A pioneering approach to digital management
There is a growing understanding that we need to approach questions about digital transformations with a focus on society, politics, and organisations. Also, to focus on people and to move away from talking and thinking about technology in isolation. For the first group of graduated students, this cross-disciplinary perspective has enabled them to have a different set of competencies.
Professor mso Mikkel Flyverbom explains more about this pioneering programme, and the potential impact it could have on all future CBS courses.
The rise of digital technologies and data-driven approaches has brought many benefits to society. At the same time, digital transformations also give rise to misinformation, surveillance, and technological lock-in. And the developments are happening fast. These challenges demand scholarly expertise, reflections, and advice on how digital transformations can be developed and steered in responsible ways. For the first group of graduated students, this BSc in Business Administration and Digital Management programme will enable them to have a different mindset when it comes to thinking about the role of technologies in organisations, business, and society.
Tell me why this new programme nearly did not happen?
At the time (2017-2018), I think there was a focus on the need for digital competencies in different programmes at CBS, but also more widely in Denmark. At the same time, there was a narrow understanding of what a programme focusing on technology or digital technologies could be about, so the cross-disciplinary nature of the programme was one thing that the ministry reacted to.
I guess that is one of the strengths of the programme – and the strength of CBS – that we have these combination programmes. By way of example, think about one of the traditionally most famous CBS programmes ever, the International Business programme. This programme was always about combining a focus on processes of globalisation with a focus on business. In many ways, the Digital Management programme is similar. It has this focus on a grand societal challenge such as digitalisation, which is certainly on the rise and central to societal developments. I think it took the ministry some time to understand the need for that kind of combination. Furthermore, the programme was in English, and at the time, the overall focus was on Danish language programmes.
How much did the students help shape the programme?
We did have a full plan for the whole programme in the sense that all courses were laid out and described. However, since all courses were tailor made for the programme – obviously, none of this had been done before – students have played an important role in giving us feedback. We have had an amazingly active group of students on the study board and through quality boards – unlike anything I have ever seen at CBS before. They helped us by pointing out what worked and what did not work, and they identified overlaps between different courses. We have certainly learned a lot from their experience, and things were calibrated, as we were moving along.
When did the idea for this programme first come about?
Well, I started having ideas for the course maybe seven or eight years ago, but it took a while to get traction for these types of ideas – you could always say, “I wish we had started five years earlier” – but three years ago, a window opened at CBS, where enough people and the Dean of Education saw the potential and need for this kind of competency, and then we could begin the process of creating the programme.
What went into the programme were a lot of experiences across different existing programmes at CBS, both from the Bachelor and Master level as well as the executive programmes. Many programmes were already experimenting with adding a focus on digital technologies and datafication to programmes and courses, so I took all these experiences and put them together in this programme.
Looking at other Danish universities, do you see programmes similar to this?
CBS has more technically oriented IT programmes, and there are a few programmes at the University of Copenhagen and at the IT University, which focus on the intersection of business and IT. But our programme has a different point of departure. I would define the Digital Management programme as a classical CBS programme that takes the cross-disciplinary approach, we have always taken to ‘business in society’ at CBS and looks at business and business administration as well as questions about organisation, people, and society. And then adding this technical dimension that is seeping into many programmes at CBS now.
I would say that this programme has the stamp of CBS, but also a very clear orientation to questions about digital technologies and data, which is not really standard at other universities. This is why we have students attending from all over the world. 40% of our students are foreigners, and they come here, because they could not find anything like it in Germany, Sweden, Italy or where they come from.
What are your hopes for your first graduated students?
When I think of my students, I picture them as a small army who will march out there, with a different, more reflective mindset, when it comes to thinking about the role of technologies in organisations, business, and society. My hope is that they can help us develop more nuanced ways of working with digital technologies in organisations and help set a new kind of agenda for this domain. One that is not purely focused on technology but has this broader transformative focus on what technologies do in concrete settings.
Are there any plans to move this to a master's level?
We have no plans right now for a master's programme in this field. This year, it looks like a third of our students have applied for the graduate programme in E-business, which is the natural place to go. Right now, some students will go to finance, sociology, and other programmes, and I think it should be that way. Our goal is to have a very broad bachelor's programme, where students can find their own path afterwards, which will take them in the direction they want to go.
My hope is that a bachelor programme like this will become part of a growing focus on the need to have competencies from the field of digital technologies and data analytics as a part of all programmes at CBS. Maybe one day, in ten years from now, we will not even need a programme like this, because it will be a core component of all programmes at CBS.
How will this programme help strengthen the technology domain at CBS?
When you set up a programme, and you need lots of course coordinators and lecturers, who suddenly get a chance to highlight their interest in questions about digital technology, I think that creates some momentum. People who mostly consider themselves management scholars, but have worked with technology quite a bit, can suddenly highlight that dimension in their work.
It also relates to our work with the Digital Transformations Platform, which I am co-directing with Ioanna Constantiou from the Department of Digitalization. The activity on this platform shows that across CBS, there is conducted a lot of research that focuses on digital technologies and data.
All in all, I think these interests create a momentum that strengthens the technology domain by creating visibility for both teaching and research with this orientation. I hope that down the road, the development will establish CBS as a key player with an even stronger relation to STEM research environments and media studies environments at other universities.
How does this programme contribute to the overall strategic goals of CBS?
Well, I think it is interesting that there seems to be a need in the education market for programmes that both rely and build on the strengths that CBS has always developed, but also bring in new topics and new agendas that need to be addressed and worked with more broadly in society.
Our focus on combining what CBS already does best with grand societal challenges is something we can build on and translate to other areas and challenges, for example, in relation to climate issues or regarding questions of inequality. You know, all these types of things that are part of our strategy.
I think it is essential to address these kinds of societal challenges at the level of education, because this is where you have the most impact. When I look back at my career, I think the greatest impact I will have had, is in establishing this programme. In some way, it will have a greater impact than my research and other types of public engagement, because it will form a basis for developing people's mindsets and building students’ competencies.
That is what motivates me as an individual, and it also makes me proud that we can do these things at CBS. We have so many course coordinators and lecturers who jumped at this opportunity, and they have been engaged in building something very complex. I think that is something to be proud of as an institution.
Read more about the programme BSc Business Administration and Digital Management