SGL Carbon is a technology-based company and world leader in the development and production of carbon-based solutions. Its high-quality materials and products made from specialty graphite and composites are used in industrial sectors that determine the future, e.g., automotive, aerospace, and solar and wind energy. Materials, products, and solutions from SGL Carbon are embedded in the major topics of the future: sustainable mobility, new energies, and cross-industry digitization. Further developments in these areas demand more intelligent, more efficient, networked, and sustainable solutions. This is where the entrepreneurial vision of SGL Carbon evolves around: contributing to a smarter world.
Interview: SGL Carbon’s Experience with Clarity as an itdesign SaaS Solution
Andrea Obernolte, Process Owner at SGL Carbon GmbH, talks to us about the benefits of Clarity for SGL Carbon as well as external hosting with itdesign.
Hi Ms. Obernolte! It’s nice of you to take the time to chat with us. Please tell us more about your tasks at SGL Carbon. What are your touch points with Clarity?
Andrea Obernolte, SGL Carbon:
I have been working in SGL’s IT department for just under seven years now. I came to Clarity from the PMO area, which I used to be responsible for. We decided on Clarity as a suitable tool for improving our project and resource management processes. This is how I became the Process Owner.
The Need for PPM Software and the Decision to Go with Clarity
What initially led you to implement a tool-based PPM solution? And why Clarity?
We had a lot of strategic projects at our company, and we were using various Excel sheets to manage them – a separate sheet for each project. One of our employees would consolidate these sheets once a month. This was a very time-consuming process and obviously also very error-prone. We couldn’t really see the big picture anymore. Excel also severely limited our ability to process the data into reports that management could use. But we also wanted to replace a lot of the smaller project planning tools that we were using at the time. For this, we needed a standardized cross-company solution – at least where it made sense to do so.
We then evaluated five different PPM solutions using a simple, internal scoring system. Clarity met all our technical and business requirements and came out at the top of our internal evaluation process. We found it particularly important to be able to map the various use cases of the business units, such as, for example, compliance with product engineering processes (PEP), time recording or cost planning, as well as to ensure that the software could be deployed globally. The ARP (itd Advanced Resource Planning) add-on was also the perfect solution for optimizing our resource planning. It has the necessary features to ensure efficient resource management.
The Decision to Use itdesign Clarity SaaS
You have decided to take advantage of itdesign’s SaaS solution as well as their external hosting model (itdesign Clarity SaaS). What was the thinking behind this?
The decision in favor of a SaaS solution was, and remains, based on an overarching SGL strategy to use cloud solutions to drive digitalization at the company. As a matter of principle, we are always looking to outsource tasks that are not part of our core business. We want to focus on our area of expertise. This philosophy would apply to IT as well, since we want them to be able to focus on other strategically important projects. We have found that with an external service provider, user requests can be highly prioritized. User problems and questions get quick responses.
We chose itdesign as our partner because here Clarity is hosted in the AWS cloud, which is operated in Germany. We found this solution very appealing and a good fit for our existing software infrastructure. Most importantly, it was compatible with our internal Information Security. But we had also become familiar with itdesign as a trustworthy service provider. We were very satisfied with the service at all times.
Data Security with a Cloud Solution
Many companies are concerned about their data when they use a cloud solution. Did you also have reservations at the beginning? Looking back, do you think these were justified?
Obviously, there is always a certain level of residual risk associated with using a cloud solution. But if you think about it, companies actually open themselves up to attack in many ways apart from just the cloud. So I actually don’t even consider implementing cloud software to be a major step. At SGL Carbon, we have a solid Information Security capability. We maintain very high standards. Their go-ahead gives us comfort. We know that the data input and output is then doubly and triply secured – as good as it can be for any company.
As I mentioned, one basic requirement we had was that the servers must be located in Germany, or in Europe at the very least. Our Information Security would not allow us to host through our previous partner Broadcom, because with them the data is hosted in the Google Cloud. The bottom line is that data protection laws and security requirements are just much stricter in Europe than they are in the US. The fact that the AWS cloud is hosted in Germany gives us peace of mind about our data security.
Internal IT and External Hosting
“External hosting poses a threat to our internal IT”. Do you agree with this statement?
I haven’t really found this to be true as far as SGL is concerned. For us, the decision on whether to host externally or internally was made in consultation with the relevant department, which I personally believe is very important.
There are a lot of tasks that need to be taken care of in our IT department. This is of course true for other companies as well. Business must go on as usual. New projects are added on a regular basis. Managing these tasks is already a real challenge for IT. So our strategy here when it comes to IT is to rely on a lot of out-tasking. We outsource tasks that are cheaper or simpler for an external service provider to take care of. Our internal IT can then focus on other strategically important tasks. Everyone wins, right? Colleagues who had previously been involved with running Clarity can now be deployed in other ways, for the benefit of themselves as well as the company.
Performance of itdesign Clarity SaaS
Your Clarity system has been running as a component of itdesign Clarity SaaS for several years now. How would you describe the system’s performance?
The productive system has always performed well so far, and we are very much satisfied. The system is always up to date, and we can take advantage of all the new features.
Partnering with itdesign
Last but not least: How would you describe your partnership with itdesign? What would you say is the secret behind your ability to collaborate so successfully?
Our relationship with itdesign is based on mutual trust and respect. That kind of trust is, of course, something that has to be earned – and it has to come from both sides. itdesign is a great help to us from a professional as well as technical perspective. The project has gone very well from the very beginning. The support requests we had shortly after go-live, as well as later on, were always resolved within the provided timeline. itdesign developed the complex, specific features that we now have on our Clarity system. These include a special portfolio report and the printing of Gantt charts, for example.
In addition to offering technical expertise, itdesign also proved to be a terrific sparring partner: When it comes to process-related topics, itdesign provides us with innovative and unique ideas all the time, and helps us with new solutions and great input. Moreover, itdesign itself practices what it preaches.
All these benefits, of course, provide a strong basis for collaboration and the long-term partnership that SGL and itdesign have been fortunate enough to develop.
Thank you for your kind words. Thank you also for this interesting and insightful conversation about your experience with Clarity as a SaaS solution.