Reader Response: IT Skills for Tomorrow

Reader response to Eric Lundquist's May 12 commentary "IT Skills for Tomorrow."

Hi Eric:

Your May 12th editorial, "IT Skills for Tomorrow" has ideas that Louis E. Lataif has been thinking about for three years. Lou is the Dean of the School of Management at Boston University. Even more relevant, he and the faculty two years ago implemented a new type of MBA, two degrees: an MS and an MBA. The focus is on training future business leaders by making them fully functional in IT with disciplined training in finance, marketing and/or other traditional MBA disciplines.

Please read the following draft of a 340-word article Lou has written.

Thanks very much.

Pete Arnold

The Next Generation of MBAs: A Networked Era Demands Different Preparation
By Louis E. Lataif
Dean, Boston University School of Management

Information technology is radically affecting how businesses are structured, how products are developed, how customers are served, how productivity is improved, how quality is strengthened, and how speed-to-market is increased. Given the reality of the changes in how businesses function today, it seems fair to ask—Is an MBA degree still sufficient?

It is incumbent upon all of us in schools of business to seriously re-evaluate our curricula in light of the changed environment. Graduates must have the special competencies required to compete in an electronic and globally networked world.

The post-industrial business world is struggling to realign itself and soak up the progress from technology and the intensified, sometimes overwhelming, flow of real-time communication. Job roles, duties, and business leadership are all evolving to reflect new business needs. Employers are imposing stricter hiring standards with elevated expectations. More and more jobs in todays world demand significant knowledge of digital technology and its power to improve competitiveness. The question about the adequacy of an MBA is being asked in business and academic circles alike. Certainly, the exclusivity of the MBA degree has been diluted over the years. Whereas 40 years ago, about 4500 MBA degrees were awarded in the United States, this year, that number will reach 115,000!

While most MBA programs have added "e" materials in their curricula, it seems clear that a more fundamental transformation of MBA education must evolve. Business school graduates must be able to think in and speak the language of transforming technologies while working within the traditional MBA roles in finance, marketing, and other business disciplines. Ideally graduates will have earned credentials at the masters degree level in both business and information systems, as is the case with the MS·MBA program introduced at Boston University.

In short, business schools much teach information technology - both from an operating and a strategic perspective. Todays graduates need to morph information systems expertise with traditional business knowledge to be fully effective in a networked business world. Those who do will establish themselves as the next generations leaders.