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Digital Summit

“Ahead of most of the others out there”

05/2017 - Full house: 350 participants from all over the Deutsche Bahn Group attended the first Digital Summit hosted by DB Systel. And the feedback was impressive. The topics covered included corporate culture, blockchain, the Internet of Things and cloud.

The Silver Tower high above the rooftops of Frankfurt was a hive of activity on 17 May, as around 350 visitors from all over the DB Group attended the first Digital Summit organised by DB Systel. The event, involving DB Systel, digital partners and IT service providers in the Group, was dominated by digitalisation and the opportunities, solutions and recommendations for action it represents for the Group. The main aim of the event, in addition to presenting the digital portfolio of DB Systel, was to provide a platform for sharing visions, topical subjects and current challenges. The day was characterised by a colourful mixture of lectures, exhibition stands and discussions that generated the necessary impetus for a shared vision of the future.

Christa Koenen, Chair of the Management Board, opened the day and welcomed visitors from all over the Group to the packed auditorium in the Silver Tower. She was delighted with the keen interest shown by all of the Group companies in the topics on the agenda. She emphasised the importance of Group-wide collaboration in the digital era, which also represents the future of Deutsche Bahn, and concluded her welcoming address by calling on those present to work together to drive digitalisation at Deutsche Bahn.

“Because it’s so simple”

The presentations that followed were primarily concerned with the far-reaching changes within the Group that digitalisation entails and the consequences for business at Deutsche Bahn. The heads of the four sales divisions at DB Systel – Rüdiger Bansbach, Sabine Igler, Karlheinz Martin and Michael Schneider – called for more dialogue to facilitate exchange and emphasised the importance of learning from one other. Stephan Kaulbach, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at DB Systel, then described the essence of digitalisation: the reduction of transaction costs to (almost) zero. Digital disruptors such as Airbnb and Uber use existing infrastructures and connect them in new ways to create value – “because it’s so simple”. As Stephan Kaulbach pointed out, in the past, nobody would have come up with the idea of staying in contact with the outside world while on a train or insisting on a network connection so that they could work. Nowadays, however, passengers demand this – again, because it’s so simple.


In his presentation, Karlheinz Martin examined the cultural changes that this requires. He described DB Systel’s journey towards a new form of working, with a focus on self-organisation and interconnectedness. DB Systel aims to have transferred half of its employees to self-managed teams by the end of 2018 and to have completed its transformation fully within three to five years. André Weber-Liel, who is responsible for the move to the cloud at DB Systel, highlighted how this will primarily require a new way of working. Fewer specialists, but more generalists with all-round expertise, will be required to use the new technologies efficiently, for example. A new way of thinking will also be necessary in requirements management. Whereas previously, customers placed requirements on DB Systel, the situation is not quite the same when they purchase cloud services. Weber-Liel’s team has recently joined forces with the DAX 30 companies to implement a new form of requirements management in relation to global players in the cloud market. DB Systel now speaks on behalf of these DAX 30 companies, who collaborate at an operational level with vendor service teams.

The presentation topics:

  • A digital mindset for a digital future
  • A culture for the digital world
  • Cloud: challenge and opportunity for people and technology
  • DB MOVE. The app that provides intelligent support for workflows.
  • Blockchain. A technology between hype and reality.
  • Internet of Things in Rail Freight Business powered by DB Systel IoT-Cloud
  • Artificial intelligence – less hype, more benefit

DB employees can find a summary of the presentations (in German only) as well as video clips at DB Planet. Please note: If you are not logged on to DB Planet, follow this link to the DB Planet start page. Once you have logged on, click the link again to reach the Digital Summit page.

The trade fair was then opened with more than 30 stands providing detailed information about current digital trends, specific solutions, labs and communities, and key strategic partners. While the presentations covered some topics specific to DB Systel, they also provided an overview of the prototypes that are currently being developed in collaboration with all of the Group companies. The crowd was huge and the response was consistently positive. The guided tours of the various stands, which were being offered for the first time, were particularly popular. These tours allowed visitors to obtain a good overview of the most important topics in short 30-minute cycles without having to explore them on their own.

The second round of presentations in the afternoon provided an insight into current and future technological possibilities. They focused on the innovative technologies blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). The session was rounded off with a presentation by trend researcher Oliver Leisse, who confirmed that Deutsche Bahn and DB Systel are “…ahead of most of the others out there” in this area.

The general conclusion of the ensuing panel discussion was that the range of topics presented at the summit was very impressive and that the Group needs to continue in the same spirit to ultimately develop concrete customer solutions from the many opportunities offered by digitalisation. “We are addressing the right topics. Now we just need to bring them together.” The visitors were united on this point: “We need to grow this Digital Summit and use the related topics to establish it even further within the Group.”