IT in Management Education

                                          Dr. M.V.S. Peri Sastry

Abstract :

            This paper discusses the place and scope of Information Technology (I.T) in the present day Masters in Business Administration (M.B.A) education. It examines the relevance,  the depth and breadth of IT subjects in the M.B.A curriculum, to e-enable the new generation of managers. The author presents a plan for  integration of IT in the general program structure of M.B.A education.

 

1.   Place and scope:  The scope of IT in Management Education encompasses, selection and grading of subjects, depth of coverage, how and who should impart such education to the MBA students. It also covers the IT infrastructure needed in B-Schools. IT enabled ambience conducive to producing global managers who can take their rightful place in the networked global enterprises as planners, managers and entrepreneurs also forms part of the scope of this endeavor.

  Though it is a daunting task, let me venture to present some thoughts and details.

  Let us first look at the different specializations like Marketing, Human Resources (HR), Manufacturing Management, Finance and systems in the present day MBA curriculum.  The origins of their introduction in MBA education lie in the post ‘industrial revolution’ era. They emerged, as a consequence of the changes in the scale of business and economics of volumes. The need for a class of executives who have to motivate, acquire suitable skills and have a sound knowledge of the working of an industrial enterprise was the main driver. Thus manufacturing oriented knowledge and soft skills of business management became integrated into MBA education. Universities which had, professors in various disciplines were the planners, knowledge base providers and enthusiasts of the early management curriculum as a step towards holistic Management education.

                                   Naturally the goal of training future managers of industrial enterprises has influenced the selection of subjects and  pedagogy in MBA education. Thus we see a basic slant towards manufacturing industries in most of the disciplines like Operations, Marketing, H.R etc;

 

                                   Later the need to provide planners and managers to spearhead the developments of societies and nations has influenced these different disciplines to cater to the needs of what we know as developmental management and entrepreneurship. Developmental managers need above all, the ability to see the field in which they operate as a total system and to understand the functioning and inter relationships of their constituent parts. They have to depend on institutions and departments outside their authority and on resources outside their control 1.

Generally these managers were the need of the hour for Public Sector undertakings and Government departments. In our efforts to produce such managers, ‘Systems’ has gradually emerged as a discipline in M.B.A education. With the introduction of computers as an effective tool for integrating various stake holders of a system; ‘Systems’ specialization gathered momentum. Now IT is identified more often with the Systems specialization.

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Dr. M V S Peri Sastry is Professor and Head of Systems at X.I.M.E Bangalore-560100  ---------------

 

                       The models of Business Education based on Industrial Era are now  being modified ,  to support the business needs of this 21st century taking advantage of new technologies. With pervasive use of Information, Communications and Electronics (ICE) in businesses and work places, the need to equip future managers to use effectively these technologies and to plan and manage these technologies for the benefit of the enterprises, has become important.  Thus we see today, the following paradigm shift taking place in various facets of MBA education.

 

 

Earlier (Pre 2000)

Now (Post 2000)

Production and Operations Management

ERP, CRM, SCM and IT enabled manufacturing.

Marketing Management

E-business, E-com, planning web enabled marketing, global / international  business, B2B and B2C market places and Cyber exchanges  etc;

Human Resources Management

E-HRM, outsourced web based HR management, Distributed HRM etc;

Finance Management

Globalized economy, E-enabled financial data bases, IT in markets management etc;

Systems Management

ICE or IT Technology components, Networking, Sun and Microsoft and other Technologies, IT management, Knowledge management,

Business Intelligence etc.

 

                            Figure 1.   Paradigm shift in MBA education


What is the objective of introducing IT subjects in Management Education. Is it to enable liberal arts graduates to become knowledgeable and apply IT in business problem solving  Or is it to encourage technical & science graduates to imbibe and apply IT to managerial problem solving.  I think that it is both. So we have the jargon like techno-MBA, E_MBA which are only external manifestations of the real problem of how to integrate IT subjects, skills and applications in to the curriculum in B-Schools.

 

                          When you think of solving this puzzle, on a closer look at figure 1 it becomes clear that we have too many subjects to be covered in addition to the core Management subjects. To evolve an MBA curriculum, which gives enough scope for students to select and pursue the relevant elective courses, involved, we have to provide for teaching of elective courses right from first term of the first year; in addition to core courses. So that by the end of the two year duration of the MBA Programme; understanding of IT, acquiring IT skills, application of IT in management and  the management of IT, are adequately served and assimilated. Further, acquisition of certain level of IT skills is a prerequisite to the understanding of applying IT to management problems. If you look at successful top executives of IT empowered businesses, this fact becomes very clear.

 

 

In such a transformational era and when such a Paradigm shift is taking place under our very nose, the need to look at I.T. in Management education demands immediate attention.

2.Coverage of IT in MBA curriculum: 

             In the early days of Information Technology, the working definition that defined the field was

                  IT = Computers + Communications.

The adequacy of such a definition is always questioned. Information Technology is a grass roots response to the practical, everyday needs of business and organizations2.

Information Technology is an important contributor to operational efficiency, employee productivity and morale. Customer service and satisfaction depend on the interactivity and response, which are aided greatly by use of IT. It is a major source of information and support for decision making in many areas like Supply Chain Management, manufacturing logistics, and sales & distribution. It provides strategic advantage in developing competitive products and services. IT in its diverse products and tools is also a major functional area in many enterprises.

 

          Typical Curriculum for IT can be a judicious mix of theory, concepts, applications, deployment & use of tools and methodologies. Innovation of usage of IT and leveraging for business advantage is also important. The verticals of organizational issues & IT, application of technologies, system architecture and infrastructure, software methods & technologies and hardware & networking; are the other dimensions in the matrix.

 

         The present day MBAs, when they enter their careers, can be assumed to start at one of the categories listed below in figure 2. Some may have to play a role that combines different categories. Their exposure to IT  and related skills while doing MBA need to be tailored to suit the typical demands of these roles. By no means is this exhaustive. It is an attempt to classify before attempting the identification of subjects for various courses.

 

 

Category

IT strengths required

Line executives

Use of IT tools, PCs/laptops, application software and packages. Planning/sale of IT products.

Staff executives

In depth understanding and application of IT tools & technologies. Analysis using software tools.

Business Analysts

Use and application of IT to customer’s problems. Configuration and customization of software. Planning and managing IT solutions and projects. Planning Guiding and Development of software solutions.

IT marketing, E-HR, Systems Planning, infrastructure service providers and Entrepreneurs.

Tools and Technologies. Planning and managing IT projects. Development of solutions.

      

                   Fig 2. Typical roles of MBAs and IT strengths required

 

       I envision the educational support needs of MBAs in the IT arena keeping in mind their future roles as summarized above; by means of the figure 3 given below. The number of courses based on this coverage can become almost twenty, as some subjects can span more than one course. That is the reason why we should plan to offer electives right from the first term of first year. As some students come with adequate exposure to some of the subjects listed, it can be assumed that at the rate of one  three credit course per term, they can cover six courses in all, in two years. This can help them evolve into good Techno_MBAs.

 

THE M.B.A STUDENT

Domain Knowledge,  I.T,    E.R.P,   Business Applications ,    E-commerce

A

P

P

L

I

C

A

T

I

O

N

 

E

N

G

G.

Internet    &

Web

Technologies

 

 

Object Oriented Systems Analysis and Design

 

Relational Data Base Management Systems

 

J2EE,  Dot Net

 

Networking

 

Advanced Topics in  I.T.

K

N

O

W

L

E

D

G

E

 

B

A

S

E

S/W Engineering. &

S/W Project Management

 

Data Mining

 

Business Intelligence

 

Human Computer Interaction

 

Enterprise Application Integration

Industry Verticals

 

IT Enterprise Management

Artificial Intelligence

 

 

          Figure.3   The Techno_MBA and the Subjects other than Core business Courses

 

                                 When we say that the different subjects that have to be included in the M.B.A curriculum are as per figure 3 above; we also have to keep in mind, the composition of a typical course as below.

                    Relevance of IT to business needs:                            20%

                    IT enabled business development:                             20%

                    Planning & Team management in knowledge work: 10%

                    Technology, tools & software development:             50%

 

        I hasten to add that some subjects tend to be more oriented towards concepts
(Software Project Management) while some others will be more on technology and coding (Java). The general philosophy and thumb rule in curriculum planning can be 50% soft or applied work and 50% hardcore IT work. When all the core courses and electives courses are taken together in an M.B.A program, the total credits can be planned as per guidelines by relevant academic regulatory bodies.

 

       With the above approach and good academic guidance, there is no doubt that the MBAs produced will meet the demands of the industry to a large extent in this E-age.

 

       Who should teach IT. An academic with good exposure to ICE tools & technologies can do as good a job as an IT industry professional with good aptitude for teaching and innovation. Courses taught by a teacher with appropriate background will be the key to success.

 

3. IT infrastructure:

 

        Successful implementation of a new technology often requires that users learn new ways of interacting and working3. What better place to experiment in and learn the use of IT, than the B-school.

 

        Students need to learn concepts, assimilate ideas, use the tools and perceive the benefits that an organization achieves by use of IT. They must adopt new mental models that frame decision-making and behavior. Over 888 million people use the internet as of March 2005 as per InternetWorldStats.com4  . Organization and businesses reach out to customers and suppliers on 24 X 7  mode. Truly IT has become both mobile and pervasive.

        Though it is tied up, to the monetary resources, such an environment in the college  needs to have the following.

 

3.1)            A networked computer lab:  A computer laboratory with networked nodes (often personal computers or PCs) and servers. The servers can be intranet network servers, Database servers and commercial business database servers. The number of servers and client nodes depend on the student strength and the guidelines of accrediting and governing bodies. A thumb rules can be that the number of  client nodes equal to 70% of  the number of students.

3.2)            UPS: Adequate Uninterrupted Power Supply(UPS)  sources must be available to reduce damage to hardware due to power supply aberrations and consequent data losses and glitches.

3.3)            Digital Library and  Data Bases: Based on availability, data bases which can be accessed on-line have to be available. Library should also have facilities for on-line access to books and research magazines and e-zines.

3.4)            A dedicated high bandwidth internet connection: A high bandwidth internet connection with static IP address is needed to browse the World Wide Web and to do research based on knowledge sources on the internet. Web sites also can be hosted to aid learning. A thumb rule can be at least 10 kbps per concurrent user. A 20% increase has to be there, if internet mediated collaboration content is there in some of the courses. If remote sites are to be accessed for any specialized software for learning; either bandwidth has to be further increased or ‘restricted access’ policies have to be adopted during certain hours of working.

3.5)            Software tools and products:  General purpose office tools like Word processors, Spread sheets and Relational Data Base Management Systems (RDBMS), Statistical Analysis software and Project Management software are the basic building blocks in the IT software infrastructure. Language compilers, Sun technology tools like Java, J2EE and Microsoft tools like the .NET, C# as well as some of the off-the-shelf packages on ERP etc; are a must. Web Servers are also absolutely needed to make the learning more practical oriented and for hosting the intranet based websites. Development of web enabled student projects and applications requires web servers. Kits on C.D ROMs will make the interactive, self paced, discovery based learning, enjoyable.

        

                             In addition, if on-line testing software is used, it will add to the variety of learning modes as well as help in the standardization and administration of evaluation and interactive, self paced learning. Acquisition, installation, usage and maintenance of the software require special attention.

 

3.6)            Network protection: Web content filters and firewalls are to be in place. Physical access policies will have to be enforced, to make available the computing resources and internet based resources equitably to every one. The motto to be understood by all should be “Use but do not misuse”.

 

4.           The end product:

 

 With IT integrated MBA education as envisaged above; the management graduates who enter the work arena in the 21st century will be empowered to play meaningful and successful role in the new globalized economy.

 

                                 I am often asked by students and others, whether MBAs should learn coding, develop and modify programs and applications. My answer has always been an unambiguous ‘Yes’. In a way this is a specific example of the philosophical discussion of the point. ‘Whether a manager should know what he has to manage or not’.
 Management graduates should be able to hold the IT bull by the horns and lead organizations to ride the bull-runs. This strength of leadership to lead IT enabled and networked organizations and their IT resources can be achieved, among others, by true understanding of the present day complex business software applications. To that extent mere mouthing of IT jargon (of which there is no dearth) will not lead one any where. Businesses are increasingly becoming knowledge based and technology enabled. To succeed in such exacting environs, understanding using and managing of IT becomes highly important. It is the sacred duty of educationists, academicians and teachers, to integrate IT in management education meaningfully.

 

Acknowledgements:

 

       I thank Prof. J. Philip, Director of XIME, who recognized the need of IT in Management Education long back and initiated steps in that direction at IIM-Bangalore and later at X.I.M.E which he has built into a premier B-school.

I thank my students and colleagues for their thoughtful discussions at different times.

I thank Ms Sujatha for her help with the typing of the article.

 

I hasten to state that the ideas expressed in this paper are my own and need not necessarily reflect the views of XIME.

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References:

 

(1)   P.N.Singh, PP.30, What is wrong with MBAs, Suchidra Publications 1999.

 

(2)   Dr. T.V.Gopal & Dr.C.R.Muthukrishnan, “Towards a model curriculum for Information Technology”, CSI communications, April 2005.

 

(3)   Lyuda M.Applegate etal, P.11, Corporate Information strategy and Management; in the chapter on ‘challenges of managing in a Network Economy’; Tata McGraw Hill 2004.

 

(4)   Statistics on World Wide internet penetration are available from
InternetWorldStats.com (www. InternetWorldStats.com )