Michael Neff (CIO @ RWE) & Marco Spoel (Head of Application Operation @VSE Holding, a.s.)

This Q/A Session was created and published on 28.06.2016

Sergej Strajnak: What are your biggest achievements in your life and what is next?

Michael Neff: My biggest achievements in my professional life was the establishment of an IT team and IT business environment for a total new global company build via a merger of 3 companies (at this time the biggest pharmaceutical company of the world) in the second half of the 90th. Another big achievement was to establish a global IT environment for the leading manufacturer in printing presses. The transfer from an captive IT service provider to the IT organization of an big European utility group was another big achievement. What’s next: Relax, new orientation after 22 years being CIO. Help executive in the industry with advise, coach CIOs in charge stay open to new challenges.

Sergej Strajnak: If you could give one advice to IT students and to young people thinking about a career in IT industry, what would that be?

Michael Neff: Be aware to joint an outstanding dynamic business environment. You will have to learn new technologies in your whole professional life. Stay open and interested and look to all industries.

Sergej Strajnak: Have you ever met somebody during your career who inspire you to change yourself?

Michael Neff: Yes, Michael Dell. He inspired me to have more an entrepreneurial view about IT in a company.

Sergej Strajnak: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Michael Neff: Change in companies are done mainly via IT. So to have changes (new technologies, new processes, more e-commerce etc. ) initiated and to know you and your team has contributed and to see the results after 3-5 years is the most rewarding part in my job as CIO.

Sergej Strajnak: How would you describe the main goal of RWE IT? Could you share your portfolio with us?

Marco Spoel & Michael Neff: RWE IT GmbH is the internal IT service provider for the RWE Group. Our range of services includes the provision, development and operation of standard and special software as well as the required hardware and network infrastructure. As a global player, our company employs about 1,700 staff in Germany (mainly North Rhine-Westphalia), in the UK, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Business and IT are increasingly growing together. This means the Group needs an excellent IT division that supports its processes as well as the changes and activities that the Group faces both today and tomorrow. It is our goal, our vision, to be the natural and accepted IT partner of choice for the business of the RWE Group.

Sergej Strajnak: New technologies are changing the world around us every day. How is RWE IT participating in this?

Marco Spoel & Michael Neff: In two ways RWE-IT is participating on new technologies. First it is embedded in the IT Strategy. For example our goal to reducing IT assets, and a Cloud first strategy drives new application like our Digital Future Platform to the Azure Cloud. Our Digital Future Platform will host all customer facing Internet sites and applications and will drive further Digitalization of our Business. Secondly we drive also IT innovation in by participating in the Innovation Hub. The RWE Innovation Hub has a clear objective: developing new business models. With the Innovation Hub RWE is adapting to much shorter product development cycles, where we will develop and test products within a matter of weeks – and will decide on investing further in those products. Failing and starting over are therefore core elements of our innovation work. IT will support this Agility required.

Sergej Strajnak: Could you give us a quick look into the company's future?

Marco Spoel & Michael Neff: RWE wants to shape the future energy system as innovation leader. The future energy system will become more and more decentralized, digital and at the same time more and more dynamic. RWE is expanding its Innovation Division to bring high-tech products in from Silicon Valley to Germany.

Sergej Strajnak: How do you feel about women in IT sector? What is the approximate percentage of women representation in management of RWE IT?

Marco Spoel & Michael Neff: RWE has ratified the "Diversity Charter," an initiative of the German Federal Government to promote a diverse working environment. By doing so, RWE has undertaken to ensure diversity within the company - a commitment which it takes very seriously. Woman in IT are more than welcome. Diversity can drive the bottom line of the company according to studies.

Sergej Strajnak: How do you and the company view the market of this country? (Slovak republic) (why invest in IT in Slovakia)

Marco Spoel & Michael Neff: Východoslovenská energetika, a. s. (VSE) is an energy utility which provides comprehensive services related to electricity off-take. Business activities of VSE are the purchase of electricity from producers and its sale to approximately 500,000 customers – households, companies and organizations, accounts, and key accounts. By means of Integrated Power Supply Contracts VSE provides comprehensive services in the area of electricity sales and distribution. VSE became a member of the RWE Group in 2003. Východoslovenská distribučná, a.s. (VSD, a.s.) is a power supply company. Owning a distribution system, its core business activity is electricity distribution to the end customer. VSD, a.s. was established in November 2005 through unbundling from the company Východoslovenská energetika a.s. (VSE). The company owns distribution grids with a length of over 21,500 kilometres on the territory of Eastern Slovakia. It distributes electricity to approx. 603,170 points of supply. RWE continues to focus on its core business. After the agreement with German software company T-Systems on outsourcing workplace management last September, the Group has now sold RWE IT Slovakia to Vietnamese company FPT Software. The benefits are clear. Being part of a global software network offers the opportunity to provide IT services more efficiently. Standard software can now be programmed within FPT’s global network and differentiating IT solutions can be developed by IT experts with energy expertise based in Kosice, Slovakia. Peter Terium, CEO of RWE AG, comments on this agreement, which will became operative on 1 July 2014: “This is a win-win-situation. We have entered into a long-term partnership in the field of application development and maintenance. We expect that this measure will bring savings in the tens of millions for the RWE Group. FPT will benefit from developing the Kosice location as a basis for their European business.” 200 new jobs will be created in Kosice.

Sergej Strajnak: Would you like to describe your personal opinion about people and IT in Slovakia? What is the future of IT?

Marco Spoel & Michael Neff: The Slovak IT is of high quality. Slovak citizens in IT are hard-working and committed to deliver results. Because being part of the EU community IT Services for EU and specially German based companies are compliant to Data Privacy laws and regulation.

Sergej Strajnak: What is or can be the upcoming trend in energetics? For example renewable sources like offshore wind farms?

Marco Spoel & Michael Neff: A few years ago, it would have been hard for most of us to imagine happily sharing our house, our car, our music, our clothes, or even our dog with complete strangers. Yet, today, a multitude of popular online platforms exist that facilitate the sharing of assets between peers in practically every imaginable area. Every day, approximately one million car rides worldwide are booked via Uber, a transportation network company connecting consumers with Uber drivers. The largest peer-to-peer room sharing company Airbnb is expected to reach around 130 million booked nights per year in 2016. More than 60 million users are currently registered at Netflix, a movie streaming service, and around five million people worldwide make use of car sharing services. The sharing economy is here, and it is booming. The sharing economy (often referred to as ‘collaborative consumption’), or at least the idea behind it, is not at all new. For centuries, mankind has been swapping and sharing food, tools and other assets directly, without interference of a third party. But with the aid of modern technologies like mobile phones and data crunching, new opportunities arise to share more efficiently and effectively. Thereby, additional social, economic or environmental value is unlocked. Sharing platforms come in all shapes and sizes. However, at the core it is always about matching one’s “I need” with another one’s “I have”. Moreover, the sharing economy is based on one crucial aspect: trust. Due to different events in the past (e.g. the financial crisis in 2007) people have become increasingly skeptical of big companies. They prefer interacting with other ‘real’ people over a faceless incumbent business. Nevertheless, transactions in the impersonal digital world do require trust mechanisms such as reviews and insurances that guarantee the credibility of those transactions. As a result of emerging sharing businesses, consumers bypass traditional businesses. Incumbents become obsolete by peers producing, buying and selling directly to each other. The transportation and hospitality industry as well as financial sectors are already profoundly affected. Today, sharing platforms exist for almost anything, ranging from professional fisherman equipment to kitchenware to, why not, pets. Entering the energy sector, the sharing economy might have enough disruptive potential to affect RWE’s current business model. How will we respond? What if peers were to share their self-generated electricity independently with each other? Innovation@RWE is currently looking at a variety of collaborative consumption models that are directly or indirectly related to energy. The most noteworthy example is probably POWR, a concept that allows peer2peer energy trading through the block chain. In addition, RWE has recently kicked off an initiative to develop concepts at the intersection of energy, sharing economy and mobility.