The final list of firms supporting the course is still being finalized but potential project sponsors include Silicon Valley’s Salesforce, LinkedIn, and EY.
The Digital Technology Immersion program sits at the intersection of business, information science and technology. Cornell MBAs will learn how digital fundamentally impacts businesses.
Companies have cried out for more management programs focused on digital tech. Deloitte UK’s CEO last week called on b-schools to place tech more prominently in the curriculum, as boards face a cocktail of threats, from cyber security to digital disruption.
Cornell’s digital tech course has been developed in response to strong student and business demand. “There is strong appetite from students who want to work in the technology sector,” said Shawn Mankad, assistant Cornell professor of operations, tech and information management, who will be one the course’s lead instructors.
MBAs will work on 12 industry-sponsored projects with companies ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500 firms, he said.
The immersion program launch, pencilled in for spring 2016, will come hot on the heels of a bevy of high-profile business school courses focused on digital tech and data science.
Imperial College London announced a £20 million data science partnership with KPMG; UC Berkeley-Haas School started a similar pact with Accenture; and Harvard Business School launched a course to help managers adapt their business models in the face of new competitive technologies.
Firms have a dearth of executive talent to lead digital transformations, which are increasingly necessary for them to avoid being overtaken by tech-savvy competitors such as Uber or Google.
“Digital has changed everything and….Executives who do not use technology to decrease costs and increase productivity will lose,” said Alva Taylor, faculty director for the Center for Digital Strategies at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
Mike Wade, director of the Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation at IMD, said start-ups are more nimble and better able to leverage tech, forcing businesses to make digital innovation more of a focus.
However, he added: “For many firms in many sectors, the threats are still not real enough.”
Companies are increasingly seeking MBA talent with expertise in digital, including Cognizant, Société Générale and A.T Kearney.
Jaideep Prabhu, professor at Cambridge Judge Business School, said: “Leadership is crucial to all transformation efforts. Digital is no exception.”
Cornell’s Shawn said that consulting firms including Accenture and EY have a demand for talent to work in their digital and tech services lines, such as analytics and digital marketing — which are among the fastest growing areas of advisory.
Cornell students will learn critical skills for leveraging data analytics and working with data scientists. “Data is a big theme,” said Gilly Leshed, senior Cornell University lecturer, who will also be a lead instructor of the Digital Technology Immersion program.
Data analytics has emerged in recent years as among the most desirable skills for business managers. Big data can improve decision making and help form strategy.
“Managers will need to learn new tools to analyze and visualize information, and also develop their ability to better communicate with data scientists,” said Theos Evgeniou, professor of tech management at INSEAD.
Despite the proliferation of degrees geared toward the digital economy at a plethora of top business schools such as Wharton, USC Marshall and NYU Stern, critics lament the lack of tech focus in MBA degrees.
“Training in management skills alone is no longer sufficient,” said David Sproul, Deloitte’s chief executive, last week.
But slowly the elite institutions are embracing areas such as data analytics in their MBAs. “Everyone is starting to make programs with some data science focus,” said Cornell’s Shawn. “But the biggest problem is finding faculty with more technical backgrounds.”