Rüdiger Marten bounds down the stairs. A winning smile, firm handshake, a friendly sparkle in his eyes. We are having a meeting about the partnership between Funke Zeitschriften Service GmbH and Bechtle Systems Integrator Munich. The Head of IT exudes both satisfaction and drive. This describes the system landscape he looks after in the company, too: state-of-the-art technology—kitted out to set up the workplace of tomorrow, today. The question we want to address is about the relationship between IT leadership and external IT partners.
When Rüdiger Marten moved from Düsseldorf to Ismaning, Bavaria, within the FUNKE Mediengruppe, the company’s IT was completely outsourced. Not a good feeling for a pragmatist who takes his job seriously and wants to have clout and shape the future. The native Westphalian has lots of experience—both in IT and the publishing and media industries. And this has taught him two things: You don’t have to do everything on your own. And it’s worth forming mutual, long-term partnerships. Rüdiger Marten emphasises that, for him, personal contact and a mutual understanding between IT leadership and external IT partners is very important. He makes the comparison to a successful marriage: You know what to expect and what not. This builds trust and reliability. If he needs help and is at his wit’s end, he wants reassurance that the IT partner has the required resources.
Bechtle met these requirements. The partnership with the Munich systems integrator has existed since 2011. Rüdiger Marten was looking for an IT partner that he could make a completely fresh start with at the time. The status quo was a heterogeneous infrastructure from various different manufacturers in several locations, four domains as well as outdated systems caused by the typical investment backlog from merging locations.
This was in stark contrast to the clear demand from management for increased efficiency and that of the user for efficient collaboration and production under reasonable conditions. It was also clear that, after ten years of outsourcing, the expertise should be brought back in house. Rüdiger Marten: “We wanted to reduce high costs by breaking away from an outsourcing partner and instead having more freedom, more transparency, and more flexibility for future growth.”
We wanted to reduce high costs by breaking away from an outsourcing partner and instead having more freedom, more transparency, and more flexibility for future growth.
The manufacturer neutrality, corporate structure and size spoke in favour of Bechtle from the very beginning. Rüdiger Marten wanted to have experts for the various challenges in one place, without having to coordinate too many contacts. For him, Bechtle’s structure was a perfect fit: “I have my personal contact in the System House Munich only a few minutes’ drive from my office and know that there’s a great team of experts behind them.” It doesn’t bother him that these experts are based in different Bechtle locations.
The collaboration started with a systematic inventory analysis, specifying the requirements for efficient IT and finally the development of a future-proof strategy. “We were responsible for 100 dedicated servers—and absolutely no virtualisation. This meant a fast reaction was called for,” says Rüdiger Marten.
It quickly became clear that there was great potential for more efficiency and flexibility in a virtualised computer centre. Especially because of the amount of data the magazine publisher worked with on a day-to-day basis. “We sift through and process 40,000 photos on average that are accepted by our editorial team in a space of 24 hours for the 35,000 layouts produced in the infrastructure every year,” Rüdiger Marten explains.
The virtualisation solution has proven itself in the meantime and shown itself to be a step in the right direction. “Today, audit and security officers are welcome—we’ve got an excellent set-up,” says Rüdiger Marten.
Bechtle was also in demand during the current year, when further reflections on additional strategic alignment were pending. Typical of the industry was the urgent question of the workplace of the future for the magazine publisher. Here it became clear how much IT strategy and business strategy are interwoven these days. “FUNKE still believes in print. For us in IT, that means thinking in two directions—we support several output channels with our systems. In this context, IT has long been the stable backbone of the company,” says Rüdiger Marten. For this reason, he plans carefully with his team and considers the effects of an “online first” compared with an “online only” strategy on the existing IT infrastructure. He is aware that all IT decisions taken today must no longer just reflect the current orientation, but anticipate the future at the same time, too.
It is for exactly this reason that being close to the specialist divisions is important for Rüdiger Marten; for identifying new requirements as well as implementing projects: "Today, more than ever, we are in a classic service provider role." If IT was the decision maker until a few years ago, it’s today’s users that are calling the shots about what IT should be doing. This isn’t always easy because of the amount of individual interests. “It’s our job to evaluate systems and applications, with the demands of the user in mind, and then work with a strong partner to implement the best solution together.” It’s too great a task to undertake alone.
Rüdiger Marten has a clear vision of what he expects from his IT partners—he explains: “I expect innovation, a neutral perspective, consultation, conception, implementation and the ability to always question things.” He emphasises: “I want to be convinced on an operational level. We don’t want to waste any time, so we value a proof of concept a lot. This has worked really well with Bechtle so far.”
Maybe it’s down to this very carefully thought out strategic approach that there was a positive conclusion to the joint virtualisation project. As what was brought about in 2012 is still current today, according to Rüdiger Marten—if you built the virtual environment again today, the set-up would be the same; 90 percent of the concept and design would be absolutely identical.
I want to be convinced on an operational level. We don’t want to waste any time, so we value a proof of concept a lot. This has worked really well with Bechtle so far.
In fact, the Head of IT is particularly satisfied because of how inconspicuous the IT system is. Converting the infrastructure was carried out smoothly and went practically unnoticed by the users. For customers, the necessary installations were not noticeable and there were no breakdowns during regular operation. “The site has never produced in a more reliable way,” states Rüdiger Marten. His team is also glad of this as they “all want to be able to sleep well at night.”
The administrability of the systems is important to the IT manager—for him this aspect is an explicitly formulated feature in choosing a manufacturer. In his opinion, it would be seriously detrimental if the complexity caused errors in the administration. Above all, users should not be disturbed by maintenance. It should run in the background. Or, as Rüdiger Marten puts it: “IT happens behind the scenes, not centre stage.”
But what comes of experiencing a smooth project, from an infrastructure that is still current even four years after its implementation, that allows the user to do their job safely and gives the IT manager the peace of mind that they are always in control? Security and trust. A good experience is a mark of quality and also the best reference to act as a strong partner in the future. “If we have divergent views with Bechtle after a meeting, I know that they will pull out all the stops to meet our requirements. Not only in the systems integrator in Munich—but across Bechtle as a whole.” This is why there have been recent discussions and specially designed presentation events on the workplace of the future.
As well as swapping ideas internally and meetings with Bechtle specialists, the IT manager also values discussion with industry peers. This is why he specifically attends events dedicated to topics relevant to technology and which bring together people who face similar challenges in their daily lives. This is another advantage of Bechtle: They don’t just have events in the systems integrator and surrounding areas, they also hold them at their headquarters—1 Bechtle Platz in Neckarsulm. This includes the annual Competence Day, which Rüdiger Marten attended in 2016. “The whole spectrum of what Bechtle offers is on show here. I was really impressed by the range of topics, from the size and sheer variety of resources the company can provide. It put a whole new perspective on processes. You only have to see the warehouse in Neckarsulm once to know what availability really means.” Then he adds: “We’ll be there again at the next Competence Day. We’re going to stay for two days—we haven’t found a more comprehensive presentation of relevant IT trends anywhere else.”
The results are clear: Unity between customers and IT partners consists of successful, future-proof projects that are made with the long term in mind from the start and which can be implemented smoothly and operate reliably. This is the solid foundation—to which trust in the expertise of the partner also belongs. Then it’s almost irrelevant whether the necessary expert knowledge comes from one place or several systems integrators. The unity gets stronger if the IT partner supports networking with other heads of IT by making interesting platforms and events available for exchange. And this is how Bechtle and FUNKE magazines forged their long-term mutual partnership. With great success.
Published on Sep 11, 2016.