Bridging the Gap


Both start-ups and well-established enterprises met at the eleventh edition of the conference “Bridging the Gap” and delivered insights into how they develop and use networks to achieve success. This year’s conference focused on the “power of networks” and provided a platform for a wide variety of guests and fascinating speakers (e.g. from SAP, Deutsche Bank or Hilti) to approach the topic from different angles in the Munich headquarters of BayernLB, the Bavarian State Bank.

The speakers focused on professional and other networks in commerce, politics, sciences or private life and acknowledged that those networks are an essential part of their professional lives in particular. While start-ups try to harness the power of these networks, large and established companies as well as medium-sized enterprises also address this topic.

Risks in networks

After a short introduction by Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Buhl, Melanie Kehr, CIO of BayernLB, was the first speaker of the day. She introduced us to the world of network risks from her view as a CIO of an international bank and shared her wide knowledge. Cyber risks have changed and highly increased during the last years as cybercrime got more and more organized. Besides the risk of hacker attacks from outside, it is also important to raise awareness for cyber risks among the employees of a bank. To protect BayernLB holistically, the management uses a multi layered security model comprising the integration and monitoring of the systems, the creation of awareness for cybercrime, the proper reaction to attacks as well as safeguarding the systems.

Risk and reward of global networks

Dr. Martin Hüfner, chief economist of Assenagon, described and discussed vividly his broad view as an economist to the power of networks. As the global networking of the industry leads to many advantages like low prices, economic growth, shared knowledge and innovation, it also results in many disadvantages like social inequality and tensions, dependencies and exploitation. Thus, the objective is to create an optimal synthesis to benefit from the advantages, but to regulate the disadvantages to keep them as low as possible. Dr. Hüfner closed his speech asking the open question why people today seem to offer resistance against the world-wide economization by choosing the Brexit and electing the new president of the USA. He appealed to the audience to take these processes seriously and to accurately weigh up the long-term advantages and disadvantages of our decisions.

Networking for the digital philanthropist

The next speaker was Mr. Gerrit Bojen, partner at KPMG AG WPG and responsible for the division of business technology risk. Mr. Bojen illustrated very figuratively how data can be applied to help people in a network. In Kenia, for example, pattern analysis of satellite images helps the project “GiveDirectly” to spot areas with roofs made of straw instead of metal, indicating areas where people particularly need donations. Another example how networks of data help people is the project “SimpaNetworks” where an algorithm analyzes the paying behavior of people for solar collectors, thus the data assures that the project can distribute solar collectors in the long term.

Innovation through networks

Following a short introduction by Mr. Riegler, CEO of BayernLB, Dr. Welz, Senior Vice President of SAP, first noted that particularly the software industry is threatened by disruptive technologies that can make old software obsolete within a short period. Therefore, it is necessary to find a good balance between milking old cash cows and killing them by adapting new technologies. The main difficulty in that, says Dr. Welz, is to find the right timing when implementing disruptive technologies. Coming up with new ideas, SAP strongly relies on its own network that integrates other companies, start-ups, consumers and universities with SAP through the so-called SAP EcoSystem Network. Other stakeholders can thereby create their own applications using SAP software. Considering the academic audience, Dr. Welz gave some encouraging examples where students successfully developed SAP solutions within a university seminar or a Hackathon (FIM students won the SAP price in a Hackathon last year).

The Hilti perspective on networks

Dr. Petry, CIO of Hilti, answered the question whether disconnected companies can compete with connected ones. Hilti focuses particularly on building a better network with all its customers and suppliers at the construction site. Today, customers are rather buying the process of the right supply at the right time than the actual product. Creating smooth processes and developing new products that not only support the workers at the construction site but might replace them in the end, is therefore crucial to Hilti’s success in the future, so Dr. Petry. Hence, the answer to the above question is clear: the future is digital and only connected companies can compete. To win this competition and to be the dominant player on the construction site, Hilti is therefore heavily investing in R&D and digital transformation.

Traditional value of networks

When we think of innovation through networks, we rather think of the Silicon Valley than of long-established companies. However, Mr. Brugger from Dr. Oetker’s Radeberger Group illustrated in his talk that tradition and innovative power may not contradict. On the contrary, the strong ties in traditional networks, as they are at a 125 year old company, form a stable environment in which innovative ideas can grow. Nevertheless, Mr. Brugger noted that Dr. Oetker and its Radeberger Group are taking every new competitor very seriously, always checking the market for new products and opportunities to further expand its rich network.

Networks in commerce, politics and sciences

Dr. Matthias Büger works for the Deutsche Bank AG in their technology department where he concerns himself with strategic questions around the usage of information technology in the banking sector. Alongside his corporate career he teaches mathematics as a professor at university and supports the German liberal party FDP as treasurer for the state of Hessen. Therefore, he is well-informed on the differences between networks in commerce, politics and science. According to Dr. Büger, communication in science is professional and hierarchical, but still quite casual. While politicians are loud and blustering, conflicts in business are carried out subtly. Dr. Büger recommended understanding the network’s characteristics to use its full potential.

Harnessing the power of networks for talent acquisition

Carl Hoffmann is the founder of Talentry, a start-up in the field of human resources. He has studied business administration at the Technical University Munich and started his company directly after his graduation in 2012. Talentry is one of the fastest-growing start-ups in the German-speaking region and has acquired many renowned companies as its clients. It offers a web-based “Social Recruiting” software that allows employees of the client companies to share job offers in their private networks (e.g. Facebook, Xing, e-mail). Talentry is based upon the believe that the private networks of employees offer great potential that still needs uncovering. Mr. Hoffmann talked about how personal contacts and the contacts of those contacts (so-called second-tier contacts) can be addressed to generate value.

Social networks – supporting or obstructing social well-being?

The last speaker has a very special approach to networks: Mr. Johannes Woll graduated from university in psychology and philosophy and started his career in marketing and publishing companies. Nowadays he is curator for some of the biggest XING groups in Germany and owns the company Social Event GmbH. In his speech, he talked about Social Event’s new technology Miitya, a mobile Customer Relationship and Community Management tool, as well as his view on online social networks like Facebook or Xing. His open and casual talk was the perfect closure to a very interesting and versatile day.

At the final conference dinner, attendees and speakers were given time to make new contacts and have stimulating conversations in a relaxed atmosphere. The conference did not only inform about networks, it also offered the opportunity to everyone to widen his or her personal network. We would like to thank all our guests for contributing to this great event.