Challenges as IT consulting
The nature of the business model has a strong impact on the challenges which a company can face in terms of sustainable development. As an IT consultancy, our range of services includes the development of software as well as other services such as consulting and support. Because our products and services are intangible, we do not have extensive supply chains and material usage is less relevant to us than to manufacturing companies. For us as IT consultants, for example, the following challenges are of particular importance:
As IT consultants, we work in a very knowledge-intensive sector. Finding and retaining professionals is crucial to our success as a company. Therefore, it is particularly important to us that our employees feel comfortable in our team and that they like to work for the abat. The training of our employees is essential as well, because only through their extensive knowledge we can achieve the best results for our customers in the long term.
As our services are often provided to our customers on-site, the greatest environmental damage produced by us is caused by our business trips. However, the amount of the resulting emissions can only be partially influenced by us, as project-related relocation can lead to a significant increase or reduction in emissions. We can influence this aspect in project planning through measures such as promoting environmentally friendly mobility and respecting the residences of our employees. The use of remote work can also help reduce our emissions. However, it is important to us that personal contact and cooperation with our customers is not negatively influenced by remote work. In general, project locations have the biggest impact on our travel activities, so defining reduction targets is difficult.
Digitization and Sustainability
Digitization and sustainability are two megatrends of our time that support each other but also can undermine other aspects of the business. Increasing efficiency in processes can, for example, save resources, but it also can lead to redundancies and rebound effects. Digitization can increase the availability of information – and thus enable better decisions – but at the same time it also can lead to higher demands on information security and data protection. Bringing together the megatrends of digitization and sustainability, while driving the positive effects of digitization, without losing sight of potential negative effects, is one of the biggest challenges for the entire IT industry.
The origin of abat AG is the act GmbH, founded in 1998 by Gyde Wortmann, Hinrich Meisterknecht, Holger Pralle and Ronald Wermann. Our founders had already known each other for some time, dating back to their schooldays. Along the way everyone was gaining experience and working together in various corporations. Creating their own business, they have decided the following: "We do not want bureaucracy to be an end in itself for our company." For us, this means getting along with as few requirements as possible in our daily work. Instead of rigid rules and long voting processes, the focus of our daily work are mutual trust, self-responsibility and respectful cooperation. To anchor the ideas of the founders, the basic and guiding principles were set up in the company to emphasize the importance of abat AG for our customers, our employees, our partners and our own company. Since its foundation in 1998, the basic and guiding principles of the company have remained valid. Detailed information on our corporate values can be found here.
We have been charting our own path since our founding and are looking for solutions that fit our organization – even if these may widely seem unconventional. Instead of rigid plan fulfillment, we focus on long-term success. Instead of imposing rigid rules, we focus on individual solutions – in terms of both our employees and our business. For us it is important that the chosen solution is as optimal as possible for all participants. Common sense and creative ideas are the focal points for us, while hierarchies play a subordinate role. For example, we have been working without budgets since the abat AG was founded (it was not until years later that we found out that this approach is called Beyond Budgeting), so that many decisions are made by our employees according to their needs in the on-site project. We rely on the responsible and independent actions of our employees – a concept that has proven itself.
Our sustainability approaches
We want to face the various sustainability challenges of our company and constantly improve our performance. To achieve this, we pursue a holistic approach that touches all areas: our services, our company and our employees.
Sustainability in our services
By further expanding our services in the field of sustainability and creating synergies between our sustainability business area and our SAP consulting, we also want to contribute to sustainable development through our business activities. In this way we can increase not only our own performance in sustainability, but we can also help our customers to operate more sustainably. This enables us to exert a positive influence on sustainable development beyond the boundaries of our company. Our goal is to make the best possible use of the potential represented by the connection between digitization and sustainability.
Sustainability of our company
As a company, we also want to constantly improve our sustainability performance. For us, this means that we continue to drive forward our efforts to make social, environmental and economic factors sustainable, and create a framework for our employees to behave more sustainably. These include, for example, the promotion of sustainable mobility, ensuring good working conditions or support for knowledge acquisition, for example in relation to innovative technologies.
Sustainability among our employees
abat is characterized by a corporate culture in which employees can take responsibility for their actions and actively participate in the company’s life. This makes it particularly important to motivate employees to act sustainably. As a company we can create the conditions for sustainable action, and the responsibility of our employees is to use the scope for action in a sustainable manner. In addition, the active involvement of employees can have a positive impact both on the sustainability activities of our company itself and on our services.
As for an IT consultancy, the environment plays an important role in our sustainability efforts, because as a service company, we also influence the environment through our business activities. So far, we have identified three topics that are relevant to us in the environment: green office, green IT and sustainable mobility.
At the end of 2015, after several years of construction, we moved into a new building in Bremen. Due to our strong growth, we needed a larger premises. The founders of the abat together with the responsible persons of two other companies decided to take control over the construction of the new office space themselves, as we had special ideas in terms of equipment and sustainable construction. Even while planning this project, significant importance was attached to ecological aspects, for thise reason we oriented ourselves to the standards of the German Sustainable Building Council. The following properties are featured in our new office:
- geothermal heat with concrete core activation
- segway, e-bike and e-cars parking with appropriate charging preparations
- spacious glass elements with heat protection glazing
- intelligent ventilation and lighting
- ergonomic office furniture concept-
The air conditioning of the offices takes place by concrete core activation. Here water flows through a pipe system installed in the ceiling, releasing heat or absorbing it at high temperatures. Geothermal heat is used to heat or cool the water. High energy efficiency is achieved by the insulated outer shell which is of high quality. The spacious glass elements with heat protection glazing ensure both good insulation and less need for interior lighting. We have also paid attention to energy savings of lighting. Both the offices and the other usable areas are equipped with LED lighting. Infrared, motion and brightness control avoids unnecessarily illuminating the premises.
For us as an IT service provider, IT devices play an important role. We run several hundred servers that have been almost completely outsourced to two external data centers. In addition, since 2011, all servers have been virtualized as far as possible, reducing the number of server landscapes to about one-sixth. Unused servers are turned off to reduce power consumption. The servers are also used for an above-average period: outdated, but still functioning servers are either donated to public institutions or they are used by trainees as an experimental server. Instead of replacing equipment immediately, it is retrofitted if possible or used in another working area.
Due to the nature of our services and the close cooperation with our customers, our employees often work with them on site. Therefore, many business trips cannot be avoided. When choosing the company car, the employees can opt for diesel engines that are more energy efficient at high mileages, as well as electric cars and hybrid vehicles are allowed. In the underground garage of our company headquarters in Bremen, which was acquired at the end of 2015, we provide our employees with parking spaces with the necessary charging stations for both e-cars and e-bikes. The underground car park serves as a covered parking space also for conventional bicycles. The use of bicycles for travel to the office is additionally supported: the employees can lease bicycles and use a free shower. Upon request, our employees receive also a BahnCard 100 instead of a company car. Since our employees are flexible in their choice of workplace (as long as it makes sense to implement) and meetings are held over longer distances by means of telephone and video conferences, many travel routes can be avoided right from the start.
We welcome people with all their facets, because we see every employee as a person with strengths, weaknesses and potentials. When recruiting new employees, skill, talent, curiosity and interaction are more important to us than formal qualifications. In principle, all employees receive a permanent employment contract. It is important to us that our employees are actively involved in the company and continuously develop themselves. So that our employees can develop individually, they have as much freedom as possible. For example, working hours can be organized flexibly in coordination with the respective team, as well with all team members (internal and external). Moreover, since the founding of our company, New Work has been part of our corporate philosophy. Since we see our employees as individual people, it is also natural for us to respond to their individual life situation. For example, we allow our employees longer time-out for travel, family work, social work or for their personal development. Our flat hierarchies and personal cohesion have also been transformed into a culture dispensed with formalities. Regardless of the position – from trainee to board – the informal form of you is practiced in the communication, creating a more intimate, confident relationship on an equal footing.
Overview of benefits for employees offered by abat:
- consideration of individual needs of employees, for example through sabbaticals, flexible working hours and home office days
- promotion of health measures such as HanseFit, corporate races, company physician supervision and preventive stress management workshops
- equipment with laptop and mobile phone as well as the option to use a company bike in addition to company car or BahnCard100
- training through own and external workshops – both professional and interdisciplinary
- corporate culture characterized by self-responsibility, self-determination and flat hierarchies
As abat AG, we were awarded in a company comparison by Top Job as Best Employer of the Year 2013 in its size category. In 2015 and 2017, we came in second place and are thus still one of the top places in our size category. We also receive high grades from our employees on the employer rating portal kununu and were honored by kununu and the magazine Freundin as one of the most family-friendly companies in 2017. In 2015 we reached the 4th place in the ranking of the best employers for women in Germany. These reviews give us confirmation that we provide a good working environment for our employees and they are happy to be part of abat.
The abat AG is a non-public corporation. The shares are wholly owned by persons who are working or who have previously worked in the company, none of whom holds a blocking minority. As a follow-up to corporate management, abat began years ago to include additional employees along with the founders' management board in the management of the company. abat has been financing itself since its founding, it has always had a positive EBIT and has transferred at least 50% of its profits to reserves in recent years.
As abat, we rely on long-term customer and supplier relationships: we focus on long-term target fulfillment and customer benefit instead of short-term success. We see ourselves more as a partner of our customers than as a supplier. Realizing projects with abat means for our customers to implement their projects in time and budget. To achieve this, internal and external transparency is required, and it is one of the basic principles of the company.
At abat, innovation is an integral part of sustainable business. Thus, the technical and procedural innovations are constantly monitored, recorded by abat and developed in the form of innovation teams and passed on to the workforce. Currently the main topics are SAP S/4HANA, SAP TM and SAP EWM. In addition, we deal with other innovative topics such as SAP Leonardo, Internet of Things, Big Data, Blockchain, Predictive Maintenance and Predictive Analytics. In addition, abat is creating its own SAP-based MES, which will be the only SAP standard MES for complex variant production..
The market environment is also continuously monitored by us. This enables us to identify interesting business areas for ourselves and integrate them into our company. Since 2016 we have expanded our services and have included the business area of sustainability to support our customers even more comprehensively. In 2017, with the incorporation of ID-Impuls GmbH, we have expanded our company with a subsidiary specializing in the development of innovative and sustainability-relevant IT solutions. Thanks to the cooperation between ID-Impuls and our sustainability consultancy, we have further strengthened the business field of sustainability. Since 2018, we have also expanded our services to ISO 27001 consulting services.
Since the founding of abat AG, we have been committed to having a positive impact on society. We see it as a matter of course to give young people training and a good start to their professional lives. Since the founding of abat we are a training company. The number of apprentices and students is mainly based on the suitability of the applicants. In 2017 we employed 12 apprentices and dual students. In addition, students can gain work experience through internships, working student activities and final thesis. We maintain a particularly close cooperation with several universities. In addition to compulsory study programs we implement further activities such as doctoral thesis, lecture series or hourly projects.
In addition, we donate €25,000 to social services every year – additional donations are made in emergency situations. Our team events regularly include other activities such as auctions and team games, the aim of which is to raise money for social projects. The longtime recipient is kidsneedfuture e.V., which supports social projects worldwide, especially in the field of educational support for children. In addition to these events and donations organized by abat AG, our employees also feel engaged and participate on their own in charity runs. We appreciate such actions and support the social commitment of our employees.