How is ista driving digitalisation forward? For example, by new appointments to two key divisions: as the new CIO, Nils Engelke is in charge of the global IT of the ista Group. As the CTO, Michaela Hitzberger’s  responsibilities include the technology and hardware strategy. How did the first 100 days in their new roles go? What plans do the two have? We find out in the interview. 

As a real estate service provider, we at ista link two key transformation topics: digitalisation and sustainability. For example, digital solutions, such as the EcoTrend app, visualise savings potential in the building sector. We develop and produce technical devices ourselves so that hardware, software and data all work smoothly together. So we are ready for remote radio reading, which is a requirement for more monthly consumption information and additional CO2 savings.  

In order to drive the development of digital solutions with high customer benefit forward, we enlarged our top management team in January: in Chief Information Officer Nils Engelke and Chief Technology Officer Michaela Hitzberger, we now have two experienced managers responsible for divisions that are key to the digitalisation of the ista Group.  

Michaela, Nils, you have now been in office for 100 days, how did you find the first weeks and months?

Nils Engelke:  In the first few weeks in my new position, I got an incredible amount of input. It was about how we can improve even more or develop the business further. At the same time, I noticed great pride: in ista as an employer and our products. Many colleagues are very passionate about their work and people are really enthusiastic about what we have achieved so far.  

Michaela Hitzberger: I was reminded very much of when I started at ista about three years ago and assumed responsibility for Corporate Strategy. The first few weeks are simply about listening and taking things in. Fortunately, my colleagues make this learning process easier: I know I can ask anything – without ever expecting anybody to roll their eyes at the question. Broadly speaking, I drew up a plan for the first hundred days, which was split into three: listen, understand and then develop my own take on things.  

What do you have planned for the next few months? Can you already say what your most important to-dos are?

Michaela Hitzberger: After getting a basic understanding of the topics, for me it quickly also became a question of operational tasks and the neuralgic issues in the teams, for example with regard to our agile transformation. This is what we are now focusing on so the teams can regain greater operational striking power. As far as the long-term perspective for the CTO area of responsibility as a whole is concerned, we are currently working out our vision for the future – where we want to go. 

Nils Engelke:  I can definitely confirm what Michaela has just described. The agile transformation was also very quickly an issue in my discussions: What is working well? Where do we perhaps have to make some tweaks to the model? In the coming months, it will be a question of further increasing the level of automation in core processes, such as the field service and billing, in order to deliver the speed and quality of our services we aspire to achieve for our customers. In all we do, we are always thinking about IT security as well and are building our fence a little higher every day. 

Michaela mentioned the long-term perspective – picking up on that, what actually is your vision for the development of IT and technology? What do you want ista to look like in five years' time?

Michaela Hitzberger: Well,  a company with even better and cooler digital services and products for our customers - and excellent hardware with which to deliver those services. Our goal should be to regularly update our devices and their operating systems during their useful lives – in a secure way, of course. 

Nils Engelke:  I would like us to steadily increase customer satisfaction with our products and services. If we are to achieve this, we have to further standardise our product portfolio and, at the same time, organise tailored customer care. 

Do you see any interfaces between your departments - and if so, which ones?

Nils Engelke:  So, I see a lot of interfaces, for example with regard to strategy, production IT or the operating model. Our two areas of responsibility are closely linked because IT is everywhere. 

Michaela Hitzberger: For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the whole subject of data transmission, reading out remotely transmitted data. Particularly in Germany, it's often all about smart meter gateways. These are all fields where we need extensive and secure backend IT systems.  

Your departments are so closely linked in terms of topics that you also have a lot to do with each other. What do you particularly admire about each other?

Nils Engelke:  Michaela’s clarity! When ten people are discussing something and going in all different directions, she listens for a while and at a certain point she sums it all up clearly in just three sentences. That's really impressive. 

Michaela Hitzberger: I am very happy to have found in Nils someone who can explain IT subjects in a way that it is easy to understand - without technical jargon. I really appreciate that. 

Both of you have taken on a lot in your new positions. As you know, work-life balance plays a big role at ista. How well are you managing that at the moment?

Michaela Hitzberger: I fully accept that work is front and centre for me right now. At the same time, I can rely on the fact that a leadership role and family life are compatible at ista. My child’s day-care  centre can also be unexpectedly closed one day. In such cases, I know I am free and have the flexibility to organise my work so it fits in with my family life.  

Nils Engelke: I have found a model that works for my family and me. During the week, I am totally focused on work. At the weekends, I am there for my children and can really enjoy time with the family.  

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