'Standards and benchmarks only get you so far'
Thomas Reisenweber, CEO of Consulting & Management Services at umlaut, talks about implementation expertise and data analytics.
Mr Reisenweber, the corona pandemic has forced many companies to change rapidly. You support your customers as a consultancy. What is important today and in the future?
Customers increasingly care about getting results they can use. They are no longer satisfied if a consultancy project ends with a summary of project findings. Consultants need to support customers in the implementation of the findings. It is also more important than ever to respond individually to each company in order to find sustainable solutions. Many of the current challenges for our customers are very disruptive and were previously left unresolved. Consultants are expected to do more than just apply standard methods, benchmarks and blueprints, especially in times like these – at umlaut, we are happy to exceed those expectations.
What role does digitalisation play?
Many organisations are currently discovering the possibilities of digital collaboration – via video conferences, virtual workshops and other formats. In many of our projects, however, digitisation is far more profound: It has radically changed the consultant’s as well as the client’s day-to-day work. That’s why IT skills and data analysis training require more time and dedication. Data analytics helps to facilitate consultancy findings. In the past, process improvement projects at companies involved making observations and conducting interviews with customers. Today, process mining is the watchword: the consultant takes process-relevant information from the ERP system and uses data analysis to identify any errors or inconsistencies and improve the customer’s organisational procedures.
Every company is different, so data analysis alone is not enough. Consultants always need to consider customer-specific challenges, such as concrete quality issues mentioned by customers in their feedback. They also have to take a closer look at which procedures are actually useful and feasible. Digital methods are not a replacement for consultancy skills, which are usually acquired through many years of experience and can build a far more relevant link to the customer. The combination of people and technology is crucial.
What added value does umlaut offer compared to a more traditional approach to management consulting?
We think in real end-to-end terms and see ourselves as a technology partner to our customers. We combine strategic advice with its implementation up to product development and the delivery of the product – e.g. as a prototype or series. It is this approach that sets us apart from our competition. Plus, we view our customer relationships as partnerships, not as a pure service provider. In one consulting project in the field of electric mobility, for example, we started out by supporting a customer in the conceptual design of a charging infrastructure. We used crowd data analytics based on anonymous smartphone information to recommend the best locations for the charging stations. We then helped the charging station manufacturers to configure their products to provide a high-performance range of over 350 kilowatts. Now, we are testing new charging infrastructure in the lab and designing innovative types of plugs. In fact, we are already building prototypes of some of them. As a result, we are enhancing the quality and efficiency of the charging process, and we are helping to configure the power grid to deliver the required level of performance.
We think in terms of solutions and have in-depth, far-reaching implementation expertise when it comes to development. Thanks to our global footprint and highly specialised experts, we are also able to react flexibly to customer needs and give our customers more by always going the extra mile for them. That is another reason why our slogan is “umlaut. adds something on top”.
Where does this implementation expertise come from at umlaut?
Its roots lie in umlaut’s DNA. Our founders completed their doctorates at the Fraunhofer Institut for Production Technology in Aachen. The Fraunhofer Institute attaches great importance to the efficient implementation of academic findings, so practical technological expertise has been a part of umlaut right from the start. Many of our employees have real, hands-on experience in the field. A number of the people who work here are engineers from industries such as aerospace, telecommunications and automotive. They want to see solutions put into action. At umlaut, we have created a culture that makes this possible and plays an important role in who we are. We DARE to make things happen. We have been noticing this even more in the crisis situation over the past few weeks. Two examples: Our telecommunications colleagues supply governments and companies with constantly updated mobility data. And when it became clear that face protection is becoming scarce in hospitals, a team quickly set up a workflow for 3D printing. That takes courage, which is something we have! We are not satisfied until we leave our customers with solutions, not just concepts. For me, this culture is what truly sets us apart from our competitors. Because our approach to consulting relies heavily on individual professional expertise rather than simply complying with methodology, we are highly aware of the challenges our customers face. At the end of the day, it is more important to us to solve a problem than to apply a particular method. We make sure of that by offering a very tailored response to our customers.
You yourself can look back on many years of experience as a consultant. What experiences have moulded you, and why did you choose to work for umlaut?
Thomas Reisenweber first studied industrial design before earning a degree in information technology. Today, he enjoys working as a consultant and supporting customers in their digital transformation with portfolio and growth strategies, new business models, innovation scouting, and data and product lifecycle management, to name just a few examples. At umlaut, he is responsible for the global consulting portfolio.