Bringing CEMS Business Projects to Their Full Potential With ABB

Following a very successful year in 2016 around the Business Projects, CEMS Corporate Partner, ABB, has brought their partnership with CEMS to the next level.

In 2016, ABB and the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland (HSG) collaborated on a CRM Business Project with CEMS students. This year, ABB has collaborated with CEMS institutions on 8 coordinated Business Projects in 5 different countries: India (IIMC), Switzerland (HSG), Sweden (SSE), Germany (University of Cologne) and Australia (The University of Sydney Business School). Miriam Jarrouj, who served on the 2016 CEMS Business Project team at St. Gallen and will soon start working at ABB on Lean Management for ABB's finance functions was very impressed: “To have the 8 teams connect with each other and exchange ideas and build on each other’s findings is really a novelty and a breakthrough. If we could only foster more projects like this, I am convinced that not only the alliance between CEMS and Corporate Partners as well as the business projects would be taken to the next level but the students would benefit a great deal! I can only say that I'm honored to have been able to take part in this amazing work and proud to represent two game changers: ABB and CEMS.“

Overseeing these projects was Group Vice President Marketing & Sales - Performance Manager, Oliver Lawrenz, who said the teams, including 30 CEMS students, went way beyond expectations and that these sentiments were shared by the company team members on the business side: Peter Todorov, head of M&S processes, Jean Luc Raphet, Division M&S head of AI and Marco Cornelli, global lead for SFDC and the FACE program; Tero Kalliomaa global lead M&S analyst, Markus Gauder and Pat Cashwell the global process owners for opportunity management and customer engagement, Leena Reinikainen divisional process owner; IT/IS side: Robert Paquet, global ABB-internal IS engagement manager for all M&S, Fabrizio Bertotto, lead IS architect for SFDC and incubation architect, Florian Strittmatter, lead data scientist, and in cooperation with AIM Analytics (lead Patrick Jung) Maximilian and Thomas Schuetz supported M&S based on their experiences with text mining in the FinanceRadar, Investor Relations and Quality use cases as well as partner companies: Jedox, Accenture,, IBM. Lawrenz also mentioned that another 6 students will be completing internships with ABB to follow up on these projects. Many of the projects were around the topic of digitalization, which Lawrenz says is a “key enabler not only for disruptive ideas, but also to actually stay in business.”

In Sweden, the Stockholm School of Economics hosted 2 projects on Predictive lead scoring around Artificial Intelligence (AI), Analyzing the pre-requisites of AI and viability of establishing and linking these to a sales planning system across ABB. ”Based on the tremendous amount of ABB internal data points, we wanted to find out whether AI can help us optimizing lead management and opportunity management within ABB. We also wanted to know how we could best introduce sales quotas into the mix as KPIs,” says Lawrenz. “The project in 2016 clearly identified that KPIs and data quality was an issue. Although we significantly improved in that area certain data points are still missing in order to take full benefit of AI, Both projects were a continuation of the ion conducted in 2016 and both Stockholm project did actually provide input for other CEMS projects which were run in parallel. Both projects delivered way beyond expectations and provided not only next steps but a full vision and a 3 year roadmap. This came as a surprise for many ABB managers and even our strategic consulting and advisory partners.” Lawrenz was particularly impressed with the depth of knowledge and skills of students, learning curve, an outside view which provided insights into ABB which you would normally not expect. Students on these projects worked closely with teams from ABB, including the lead IT architect and lead data scientist, global IS manager, Marketing and Sales managers of selected business units, head of M&S processes and tools, program lead for global salesforce implementation, head of M&S performance management, a group of analysts, a CEMS project coordinator, as well as selected consultants from Fraunhofer institute,, Accenture, and OpenIS (specialist for machine learning).

Managing this level of change in such a large organization works mostly from the bottom up alongside top management buy-in. “But the critical path is the bottom-up approach since we believe we need to convince every single profit and loss unit. In that respect the CEMS students of 2016 and 2017 act as change agents,” says Lawrenz.

The Business Projects are not only beneficial for ABB. For Jarrouj, the Business Project was a key component for her decision to work for the company. “The first contact with the partners (Oliver and Tero) was essential for my decision,” she says. “Their enthusiasm, patience and readiness to teach and guide  us so that we really grow impressed me a lot. Although, from the outside, ABB is perceived as an ‘engineering’ company, I was surprised to see that there are so many business jobs. For CEMS students interested in working for an innovative and future oriented company, ABB is a great place. In ABB, they will have the chance to work on Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and see its benefits.”

When it comes to the Business Projects themselves, Jarrouj offers this advice to her fellow CEMSies:

 Work to learn, not to impress

 Ask questions (the more, the better) 

 Be ready to step out of the box and be analytical but also creative when solving the problem statement 

 Make sure to have regular communication with the partner and also within the team --> from the beginning agree upon weekly calls and book them 

 Contact the partner as soon as you have a question/problem but also when you have the first results 

 Start solving the problem only and only when you understood the context and the idea of the project - no matter how long that might take 

 Although you might not like/understand the project from the beginning, give it a change. You might be positively surprised. Simply be open to learn new things 

 Learn how to write emails. It Might seem trivial and unimportant but this BP helped me write short, concise and targeted emails


 About the CEMS Business Projects

Business Projects are consultancy-like projects designed as a real-life learning experience for students: international student teams solve a real business problem as a one-term, part-time activity. They reinforce the partnership between universities and companies in jointly shaping students' learning processes in international management. CEMS Business Projects take place in the 30 countries in which CEMS operates, which provides a wealth of opportunities for Corporate Partners to build their understanding of markets worldwide. If you are working at a CEMS Corporate Partner and are interested in running a Business Project with CEMS, please send a message to

Bringing CEMS Business Projects to Their Full Potential With ABB
10 Jul 2017