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Walter Wolf, Schwarz Digits: "AI's rapid evolution will impact every part of digital transformation "

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Walter Wolf, Schwarz Digits: "AI's rapid evolution will...

Autor: Publicitate

31.05.2024, 13:40 103

At the forefront of Germany's digital revolution, Schwarz Digits, the IT, and digital division of Schwarz Group, ensures top-tier digital sovereignty and innovation across brands like Lidl, Kaufland, and more. Even before its inception, Schwarz Group was driving digital transformation, with Schwarz Digits emerging to meet the growing demand for its self-developed IT solutions. Recognizing the interest from external organizations wary of non-European global players, Schwarz Digits expanded its offerings to external customers, solidifying its position as an IT and digital powerhouse. With 7,500 employees spanning brands like Schwarz IT, STACKIT and XM Cyber, Schwarz Digits drives efficiency, reliability, and security through initiatives like AI applications. In an exclusive interview, Walter Wolf, member of the Executive Board of Schwarz Digits, sheds light on Schwarz Digits pivotal role in driving digital transformation within the Schwarz Group.

How do you believe Schwarz Digits contributes to the digital transformation of business and internal processes within the Schwarz Group, and what are the main advantages observed so far?

Walter Wolf: The companies of the Schwarz Group have always monitored developments in society and economy very closely and evolved accordingly. Even before the launch of Schwarz Digits, we were already driving the digital transformation of the Schwarz Group companies. The founding of Schwarz Digits is based on another important aspect: Many other companies and organizations have shown interest in our self-developed IT solutions. Because they did not want to become dependent on non-European global players. So, we started offering them to external customers. To address this increased importance, we launched Schwarz Digits – as an IT and digital powerhouse.

How do you estimate that technology and digitization will influence the retail customer experience?

Walter Wolf: For the customer experience, there are some great advantages coming up withing the next years. Chatbots, that become more and more intelligent thus helpful, for example when searching for the right product or asking questions about the ordering or return process. Supply Chains will become even more automated and precise, so the right goods will always be at the right spot. There is no business anymore that is not affected by the digital transformation. And there is no process in any business that cannot profit from digital transformation.

What strategies and objectives does Schwarz Digits pursue in the development and implementation of digital solutions, considering the current business environment?

Walter Wolf: Since the companies of Schwarz Group are running an ecosystem of 13.900 stores in 32 countries with 575.000 employees, the most important aspects with digital transformation are efficiency, reliability, security, and sovereignty. Efficiency means that we need solutions that fit our needs. If the fitting solution is not available under conditions we like, we develop it ourselves. Reliability means that we need to have robust infrastructure, we can control every detail.

How does Schwarz Digits contribute to ensuring digital sovereignty and data protection within the Schwarz Group, and what are the key aspects you emphasize in this regard?

Walter Wolf: We ensure our sovereignty for example with our own cloud STACKIT. The data centers are in Germany and Austria, data is stored and processed only in Europe. For data protection and in times of ever rising cyberattacks, cyber security is crucial. Thus, XM Cyber is part of the Schwarz Group, with its absolute benchmark in Continuous Threat Exposure Management. That lifts our own cyber defense teams and structures to a whole new level.

Can you provide some examples of recent or upcoming innovations and projects within Schwarz Digits, and how do you anticipate their impact on the industry?

Walter Wolf: A very fast evolution will come with Artificial intelligence. It will have an impact on every aspect of the digital transformation. We must be careful that AI fits our values. We need technology transparency and result explainability. We cannot rely on an AI black box from a global player. That’s why we’re a close partner of the German AI company Aleph Alpha. That will help us with great innovations, for example the chatbots we already talked about – not only for customers, but also in administrative processes.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing Schwarz Digits in the current technological landscape, and how do you intend to address them?

Walter Wolf: The complexity of IT infrastructure increases. Cyber attackers gain more and more possibilities to harm organizations, damage can be huge. AI will even intensify that with automated and AI generated cyberattacks. Thus, we need to invest in our security and sovereignty. One facet is digital communication. The best cyber defense is worth nothing, if your employees communicate highly confidential topics via unsecure communication channels – we don’t need to name the well-known apps. For that reason, we invested in the most secure communication company Wire and develop common solutions.

What are the strategic priorities of Schwarz Digits for the coming years in terms of innovation and growth?

Walter Wolf: On the one hand, we need to run and develop the infrastructure of the Schwarz Group and enable other divisions – for example the Lidl online shop and the Kaufland marketplace. On the other hand, there are important fields of action in Cybersecurity, Cloud and Colocation and Retail Media, as well as in Artificial Intelligence and Communication. Always with a spotlight on sovereignty. In addition to the technical challenges, a big task is to bring together IT talent and international success. For strategic reasons, we have also opened Schwarz IT in Romania.