Thomas Speck on Globalizing IT at Trumpf

Thomas Speck, recognized in Germany as “CIO of the Year 2023” in the “Transformation of Work” category, has played a key role in the IT transformation at Trumpf. Known for its global presence in machine tools, lasers and electronics for industrial applications with more than 18.000 employees, Trumpf has undergone significant internal changes in the IT under Speck’s leadership.

(Picture: Thomas Speck)

Speck describes the department’s primary focus as globalization and consolidation of the IT portfolio. Despite economic challenges and a shortage of skilled workers, the team has made good progress. “We have established three regional IT centers to increase transparency and standardize software usage across our subsidiaries,” he says.

Internal communication in the department has shifted to English, aiming for more inclusive and efficient global operations. “This allows us to be active 24/7 and expand our service range, improving customer service,” he says. “Our goal is to act more uniformly around the world, for example, through a unified IT governance,” Speck adds.

Tackling Workforce Challenges

With 300 IT employees in Ditzingen (near Stuttgart) and about 400 worldwide, Trumpf’s IT department has grown steadily. Speck acknowledges the skills shortage in the industry but notes that Trumpf is relatively insulated from these challenges. “Our reputation helps us attract talent. We try to balance remote and on-site work and make sure our employees find their work meaningful and engaging,” he explains.

Speck believes that employee satisfaction is key to Trumpf’s success. “We conduct transparent satisfaction surveys and have leadership programs that give employees a voice in IT management. This approach helps create a sense of value and empowerment among employees.”

The Essence of Modern IT

When asked what modern IT means to him, Speck has a long answer that makes it clear: a company’s IT has to deliver more than ever before. He defines modern IT as multi-faceted, with a focus on customer service and integration into the overall business strategy. “It’s about being innovative and aligning IT with the wider goals of the business, not just running IT as an isolated department.”

Speck believes that the role of the CIO is constantly evolving these days, and that there is no longer one IT strategy. “You have to constantly re-evaluate: outsourcing vs. in-house, nearshoring vs. offshoring, private cloud, public cloud or a healthy mix,” he explains. Digital transformation means that IT has a major impact on the business and corporate strategy. According to Speck, the C-level needs to move closer together and break up old structures.

Deployment of AI tools

In the context of increasing cyber threats and the adoption of AI tools, Speck emphasizes the importance of responsible information handling. “We addressed the topic of AI at a very early stage. We didn’t ban the use of AI tools, but we did explain how to handle sensitive information. AI chatbots often tempt you to put all kinds of internal information in them, but that also means you give up the rights to the content, which can be problematic. We make sure that our employees know how to use AI tools and what not to use them for.“

Trumpf has developed its own AI tools (GPTs) for specific functions. “For instance, our GPT for analyzing service reports is a prototype that supports technicians with efficient information retrieval and reduces their dependence on manual instructions. In the past, a mechanic spent a long time studying the instructions for a machine, but now he can simply ask for the information he is looking for – and get it within seconds.”

On Speck’s agenda are more large-scale projects, including a comprehensive S/4HANA transformation program, accompanied by a standardization of business processes.