Germany, the country of poets and thinkers. Hardly any other country is home to so much innovation and so many future-looking products. And yet the digital revolution that completes the picture appears to be passing us by. Universities are getting rid of courses in IT and Germany is failing to keep pace with neighbouring countries when it comes to digitalisation.

We want to counteract this downward trend via our cooperation with the Nordakademie Graduate School in Hamburg’s Dockland. In collaboration with talented young people, we are shaping the consulting of tomorrow, today. In this article, we’re taking a peek behind the scenes of the project to design our chatbot. What did the students need to tweak and what challenges did they encounter within their academic work?

Germany, how’s your digitalisation coming along?

According to the Digital Riser report published at the end of last year, Germany is getting worse and worse, compared to the rest of the world. The report looks at the digital competitiveness of 137 countries using ten equally weighted parameters, ranging from the risk capital available and the technical skills of the population, through to companies’ willingness to change. The result? Germany is lagging behind France and Italy, not to mention other countries. If you look at the study, you’ll quickly see that Germany is being beaten to the punch, taking a paltry 17th place in the 20 key industrial and emerging countries (G20).

This is why it’s even more worrying that Germany is not just doing worse internationally, but Hamburg is also trailing behind the rest of the country in terms of university-level research into digitalisation, according to a study by Stifterverband. In Berlin, there are 190 professorships for IT, a total of 150 in Munich and 80 in Hamburg. Of them, just 23 are at the University of Hamburg. In 2017, the ‘’ project saw the city promise to balance out this inequality by creating additional professorships. The initial funding provided by the authorities for the project ran out back in late 2020. Halting the expansion of IT also means that 100 student places planned under the auspices of ‘’ were not created.


The wrong signal for students interested in the field

A poor showing – that’s what our team at BOLD thinks, as do students and staff at Nordakademie Graduate School. If we want to make up lost ground nationally and internationally, it’s time to train and encourage talented young people within Germany, in particular. This is exactly why the partnership between Nordakademie Graduate School and BOLD Consulting came into being. Together, we looked at the theory in depth and were able to put it into practice. Academia turns into tangible reality. Creating this link to business practices enabled us to identify an extremely steep learning curve within the student community. In the third part of our blog series, we want to look at our project and provide insight into our work.

On its own account: a project where we can all grow

The project revolves around the integration of a chatbot. Agreeing on the questions asked via the chatbot in the analysis phase and subsequently evaluated plays a key role in our project. The quality of the responses to the questions, and, by extension, the hypotheses derived from them, depends on their precision. Our extensive expertise means that the team at BOLD knows how important it is to ask the right questions to attain meaningful results. Sharing this knowledge with the project group, giving instructions without having too much of an impact, is tricky but very exciting. It was not only the students who found the learning curve rather steep: the project also gave us a chance to grow and learn from the students. At the start, everyone had the task of finding a shared project topic that suited the financial requirements of potential customers, along with the academic requirements of the university and the requirements in terms of artificial intelligence.

Methods and academic work

Students Bennet, Konstantin and Finn worked on the methods part of the project. They looked at the theoretical implementation and conceptual tasks that occurred in this phrase. Various chatbot providers were reviewed and the technologies used were assessed in terms of their functional scope. Checking the performance of the chatbot’s vision and the actual value it added for customers were of central importance in this phase of development. To this end, the three students designed a prototype in the program ‘Azure’, which offers a realistic assessment in terms of the feasibility of implementing the project. Finn’s previous professional experience enabled him to bring together theory and practice here. For him, the major challenge lay in underpinning his hypothesis with suitable sources. His practical experience needed to be supported by well-grounded sources to meet the demands of a piece of academic work. This process was lengthy yet rewarding. The first major obstacle lay in programming a crawler that stored tweets filtered via the Twitter API in a CSV file. To do this, they needed to acquire programming knowledge that they did not use during their day-to-day endeavours at work and at university. The three students overcame this challenge and others to develop a business model and set out cost structures.

The legal position and the fear of new technologies

Anneka, conversely, worked on the psychological groundwork connected to artificial intelligence and chatbots. What potential solutions and recommendations for action are there from a psychological perspective? In particular, this revolves around overcoming the risks of the fear of technology in general and encouraging its acceptance. Anneke also collaborated with Marcel to create part of the chatbot. This will make it easier for BOLD Consulting to run targeted interviews going forward. The consulting process is made more efficient by having certain pieces of information requested ahead of meetings. At this point, however, the challenge lay in creating a shared academic foundation for the question portion of the chatbot. Academia and practice can only be combined under certain conditions and don’t correlate fully with each other.

The complexity of research into the legal basis is also not to be overlooked. The legal basis of the GDPR and German Federal Data Protection Act is of fundamental importance when it comes to designing the chatbot and the ways it can be used. Anneke did not have a legal background and had not previously engaged with law-related topics. As a result, it is not surprising that finding her feet in this respect took a good deal of patience and stamina. The resulting implications for BOLD Consulting were not drawn up light-heartedly: their content was checked time and again. Anneke’s portion was particularly crucial for the discussion within the master’s project and the final outlook.


Theory and current status of research

Marcel and Tim worked on the theoretical part of the project, in parallel to the other students. The academic and theoretical basis relevant for the final chapters needed to be researched and documented. This section primarily revolved around the underlying research on artificial intelligence and the status of artificial intelligence within consulting in 2021. The topic of artificial intelligence also encompassed chatbots and crawlers. The questions of how chatbots/crawlers can be developed, how they’re defined, what kinds of chatbots/crawlers there are and what their various uses are were answered at this point and contributed to the theoretical part of the project. For both, getting to grips with unfamiliar topics posed a major challenge: neither of them had come into contact with the content of the master’s project on an academic level before.

Seeing challenges as an opportunity

Participating in a project of this nature alongside regular lectures, examinations and a full-time job took a great deal of discipline. It is down to everyone’s positive underlying approach, communication on an equal footing and solution-focused way of thinking that it was possible to create a shared foundation. Mr Johannßen provided stimuli for the students time and again, not just acting as a bona fide expert in his field but also as a valuable sparring partner for all involved.

The goals and outcomes of our actions are always linked to our guiding principle: ‘Consulting 5.0 | Artificial intelligence for the consulting of the future.’ This is the benchmark against which we measure the success of our project. It was not a task we dreamt up for its own sake: it is grounded in real needs expressed by the market. Once the final thesis has been presented in March, we would be happy to continue the project with the students as young entrepreneurs and make it profitable.


Durch die Nordakademie Gruaduate School und BOLD Consulting trifft Wissenschaft auf Realität.