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DeGroote Launches EMBA In Digital Transformation As Firms Seek Tech Talent

Dire shortage of executives to handle digital delivery

By  Seb Murray

Thu Nov 26 2015

Canada’s DeGroote School of Business has joined the bevy of universities offering executives a helping hand in managing their digital innovation.

DeGroote launched its new Executive MBA in Digital Transformation that has been developed with big business — the 13-month course was honed by IBM and SAS, the business analytics leader, among others.

The program aims to provide core MBA training but with a focus on new strategic approaches, organizational structures and sources of value creation offered by digital innovations.

Program co-director Michael Hartmann said executives will need to understand how the cloud, social media, big data analytics and mobility “fundamentally alter the traditional way of doing business”: “We don’t want to see innovative business cases just divert into another conversation about risk,” he said.

The launch comes hot on the heels of a slew of training programs for executives to manage digital transformations — the vast majority of which fail, according to the consultancy McKinsey & Company.

Harvard Business School this month hosted the Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise program, designed to help executives adapt their business models in the face of new competitive technologies. It follows similar announcements by ESSEC, Mannheim, and Salford business schools this year.

There is a dire shortage of talent to handle digital delivery and business schools are beginning to help fill the void.

Radhika Chadwick, a partner at EY who leads digital and strategy services, told BusinessBecause on Wednesday that such programs need to be launched at a “higher speed” if the talent gap is to be closed.

“The market will gobble anyone up anyone with a combination of digital delivery experience but who are also digitally-savvy more generally,” she said.

She added that while universities have a part to play, there is “huge demand” to retrain and re-engage people outside of degree programs with digital strategy.

Most companies recognize the need for senior level digital leaders. But few can find the required chiefs. “There is a major shortage of digital leaders —someone who has a very strong grasp of business and strategy, and who also understands digital and what digital can do for a business,” said Jim Hamill, director of digital leadership at Strathclyde Business School.

He said that key areas for executives to assess are data analytics and the Internet of things (IoT). But there is also need for general digital managers — “those who have a good grasp of the right range of technologies” and who can take a holistic view of the business.

Jaideep Prabhu, professor at Cambridge Judge Business School, said: “Leadership is crucial to all transformation efforts. Digital is no exception.”

Companies are under pressure from tech-savvy rivals like Uber or Airbnb who threaten to rival their established business models.

“Executives need to be able to identify threats and opportunities sooner, deal with them faster, and make strategic decisions that disrupt the market and drive growth,” said Derek van Bever, senior lecturer of business administration at Harvard Business School.

Mike Wade, director of the Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation at Swiss business school IMD, said that managers are also under pressure from their boards and consumers to hone their digital transformations.

Start-ups are more nimble and therefore considered better able to leverage technological change. They are also acquiring “big company capabilities” such as access to capital and well-established relationships. “Uber, WhatsApp, and Snapchat had no problems accessing capital, building brands, and attracting customers,” Mike said.