Generation change with a view to software-driven business

An interview with Bernd Pätzold and Philipp Hasenäcker

Generational change at PROSTEP AG: together with Karsten Theis, BHC Managing Director Philipp Hasenäcker takes over some of the tasks of long-standing CEO Dr. Bernd Pätzold, who will retire in the middle of the year. In an interview, the new and outgoing board members explain the challenges the company is facing and what it takes to overcome them.

Question : Mr. Pätzold, you will retire on July 31, 2023. Is all homework done?

Pätzold : We are there. There is a list of homework that I am currently working on with my two colleagues on the Management Board, Karsten Theis and Philipp Hasenäcker. We are going through a structured process because the departments that the two will be responsible for in the future will be tailored somewhat differently. From August 1, Karsten will be responsible for external work towards the shareholders in addition to his customer and product responsibility as spokesman for the board.

Question : How exactly will the new distribution of roles look like?

Pätzold : In principle, the new distribution of roles follows today’s. Two years ago, we moved away from a functional structure towards a model in which each board member has operational responsibility for our customers and is also responsible for several central functions. In this direction we will redistribute responsibilities.

Question : Mr. Hasenäcker, you will be responsible for the management of the consulting business, among other things?

Hasenäcker : That’s how it is. This is the area that I have been responsible for in my work at BHC for the past 17 years and in which I have a lot of experience. The consulting business is very important to PROSTEP and we have therefore been intensifying our cooperation for more than six months. In this respect, for me it is a smooth transition or a flying start.

Question : Does PROSTEP take some getting used to?

Hasenäcker : A very clear “No” (laughs). I have known PROSTEP for many years, and since it acquired the majority stake in BHC in 2019, a very intensive and trusting cooperation has developed at various levels. Since my appointment to the Management Board, there has of course been a new quality and intensity in the exchange, but I feel very comfortable with it and receive excellent support in my tasks from both my Management Board colleagues and the rest of the PROSTEP team. 

Question : But you won’t be staying in Darmstadt all the time?

Hasenäcker : No, we deliberately agreed on a decentralized regulation of the office, because it is important to me to be wherever our customers and our teams are. PROSTEP has a wide variety of branches. I am also still the managing director of BHC, which has its office in Böblingen. 

Question : Mr Pätzold, what goals did you set for Mr Hasenäcker?

Pätzold : Of course I don’t set the goals, but our customers and our board of directors. But well, PROSTEP, like its customers, is in a transformation process towards software in the product and application lifecycle management (ALM) due to the fact that the products are developing into mechatronic systems or networked systems of systems. Software represents an essential core competency for our customers and accordingly we also have to develop further in this direction, both methodically and process-wise as well as with regard to the solutions. With our subsidiary BHC, we now have a team of 60 highly qualified consultants in this area. Philipp should help us to master this transformation process faster and to accompany our customers.
The second issue is that we are facing a generational change. We have hired many young employees in recent years. Now we also have to send the right signals for the future at the management level.

Question : Does that also mean that the team of software specialists at PROSTEP should be expanded?

Hasenäcker : Yes, without a doubt. That’s part of the plan. On the one hand, you can see the topic of software-driven business from the consulting perspective, where BHC is already very well positioned, but on the other hand, of course, from the perspective of the actual software implementation. PROSTEP already has experienced software teams in Darmstadt, Hamburg, Böblingen, Wolfsburg, Berlin and Wroclaw. However, in order for us to be able to offer our customers end-to-end software solutions on a larger scale, i.e. from conception through specification to implementation and maintenance, we need even more qualified experts who understand this trade.

Question : What do these new developments mean for PROSTEP’s product and solution business?

Pätzold : We have several tendencies here at the same time. On the one hand, the range of requirements is changing when it comes to integration and migration issues and also in the case of customer-specific solutions. 

Having migrated in the direction of parts list systems in recent years, we are now gradually moving in the direction of ALM, because customers see a greater need for integration here. On the other hand, in terms of architecture, we are seeing a clear trend towards cloud-oriented solutions. This results in the requirement to manage integrations across multiple cloud systems. At the same time, there are additional challenges in terms of security, especially when open source components are used, but also new requirements in terms of billing for services. For us, openness is clearly the biggest challenge. It is crucial that manufacturers continue to actively support this openness.

Question : What effects will this have on the distribution of sales between the consulting and solution business?

Hasenäcker : To speak of absolute figures here would be a little premature. We definitely want to expand both and, in particular, dovetail the consulting business even more closely within the PROSTEP Group. I cannot predict what shift in sales shares this will result in in the medium term. But what I can say for sure is that the ALM business will grow strongly. In the last few months we have invested massively in a new partnership model with PTC, among others, from which we expect further business. We also want to establish this model with other ALM and PLM manufacturers, because it is often a strong partner network that opens doors for us with large customers and helps us to contribute our consulting and process expertise.

Question : Where do you see the biggest challenges with regard to PROSTEP and the customer environment?

Hasenäcker : A major challenge for PROSTEP is definitely the issue of human resources. We need the right employees and the job market is highly competitive. It will therefore be an important task to develop PROSTEP as an attractive employer in the long term. The issue of generational change, which Bernd addressed, is certainly another challenge, and of course PROSTEP’s alignment with the new type of consulting. With regard to the customer environment, I see the greatest challenge in the fact that the automotive market is changing dramatically due to e-mobility and a large number of new players are emerging. This can mean that the business of the PROSTEP Group in the automotive sector will no longer be the same in the long term. 

Question : What about the international markets where, with the exception of the USA, PROSTEP is not yet very well represented?

Hasenäcker : Our internationalization roadmap is not yet concrete. However, we are aware that we are currently too regionally focused. We must, and we will, become more internationally involved here. Although we already have our own subsidiary in the USA, Inc., we have not yet served the entire range of services of the PROSTEP Group from there. In order to change this, just a few weeks ago we went together to a large trade fair in the USA to give initial impetus for our future activities in the US market.

Question : Mr. Pätzold, what would you like to say to Mr. Hasenäcker?

Pätzold : We had two main selection criteria for the new board, namely the right height and shoe size. He brings both…

Question : Does he live big?

Pätzold : No, seriously, Philipp brings the right attitude to our business, he understands our business and I think he is a people catcher in a positive sense who approaches people and enjoys working with them. That’s why he’s the perfect cast for me. He also has the necessary sensitivity to be able to represent PROSTEP’s role as an open and neutral mediator, even in the face of resistance. I wish him every success.

Gentlemen, thank you for the interview.
(The interview was conducted by Michael Wendenburg)

To the people

dr Bernd Pätzold has managed ProSTEP Produktdatentechnologie GmbH since 1998, which was transformed into PROSTEP AG in 2002. Born in Ulm in 1958, he completed his training as a graduate industrial engineer at the Technical University of Karlsruhe (KIT). After completing his doctorate, he first went to Daimler AG, where he was instrumental in founding the prostep ivip association and setting up the first research and development location in Silicon Valley. Pätzold will retire at the end of July 2023.

Philipp Hasenäcker (born 1980) is Managing Director of the PROSTEP subsidiary BHC GmbH, which specializes in ALM/PLM consulting for mechatronic and software-based products. On May 1, 2023, he was also appointed to the Management Board of PROSTEP AG. Hasenäcker was born in Osnabrück and grew up in Paderborn. Before starting his professional career as a freelance consultant in a PLM project at Mercedes-Benz, he studied industrial engineering at the TH Ostwestfalen-Lippe.


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