A new mission statement for itelligence

Last year, itelligence – one of the leading IT consulting firms focusing on SAP and the midmarket – renewed its mission statement and has since been using the motto “We Transform. Trust into Value”. In an interview, Norbert Rotter (CEO of itelligence) and Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen (Partner at undconsorten) give personal insights into how a new mission statement is created and what is important during the process.

American entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook have just issued a statement on the purpose of their companies and abandoned solely focusing on shareholder value. Do you see this as a trend in the market?

Norbert Rotter: Either way, I welcome the discussion. Of course, there has never been this exclusive focus on shareholder value in the European environment. Our employees are extremely important to us and have been for a long time. In terms of our employees and customers, we consider ourselves as partners. We also have the special feature that SAP is our central partner.
Dr. Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen und Norbert Rotter

And do you see the IT industry as a pioneer in the discussion of purpose?

Norbert Rotter: Yes, absolutely. Our many young, well-educated people, 70 percent of whom are university graduates, are opinion leaders and this topic is simply very important to them.

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: Empirically, it’s also the case that more and more people are asking about purpose. The purpose of work is now one of the great motivators.

In 2018, you developed a new mission statement with your employees. What is their relationship to the new mission statement?

Norbert Rotter: For me personally, how we live the mission is critical. Just coming to itelligence and earning a salary – that’s not enough. We thrive on and live for ideas, innovation and the passion to use technology to create value for our customers. It is important that we have a mission statement and a strong culture, this is a real asset. That’s what you hear from our alumni. The itelligence culture is unique and people are constantly asking us about this. The way in which employees help each other is very, very formative – we express this culture in our mission statement. But it also goes in the other direction.

“We must enable the younger generation to seek their own purpose, to really want it and find it as well.”

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: And that’s also what a good mission is for! It offers room for many people to identify with. Everybody will interpret it for themselves, but they will all be united in working for a shared cause.

Who had the idea to create a new mission statement?

Norbert Rotter: After several years, in our case over 11-12 years, it was simply time to face up to these questions. Things have changed significantly and so Urban Hopen, our Head of Strategy, encouraged initiating the project.

And was everyone immediately won over?

Norbert Rotter: In the beginning I asked myself, “Is this a top priority?” But this new mission has really brought us a lot. You have to say, “Okay, for the next 5 to 10 years we need a new mission statement.” From a traditional software vendor to a cloud reseller– this means disruption for us and we have to change. To remain successful, we are following SAP’s strategy, which has evolved and continues to transform itself and its portfolio.

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: You also have to see this in the context of your growth: In 2008, itelligence had a revenue of 220 million euros and now the first billion, i.e. a quadrupling in more or less 10 years. This is also reflected in the growing workforce, which now numbers around 10,000 employees.

“From time to time the question is raised: Who are we, and what are we to our customers?”

Mr. Müller-Oerlinghausen, what did you think about itelligence in your first interview?

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: At first, I thought, “Who the heck is itelligence?” For someone who is not an industry expert, some B2B companies just fly below the radar. I knew the large system integrators, we had two among our clients, but they were not as specialized. In the briefing, we were able to ask a few questions. That was really unique. The special culture and the extreme employee identification were described in a tone of conviction – and with facts. I must say that we also felt this in the employees. Such a strong team spirit is very special. Of course, the deep industry and IT expertise is also apparent.

There are many companies where a mission statement ends up a “mission impossible” and becomes a page somewhere on the intranet no one ever reads. What did you do to avoid this?

Norbert Rotter: We had a good partner, I have to say that. Mr. Müller-Oerlinghausen and his team really have done a very good job. If you are a bit empathic, listen and show understanding for the other position, that helps a lot. But with Urban Hopen and Dr. Adeline Thomas, we had people in charge who were also willing to invest a lot of time and energy. I’ll be honest with you, I couldn’t have done that. It’s important that we had people who really see it as a very strategic, long-term project. And they did a great job!

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: That’s right – and along with Adeline and Urban from Strategy, we also had Inga Vogel from Marketing and Anja Doil from People, who were committed. We believe that this is also crucial for a new mission statement – the people on board must drive the process afterwards.

Norbert Rotter: This also leads to a significant ripple effect rather than prescribing a mission top-down. It definitely helps that the employees can identify with our mission.

“In our case, the team has ensured that the mission statement really does spread within the community, from country to country.”

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: Also, as a team, you were very committed, open and detail-oriented in the process. You didn’t just want to get it over with, you wanted to do something “right”.

The core of the mission statement is the motto “We Transform. Trust into Value” – how did you actually come up with it?

Norbert Rotter: It was quite some work to get there. We really re-examined what is important to us. I still remember the many keywords we collected. We wanted to have passion and…

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: …innovation.

Norbert Rotter: Of course, countless keywords came together and we had to condense it. The idea of change was obvious: “We transform”, because that is exactly what we do for every customer. Every IT project is a new transformation. We are also constantly transforming ourselves. However, values also have to be created and, as a service provider and consulting firm, we have to bring up this discussion again and again.

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: It was also a little bit of magic of the moment. This is where the preparatory work of the entire team comes together until the individual components fit. For example, the “We” was already clear at the very beginning – after all, itelligence ultimately is a people business, despite all the IT.

And would you do it the same way again?

Norbert Rotter: I can only recommend it. A project like this is a lot of work (laughs). But I would recommend it to any company. However, you also have to involve the right people, not just the management. That way, they feel they are part of it.

You have already mentioned a few success factors. What would you pay most attention to in such a process?

Norbert Rotter: I would really work with a partner. It is not possible for a company to develop such a mission statement itself. You just get too caught up in your own world.

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: What is always important to us – we started from the business side. We asked ourselves: What happens in the industry, what is the USP, how is SAP changing, what will be important in the future? But also: What do the employees say, what is special about itelligence? We sometimes noticed in the conversations that the phrases were quite atypical of IT, words that were more modest, more down-to-earth, straightforward.

Did new questions still arise after the developing the new mission statement?

Norbert Rotter: I have to say that NTT DATA has again proven itself as a strategic investor and has really given us room for maneuver here. The whole topic of vision – mission is also characterized by the fact that we see ourselves as our own company, which has its own “soul” and culture. Although our mission statement fits in with the vision of NTT DATA. From now on we will be measured against our claim “We Transform. Trust into Value”.

If the economy does become a bit bleak now, can you actually compromise on “transforming trust. into value”?

Norbert Rotter: Certainly not. Companies have to change and there is no getting around it now. It would be the biggest mistake to cut back on strategic investments now – this applies to us and our customers alike.

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen: I would also say that in times like these it’s really a wonderful motto to work even harder on your own transformation, but also to trust the “we” and to ensure customers are really delivered “value”.

Norbert Rotter: That’s true. We need the full commitment of our employees. We need people who are willing to work more than an eight-hour shift. To this end, we give our employees the opportunity for real development. They have the chance to transform themselves, if they want to. That’s a great offer.

Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen
Jens Müller-Oerlinghausen
Partner, Head of Leadership Practice

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