Our research consists of three major areas. We interpret sustainable IT management from two different perspectives. On the one hand, IT management should take account of sustainability principles in order to maintain the long-term competitiveness of companies. On the other hand, IT itself is an instrument to achieve sustainability in other areas, especially in the energy sector. To address the problem how Blockchain can be integrated into existing systems in a sustainable way, we analyze the disruptive potential of the technology since 2015.
Managing the digital transformation
Information systems occupy all industries and companies. This original core of business information systems engineering has also increasingly become a public issue under the concept of digitalization. Most and successful companies have already realized that IT is not just costly, but that the development and the active taking-up of new trends is important to achieve competitive success. Younger competitors in particular are characterized by a younger IT landscape, which is usually much less complex and give them a systematic advantage over established companies. A short-term way around this is discussed under the term Two-Speed-IT: Current trends are pursued in separate departments or even organizations - at the risk that this will further increase the complexity of the IT landscape for years. The strategy, which is more sustainable in the long term, is to deal with the complexity and to reduce it evolutionary. Projects for IT transformation require a consideration of IT as a complex system, which is characterized by a large number of dependencies and is little fault-tolerant in large parts. In order to avoid domino effects of failing projects, which can even endanger the existence of the company itself, an advanced IT portfolio management is necessary, which today is rather rare in companies.
Digitalizing the energy transition
As a result of the expansion of wind and photovoltaic plants and the successive shutdown of nuclear power plants, the supply of electricity in Germany is becoming increasingly volatile. In order to resolve this central energy challenge, measures such as grid expansion, the development of new storage technologies or the installation of additional flexible production capacities based on fossil fuels are discussed. Grid expansion and hydro-power plants require interventions in the landscape, other storage facilities are costly and burning fossils is contrary to the climate. Therefore, a promising path is the use of flexibility in electricity consumption, which is the dynamic adaptation of demand to supply, also known as the term demand side management. IT must provide solutions for a wide range from the individual power consumer through an intelligent power grid to the electricity markets. In our research, we are concerned with these intelligent networks and - because of our economic background - with their connection and effect on the electricity markets.
Unchaining the Blockchain
Blockchain is more than the technology of its most successful application Bitcoin. One of its key attributes is the tamper-proof storage of information within the Blockchain. The most distinctive feature of Blockchain is that it allows for the bilateral transfer of ownership of a digital good. In the past, the recipient of a good could never be sure that the sender did not keep copies. For digital representations (e.g. bank account) of physical goods (money) a trusted third party (bank) was necessary to ensure that the value (bank transfer) was performed only once. With the Blockchain technology, we can omit this intermediary – at least in the described role. As it allows for transparent and trackable business processes, even with other organizations, Blockchain offers a wide range of use cases. These might be the configuration of audit-proof processes, simplified container logistics or first ideas about a future machine economy. Although the 2016 Gartner Hype cycle lists Blockchain at the “peak of inflated expectations”, it has some features that could indeed revolutionize certain business areas. Therefore, we check Blockchain systematically and analytically for its potential in today’s economy, in order to integrate Blockchain into existing systems in a sustainable way. Furthermore, we are involved in the process of building up the Fraunhofer Blockchain lab.
In our research, we are working closely together with other colleagues at the Research Center for Finance & Information Management, in particular with the research areas Strategic IT Management and Energy and Critical Infrastructures.