An app production line
DUB UNTERNEHMER magazine: Technological change and innovation have more of an evolutionary than a revolutionary character here. Is Germany not disruptive enough?
Jens Kramer: I wouldn’t say that exactly. For instance, Berlin is the melting pot for a flourishing start-up scene. If I were to complain about something, it would more likely be the views that people here in Germany generally hold regarding entrepreneurship. If somebody has a good idea, employs people, is liable with his personal assets, sets up something new and is successful with it, then he must expect to be regarded critically and envied for his financial success. The often rocky road and the risks behind it are not seen. That is a shame. We need a lot more entrepreneurial spirit.
Speaking of data protection, how can our strict standards be used to our advantage?
Kramer: I believe many bright minds in Germany have thought about this subject. As an IT service provider, what is missing for me is an independent body that can check whether my products and services meet the high German or European data protection standards. Germany would be a real pioneer with a kind of MOT test for data protection. For consumers, this seal would be a clear identity mark for integrity and credibility.
Which methods and strategies are required to allow the majority of society to share in the benefits of digitisation and not exclude anyone?
Kramer: The first thing I think of here is our school system. Exaggerating a little, a classroom set of outdated computers and teachers who find digitisation stupid are not going to prepare children for our high-tech world. Computers are by nature not toys and software developers are often creative and cool guys. It should be possible to experience and learn this in school in Germany. By the way, more and more girls and women are also interested in this career. I think that’s great.
To what extent do German universities produce a sufficient number of top young talents who can promote the transformation of companies or provide digital impulses through start-ups?
Kramer: I do not believe that only start-ups can provide digital impulses. Established companies also have high budgets for innovation. And on the subject of young talents, here, too, I say universities are not the problem. Those who have made it that far usually leave university highly educated. For example, there are excellent start-up centres connected to universities. We receive many good people as student workers or young professionals just starting out in their career who have immense innovative spirit and creativity. We should think hard about the current school system in Germany! The backward-looking education structure is in sharp contrast to the route towards digitisation.
Which digital innovations would change your company the most?
Kramer: As an IT company, innovation is our core business. We, too, are seeing a profound change in our core business: away from traditional business areas such as selling licences or consulting by the day, and into new business models such as providing cloud solutions and solutions for mobile devices.
How do you respond to sceptical employees to motivate them for digitisation?
Kramer: The best way is to be successful. Innovation often initially happens in seclusion. Creative minds often suffer under the examining body when they reveal their ideas to the outside world. You therefore have to be able to work together and to recognise and use the strengths of the different personalities. In this way, we can sell the strengths of the innovation together.
Which digital project are you personally pushing?
Kramer: PROMOS is generally recognised in the housing industry as a successful full-range supplier of SAP®-based ERP systems. What fewer people know is that we bundle our innovations in the areas of apps and digitisation in our own product developments. For instance, easysquare is a cloud-based solution for professional real-estate management with a consistent app-based user interface. We can use this platform to establish, operate and integrate real-estate marketplaces. We now have a veritable production line of apps.
How important is social media for PROMOS?
Kramer: Many companies are reluctant to position themselves on social media due to concerns about hate comments or a wave of outrage from the public. We turn the tables and show housing companies, for instance, which business opportunities social media have to offer. This is why we build software products that make it as easy as possible for our customers to use social networks for business development with no cause for concern. Nowhere can target groups be defined and handled in a more dedicated way than there.
Which digital start-up most impressed you recently and why?
Kramer: ShareTheMeal. This is an app from the UN World Food Programme that allows people to share their food with children in need. It costs an average of 40 cents to feed a starving child for one day. Users donate 40 cents or more by clicking in the app, and thus feed a starving child for one day. I find this idea fantastic and click on it at least once a day. It encourages people to reflect and do good deeds even outside the Christmas period and away from awkward slips for charitable donations. Highly recommended and good for your karma! And it shows that digitisation is far more than just commercialism and hedonistic society.
Which digital service do you personally enjoy using most and why?
Kramer: Anything that involves acquiring information. I have no idea when I last held a newspaper. Probably on the train or in an aeroplane.
Are there moments in your professional and personal life when you wish digital devices and services were not present?
Kramer: The term digital detox has not emerged for no reason. Today it is definitely a luxury to forego modern technology for a while. Personally, I will be taking a hiking tour through the nature of northern Sweden this summer and I plan to allow myself an entire week offline.
Who is your role model as a transformer / digitaliser?
Kramer: I don’t have a specific role model. I enjoy being enthused by new ideas; I listen and try to have my own opinion. I once saw a university lecture by Steve Jobs on YouTube, that’s the first name that occurs to me. But it’s probably a very popular one (laughs).
Interview initially published in the DUB UNTERNEHMER magazine, September 2017.