EMBA: How Business Schools Prepare Tech-ready Leaders

by mba

Empowered with a digital grasp

Digital transformation has become a key strategic issue for companies as it disrupts competitive environments, value chains, business models, and professions within organisations. The impact of big data on decision-making processes means that managers must rapidly acquire new skills and expertise.

Leading digital change requires managers to have a vision of how to transform their company for the digital world. Digital transformation is not about the way businesses use technology, but about changing the way business gets done.

A sustainability component

As every industry is affected by the digital revolution, the mission of schools is to develop leaders who not only master digital tools and are digital savvy, but who will grow the digital economy. Teaching digital knowledge is already an integral part of executive-level MBA programmes. Approaches vary, from core courses on digital transformation for C-level managers, through electives or specialisations, to comprehensive block courses on digital transformation.

“Embracing innovation and mastering new digital technologies is no longer seen as a competitive advantage for businesses, but a vital component for sustainability and existence,” Prof. Julian Birkinshaw, professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and deputy dean of Executive Education at the London Business School, highlights in an LBS publication.

How EMBAs empower leaders with a grasp of technology

Let’s take an in-depth look into several programmes and how they teach digital technologies to current or aspiring C-level executives.

A playbook to innovation

LBS has a five-week online programme entitled “Innovating in the Digital World”, which targets senior executives and functional managers.

“The purpose of Innovating in the Digital World is to cut through the hype. It is to give you a roadmap, a playbook, if you like, to help you think through all the different steps on the innovation journey, to give you some very specific techniques and concepts to use at each step along the way,” says Prof. Birkinshaw.

The programme uses recent digital case studies of companies experimenting with new digital ways of working. Peers work on a personal innovation challenge throughout the course, where they take on personal responsibilities to bring it forward, come up with an action plan, and ultimately channel it to their own organisations to make a difference.

Digital revolution

HEC Paris Executive MBA, a 15-18 month programme which is delivered in five part-time format tracks, features four key learning components: core courses, leadership development, specialisations, and a capstone project. One of the specialisations is on digital revolution and includes a study abroad trip to Silicon Valley, California. The programme is delivered by high-level professors and professional experts who are at the forefront of digital transformation. They focus their research and practical experience on e-business strategies, digital brands, virtual worlds, on-line communities and social media, project management, strategic innovation management, and product design.

EMBA: How Business Schools Prepare Tech-ready Leaders

Through the programme, peers learn from the best practices and failures in digital transformation of a variety of companies and acquire insights into the process of digital transformation. They also learn how to develop a global vision of digital transformation that cuts across business functions and addresses the integrated role of technologies, people, and usage behaviours and they experiment with new technologies and online platforms to gain hands-on experience of the challenges and opportunities that are generated by the adoption of digital tools.

“The Capstone Project was a unique occasion to gather in a unique exercise all the learnings and apply them on a strategic topic. Mine was about launching a digitally native vertical brand that revisits tea and infusion experience by using customers’ preferences and lifestyles. My advisor believed in this project and pushed me to the limit to make it real. It has become my new venture,“ says Imasso Randrianarisoa, entrepreneur and digital marketing expert, 2020 EMBA Class at HEC.

Data-driven decisions

In Canada, DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University delivers the Executive MBA in Digital Transformation. The programme enables participants to manage digital systems and use them to make data-driven decisions, lead complex and diverse teams in digital environments, and recruit new talent. The programme is made up of four residential modules, held in Canada and Silicon Valley. Students learn from faculty instructors in the classroom and from industry experts on site, including senior executives from leading IT corporations such as IBM, Rogers Communications, and Score Media and Gaming Inc.

The core EMBA topics such as finance, marketing, and strategy are coupled with technical content in data science and business analytics. Students also learn how to use data to make strategic decisions, mitigate risk, and drive business innovation. The programme is also aimed at broadening technical and managerial knowledge while deepening students’ strategic thinking skills and leadership capabilities.

As a physician, I do see digital transformation as a key component of my industry. Healthcare will be changing dramatically over the next 10-20 years as it is affected by digital transformation. I plan on playing a role both as a clinician and also in administrative roles to help usher new technology and business models into the healthcare space,“ says Dale Robert Kalina, who is a student in the school’s EMBA programme and a clinical scholar in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine at McMaster University.

It’s not only about technology

The 2020 pandemic has created a pressing urgency for business leaders to transform business models, relations with customers, and the organisational culture. The demand for leaders able to redesign business in the digital era will skyrocket.

“Most digital technologies provide possibilities for efficiency gains and customer intimacy. But if people lack the right mindset to change and the current organisational practices are flawed, DT (digital transformation) will simply magnify those flaws,” say the authors of the “Digital Transformation Is Not About Technology” article released on the Harvard Business Review.

EMBA programmes provide the strategic C-level grasp on technology while keeping executives focused on the big organisational picture and all the aspects of managing and transforming business for growth.

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