How is digitalization
implemented at WHU?
Since the inception of WHU, breaking the mold and looking towards the future has been an integral part of the school’s pioneering attitude and identity. Alongside WHU’s key characteristics of performance, practical relevance, international exposure, and personal development, technology plays a key role in driving its position as a top German business school. At the forefront of trends, research, and developments, WHU ensures that it consistently contributes intellectually, in methodology, and to thought leadership focused on digital themes. WHU enriches face-to-face learning with digital means and tools to offer the best learning experience for students.
Digitalization in action – The WHU digital experience as it happens.
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What is meant by digitalization?
In its traditional sense, digitalization relates to the conversion of analogue values into digital formats. The digitalization of companies means that digital technologies allow the development of optimized or new processes, products, services, or even business models. This creates new revenue and value creation potential. However, the term digitalization is often used as a synonym for digital revolution, digital transformation, or digital disruption.
"Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to transform a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a fully digitally enabled business." (Source: Professor Dr. Spinler, based on Gartner 2019)
Digitalization increasingly encompasses all areas of life and work. Thus, the digital transformation and digital changes we see within both society and the economy, but also in science and education, are now ever-present. In the 20th century, information technology (IT) was still used primarily for automation and optimization, modernizing the home and workplace. Computer networks and software products such as office programs and Enterprise Resource Planning systems were an important driver of digital change. At the beginning of the 21st century, disruptive technologies and innovative business models move in. Digitalization now stands for autonomy, flexibility, individuality, leading into the fourth industrial revolution, otherwise known as digital disruption or Enterprise 4.0.
The digitalization of the economy in particular, is bringing about fundamental changes: new ways of scaling and distributing resources, information, digital workplaces, or the fusion of the virtual world and reality to transform entire companies, sectors, and industries. At the same time, the producing industries are transformed by developments like Smart Factory concepts, robotics, digital process chains, Internet of Things (IoT), or 3D printing. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, and Cloud Computing also enable new ways and applications of data analytics. Through digital devices such as data glasses, virtual reality headsets or gesture control, also the world of meetings, training, and entertainment have been fundamentally changed and digitalized. Electronic purchasing and distribution platforms, social networking solutions or virtual customer profiles and personalized apps, enable completely new sales processes and opportunities.
The progressive upheaval caused by digitalization is a hot topic and not free of criticism. In particular, the developments with regard to artificial intelligence and machine learning raise questions of technical, informational, and business ethics. Where does digitalization provide added value or result in a loss of personal and informational autonomy? What are the opportunities and risks of the increased dependence on IT and IT companies? Where does the responsibility lie for the consumers of digital goods and services? In addition to business world, dealing with the opportunities and consequences of digital change and the digitalization of the economy in the 21st century, becomes increasingly more significant for other fields like law, medicine, sociology, and psychology.
Our knowledge base –
Generating thought leadership through research and publications.
WHU is home to an expert faculty whereby professors conduct a diverse range of projects, studies, and release leading publications addressing and answering relevant questions on the topics of digitalization in all areas and sectors of management.
Do individual investors trade on investment-related internet postings?
Demystifying disruption, mystifying management: top executives' private narratives of digital transformation
Pricing through health apps generated data - digital dividend as a game changer: discrete choice experiment
Digital entrepreneurship in developing countries: the role of institutional voids
Digital transformation in family-owned Mittelstand firms: a dynamic capabilities perspective
Exogenous shocks and the adaptive capacity of family firms: exploring behavioral changes and digital technologies in the COVID‐19 pandemic
Family influence and digital business model innovation: the enabling role of dynamic capabilities
Digital due diligence activities and goal setting in equity crowdfunding: exploring the differences between novice and experienced investors
"Jeder im Unternehmen muss digitale Fähigkeiten haben": Juan Bernabé-Moreno im Dialog mit Utz Schäffer
"So viel Blackbox ist KI eigentlich nicht". Philipp Plank im Dialog mit Utz Schäffer
21st century sports: how technologies will change sports in the digital age
Digital transformation at logistics service providers: barriers, success factors, and leading practices
"Digitalisierung ist kein Selbstzweck, sie muss sich rechnen": Martin Erfurt und Christian Hasenclever im Dialog mit Utz Schäffer
"Datenqualität zu sichern, ist kein Spaziergang": Ute Wolf im Dialog mit Utz Schäffer
Digitalization in management accounting and control
Opinion: Investing in new technologies will not save German car manufacturing industry.
The German car manufacturing is facing challenging times. Last month, Tesla has overtaken Volkswagen as the world's second most valuable carmaker behind Japan's Toyota. This week, Daimler had to report dreadful financial results, forcing CEO Ola Källenius to announce massive cost cuts and job losses. Next to the traditional cost cutting announcements to calm down investors, these German car manufacturers promise to heavily invest in new technologies to turn around the negative spiral and rebuild a prosperous future. E-mobility and digital transformation are the magical words that represent this technological change trajectory.
Considering supply chain partner interactions in quest to digitalize procurement.
This paper conceptualizes digital procurement readiness as a dyadic construct and introduces the supply chain practice view (SCPV) as a theoretical lens that can help guide future research on digital procurement. We build on a literature review and on dyadic, explanatory case studies to provide a nuanced understanding of how the digital readiness of supply chain partners—on both sides of the dyad—needs to co-evolve for the implementation of digital procurement practices.
Contemplating robotics, future algorithms, and more.
A series of editorials and interviews led by WHU Professor Dr. Schäffer and WHU Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Weber. The reviews address a variety of topics critical to controlling and management, as well as pinpointing issues relating to digitalization. Do software robots really enable controllers to do their job better, and offer a more efficient cooperation rather than a take-over? The professors address these important themes and beyond.
Promoting research about accounting and digitalization.
In cooperation with accounting academics from the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, the Stockholm School of Economics and WHU's Professor Dr. Utz Schäffer, the website aims to support research about accounting and digitalization. It also acts as a platform for students, researchers, and practitioners to easily find articles related to these topics.
The future of sport: robot battles, nanobots, and sport in 2040.
Chair and Head of the Center for Sports and Management (CSM) at WHU, Prof. Dr. Sascha L. Schmidt is dedicated to the ‘Future of Sports’ as one of his key research areas. This blog from the CSM explores the different possibilities, examining how robot battles, nanobots, e-sports, and bio-printing technologies will revolutionize the future of sport.
Developing consulting services in the digital age.
The joint project between WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and moneymeets, a Cologne-based FinTech. An interdisciplinary team of practitioners and researchers experienced in the financial and digital sector, examining the question of how consulting services can be represented in a digital interface.
Bringing leading minds together in sports innovation and research.
Looking forward to the future in digital research.
Working closely with the Harvard Business School, WHU Professor Dr. Sascha Schmidt is a member of the Digital Initiative, which investigates digital transformation and seeks to support it through current research. The initiative brings together leading scientists and experts in the field to find new ways to manage businesses in the digital environment.
Answering questions on how digital technologies impact our world.
Both economist and academic, WHU’s Assistant Professor of Computational Economics and Business Analytics, Martin Prause regularly contributes to thought leadership content surrounding crucial digital issues. Considering economical and societal effects of new technologies and how AI can play an important role in business simulations, his work plays an important role in the realm of digitalization.
Machine learning, teaching methods, and industry 4.0.
From WHU’s Institute for Industrial Organization, the following publications tackle important questions regarding strategies and methods, as student’s needs increase in a rapidly digital society, and changes triggered by Industry 4.0 from a conceptual perspective.
Insights into the current challenges of German corporate leadership.
A practical guide for leadership teams, written in partnership with WHU Prof. Dr. Serden Ozcan. The report develops a core set of disciplines, designed to help such teams navigate through major corporate disruptions.
Keeping on the pulse of digitalization challenges for controlling.
The WHU Digitalization Pulse Check is a biannual study conducted by the Institute of Management Accounting & Control of WHU that aims to provide insights into how companies approach the challenges that digitalization presents for controlling.
Breaking down digitalization and digitization into bite-size pieces.
Dr. Peter Kreutter, Director of the WHU Foundation; Nicole Dufft, co-founder and partner in the consulting firm fibonacci & friends; and Dr. Holger Krimmer and Patrick Gilroy, both of “Zivilgesellschaft in Zahlen” (ZiviZ) [“Civil Society in Figures”], part of Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft.
Taking the topic of digitalization and digitization in current society and examining the subject in seven main theses, the report discusses what the immediate effects and challenges are faced by society today. Can it work in harmony with analogue systems? Is it digitalization more than technology and digital communication? WHU Professor Dr. Peter Kreutter explores these questions and more.
How digitalization can impact SMEs.
A thesis written by WHU Master student Sebastian Bunte who was also a recipient of the Koblenz University prize, the study looks at how the digitalization of work processes has a positive influence on the success of small and medium-sized trades. The study itself has revealed a number of characteristics and success factors of actively digitized companies that are relevant to owners and managing directors of SMEs.
Evaluating the extent of online content diffusion.
“Research on online content diffusion is vast but has rarely examined contextual factors, including the influence of online sharing mechanisms, such as social plugins (e.g., Facebook’s “Like” button), on online social networks (OSNs). While these mechanisms generally enable the content flow between senders and recipients, they vary in protecting users’ social and institutional privacy on OSNs.”
Smart investment for a competitive edge.
Delving into how different formats of digitalization impacts SCM, based on feedback from 60 industrial and commercial companies throughout Europe. Summarizing their findings and exploring in detail what SCM digitalization means for business, how it affects investment in IT and analytics, and the areas where it will benefit the most.
Addressing the need for environmentally friendly, yet convenient transport.
Exploring the issue of research gaps regarding the adoption of electric vehicles and the reduction of oil consumption by integrating complementary mobility services. By employing a two-step approach, the results offer evidence that complementary mobility services may significantly encourage electric vehicle adoption.
Targeting consumers through social media.
Investigating the essential decisions of which consumers and how many of them to target with free product samples and the benefit of using social network information which can increase profits by at least 32 percent. Use of social network information increases profit for single-purchase products mainly because it supports targeting more influential consumers and therefore speeds up diffusion throughout the network.
Examining usage behavior within digital service industries.
Reviewing and empirically comparing a variety of hierarchical Bayes models that use the data obtained from discrete choice experiments to capture usage behavior under two-part tariffs, as are commonly used in service industries such as telecommunication, cloud computing, and online music downloads.
Profitability and decision-making.
A study outlining the factors that drive the differences in profitability when offering a contract plan in addition to a single period plan for consumers of the cloud computing. The study looks at the consumers’ decision-making process between the two pricing plans and develop a method to maximize the profitability of these plans.
Analyzing organizational identity and its relation to digitalization.
Adopting a multifaceted view of organizational identity to contribute to research on organizational identity and incumbent adaptations to disruptive innovations; a qualitative, multi-case study on the responses of German publishing houses to the emergence of digitalization. The study examines a novel and mostly disregarded facet of organizational identity: organizational role identity.
Providers and transparent pricing.
The aim of the study is to increase price transparency among providers by analyzing two price comparison methods. The first method is "hedonic pricing", which decomposes each provider's billing into the contributing values of the product´s characteristics. The second is a newly developed method, called PriCo ("Pricing plan Comparison"), which considers offers from competitive providers. The two methods are employed in an empirical study, which compares the pricing of the infrastructure-as-a-service providers Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, and Terremark.
Business and Information Systems.
The fair use flat rate is a promising tariff concept for the mobile telecommunication industry. Similar to classical flat rates it allows unlimited usage at a fixed monthly fee. Contrary to classical flat rates it limits the access speed once a certain usage threshold is exceeded. Due to the current global roll-out of the LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology and the related economic changes for telecommunication providers, the application of fair use flat rates needs a reassessment. The publication proposes a simulation model to evaluate different pricing strategies and their contribution margin impact.
Motivating innovation –
Faculty and practitioners driving next-gen thinking.
Our expert and diverse faculty are actively engaged in research contributing not only to the curriculum, but intellectually to the wider research and business community. They consistently contribute to thought leadership regarding digital themes.
Take a look at the experts at WHU:
A driven community tackling digital themes.
Digitalization plays an important role at WHU whether in research, publications, or learning environment. Students contribute further by pinpointing core issues at the climactic point of their studies. In 2018, more than 80 Bachelor and Master theses supervised by WHU professors, were dedicated to the topics that surround digitalization. These include:
- Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and its applications in business
- Blockchain technology and its implications for businesses, e.g. in the area of finance or supply chain management
- Economics of digital currencies
- Technological disruption, digital transformation, digital business models in different industries and company sizes
- Industry 4.0
- Digitalization in Marketing, e.g. social media and influencer marketing, voice control assistants, digital brand equity, AI driven marketing
- E-commerce and emerging online markets
- The development of eSports
- Electro-mobility and autonomous driving, e.g. autonomous trucks in supply chain management
- 3D printing technologies
- Demystifying big data
- Business opportunities and applications of VR, AR, online gaming
- Data protection legislation
- Digital services
WHU AI Summer Hackathons –
Solving challenges by using limited AI algorithms.
In June and July, we organize a number of hackathons, where all WHU students (Bachelor, Master, MBA, EMBA) are invited to solve a practical challenge by using a limited number of AI algorithms. For each challenge, the hackathon coordinators provide an online introductory tutorial, which will help students to develop an appropriate solution. All challenges are organized fully online. We have prepared the following hackathons:
Challenge 1: Based on a database of AI company descriptions from Crunchbase and using text mining algorithms, students are asked to identify an ecosystem of start-ups, which can help Siemens in developing their AI healthcare activities. (Coordinator: Prof Faems; Launch date: June 15)
Challenge 2: Based on a dataset of Airbnb in New York City, students are supposed to predict (using tools from supervised learning) the price of NYC Airbnb rentals based on the data provided and any external dataset(s) with relevant information. (Coordinator: Professor Spinler; Launch date: June 29)
Challenge 3: After being introduced to the most essential unsupervised learning methods, students receive an anonymized list of scores from an online course along with details about when, how often and which video course contents have been accessed by students (more than 9,000 accesses during 7 weeks). The challenge is to identify and quantify different learning strategies and essentially test which of them is most effective for an excellent course performance (Coordinator: Professor Schlereth; Launch date: July 13).
We hope that this initiative can be the starting point of developing a large and vibrant community of WHU students, who are experimenting with a wide variety of AI skills and algorithms. If you would have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Professor Faems (dries.faems(at)whu.edu).
Taking innovation into their own hands –
WHU students shaping the future of digitalization.
Digitalization and business –
Leading discussions and ideas for tomorrow.
What is the role of the CDO in a modern organization? What is it like to work for a global company like Facebook? What are best practices for business during times of digital transformation? Student club WHU Inside Business offers a dedicated channel to digitalization and its surrounding questions, tackling important topics and providing insights through interviews with industry experts and key figures.
Education in the digital age –
Transforming the curriculum with cutting-edge knowledge.
WHU professors teach the latest content including digital advancements relevant to their respective area of expertise, such as Fintech in finance courses or automated supply chains in supply chain management courses. WHU offers dedicated modules on digital topics that complement the main curriculum, such as coding basics in our Bachelor and Master programs, through to Machine Learning in the Kellogg-WHU EMBA, and a variety of guest lecturers providing expert knowledge on the latest digital topics. Addressed throughout the curriculum for all study programs at WHU, digitalization is an important topic with dedicated modules, workshops, and electives on digital themes that accompany studies.
Here are just a few examples of how digitalization is embedded into our study programs:
Opening up new skills in UX and UI design to Bachelor students.
Available within the General Studies module, WHU has launched a cooperation with coding school Le Wagon. These online courses are targeted at UX and UI Design, web development, programming, and APIs. WHU students also have the option to participate in the Le Wagon coding bootcamp which can be recognized as an internship as part of their WHU studies.
Integrated into General Studies and organized by WHU student initiative Business Meets Tech, 'Applied Data Thinking' is taught by data expects aiming to train participants how to discover data driven questions, uncover large amounts of data, and how to use data inputs best. Students solve real-life business challenges in teams using concepts learnt in class that enable them to solve problems in the wider business world.
Experiencing the concepts of Design Thinking.
'Applied Digital Product Development' is integrated into the General Studies module and organized by Business Meets Tech, a student initiative at the WHU. Taught by industry professionals, the aim of this course is to communicate the concepts of Design Thinking and Lean Startup. The course presents the participants with a broad challenge that they have to solve using concepts learned in class and pitch it at the end of the course. Specific methods of user exploration, ideation, prototyping, iteration and pitching are focused upon.
Experiencing Blockchain and its use in the business world.
Providing an initial introduction to Blockchain Technology, students have the opportunity to develop an intuition for what sets this new technology apart and the applicability for real-world usage. Students are also introduced to cryptocurrencies and smart contracts, as well as the Solidity programming language, while creating and launching their own cryptocurrencies and smart contracts. The course itself is split into lectures and labs, approaching the overarching concepts alongside practical methods.
This tutorial is structured to act as a thorough introduction to programming in Python. It teaches the concepts behind and the syntax of the 'core' Python language as defined by the Python Software Foundation in the official language reference. The course is taught in a tutorial style with dives into theoretical concepts where applicable. The main goal is to prepare students for further studies in the young field of data science such as courses on data engineering, data visualization, machine learning, and optimization. All materials for the course are available for free and as open source at Github.com.
Aiming to identify the core topics involved in the effective management of digital marketing, the course provides a framework, provides analytic tools to manage customer experience, fosters an understanding of relevant economic principles, outlines changes in business models, and finally discusses possible processes of digital transformation.
Experiencing the perfect developer set-up.
Through a partnership with leading coding school Le Wagon, WHU sponsors ten selected students to attend Le Wagon’s renowned nine-week bootcamp program. Fitting seamlessly into the Master in Entrepreneurship Program, participants learn about software engineering, database architecture, technical workflow used in start-ups, and gain experience with developer tools.
Providing skills and knowledge for future success.
An elective created specifically to address the need for software development and coding skills vital to the entrepreneurs of the future. With a special partnership with leading coding bootcamp Codecademy, Master in Entrepreneurship students have the opportunity to take Le Wagon courses in addition to WHU lectures, allowing them to learn the programming languages and IT skills that meet the needs of today’s entrepreneurs and managers.
Preparing students for Industry 4.0.
Focusing on applications in different business areas including procurements, production, and distribution. The elective introduces core technologies in the context of IoT and Cloud computing, explores distribution logistics, complex resource planning, and the functioning philosophy of approximation algorithms.
A comprehensive overview of implementing a digital strategy in corporations.
The course addresses how a digital strategy in firms should not treat technology as a separate component of IT or marketing operations, but how it can actually reshape the company’s relationships with customers, employees, and with the market as a whole. Questions that are addressed include: (i) How to identify valuable digital technology opportunities? (ii) What is the role of internal and external strategies in implementing digital transformation? (iii) How can I create and appropriate value from digital transformation?
Developing business intelligence through customer insights.
The course addresses how a digital strategy in firms should not treat technology as a separate component of IT or marketing operations, but how it can actually reshape the company’s relationships with customers, employees, and with the market as a whole. How can I identify valuable digital technology opportunities? What is the role of internal and external strategies in implementing digital transformation? How can I create and appropriate value from digital transformation?
Embracing digital transformation and best practices.
Led by experts and coaches in the respective areas from etventure, a company founded in 2010 with offices all over the world including Berlin, London, Paris, and New York, and with over 200 entrepreneurs and digital experts as part of their team. Etventure identifies means of innovative new business models and positions itself as a leader in the execution of digital transformation. Within the scope of the one-day workshop the topics of digitization strategies, execution approaches and best practices are addressed. The course equips the participants in innovative methodologies and tools and shows the necessity to constantly innovate and adapt to changing business environments.
Providing a technical background to data handling in managerial environments.
In order to seek a competitive advantage in business, managers should develop an understanding of the potential that can be found in large amounts of data, using techniques such as Data Mining and Machine Learning. The aim of this course is to provide a technical background for data handling, cleaning, and preparation, using Machine Learning algorithms to assess managerial applicability. The theoretical content is complemented by hands-on activities for processing and analyzing real-time data from social networks and other databases.
An overview of successful digital transformation and innovation.
As the rise of digital technologies increases, so does the need for transformation within different industries. While this does offer challenges for companies, it also opens up opportunities to innovate in terms of new products, processes, and business models. This module addresses three key perspectives: strategic, organizational, and innovation. Participants receive advanced knowledge related to these issues and use novel tools and methodologies to execute assignments on how to successfully innovate for digital transformation.
Exploring the importance and value of the platform economy.
Led by an expert with more than 20 years of experience in management consulting as well as a founder of various successful start-ups, Mr. Hosseini has been advising companies since 2013 on digital issues. The workshop addresses and analyses platform economy as a new market mechanism over the course of two days, examines experiences and pitfalls, approaches to building a platform economy business, along with insights and expert knowledge throughout.
Revealing the potential of statistical and machine learning approaches in business.
For senior managers to have trust in their analytics team to reveal solutions that encompass a competitive edge, this is encouraged by first-hand experience with analytical tools and the decisions based on the results. As it becomes more imperative to understand what tools are available to gather data, to aggregate and use it to its full potential, equally important is it to understand the legal implications of collecting data for businesses.
After completion of this course, students will have a basic understanding of confidence intervals and hypothesis tests. They will be able to compute such intervals and p-values for tests on a single mean or proportion and interpret multiple linear regression equations and use them for forecasting.
The importance of strategy and leadership during corporate digitalization.
An optional course taught in Toronto as part of the EMBA global electives, students have the opportunity to define the skills and competencies needed to succeed in a rapidly changing working environment characterized by digital disruption. The course explores the organizational transformation needed to take advantage of new digital opportunities, neutralize digital threats, and how to apply digital leadership skills to drive a successful strategy within organizations.
Broadening Perspectives on Global Trends and Best Practices.
A program consisting of two modules, the CIO Leadership Program provides a platform for senior professionals to lead transformation in a digital and global environment, enhance an entrepreneurial mindset, and broaden a profession network. With one module held in Düsseldorf and the other abroad in India, China, the U.S. or Israel, the program takes senior executives in IT and digitalization, and works to enhance current capabilities in order to transform organizations for a digital, globalized economy. In partnership with WHU, IDG Business Media GmbH, and DXC Technology, executives participate in sessions at large online marketing companies such as Facebook, Google, Salesforce, Citi Ventures, Samsung Ventures, and German Chamber of Commerce.
Digital Nudging Course: Using tools and technologies to anticipate human behavior.
Focusing on the use of Digitalization techniques, ‘nudging’ is the influence of decision-making in favor of a desired societal outcome. Using a concept and analysis, the course focuses on the use of digital tools and technologies to gain insights, and the methods in how one can determine the behavior of people in a predictable way.
Mastering and tailoring effective negotiation strategies.
This program equips participants with insights, skills, and tools to generate game changing innovations and create an innovation powerhouse. During the program, participants will experience learning in different formats: lectures, group work, case studies, and simulations. Renowned WHU faculty members will share the latest research results and practical tools and encourage participants to exchange experiences and ideas with peers. Participants will gain extensive insights into using emerging technologies for innovation and will learn how to master operational excellence for innovation.
The seminar provides an in-depth understanding of the nature of management accounting as well as the counterpart role in the finance function, i.e. the role of controllers, financial directors, and chief financial officers. In a second step, the impact of digitalization is discussed.
Every paper is presented by a “seller”, i.e. a person who does not present the paper in detail, but that sets the hook, tries to sell the contribution and relates it to other literature (approx. 10 minutes). The presenter is then followed by one or two particpants who act as “challengers”, i.e. persons who try to find the weaknesses of a paper and bring forward open questions (approx. 10-20 minutes). Those talks are followed by a Q&A and a hopefully intensive discussion between all doctoral students and faculty.
Extracurricular and extraordinary –
Bringing technology to the classroom.
In the Classroom
Lecture halls are equipped with the latest video capture technology for recording lectures or guest speakers, facilitating video conferences in a professional and interactive way, and the ability to capture student presentations for later analysis.
Face-to-face study can be digitally supported by WHU’s learning platform Moodle, used by professors to provide course material and readings to the students or to enrich the in-class part with additional online elements, like videos, quizzes, or online assignments.
In our Library
The WHU library has one of the best-equipped databases with more than 50,000 e-books and 64,000 journal titles available online. With more than 70 databases on offer and working closely with professors to ensure all materials related to courses are available online, the library maintains around 80% of its volume and content online.