Are the professional requirements for master’s and doctoral students in business informatics changing?


For 40 years, the steady flow of university graduates into industry has been one of the central strengths of German business informatics studies, regardless of whether the degree is a diploma, master’s or doctorate. In the mid-1970s, the first business informatics courses were set up at the Universities of Darmstadt, Linz and Vienna as well as at the Furtwangen University of Applied Sciences, not least because of the strong demand from industry. Today more than 100 universities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland offer business informatics degrees, both at bachelor and master level. In addition, most PhD graduates move from business informatics chairs to companies instead of staying in academia. Through a balanced,

However, this balance is threatened: on the one hand by ever faster innovation cycles in industry, which requires technology research close to the market, on the other hand by changing forms of evaluation of academic development, which require a concentration on a few, high-ranking academic journal publications. Former doctoral students only had to answer the question of whether they would pursue an industrial or an academic career after completing their doctorate and, if applicable, when applying for a postdoc position. Nowadays, academic careers are decided at a much earlier point in time through the publication of individual scientific articles.

Do we lose the historically strong cooperation between the industrial and academic world in BISE? Are there still tangible benefits of a PhD for those moving into the industrial job market? Is it possible to switch between science and industry (in both directions), even in later years, without giving up your previous career?

In this discussion we want to pass on the experiences of scientists who For example, as the person responsible for master’s programs, you can directly observe and react to the changing job market of your graduates. In addition, experienced company representatives share their view of the ideal graduate of the future. The aim is to contrast the view from the inside out (from the universities) with a view from the outside (from industry) in order to shed light on the challenges that both sides will have to face in the future.

We have proposed the following as key questions:

  1. 1.Company: What is the typical qualification profile that is currently sought after for a master’s or doctorate graduate? If there is a gap between the requirements and training profile of today’s graduates, how do you deal with this situation? Is your demand for graduates even met by the current supply?
  2. 2.Universities: What is currently the typical qualification profile of a Masters or PhD graduate leaving university? How do you deal with the demands placed on doctoral students who want to stay in science? What is your strategy to take into account the needs of the industry?
  3. 3.Company: How will qualification profiles in terms of skills and soft skills change in the next five years? Do you expect college graduates to match this profile? If not, how do you intend to react?
  4. 4thUniversities: How will qualification profiles in terms of skills and soft skills change over the next five years? How do you deal with changing conditions in the academic job market? How should universities generally react to these changed requirements?

Requirements for graduates of business informatics from the perspective of management consulting


Do the universities adequately train BISE graduates for the job market? In order to answer the question of whether the universities in the field of business informatics provide the skills required for the job market, it is worthwhile to formulate a few hypotheses regarding the requirement profile and to justify why these requirements are career-building for business informatics graduates.

Although there is no stereotypical profile of requirements for business IT specialists, and the potential job profiles, especially for business IT specialists, are diverse, we consider the following characteristics to be key competencies across all professions, which form the basis of a successful career:

  1. 1.Combination of technology and professional competence: In almost all industries and domains, the degree of networking is constantly increasing and the automation of business processes is increasing. This increasing digitization means that changes or optimizations at the IT level (in particular the application level is meant here) or at the business processes can often not be carried out in isolation and without affecting the other level. We are therefore convinced that the design of good IT solutions requires a high level of domain know-how. Otherwise, there is a great risk that solutions will be implemented that prove to be dead ends in the further course of the process. The connection between IT and technical competence is therefore essential.
  2. 2.Modeling competence: Due to the often inherent complexity of the process and IT landscapes, optimization is only possible if it is possible to map the real world in consistent models and at different levels of abstraction. Even the complexity of modern and therefore largely well-structured IT landscapes – as we typically find them in large companies – is now so high that models are absolutely necessary, for example to analyze what effects can be expected from changes to IT. The quality and correctness of the analysis is directly dependent on the quality of the models used. Unfortunately, many of the models kept in companies still turn out to be unusable (e.g. as a result of insufficient maintenance), which is why the competence to create or create such models.
  3. 3.Architecture competence: While the first two requirements are sufficient to carry out optimizations within a “silo” – for example for a specialist area or for separate applications – company-wide or even cross-company optimization of the IT and process level requires basic architecture competence in order to be able to work across applications and organizations design efficient solutions. The challenge in the 21st century for many companies will be the establishment of an integrated platform that integrates the process, product and IT perspective. This has fundamental effects on the control of IT, which in the future will no longer be able to be controlled as an isolated function. Business informatics students should understand this change and learn basic tools in this regard. To this end, it is certainly useful if the students acquire basic ideas of how suitable platforms (should) look in selected industries and what the drivers are in the design of such platforms (how, for example, a variety of variants is produced, flexibility in product and process design is supported).
  4. 4thStructuring and problem-solving skills: The first three requirements basically form the tools of a classic business informatics specialist, which he needs for a solid analysis. These competencies are helpful both in analysis and in finding solutions. However, the ability to structure complex issues in such a way that, on the one hand, structural deficits can be quickly identified and, on the other hand, solution patterns can be derived from the analysis, is ultimately necessary in order to design innovative solutions. It is not only necessary that the selected structure depicts the problem completely and without overlapping. It is also necessary to develop a feeling for which dimensions are helpful or helpful in identifying and solving the problem. are important and which dimensions can be abstracted from. This structuring competence is at the same time a valuable tool in all project phases (for example in the estimation of effort, resource and time planning). Therefore, we consider this competence to be a key competence in addition to the first three competencies.

Of course, in addition to the key competencies explained above, there are other and equally important characteristics that ultimately characterize a successful graduate. This certainly includes soft skills, but also commitment and intelligence. We therefore do not claim that the selection made above is equally important for all typical job profiles of a business IT specialist. Nevertheless, we are convinced that these characteristics are not only important in IT consulting, but also represent a good basis for a career in a line function and in science. Therefore, based on our subjective experiences (from numerous interviews and conversations), we explain in the next section,

Qualification through the universities

In principle, we recruit almost all of the business IT specialists we employ (around a third of our employees) from among the number of graduates in the German university landscape. Now that Senacor Technologies AG is one of Germany’s fastest growing IT consultancies and the majority of its employees are recruited from German universities, we can first of all state that the training for business informatics obviously does not completely ignore the needs of the job market. On the contrary, we can always fall back on very well-trained graduates. However, if you test the training against the above-mentioned hypotheses, there is potential – at least from our experience and therefore without any claim to general validity – to further improve the training.

To combine technology and technical competence as well as modeling competence: In our experience, there are numerous universities and business informatics chairs in the DACH region, which basically allow students a balanced, but also well-founded education that addresses both technological competence on the one hand and well-founded professional competence on the other – even if, in our opinion, some of the students are not yet aware of how important this interface competence will be.

However, in the context of the selection of candidates, we gained the impression that solid methodological knowledge in the field of modeling is not (no longer) the core content of business informatics training everywhere. Even if the realization has now matured that company-wide process and data models are not an end in themselves, modeling competence is still required when designing cross-departmental and cross-company solutions. Therefore, we would like to have a stronger focus on what we consider to be the classic business informatics content as part of the training, especially since the ability to model promotes a thought pattern that is important for business informatics.

About architectural competence:While the first two core elements of the requirement profile (interface and modeling skills) of a business informatics specialist are well covered by training at German universities in our experience, the competence that we call architectural competency is obviously not (yet) an element of the basic training of business informatics specialists. We find that only graduates from selected universities are able to outline the IT landscape of a company in broad outline. In many cases, students and graduates lack a fundamental understanding of the size and complexity of application landscapes in companies. In our opinion, the cause of this knowledge gap is the often highly function-oriented training, which does not integrate the different views enough. If students do not acquire this competence, they will hardly be able to analyze or even solve cross-departmental and cross-application problems. The subdiscipline of Enterprise Architecture Management, which has established itself in recent years, is a valuable contribution to imparting this competence, which we very much welcome. In our opinion, graduates from universities that impart this competence have a significant competitive advantage over graduates from universities whose curriculum does not yet include this competence. The subdiscipline of Enterprise Architecture Management, which has established itself in recent years, is a valuable contribution to imparting this competence, which we very much welcome. In our opinion, graduates from universities that impart this competence have a significant competitive advantage over graduates from universities whose curriculum does not yet include this competence. The subdiscipline of Enterprise Architecture Management, which has established itself in recent years, is a valuable contribution to imparting this competence, which we very much welcome. In our opinion, graduates from universities that impart this competence have a significant competitive advantage over graduates from universities whose curriculum does not yet include this competence.

For structuring and problem-solving skills:While the above-mentioned three competencies primarily represent methodological knowledge, which can also be conveyed in the context of frontal events, the structuring and problem-solving skills that are particularly relevant for us are largely empirical knowledge that cannot be imparted in the form of a classic course . Here, the addition (not the replacement!) Of the classical teaching with case studies in the Anglo-American style makes sense. In this way, students can develop the ability to identify the various dimensions for structuring unknown problems as quickly as possible. On the other hand, they should learn, building on a suitable structure, to derive and evaluate alternative courses of action for problem solving. Even if case studies are increasingly supplementing classic teaching, in our opinion this is not yet a format that is widespread within the framework of German-language business informatics training. Consequently, the training of business IT specialists can certainly be rounded off in this aspect by supplementary case study seminars.

Future development of the requirement profile: We assume that the above-mentioned requirement profile is stable and that the requirements motivated above will therefore also be relevant in the future. Graduates with these skills are well prepared for large-scale change requirements (IT transformations), which also result from trends such as digitization, social media, big data or cloud computing. We are already observing an excess demand for graduates with precisely these skills, which – unless the overall economic situation deteriorates drastically – will continue to exist for the next few years.

If the universities want to close this supply gap, we consider the following measures to be expedient:

On the one hand, the expansion of staff and resources in the area of ​​business informatics that has been carried out over the past ten years must be continued and, if necessary, reinforced: this is the only way to meet the increasing demand for graduates. On the other hand, the training content should be adapted to the requirement profile by the universities – as already indicated – reflecting back on business informatics core content (such as modeling skills) and expanding the range of courses to include case-based events to impart structuring and problem-solving skills. In the area of ​​doctoral training, the currently observed stronger focus on publication-oriented research, in our opinion, fundamentally contributes to improved structuring and problem-solving skills among doctoral students, as this gives doctoral students the opportunity to repeatedly grapple with new problems and to find well-founded solutions develop. We particularly observe this when research is devoted to topics with high practical relevance, as is the case, for example, with case studies or the design science or action research approaches. Doctoral students who have acquired these skills can usually be given a higher degree of responsibility earlier. This is ultimately also reflected in the salary for graduates with a doctorate.

How does Senacor Technologies AG react to the excess demand: Ultimately, we currently only have two options to cover our excess demand: On the one hand, through our own training and further education concepts and, on the other hand, by carrying and accompanying the content that is central to us (see above) in the universities offer students and doctoral candidates the opportunity to gain practical experience as part of our practical projects.

Senacor Technologies AG has always relied on continuous further training for its employees and therefore offers a wide range of its own courses as part of the Senacor Academy. As argued above, the content is increasingly conveyed on a case-by-case basis in order to provide employees with the structuring and solution skills that we believe are necessary for innovative solutions. This wide range of educational opportunities also enables us to recruit graduates after they have completed their bachelor’s degree: Due to their training, bachelor’s graduates usually already combine technological and specialist skills and, in some cases, bring good modeling know-how with them. Any gaps in the areas of architecture as well as structuring and solution competence can be closed by the internal courses.

In addition, we are disproportionately involved (measured by the size of our company) at selected universities and professorships and supplement the existing curriculum with teaching and information events. As part of these partnerships with selected chairs, we offer frontal events as well as project seminars and case-based courses. In the project seminars, the students are instructed and supported by our employees, in cooperation with fellow students, to structure current problems from practice and to develop sustainable solutions.

This idea can be illustrated very well with the “Senacor Case Challenge”, in which teams of students in the field of business IT conferences (BISE and MKWI) have been competing with each other every year since 2013 to find the best solution to a case from our project history.

Usually, our involvement at universities takes place within the framework of a long-term partnership, which also enables the students, but also the doctoral students, to participate in our consulting projects on site at the customer. As a result, they learn that the skills and competencies required above are indeed of crucial importance in order to plan, control and successfully implement large IT transformations on the market.


From our point of view, the training of business informatics at German universities meets the basic requirements of practice and the increased publication-oriented research is not a structural deficit. We assume that the trend towards digitization will also result in strong demand for this profile in the future and that students can therefore still be recommended to choose these courses without reservation. However, we would like the areas of architectural competence and structuring ability to be emphasized more strongly and therefore see the potential to meet the requirements of business IT specialists even better.

Dr. Alexander Wehrmann

Senacor Technologies AG

On the influence of increasing national and international competition on master’s and doctoral programs in business informatics

The strong ties between academic institutions and industry are one of the competitive advantages of European universities, especially German-speaking countries. Recently, these ties appear to be at risk as young scientists are under pressure to focus on publications in high-ranking scientific journals in order to get a lifetime position. Cooperation between industry and science, on the other hand, costs time and is not rated equally positively for an academic career. The medium to long-term effects for master’s and doctoral programs in business informatics are currently not foreseeable, but definitely require more reflection and in-depth discussion.

My own perspective on this topic is shaped by my personal experiences from business schools that are very research-oriented and strive for international renown. In the past ten years, competition in the university training market has increased significantly, both on a national and international level. As a result, universities are constantly being compared against one another based on criteria such as program quality, graduates’ career prospects, and productivity, innovation and the impact of our research. This also applies to HEC Lausanne, the Faculty of Economics at the University of Lausanne, whose aim is to be at the forefront of research while attracting the best students. She sees her mission in “using research, to train our students to become capable and responsible leaders and entrepreneurs ”. Accreditations, especially according to the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), which awards a seal of approval for business schools, have led our faculty to think more intensively about the strategic positioning of our study programs, to document their learning successes and to review their perception by students and employers. In addition to accreditations, we monitor the current rankings, such as the renowned Financial Times Ranking or the Eduniversal Business School Ranking, which emphasize criteria such as professional qualifications and career prospects. The award of a seal of approval for business schools has led our faculty to think more intensively about the strategic positioning of our study programs, to document their learning successes and to review their perception by students and employers. In addition to accreditations, we monitor the current rankings, such as the renowned Financial Times Ranking or the Eduniversal Business School Ranking, which emphasize criteria such as professional qualifications and career prospects. The award of a seal of approval for business schools has led our faculty to think more intensively about the strategic positioning of our study programs, to document their learning successes and to review their perception by students and employers. In addition to accreditations, we monitor the current rankings, such as the renowned Financial Times Ranking or the Eduniversal Business School Ranking, which emphasize criteria such as professional qualifications and career prospects.

Although HEC Lausanne is a very research-oriented faculty, all master’s programs include both a theoretical and a practical orientation. The vast majority of our master’s students strive for a practical career after completing their studies, while only a very small proportion opt for an academic career. Our experience with the IS Master’s program shows that students enroll with us because of the excellent career prospects and their interest in technological innovations. If you take a closer look at the enrollment numbers, it would be impossible to set up a purely scientifically oriented master’s program. It is only during their master’s degree that some of our best students discover their interest in an academic career.

For the IS master’s program at HEC Lausanne, we have documented qualification profiles in preparation for the accreditation process (Department of Information Systems, University of Lausanne 2012) and subsequently discussed with other Swiss universities. As part of the implementation of the qualifications framework for the Swiss higher education sector ( in the context of the Bologna process, the Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss universities has set up pilot projects for three disciplines, including computer science and information systems. Based on the so-called Dublin descriptors, these pilot projects have developed discipline-specific descriptors which define the minimum requirements for the performance and skills of graduates. These descriptors are formulated in the form of learning successes and competence levels for Bachelor, Master and PhD levels in order to differentiate these three levels relatively broadly and generally from one another. Each description contains learning outcomes in the five categories “Knowledge and Understanding”, “Application of Knowledge and Understanding”, “Judging”, “Communicative Skills” and “Self-Learning”. The discipline-specific descriptors were used at the end of the pilot project by the Rectors ‘Conference of the Swiss Rectors’ Conference asGood Practice is published and is shown in Tab.  1 .Tab. 1 Good Practice for IS Master and PhD programs (CRUS – Rector Conference of the Swiss Universities 2013 )Full size table

At the master’s level, business informatics students are expected to acquire “an advanced knowledge and understanding of the conceptual and applied aspects of IS design and management”. Professional qualification is addressed through the expected level of competence in the category “application of knowledge and understanding”, but also through corresponding learning and communication skills. According to good practice , Master’s students should be able to “use their knowledge and understanding of problems, but also their problem-solving skills

  • apply in new or unfamiliar environments within broad (or multidisciplinary) contexts based on real-world case studies and practical exercises;
  • to develop and / or use innovative ideas, methods, principles or solutions for this purpose,
  • and to demonstrate the ability to discuss the challenges that are essential for the IS manager’s job description and to analyze them using both academic and practice-related literature. “(translated from CRUS – Rector Conference of the Swiss Universities 2013 )

HEC Lausanne implements these suggestions through a high proportion of project work in almost all courses so that students can apply their conceptual knowledge in real situations. Projects are supplemented by a new type of element in our course, so-called “block weeks” on a current topic, which combines technological innovations with business aspects. During this one week, the regular lectures are interrupted so that students can work full-time on this specific topic, e.g. B. “Cloud Computing” (in 2012) or “From Big Data to Smart Data” (in 2013). Using practical tasks, the students examine technical and business challenges from the perspective of a company. You develop recommendations and discuss them with the practitioners at the end of this week. As a result, the students not only become familiar with the latest technological innovations, but also have to combine knowledge from various courses in order to evaluate the effects of new technologies in practice. The block week allows us to integrate relevant topics into the program that require interdisciplinary thinking at the interface between specialized courses in the existing program or that have not (yet) been included in the program due to their novelty. to evaluate the effects of new technologies in practice. The block week allows us to integrate relevant topics into the program that require interdisciplinary thinking at the interface between specialized courses in the existing program or that have not (yet) been included in the program due to their novelty. to evaluate the effects of new technologies in practice. The block week allows us to integrate relevant topics into the program that require interdisciplinary thinking at the interface between specialized courses in the existing program or that have not (yet) been included in the program due to their novelty.

Even if application aspects play an important role within IS master’s programs, the working group of the Swiss pilot project also clearly emphasized the requirements for scientific work. Students should develop an “understanding of current research” and “define their own master’s thesis using scientific methods and literature”. At the HEC Lausanne, the master’s thesis can be done in combination with an internship or as a purely scientific work in order to prepare students for a corresponding – practice-oriented or academic – career. Although around 80% of our master’s students opt for the practical variant,

Compared to the master’s program, the situation at the doctoral level is significantly different. A doctorate is not particularly valued on the Swiss job market, since highly qualified personnel is in short supply in the IT industry. A doctoral degree is seen primarily as the start of an academic career and the expectations placed on doctoral students are therefore strictly linked to scientific criteria. In the Swiss pilot project it is expressed as follows: At the doctoral level, students have to make a contribution “through original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge by developing substantial research work that deserves it, at least in part according to the usual national or international standards to become”. This raises expectations of PhD students regarding the quality of research and may put off some potential PhD students. However, cooperation with practitioners can also lead to very successful dissertations, such as Alexander Osterwalder’s dissertation on business models (Osterwalder2004 ), from which one of the best-known management books has emerged. In my opinion, the key factor is that we encourage the Engaged Scholarship (Van de Ven 2007 ) more in our academic work and in our study and doctoral programs . This implies that (1) professors encourage doctoral students to take up topics relevant to industry and applied issues relating to information systems, and that (2) we set up our research collaboration with industry in such a way that relevant results can be produced in a scientifically rigorous research process.

In summary, it should be said that the globalization of the education market is undoubtedly having and will continue to have effects on the business informatics programs of German universities, especially on those who want to play in the top league nationally or internationally. Accreditations require the professional qualification of master’s students, so that practice-relevant research results improve the attractiveness of study programs. As a result, the strong relationships between industry and academic institutions are a potentially strong competitive factor for master’s programs in German-language business informatics. However, there is still some work ahead of us to better communicate these strengths in a global education market and to further develop the cooperation models with industry in such a way that

Prof. Dr. Christine Legner

University of Lausanne

Requirements of the service industry using the case study of a global insurer


The business environment has changed significantly in recent years. Not only processes within the business environment, but also the expectations with regard to the individual employee have changed in such a way that companies are now looking for other qualification profiles for graduates. The term “VUCA” (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous), which was coined by the US Army War College (Horney et al. 2010 ), tries to summarize these developments and to form a conceptual basis for what kind of graduates to be sought in the near future.

What is currently the typical qualification profile of the graduates we are looking for?

Within the Allianz Group, one of the most important aspects that we look for in the graduate profile is work experience. If a company, like the Allianz Group, is in the comfortable position of being able to choose between around 90 applicants for an advertised position, it will choose the one who has at least a certain degree of professional experience, as this is the case The learning process is greatly facilitated. It is especially difficult for young graduates who have graduated from the university without an internship to gain a foothold in practice. Students should therefore use their time to do internships, if possible even in an international environment, or to work as working students in order to gain their first professional and international experience. The alliance, But other companies are also particularly interested in those graduates who have completed internships or worked as student trainees in their own company, as they have already acquired company-specific knowledge and skills, which not only facilitates the learning process, but also future work results. These applicants will be given special attention during the selection process.

A specific criterion, which surprisingly is not considered important for the selection process, are the grades of earlier qualification levels, e.g. B. from the high school diploma. According to a current article in “Wirtschaftswoche” (Stehle 2014 ), this criterion is the least important of all hard and soft skills. The average grade of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is seen as more important. However, due to different performance requirements depending on the country or region, it is necessary to calculate a weighted average for each graduate in order to enable a fair comparison between the applicants.

Applicants should definitely have a basic understanding of business, regardless of the position they are applying for. In addition, the applications should ideally show a certain customer orientation and an understanding of services, as well as advisory skills, as this is necessary for most positions and processes within the alliance. Equally important are a good understanding of sales and distribution processes and a sense of logical reasoning. The applicant’s profile should certainly also show very good language skills. To work in a multinational company like Allianz, you need good English. Speaking additional languages ​​is a clear advantage as the company carries out many international projects that take place in different countries.

With regard to the personal characteristics of the graduates, a certain passion for change is certainly a key characteristic. Passion not only for changes in the professional environment but also for the types of changes that affect individual life is inevitable in today’s professional life. Workers willing to accept any kind of change are heavily solicited and needed in a VUCA environment. As a young professional reports from her own experience, this is not always as easy as previously thought. Especially at the beginning of her own career, she had to overcome a few difficulties: “As you can imagine, it is very exhausting to deal with changes over and over again, even though the current project is not even finished, for example. It is rather rare that someone stays with the same project from start to finish. That is why people are much less likely to get the chance to settle in this dynamic environment ”. The structure of today’s professional environment makes it clear how important it is for future employees to accept change and experience it for themselves.

In addition, flexibility has become one of the most important criteria for an applicant. Allianz is specifically looking for highly flexible graduates. A few years ago people could apply for positions that had more or less unchangeable tasks – in today’s professional world, on the other hand, you have to be able to offer a high degree of flexibility. It has become more of a rule that employees do not stay within fixed limits, but move in their role or even switch to other roles. In addition, workers are confronted with a much larger number of media technologies than was the case a few years ago. Adapting to this technological development is less of a problem for the younger generation than for the older generation. Graduates who come to us directly from the university,

Another criterion, which is strongly linked to flexibility and the willingness to change and which is in demand by today’s companies, is mobility. This criterion is more or less already a natural trait for most graduates as they are increasingly used to changing locations and adapting to new environments. Many graduates decide to study elsewhere than in their hometown and usually also take the opportunity to go abroad at some point during their studies. The choice of the country and thus also the language is of subordinate importance. The decision to live abroad is important, as this shows the willingness to accept and tolerate another culture and to gain experience in an international context.

After all, enthusiasm is a key characteristic that we look for in our applicants. An ideal candidate should approach certain topics with enthusiasm and not show a neutral stance everywhere. Confidence and good presentation skills are required of all applicants and are present in most of the graduates. A certain sense of responsibility, a high level of comprehension and an above-average willingness to learn are just as necessary as additional activities outside the university.

Overall, the demands on graduates have increased, both due to the changes in the corporate landscape and the possibility of outsourcing simple tasks. The remaining work is complex and requires specific expertise and skills. Therefore, companies are less looking for employees who want to take responsibility for repetitive and less complex tasks, but rather who are able to master precisely such complex tasks.

How do you deal with the situation that there is a gap between the qualification profiles you are looking for and the profiles of the graduates?

Although most graduate profiles meet expectations overall, a certain criterion is usually a reason for rejection. Typically it is the lack of work experience. In particular, graduates who come straight from university do not have the expected practical background. Internships or phases that integrate practical work are not required at most universities. Only a small number of graduates take time out from their studies to get this type of experience. But the trend is clear: Applicants, and especially applicants in the IT sector, have considerably more practical experience than was the case a few years ago.

In the event of a skills gap, the simplest and most likely solution from a business perspective would be not to hire the candidate. However, some companies will find themselves in a situation in which they have to compromise on the selection of available candidates, either because there are no applicants with an appropriate profile available and / or the company does not have the time for an extensive search process. The most effective tool to bridge an existing gap is probably some form of on-the-job training. Usually, however, the workload is high overall, so that such extra-occupational measures cannot be integrated into everyday routine work. Alternatively, companies can introduce a buddy system, to integrate new employees as quickly and effectively as possible. As has been shown at Allianz, this gives employees the opportunity to get used to the new environment in a highly effective and practice-oriented manner. The problem of the high workload and the limited time to support the learning process underlines once again the urgent search by companies for graduates who can work autonomously and proactively.

Can the current supply of graduates meet the need for employees?

The “war for talents”, as it is titled in many articles, is omnipresent in today’s business environment. In recent years we have noticed a clear shortage of suitably trained graduates. Positions in IT security, IT architecture, business analysis and even project management are particularly affected. The number of applications has not decreased significantly, but the number of applications with a suitable qualification profile has changed dramatically. This supply bottleneck will force many companies to take on graduates from other fields of study than originally planned. In addition, applicants from other regions of the world are becoming increasingly interesting.

What changes in the profiles in terms of hard and soft skills do you expect in the next five years?

The main changes have already been described above, and these will certainly not change in the next five years. The demands on these skills are becoming more intense, but the general expectations remain the same: for IT staff with expert knowledge, this will be even more important than it is today. In general, however, I would say that five years from now we will still be looking for employees with the same characteristics and qualifications as we are today.

Will university graduates have this profile? If not, how will you react?

Most likely, the tension in the job market will not ease within the next five years. Rather, there will be a greater shortage of graduates with the appropriate qualifications, while applicants for their part will place greater demands on employers. Companies will have to make even greater compromises when selecting applicants because there are simply too few applicants available. Some companies will therefore have to hire graduates even if their profile does not exactly meet expectations.

One reason for such discrepancies could also be the current structure of the universities. Nowadays, students sometimes cannot decide independently which specialization they want to take and at the same time when they want to go to a semester abroad. Such predefined structures, which restrict flexibility, are counterproductive in a VUCA world.

To counter this situation, Allianz will continue to work on its strong employer brand. In this way, we can prevent the number of applicants from falling and thus keep the company in the comfortable position of being able to choose between many highly qualified applicants.

Dr. Axel Schell

Allianz Managed Operations and Services SE (AMOS SE)

The attitude to training: business informatics as a science and professional profile


The central question is: do we have to adapt the way in which we train and develop our bachelor and master students as well as our doctoral students in view of possibly changing professional requirements? In order to understand the underlying problems, I will first describe the job market for our graduates and then describe selected challenges for the academic job market.

Our graduates and their job market

By and large, the business information systems job market couldn’t do any better right now. Our annual survey of HR managers at Germany’s 1000 largest companies shows that almost all companies are hiring in 2014, but 40% of the vacant positions are difficult or even impossible to fill (von Stetten et al. 2014). This trend has been constant for years, even through the last few years of the crisis. One of the main reasons is of course the demographic development, as a result of which only half of young adults are available as in 1950, while at the same time the professional requirements have become much more complex. Companies have therefore been exposed to the “war for talents” for a long time and have to fight to find good candidates. In our discipline, this struggle seems to be much more intense. Our surveys show that in business informatics and computer science (similar to all professions in research and development) only 20% of companies find enough qualified candidates on the market (compared to 60% in human resources or marketing) (von Stetten et al.2011 ). And while an average of 41.8% of companies had problems filling positions in 2014, this figure is 52.9% in the IT industry.

From the candidate’s point of view, our applicant survey with over 100,000 web-based responses (Maier et al. 2014 ) shows that across all industries those with IT / WI-related jobs are the most optimistic about their own careers and find it easiest to find another job to change or to find the “dream job”. 93% of candidates say they found a good job right after graduation, in contrast to e.g. B. to German studies students, for whom this only applies to 28% (Laumer et al. 2011 ).

This development is also reflected in the salaries at which those in IT-related professions earn an average of EUR 5,627 more per year. A major reason, however, is that there are far fewer badly paid jobs in the IT sector. Accordingly, the gender pay gap is smallest in the IT industry, and women earn 22% more in IT than in other occupational fields. Other sources paint a similar picture. A survey by IG Metall published that more than half of university bachelor’s degrees earned more than EUR 45,965.

A key finding is that our graduates are desperately wanted on the job market and there is a noticeable shortage. From the experience of many projects with HR managers, I would even postulate that some special skills are needed, but the real bottleneck for most companies is being able to hire a suitable business informatics graduate at all. My understanding of the company’s requirements for certain skills is essentially that short-term personnel needs (which are often based on current, specific technologies) are certainly the most visible sign but that long-term requirements for good business IT specialists in terms of mastering a broad portfolio from modeling to IT management to critical thinking are even more important. This view is supported by current research on the value contribution of IT in companies, and studies in the context of resource-based view (RBV) show that excellent programming skills can give a company a temporary competitive advantage, but that the management skills of IT- Department create a sustainable competitive advantage. Short-term requirements also change more frequently. As a result, graduates should have both short-term and long-term acting skills upon leaving the university. However, short-term skills are rather outdated, company-specific and can also tend to be acquired at the workplace; Long-term skills, on the other hand, are an important and sustainable aspect of university education. To quote BF Skinner, “Education is what remains when what is learned is forgotten.” Universities seem to be a good place for good education in this respect, in addition to just learning skills.

The role of “soft skills”

While most of the job profiles for university graduates are becoming more and more demanding, there seems to be a trend that focuses more on soft skills than e.g. B. focused on technological knowledge. In a project in which we examined professional requirements for recruiters, it emerged that, in addition to traditional skills, today’s recruiters are particularly successful in teams and should therefore be able to master personnel information systems, corresponding controlling indicators, process management, search engine optimization as well as entrepreneurial thinking and communication (Eckhardt et al .  2014 ).

When presenting these findings to around 450 HR managers and recruiters, I asked: “These are substantially new requirements. Would you now position yourself for your own position? ”3 out of 4 listeners raised their hands for a“ no ”. Then I asked: “The recruiter 2.0 concept includes many soft skills and communication skills. Can you develop your current employees to this or do you have to hire new employees? ”To my surprise, 2 out of 3 people in the audience indicated that they would have to lay off their current employees and hire other employees.

In a subsequent study it was shown, in agreement with other scientific publications, that the personnel selection of German companies is actually carried out with a focus on “soft skills”. The top selection criteria are 1. Personality and 2. Soft Skills, followed by 4. Specializations and 6. Grades. Overall, 66% of those questioned found that soft skills are more important than hard skills (in the IT industry only 60.7%). The validity of this perception is difficult to assess, and it also contradicts findings about the importance of general business knowledge for professional success (Rynes et al. 2007), but there are two possible explanations. On the one hand, with the same importance of soft and hard skills, deficits in soft skills could be more difficult to compensate. The response from recruiters, as reported above, seems to support this and one of our recent surveys across all industries showed that only 1 in 5 companies believe that soft skills can be taught or learned. On the other hand, again with the same importance, soft skills could represent a bottleneck factor. To resume the previous argument, it might be difficult to find IT personnel with a certain technological ability (hard skill), but it might be even more difficult to find candidates with sufficient soft skills.

If you look at the demands of the job market, my general conclusion is that while universities are still doing a good job of the students we have, we basically just need more business information systems students. A major challenge is to reach potential students who have not previously focused on business informatics. In addition, we need more knowledge about the type, relevance and malleability of soft skills and must do our best to support their acquisition during the course.

The industrial and economic job market for PhD graduates

Unfortunately, there is even less data on the supply and demand for PhDs. In my own view, the job market outside of universities for this group is no different than it was for the masters graduates before, but the academic job market is becoming more and more competitive. Global competition is a major trend.

Harvard scholar Richard Freeman states that the First World workforce in 1980 was 980 million, grew to 1.5 billion in 2000 (including parts of Africa and Latin America) and continued thereafter 1, 5 billion workers from India, China and the former USSR absorbed (Freeman 2010). In the scientific world, it is quite impressive that so many very good young scientists from India and China have gained a foothold in such international institutions and journals that were previously mostly dominated by Anglo-American colleagues. Second, supported by political demands on cost savings and transparency, the public is showing an interest in the returns of a tax-financed scientific world. The most common measure for this is the quality of the research results, operationalized by the quality of ranked publications. This is not without its problems, but the reality. These two trends make a successful career in science, even in business information systems, riskier than it used to be. A particular risk for scientists is that there are far fewer potential employers than in industry (e.g. for a job as a consultant or analyst) and that there is therefore far less liquidity in this particular job market. How should we deal with this new situation?

If you look at the supply side, in my opinion, the existing Bachelor and Master programs are correspondingly broad and long-term and there is a good mix to build knowledge both in theory and technology. In the short-term oriented labor market, the requirements are mixed up. Even doctoral students benefit from analytical knowledge that they have acquired through empirical research projects and theoretically acquired knowledge and that they can now bring to bear in a job market that calls for big data and thus for analytical skills.

In order to pursue a career in science, however, it is much more important than in the past to publish research articles that are quoted and taken up by other researchers. Although the evaluation standards (journal rankings, impact measurement, etc.) change just as quickly as the short-term technology needs of the industry, one has to accept global competition as a fact of academic life. Depending on whether the doctoral students are targeting the national or possibly the international academic job market, these changing requirements have different meanings. Academic teachers are thus given increasing responsibility not only with regard to the intellectual training of their doctoral students, but also for expectation management. A professor once said to a very good Masters student who was considering an academic career that he was the best tennis player in town right now, but to become a professor he would have to face John McEnroe. Being a “professional scientist” continues to be a great job for someone who is not only empowered but actively seeking intellectual freedom and incessant learning.

However, if the real goal is the supposedly secure job as a permanent government employee, this career path will not work well. To sum up, an academic career is risky if you follow the rules of yesterday, and at least as risky as in the industrial job market, as there are fewer employers. The answer for the individual can only be to raise the stakes and fight in all categories of the academic decathlon. The BISE community can try to make even more convincing suggestions (and get political support) on how our research quality could be measured in other ways. Presumably, even global initiatives by organizations like AIS have to do some persuasion.

What can we do?

The two biggest challenges in the near future are that we continue to develop a basis for skills in sufficient depth, breadth and level of innovation, and that we can convince more interested parties to study business informatics. How exactly we can achieve this certainly requires a separate discussion.

My assumption regarding the skills we are looking for would be that we should continue to train in a wide variety that allows different specializations and reduces the risk of chasing any trend. Central planning of skills sought and offered on the job market has never worked. Most business informatics professors have close contact with many companies and industries on an individual basis, which in any case facilitates knowledge transfer. Contact with alumni is also increasingly being sought in order to strengthen these connections. I have had good experience writing to graduates who have just been working for a year or two and asking about their findings which topics and methods they a) found particularly helpful, b) that were interesting but unnecessary, and c) missed them and would have liked to have had them in retrospect. This makes it possible to improve existing courses or even to develop new ones. For example, I am now teaching a course on “IT Controlling”, which was largely motivated by this feedback.

Regarding the promotion of business informatics degree programs, we need to better understand what prospective students might want and how they decide which courses to take. When I look at the above survey results, I am convinced that many would like to study business informatics, but have not yet considered it. We also need to better understand what sources of information they use, what goals they pursue and what values ​​they find important to achieve them. In the light of many efforts to date to learn from successful universities, I think that a general definition of BISE will not get us any further. Instead, we should make it easier for our target groups to by adopting their imagery and communicating career paths and job descriptions. For example, most of those we try to convince of a career in business informatics are more likely to jump to job satisfaction, salaries and possible job profiles such as outsourcing manager, management consultant or process optimizer than through a discussion of philosophical positions and definitions of what business informatics includes and what not.

A finding from many “Girls Days” and comparable marketing events was that whenever the parents were there (sometimes only in the last 30 minutes when the project results were presented) the aforementioned salary statements made a lasting impression. It also seems useful to point out that despite the somewhat unfortunate suffix “-informatics” in the term business informatics, it is the least likely that our graduates’ careers will be outsourced to India – indeed a common concern – since it is our graduates who control this development. If you want to learn from other universities in the world,

For those aspiring to an academic career, global competition and indebted public coffers have profoundly changed the job market for future professors. We can currently only respond to these challenges by maintaining our course, building even better on theories and developing relevant systems.

In summary, and in an attempt to answer the central questions, it seems to me that business informatics produces great graduates who are wanted by the industrial job market – just not enough of them. Those who are interested in an academic job market have to be clear about the changed job profile, equip themselves with internationally recognizable skills and start a global mindset. We can learn from industry how we can accept and deal with competition, develop the will to become and stay better than others, and communicate our value proposition in the recipient’s language. In any case, it is necessary that we pass on good business informatics craft for direct use in industry, but we should emphasize that lasting knowledge and the scientific virtue of critical thinking are fundamental pillars of university education. To paraphrase Aristotle: “It is a mark of an educated mind to be content with the degree of accuracy that the nature of things allows.”

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