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Digital Society – Buzzword or imminent reality?
Executive Education / 19 October 2023
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Professor of Bank and Process Management at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management
Professor for Bank and Process Management at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. His teaching and research focus on Strategy Development, Business Engineering and Business Process Management in the financial industry. He is the founder and head of ProcessLab – a research centre of Frankfurt School focusing on process management in the financial services industry. He is also the author/editor of eleven books and has published around 300 articles in academic and practice-oriented journals. He presents his research results at conferences both nationally and internationally.

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Digitalisation is omnipresent for all of us – in our professional and private lives. The interconnection of private individuals, companies, industries, politics and society is constantly on the rise. Data, analytics and technologies are therefore playing an increasingly important role. Is a “Digital Society” emerging? Or is it just a buzzword that will soon disappear again?

It’s not just about digitalisation

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud computing and possibly the metaverse will undoubtedly play a major role in shaping our working and private lives in the future. Digitalisation thus represents the first major strand of development. The second is a shift towards sustainability in the economy and our way of life. The decarbonisation of our world is probably the biggest challenge we face. Meeting the ESG (Environment, Society and Governance) criteria is a good example of how different players across the value chain interconnect to achieve a common goal. The third strand of development is to build resilience, i.e. resilient businesses and institutions. Wars, pandemics, but also smaller disruptions, for example in supply chain structures, require the ability to adapt quickly and effectively.

The three levels of a digital society

Digital society is reflected on several levels, of which at least three can be distinguished: Society is the first level and includes all socio-cultural and demographic, economic, political (and subsequently legislative) developments as well as technological progress. The business level includes all activities related to business strategies and models, processes and the technologies that are to be used. It also includes the planning, implementation and support of employees and executive staff. The third level is that of the individual. This level concerns us not only as employees, job seekers, the unemployed, etc., but also as customers. This aspect has become much more important in recent years, as more and more companies are trying to reach customers at all relevant points of their respective “customer journeys”.

Digitalisation, sustainability and resilience are closely interwoven with the levels of society, businesses and individuals

The figure below illustrates the relationship between the outlined development strands and levels. It shows – without claiming to be exhaustive – the tasks and challenges that have to be overcome on the way to a digital society. For example, new technologies are important to enable sustainable economic activity (e.g. the use of solar energy, reuse of product parts) and the development of resilient structures (e.g. integration of processes, IT systems and data to manage supply chain disruptions). Technologies are also needed for analytics to better understand and anticipate the decisions made by increasingly connected customers (both B2B and B2C).

It is clear that companies must develop new skills and solutions to be in a position to meet the enormous demands. In this context, neither the development strands nor the levels can be considered separately, but are closely interlinked and influence or even condition each other. With the increasing dissemination of concepts such as open data, this interconnectedness is more important than ever. At the same time, great attention must be paid to the regulatory framework and the responsible use of data in order to minimise the risks that inevitably arise from a more open approach to data in a digital society.

 

Buzzword or (imminent) reality?

To answer the question in the title, it is easy to see that a “Digital Society” is emerging. So, no, it is not just a buzzword. The “imminent” part is debatable. We may see different speeds here – depending on companies, sectors, countries. But it is absolutely clear that new technologies lead to innovative processes, applications and business models. It is therefore necessary to promote an understanding of the impact that new developments and their tremendous speed have on every individual, every company, and also on society as a whole. The rapid development and proliferation of AI in recent months and the many changes it brings on all three levels is an example of this.

In line with this theme, the Frankfurt School Verlag will be publishing the book “Digital Society” (currently only available in German) at the end of the year. The book discusses the current developments and their consequences in the (broader) context of the financial industry. Its multidisciplinary approach is particularly interesting, bringing together perspectives from politics, business, consulting, academia and other stakeholders. Almost all of the contributors are senior executives. The book is edited by Dietmar Schmidt, Marcus W. Mosen and Prof. Dr. Jürgen Moormann.

Our “Digital Society 2023” conference will take place on 28 November. You can look forward to top-class speakers, panel discussions and workshops at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management!

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