part of it. As you know ‘Software is eating the world'.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold a Master of Information and Communication Technology, as well as a Master of Business Administration from the London Business School.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. For many years I have worked in the telecommunication industry, both in Germany and abroad. Then, in 2012, I thought that the time was right to found my own start-up company called "Cumulocity". This was around the time that the Internet of Things was emerging - so it seemed like the right chance to give it a go.

What type of CTO are you? I'd describe myself as an enthusiastic team player with a situational leadership style. I aim to empower teams. For me this is the most admirable organisation structure - a truly empowered team. I am pragmatic but focused on business outcomes. Technology is an enabler, but value creation is the driver. For any enterprise it has to be an outside-in approach to technology. In other worlds technology has to be driven by customer or market needs. The business vision and strategy drives the technology vision and strategy. Not the other way around.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Currently it is machine learning, artificial intelligence and self-service or augmented analytics that inspire me the most.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? 5G. I know it is going to be important, but the current hype reminds me a lot at LTE or 3G. At the end of the day I believe the applications that are using 5G will probably change the world, but not 5G alone. And it will take more time than currently anticipated.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? Having founded my own start-up company, I'm really proud of the outcome and successes we have achieved. Choosing Software AG as a partner holding company was the perfect decision.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Our market vision is a ‘Truly connected World'. Everything will be connected with everything - that's the current mega-trend. Digital transformation has changed from enterprise digitalisation at the IT department to an horizontally integrated enterprise with data coming from machines, pumps, trucks, cloud applications, enterprise applications as well as data warehouse or lakes. Data is everywhere, so yes, every successful manager should be in a transformation process. It does not matter if the emphasis is on customer experience, revenue growth or operational efficiency. What matters is if companies can keep pace with digitalisation and survive in a data-driven environment, according to their KPIs and expectations. There is no one-size-fits-all recipe. Ultimately, each company has to find its own way to achieve success.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? To free their data and turn it into value.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? Use the best available technology possible for your business case - like Cumulocity IoT for IoT solutions.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Not in our case, no. That's one of our prerequisites for success.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Start small, think big, move fast.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? CTO's have to become more strategically focused. They have to develop the business strategy first and anticipate market changes and technology disruptions. The technology strategy is a consequence of the business strategy and not wise versa. Furthermore they have to team up with the CFO as well as CHR to ensure successful execution of the business strategy.

What has been your greatest career achievement? One of my best achievements to date was becoming the founder of a successful startup. This is something I'm really proud of.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? It is important to ‘learn' from the past. However, it does not make sense to analyse decisions from a different perspective at a later point. It is important to correct, adapt and improve in a continuous way.

What are you reading now? Origin from Dan Brown.

Most people don't know that I… play football.

In my spare time, I like to…play football.

Ask me to do anything but… camping. I did my part as a kid with many camping holidays.