More and more companies rely on data minimalism

More data no guarantee for improved results, says Michael Müller-Wünsch, CIO of Otto Group
11 March 2020
Michael Müller-Wünsch, CIO der Otto Group

Data are catalysts of digitalisation. Yet, huge amounts of available data are causing a rethink among brands and companies. Data processing requires enormous resources, time and attention. Given this backdrop, companies must break new ground to remain relevant in the long term. Hamburg News spoke to Michael Müller-Wünsch (MüWü), CIO of the Otto Group in Hamburg about his views. 

Hamburg News: The Otto Group is focusing increasingly on data minimalism. What does the term mean and why is it necessary? 

MüWü: The idea is to rethink our handling of data and to query the purpose for which we store and use data. The data minimalism approach is based on the assumption that more and more data does not automatically lead to improved results. For this reason, we wanted to know how valuable the data at our disposal is and whether there is any data that we do not need to gather. After all, collected data is usually processed, moved and stored as well. This requires valuable resources such as electricity and water for the server farms. 

Hamburg News: What does this mean in concrete terms for consumers and for society as a whole? 

MüWü: Data processing indirectly causes CO2 emissions. New artificial intelligence technologies in particular, such as deep learning, are very energy-intense, so that consumption increases as the volume of data rises. This applies to both AI applications and to everyday things like streaming movies, music or surfing on mobile phones. Many people are not yet aware of this. 

Hamburg News: You support the idea of Hanse Digital. Does data minimalism back this idea as well? 

MüWü: Hanse Digital is based on the idea of creating and facilitating trusting relationships in the digital era. I am convinced that the data minimalism aspect matches this trusting approach very well.

Hamburg NewsCorporate digital responsibility is the issue at present. What plans does the Otto Group have for it? 

MüWü: In future, we as a company will take more responsibility for new areas such as protecting and securing personal data than ever before. Careful handling of data, as envisaged by data minimalism, saves not only electricity, money and time – it also benefits our customers. After all, every data point that is not moved is one less potential security risk

Hamburg News: What do you wish for Hamburg’s future? 

Hamburg has plenty to offer. It would be nice to see our city regarded as a role model in terms of digitalisation. That includes educational opportunities across all age groups, responsible handling of data and algorithms – not only AI – and an opportunity-orientated, increasingly digitized society.

Hamburg News: Many thanks for the interesting talk.  

Interview by Karolin Köcher


Hanse Digital

The Hanse Digital aims to come up with solutions to the challenges of digitalisation i.e. disruption based on trust and traditional western values. Leading representatives of Hamburg in commerce and society have come together to create a technical basis for Hanse Digital. The result, put simply, is the prototype for a trustworthy platform for blockchain-based trading based.