Digitalisation: the hype and the challenges

Roger Hage is the programme director of the new Digital Business Innovation and Transformation master programme at IMC Krems, a part-time programme taught in English. An electrical engineering graduate of Graz University of Technology, Hage is half Swiss, half Lebanese and grew up speaking four languages. He started lecturing at IMC Krems in 1999, teaching statistics and information systems.

Roger Hage is the programme director of the new Digital Business Innovation and Transformation master programme at IMC Krems.

Hype around digitalisation

“Put simply, digitalisation is the use of digital technologies in people’s everyday lives and day-to-day business. There are a wide range of technologies that enable digitalisation. There’s a lot of talk about mobile networks, social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as on cloud computing – in other words, transferring data processing to computers located in data centres and connected via the internet, and you’ll hear people talk about things like software as a service or platform as a service in this context. Another trend is the internet of things or IoT, which is made up of billions of sensors and actuators that can communicate with each other, with people, or with other machines,” explains Roger Hage. The enormous amounts of data generated as a result of digitalisation have given rise to big data analytics, another aspect of digitalisation. The question here is how this new data should be processed to obtain useful information in order to make better decisions more quickly and achieve a competitive advantage.

Three digitalisation trends

Roger Hage also identifies three more major trends that digitalisation has brought about: “One of them is artificial intelligence, and the other two are augmented reality and 3D printing. More precisely, there are eight technologies or enablers altogether that are driving the digital transformation.” Digitalisation is taking place in stages. It began with the World Wide Web, then came e-commerce or e-business, with transactions made over the internet, and the web used as a sales medium. Digital marketing was next, as companies also started trying to gain customers. This was followed by social media and search engine advertising and optimisation, which increasingly took centre stage. Finally, there was the trend towards digital business, with entirely digital products and business models, which brought together customers and suppliers such as Uber and Airbnb. “According to the research and advisory company Gartner, the next stage is the automated economy, which is about doing business automatically – such as a car finding its own garage when it’s due for service, then selecting the best deal, getting itself serviced and finally paying by bank transfer. Another example would be a fridge that can do the shopping. Sure, it’s futuristic, but the path leading there is already open,” says Roger Hage.

On the digital path

“Everything that can be digitalised, will be digitalised” appears to be the current mantra according to Roger Hage, who thinks we are already well on our way there: “There’s no way back now.” As a result, everything is happening more quickly and changes are taking place more rapidly and frequently. Companies have to learn how to become quicker and more dynamic and agile, and get used to living with constant change. They must always be prepared for upcoming trends, advises Hage. As with lifelong learning, digital transformation provides many opportunities for improvement, guaranteeing better standards of living for people, and basically working more efficiently. “Going with the flow isn’t enough, it’s also about taking the chance to introduce bigger innovations,” says the digitalisation expert, appealing to companies’ innovative spirit.

Problems, challenges and regulation

Digitalisation is capable of overcoming many unsolved problems, in cancer research for example. Naturally it also results in new regulations, such as the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation. The handling of such enormous volumes of data has to be regulated to ensure information is not misused if it falls into the wrong hands. “There are also challenges when it comes to IT security. Digitalisation means that there’s a heavy dependency on technology – huge volumes of data are held on storage media connected with computers, and if you’re totally reliant on these computers, then IT failures can damage, or even threaten, your business,” explains Roger Hage. Global networks and susceptibility to cyberattacks are also relevant here. However, it is people who present the biggest challenge of digitalisation, not the technology or its implementation. Such an all-encompassing change process must be carefully planned and managed. And this is where change agents come in – the people who IMC Krems intends to educate and train.

Change agents and a culture of change

“You need good leadership qualities, as well as creating a new culture. These are the skills and abilities – social competencies – that you develop on this course,” says Roger Hage, describing the new Digital Business Innovation and Transformation programme. The experts can then act as change agents within companies to implement digital transformation – or rather to plan and manage the process. It is also their job to identify trends in good time, and analyse and evaluate the need for potential digital transformation. “Not all companies have to become fully digitalised. They need to find out exactly where it will make sense, where it will create the most added value, before the change agents guide them through the planning and implementation,” explains Hage. The new IMC Krems programme marries technology with business administration – a unique combination. “It’s about thinking creatively as well as critically and analytically. These are actually almost two extremes, which is the challenge – combining all of this in a single person,” according to the new programme director. The Digital Business Innovation and Transformation programme is aimed at people with existing knowledge and skills in business administration or relevant technical areas.

Long-term value

In conclusion, Roger Hage says “people interested in taking the course often ask me what its long-term value is, as the programme focuses on a very topical issue and short-lived technological trends. And my answer is very clear: it doesn’t focus specifically on current trends like IoT, augmented reality or 3D printing, it’s much more about understanding digital technologies, identifying new trends at an early stage, recognising their potential for companies, constantly driving forward innovations, and planning, initiating and successfully managing the necessary change processes. In a similar way to lifelong learning, this programme teaches you about continual, agile and innovative change, regardless of the technologies that are around at a particular time."

The deadline for applications for the Digital Business Innovation and Transformation programme is 15 July.

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