• 08.29.13

Are Business Schools Failing To Prep Students For Today’s Global, Digital Economy?

A new report indicates that over the next seven years the need for highly skilled business intelligence workers in the U.S. alone will dramatically exceed the available workforce–by as much as 60%. Here’s how to fix that.

Are Business Schools Failing To Prep Students For Today’s Global, Digital Economy?

Are business schools preparing students for today’s global, digital economy?


I would argue there’s room for improvement and recent reports support the argument, highlighting the disparity between job needs and existing talent.

For example, the Business Intelligence Congress recently revealed that universities are not producing qualified graduates skilled in business intelligence. According to the 2012 IBM Technology Trends report, only one in 10 organizations has the skills needed to benefit from advanced technology such as social software, and nearly half of the educators and students surveyed indicated there are major gaps in their institutions’ ability to meet current and future IT skill needs in such areas as social technology and practices. A third industry report indicates that, over the next seven years, the need for highly skilled business intelligence workers in the U.S. alone will dramatically exceed the available workforce–by as much as 60%.

The business world is more instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent than ever before, it truly is a smarter planet, but some of our future business leaders are being set up to receive a failing grade when it comes to innovation.

There’s a simple solution to the skills gap–business schools and higher education in general must drive new curriculum to better prepare students for an increasingly complex and competitive job market where skills in social, big data, analytics, mobility, cyber security, and cloud reign supreme.

Today, students need to understand and prepare for customers who are no longer just buying products; they’re investing in outcomes and solutions. It doesn’t make sense to just sell a product and then lose connection with the customer. The new imperative is to cocreate a long-lasting relationship with your ecosystem partners. We’ve got to help our future leaders build the skills needed to succeed and continue to innovate the evolving provider-customer relationship.

Fortunately, innovative educational institutions are taking action.

For example, recently some of my Bay Area IBM colleagues and I have had the pleasure of cocreating a new course with Hult International Business School. This new Service Thinking curriculum for Hult’s Corporate Partnership Elective program has been a big hit with Hult’s globally diverse students. As part of the program, Hult is bringing together MBA students with IBMers to help address the need for skills in areas like social business and analytics, including a B-School Hack-A-Thon Case event at IBM’s Innovation Center in the Bay Area. The new curriculum is focused on teaching students how to best serve today’s global, mobile, and social customer. The goal is systematic innovation to improve the capability to bridge the gap between business education and the skills and competencies that global hiring managers seek today.


Similarly, San Jose State University (SJSU) has implemented courses that provide students with the opportunity to deepen technical and business skills in the emerging arena of social business, while learning to adapt their knowledge to real-world business challenges.

As a result of these new courses, SJSU students learn that through the use of enterprise social software and an open, supportive culture, organizations can activate networks of people–employees, clients, business partners–to apply relevant content and expertise to improve and accelerate how work gets done. Students also learn about the value social business generates for organizations when every department, from HR to marketing to product development to customer service to sales, integrates social networking tools into their work flow and business processes.

Schools like Hult and SJSU, as well as thousands of other universities worldwide, are partnering with IBM and IBM customers to drive innovative curriculum, provide students with industry mentorships, and build the personal brand of students in the digital service economy.

The business world is changing and there’s a lot to be done to prepare students for today’s digital service economy. It’s not enough for the next generation of employees to just understand the technology shaping today’s business, they need critical thinking and analytical skills to drive new principles of leading, selling, and cocreating value.

Are you prepared?

Jim Spohrer is Director of IBM Global University Programs. In this role, Jim works to align IBM and universities in regional innovation ecosystems globally. Previously, Jim helped establish and was founding Director of IBM’s first Service Research group at the Almaden Research Center with a focus on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) for service-sector innovations. Follow him on Twitter at @JimSpohrer.

[Image: Flickr user Jenny Ondioline]