Dr Nick Miesen: data-driven digital transformation in Henkel

Head of Digital Operations, Dr Nick Miesen discusses digital transformation of the supply chain and the power of data

|Jul 7|magazine7 min read
Dr Nick Miesen
Henkel AG & Co. KGaA

Head of Digital Operations

Dr Nick Miesen is driven by a passion for digital technology and an ambition to be a digital leader. Miesen has, for more than a decade, specialised in digital transformations of leading enterprises, business optimisation and operational excellence. He is, in short, an expert in the power of digital technology and data. 

Misen has combined his work with education, too. Specifically, he relates, completing most recently a PhD in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering that he originally took on because “he got a little bored and needed a challenge”. 

“My career to date has taken in several companies, including AkzoNobel and KLM but I’ve always gravitated towards operational or organisational excellence really as a result of my drive to be more of a leader in the digital sphere. I was attracted to Henkel in particular as it’s such a diverse business in that regard, which also had really solid digital foundations upon which I could build. I’m already seeing a lot of aspects coming together, despite online joining at the start of 2020 and it feels like a great place to be.”

Where Miesen offers a different approach to many of his contemporaries is in his focus on the fundamental aspects of any digital journey. He is, he admits, keen to avoid the ‘sexy’ technologies - AI, ML and VR etc. - until he is sure the basics are in place: the right people and the standardising of processes. 

“From my perspective,” he says, “the foundation of any digital transformation is the people - I’d rather have 1,000 highly capable individuals trained in the basics than a couple of master coders. That strong foundation across the organisation lets you build out the entire decision making process, to properly analyse and problem solve and achieve the low hanging fruit first. There’s a bigger picture, of course, and a full strategy but only focusing on that just isn’t a sustainable approach to building operational excellence.”

On leadership, he is a firm believer in consistency and acting as you would expect others to act. “I’m a rugby player,” he admits, “and so I have a really strong sense of leading by example. I try to be consistent in my thoughts, my actions and my vision and to always treat members of my team how I want to be treated. Digital is irrelevant to that in a lot of ways, it shouldn’t change how you lead - you should always focus on leadership capability outside of everything else.”

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We move from simple data to advanced data analytics, and as we do it the supply chain becomes increasingly digitised for us, our suppliers and our customers.

Dr Nick Miesen | Henkel AG & Co. KGaA

Perhaps unsurprisingly considering his academic achievements, Miesen is passionate about training and learning, both within Henkel and more broadly. “It’s not just our internal workforce that needs to be trained, but students and new employees too” he enthuses. “It’s something I’m really passionate about working on and, in many ways, I still miss academia. I’m trying to bridge the gap between industry and academics because often you’ll find exceptional student who have a great grasp of the very latest technologies, but have no idea about change management or integrating effectively into a working environment. 

“I’m actively talking to several government institutions to set up a cross-functional or cross-faculty programme that maybe tones down on the AI or the technology and looks at economics or psychology in business. I’m really excited about changing .” 

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