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Business schools embrace digital tools and collaboration

The emergence of digital tools offers both challenges and opportunities for business school graduate students. So Gregory Prastacos, the dean of the School of Business at the Stevens Institute of Technology, is leading a global initiative with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International to reboot business education and equip MBA students with the skills they need in a world of artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain and augmented reality.

Gregory Prastacos, dean, School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Gregory Prastacos, dean, School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology. – AARON HOUSTON

Financed by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the initiative is called Management Curriculum for the Digital Era. Prastacos said the effort will build on Stevens’ emphasis on blending business and technology to ensure MBA students are prepared for an ever-changing digital environment. AACSB is a global nonprofit association that connects educators, students, and businesses to create the next generation of leaders.

“The first step is teaching our students how to run the software that is particular to these technologies,” Prastacos said. “This is done through courses, labs, or boot camps. This is at the introductory level.”

Many schools in New Jersey have expressed interest in being part of the consortium, including Rutgers University, Monmouth University, Montclair State University, Rowan University and Seton Hall University.

The program focuses on 10 disciplines: accounting, finance/quantitative finance, management/human resource management and organizational behavior, marketing, information systems, analytics strategy, innovation/entrepreneurship, ethics and business law, and future of work. Each of these disciplines will be studied by a task force with representatives from the schools who will determine in the next two years the necessary changes for business education and provide a roadmap and make recommendations that will help other institutions adapt to the new digital era.

“Collaboration is very important to be able to bring the best out of your company,” Prastacos said. He described the digital era – and the convergence of connectivity and big data – as creating greater transparency.

“Nobody can hide anymore,” he said. “Whatever happens, we will find out. It is somewhere. It will surface at some point.”

He cited company websites on which customers can give feedback.

“When I buy a pair of shoes, I wonder how they fit,” he said. “When I go to a restaurant, I do the same. If I see a lot of negative reviews, that company will go down the drain. That is the impact of connectivity and big data. When you realize that whatever you do at some point, it will come up. You had better make sure that whatever you do serves your customers, serves your mission, and serves society. And that becomes understandable to everybody, everybody will conform and behave in a very good and ethical way. If that is the reality, then people will be able to collaborate much more.”

In a statement, PricewaterhouseCoopers partner A. Michael Smith underscored the ubiquity of technology. “Literally everything we do — tax, audit, consulting — is affected by IT, data and transaction processing,” he said. “Without question, the biggest change in business today is the expectation of higher than standard IT IQ.

“Specifically, data analysis skills and a general awareness of the prevalence and importance of data in general,” Smith added. “I expect us to start looking for basic knowledge of [public key infrastructure] and basic cryptography soon as well. … My brief time with Stevens, through Dean Prastacos, has been impressive, and I am certain that the combination of our brands will create substantial momentum to ensure successful completion of the project.”

David Hutter
David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at: dhutter@njbiz.com.

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