17 Jun 2020 17:04 IST

How B-schools can prepare tech-driven managers 

They should be empowered to use technology to the advantage of business — the real test of capability

The last two decades have seen unprecedented technological progress, especially in the information and communication domains. Tech advancements have touched every aspect of human life, including business and education.

Businesses today have taken to technology in almost every facet of their functioning, aspect, from operations and finance to human resource management. Every aspect of communication today is digital in nature and every business is looking for ways to reach out to its target audience through social media and other digital forums.

Mobility, real-time computation and artificial intelligence have either transformed the characteristics of products and services or are in the process of creating completely new products and services. Businesses today are waiting to be disrupted and, at the centre of this disruption, are the managers who have to adapt and rebuild businesses in this ever-changing environment.

Therefore, managers of today need to have a deep understanding of what benefits technology can bring for their business, and recognise the boundaries of what technology can achieve. They have to understand what the short-term technological impact is, and what shall be a long-drawn change.

Practical lessons

Unequivocally, the managers who feel comfortable with technology not only stand a better chance of creating new businesses but can also recreate or transform old businesses into newer ones. However, this ability to manage at a time of rapid technological change has to be developed and carefully nurtured to bear fruit. Although many tech managers are self-trained, an equal number get their first exposure to managing a business under rapid technological advancement only in the form of their course work at B-schools.

Students get the opportunity to pursue a plethora of techno-managerial courses at B-schools where, beyond theoretical frameworks, case studies from the past are reviewed and discussed in minute detail. Students get to experience through these case studies the impact of decisions that they take, including on the long-term business sustainability.

Segregation skills

Additionally, simulations of various business scenarios help students develop a sense of risk involved in decision-making in a tech-driven world. These courses enable students to link together technology and management and understand the nuances of an actual business. B-schools today offer data analysis, artificial intelligence and big data management courses to help students develop an understanding of such technologies and the confidence to deal with them.

Such well-trained managers are no longer afraid of technology but are ready to embrace tech in everything they do. The ability to segregate the pure technological aspects (which they leave to subject-matter experts in the company) from the ones that will impact the business (and will require their greater focus) is an important takeaway for these young managers.

Students get regular opportunities to participate in business-oriented hackathons, wherein they work closely in teams with developers to create apps that can solve real-life business problems. Apart from this, most schools today offer online courses where most interaction is virtual. This virtual group work experience is valuable in today’s multi-cultural, geographically-dispersed teams. Managers who have had good exposure to such a digital environment have a well-developed sense of managing and working in virtual teams as compared to others who come from a more brick-and-mortar environment. This comfort with technology flows into other aspects of their work, helping them achieve much more.

It is important to emphasise that, irrespective of how technology evolves, the ability to use technology to the advantage of the business is the real test of capability that future managers should focus on. Technology is a means to an end and not an end in itself, and a good manager would always do well to keep that in mind.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, Information Management Area, MDI Gurgaon.)