Digitalization & Information and Communication Technology

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Editor Insights: Interview with Prof. Rainer Alt

Author Image © SpringerLearn in the interview with Rainer Alt why he thinks digitalization and ICT in business and management matters.

Dr. Rainer Alt is Professor of Application Systems at the Institute of Information Systems at the University of Leipzig, Germany. He conducts research and teaches on operational application systems, customer relationship management, supply chain management and methods for the management of inter-company processes. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of our journal Electronic Markets – The International Journal on Networked Business one of the leading journals in this field.


​​​​​​​In your view, why does digitalization and ICT in business and management matter?
During the last decade several technological streams (e.g. mobiles, platforms, internal application systems, electronic markets, social and semantic technologies) have converged to enable an unprecedented technological potential to transform business and management. On a very basic level, the speed of communicating and processing data has increased, which means that data has become available ubiquitously and that calculations are possible almost in real time for large sets of data as well as for complex operations. On a more business-oriented level, three aspects illustrate this technological potential: First, business processes may be digitalized, which means that manual processes in R&D, production or decision making are increased in efficiency and quality, either by full or partial automation. Second, digital products and services imply the virtualization of physical products, such as DVDs, answering machines and money with additional value adding services enhancing these products. Third, digital business models are data-driven and allow more customer-oriented solutions. In a nutshell, digitalization does matter for the future of businesses. 

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Can you give us an overview of your work in digitalization and ICT?
Being a professor for information systems, digitalization is at the heart of our teaching and research projects. In my area, the topics in the bachelor and master courses include the interplay of integrated information systems, so-called enterprise resource planning systems, and business intelligence systems on the one hand and the (re)design of business processes with various methodologies and languages, such as BPMN, on the other. The same logic applies with customer relationship and supply chain management systems as well as electronic markets and blockchain technologies between companies and with customers. New aspects in how business processes and models are shaped with information technologies are also addressed in many research projects. Among the current projects are digitalization for publishing companies, ecosystems for the financial industry and social media for customer-oriented solutions. Results, such as market surveys, architecture blueprints and design methodologies are typically elaborated in consortial projects and then published for discussion at academic conferences as well as for publication in academic journals. 

Please, tell us a bit about one of your Springer publications in this area.
Please allow me to mention two. The first is not an article or book, but the academic journal Electronic Markets – The International Journal on Networked Business, which has been among the first to cover digitalization in business. As Editors-in-Chief, we aim to address innovative upcoming topics in dedicated special issues, for example, on FinTech, smart tourism or blockchain. Under the auspices of Springer, the journal has performed very well and has meanwhile increased its impact factor to 3.818, which means that it has become one of the leading journals in this field.
The second publication I would like to mention is a German language book on the digitalization of the financial industry. This book describes the fundamentals of digitalization and the banking industry as well as many frameworks and models, which help to design networked banking processes. Using the well-established business engineering methodology, the design distinguishes three levels - strategy, organization and technology - is based on service-oriented thinking and includes the new digital innovations that emerged since 2010 with the term “FinTech”. 

How do you hope your research has a real world impact?
We aim at a close collaboration with practice in all research projects. For example, the models in the financial domain above mentioned were developed in a consortial project together with a variety of large and small banks as well as technology providers. Other projects are so-called InnoTeams that consist of a minimum of ten partners from practice. The goal is to jointly design digitalized solutions and to test prototypes in the participating companies. One example from the InnoTeam, “Fit for Digital Publishing (FiDiPub)”, addresses the media industry and has established an innovation lab, where digital media products and processes are developed. All of these results are prepared for publication in academic conference papers as well as in publications for practitioners, such as the financial industry book mentioned above. This also allows a broader dissemination into the real world.

What do you think the future holds for those working in this area?
Currently, information systems graduates on all levels - bachelor, master as well as doctorate - are facing a high demand in practice. The environment in many companies is exciting since many have launched digital transformation projects and have established organizational units, such as think tanks and innovation labs, to develop digital solutions. Hopefully, their university degree enables the graduates a constructive and critical view on digitalization. As with many influential technologies, digitalization is a coin with two sides. One example shall explain this: Customer orientation and personalization are envisaged by many of the upcoming data-driven business models. On the one hand, customer-orientation means that solutions provide new qualities, for example, in health monitoring, mobility or personalized shopping. On the other hand, these data-driven solutions always require personal data from users and lead to privacy concerns. Finding the right balance for profitable companies that have empowered customers requires an ongoing effort and is an exciting challenge for those working in the area of digitalization.

Explore articles on digitalization from a range of perspectives

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Open access articles are freely available on a permanent basis.


Book Highlights

Enjoy free access to all featured book chapters until September 30, 2018 

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CIOs and the Digital Transformation: A New Leadership Role

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