Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

Business Schools 'No Longer Fit For Purpose' In Age Of Digital Disruption

Schools partly to blame for lack of tech management skills

Mon Jan 11 2016

In the internet age where algorithms, artificial intelligence and digital disruption rule the roost, business schools are “no longer fit for purpose”, according to the former CEO of UUNET, one of the US’ largest internet companies, which was acquired by WorldCom.

A “crisis” is brewing in which senior executives are failing to grasp IT. “Business schools are partly to blame for this complete lack of technology management skills at the most senior levels,” said Pat Chapman-Pincher, who has built, run and chaired a number of tech companies, and who mentors FTSE chief executives.

Writing in the Financial Times on Monday, she said that leaders need to understand technology and disruptive businesses, such as Uber, Airbnb and 3D printers. Yet “few executives are interested in technology or IT”. “Business leaders need help,” she added.

But she suggested that business schools are “no longer useful”. She said: “Analyzing trends of the past 50 years is no longer useful. Course content is outdated. Academics themselves need new mind-sets to look at technology impact in every discipline.”

Business schools must broaden their approach beyond teaching core modules on strategy, finance, and marketing. “There may be optional extras such as leadership, mergers and acquisitions or not-for-profit, but IT has barely had a look-in on a typical MBA program, and technology certainly does not feature as a core,” Pat said.

She said that a new discipline is needed which looks at new and robust strategy processes and the impact of technology on every area of business.

Some business schools have made efforts to bring a greater tech focus to their MBA and executive students. Courses on machine learning and big data are taught at a plethora of top schools, such as HEC Paris, Warwick Business School in the UK and NYU Stern in US.

“There already is a move afoot to start programs and courses in this area,” said Mark Kennedy, director of the KPMG Centre for Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School.

He said the suggestions made in the FT article are “more provocative than descriptive” of the current business education climate.

Other schools have partnered digital leaders such as IBM, KPMG or Accenture to hone their programs, such as California’s Haas School of Business, which created new classes and a lecture series designed to give MBAs the tools required to understand and work with big data.

Jim Hamill, director of digital leadership at Strathclyde Business School, said the suggestion that business schools are not fit for purpose is “an exaggeration”. But he added: “I’ve been saying something very similar for a long time.”

“Business schools have to transform — and quickly,” Jim said. He added that content in MBA programs needs a greater focus on digital technology, although there are exceptions.

But a major stumbling block is the hierarchy in schools, particularly those connected to universities, which makes them “respond quite slowly” to business trends.  

Others have focused on digital transformation more broadly. Examples range from the EMBA in Digital Transformation at DeGroote School in Canada to the UK’s Cambridge Judge Business School, which launched the Digital Business Academy.

“Education now is not about old versus new skills, but about old and new skills — for example both traditional management skills, but also new data science ones,” said Professor Theos Evgeniou, academic director of INSEAD’s data analytics research hub, elab.

Student Reviews

HEC Paris




On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.




On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.




On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.





Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.




On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.




On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.




On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.





A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!




On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.