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IT’s role redefined: Co-creating value and driving business growth

Kenny MacIver — February 2017
Digital transformation is having a profound effect on the status of the IT leader in business, says Markus Voss, CIO and COO of Deutsche Post DHL’s Supply Chain division.

When considering how the role of IT has changed in recent years, Markus Voss, CIO and COO of DHL Supply Chain, likes to point to an epiphany he had at a recent company-wide business review. He was heartened to find that the IT organization was asked to present not as part of the cost section of the agenda but in the business growth area of the discussion — to address all the things that technology could bring to the table to drive expansion.

That highlights how the atmosphere in and around IT organization is changing dramatically. “It’s a great time to be a CIO. What used to be a function in the corner of the business to drive costs down and enhance efficiency has now evolved into the ‘grow agenda,’ with the opportunity to work hand in hand with business leaders,” he says.

That has beefed up the reach of the CIO significantly, he says. “It has extended the role very much into the business. There is an even more important seat at the table for a CIO. Of course, there are still parts that we need to focus on to show that unit costs go down. But then there’s this other part which is the responsibility of the CIO — in strong collaboration with the business — to drive new business models, to drive new technologies and processes into the organization,” says Voss.

In Voss’s case, the expansion of responsibilities was formally acknowledged in early 2017, when after two years as CIO he was also made COO for the Supply Chain division, where revenues hit €15.8 billion ($16.9bn) in 2015.
Co-creating the future

The pace of change he describes is such that many companies lack the necessary resources in-house to cope with the wealth of opportunities. Instead, they look to a select group of strategic IT partners to speed their digital transformation. “Co-creation is the core way we attack any of these new trends. There simply isn’t the time for us to hire, say, 100 or 200 PhD students and develop technologies all on our own,” says Voss.

Such moves are as much a response to threats as to opportunities, he says. “Venture capital money is pouring into new startups, many of which have solid ideas.” But DHL can counter this by leveraging its scale and working with close technology partners who already have proven and innovative technology that DHL can quickly leverage.

Voss’s call to action to engage with the business extends deep down into the IT organization. “Our IT teams need to interpret the technologies that are out there and, armed with the knowledge of the business, bring this into a real business context. As a team we are on a journey and it is my aspiration to drive the IT organization into those types of discussions with the business rather than just show deep understanding of the technology.”

“As the number of business stakeholders involved in digital initiatives has grown, says Voss, “it has been an amazing experience to be able to use the whole claviature of the piano to orchestrate the discussion with all those channels.

• Markus Voss was a keynote speaker at Fujitsu Forum 2016 in Munich

• Photography: Stefan Hobmaier
First published
February 2017
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About: Markus Voss
For the past decade, Markus Voss has played a leading role in the planning and execution of DHL Supply Chain’s ambitious vision for digital technology. He became global CIO in 2015 and took on the additional role of COO role in January 2017.
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