Dorothée Appel and her way to platform economy with Deutsche Bahn

Central platforms provide organisations with greater efficiency, joined-up data, streamlined business processes and allow them to meet new regulatory or customer demands. For conglomerates, creating a central platform is a significant challenge, but one in an age of AI, a climate emergency and high inflation that cannot be avoided. For Deutsche Bahn’s holding company, re-platforming will also see the rail operator benefit the citizens of Germany, who are arguably the most important stakeholders in the organisation. 

An interview with Dorothée Appel, CIO for Corporate IT Management & Services at Deutsche Bahn

The Corporate Management of Deutsche Bahn AG is responsible for over 450 IT applications. These applications range from local applications in the legal department to Group-wide applications for all entities of Deutsche Bahn, including procurement, accounting, HR management or payroll. Corporate IT Management is also responsible for the SAP-based platforms for the maintenance of rail and road vehicles as well as the IT end devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) for the whole Group, and the basic software equipment for these devices. This also includes the services from the Office 365 portfolio and other IT platforms used throughout the Group (e.g. for API management).

Deutsche Bahn has embarked on the digitalisation of its trains, buses and infrastructure to achieve a better service for all customers. “In doing so, we are targeting all citizens as our customers and this, regardless of their economic situation, which is still a core differentiator in financial services,” Dorothée Appel, CIO for Corporate IT Management & Services at Deutsche Bahn, says of this challenge and how it is different to her previous career in banking and insurance. “Many upstream and downstream processes need to be connected so that both employees and customers do not experience process breaks resulting in service delays. This is why we are building a platform inside of Corporate Management IT to digitally connect processes across our network of different partners.”

In a business of the scale of Deutsche Bahn, some of these applications can have 6000 simultaneous users. “If you travel from Munich to Hamburg, there are many processes involved, and we are building a platform to digitise processes so there are not as many handovers,” she says. An early stage in the process is a major migration of the SAP estate across to the SAP S/4HANA platform.

Digitising rail infrastructure and operations is seen by the CIO as key to tackling the climate emergency and meeting Germany’s CO2 emissions targets. “That was the core reason I thought this was the right place to be as a CIO, as the purpose makes sense. For Germany to meet its CO2 reduction targets, everything has to scale up, so we have to scale up the core IT.” Digitally enabled rail will allow Germany to increase passenger and freight transport, which is more environmentally sustainable than car travel and short-haul flights.

Sustainability is not the only purpose that drives the CIO. “Our goal at Deutsche Bahn and not just of the technology department is to foster a culture of equal opportunity, of appreciation and open-mindedness, of trust and respect – this is something I was happy to experience starting from day one in this new role,” she says.

Deutsche Bahn is working towards increasing the proportion of women throughout the company, with 30 per cent in management positions. To reach this target, CIOs and organisations like Deutsche Bahn will need to play an active role in promoting and helping women from all parts of society become digitally skilled. 

About Deutsche Bahn:

Deutsche Bahn is Europe’s largest rail operator and provides a full range of rail services  including local, freight and its high-speed ICE services that connect Germany’s major cities as well as those of neighbouring nations. Deutsche Bahn is a matrix of businesses that operate these services as well as organisations for rail infrastructure, an energy firm, consulting and its own technology company.

An article by Mark Chillingworth, European CIO Community Editor