IBM recently announced a new partnership with Hult International Business School that’s driving innovation in today’s higher education system and helping to close the skills gap in areas like social, analytics, mobility and cloud computing to better prepare future business leaders. I sat down with Jim Spohrer, IBM’s Director of University Programs, to hear more about the new curriculum and its focus on today’s digital service economy.
CC: Jim, let’s start by talking a little bit about today’s “digital service economy.” What does this really mean and how is it impacting business and innovation today?
JS: I think we’d all agreed that the way in which business is conducted today is drastically different from even five years ago. First, customers are no longer just buying products, their purchasing outcomes and solutions. It doesn’t make sense to just sell a product and then lose connection with the customer. Therefore, it’s imperative to develop a long-lasting relationship with the customer. Companies want to maintain information flows coming from the product, so that you can offer services to help the customer gain even more value from that product.
Second, with the emergence of social, analytics, mobility and cloud computing the way in which organizations serve clients and collaborate with their employees and business partners is changing. Our world, the business world, is more instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent than ever before, it truly is a smarter planet today.
This is what the digital service economy is all about and if we want to get better at service innovation, we’ve got to approach it differently. Most importantly, we’ve got to help our future leaders build the skills needed to succeed and continue to innovate the buyer-seller relationship.
CC: Do you think today’s business schools are not preparing students for the new business landscape you describe?
JS: I think there’s room for improvement. Consider this, several recent reports highlight the disparity between job needs and existing talent. The Business Intelligence Congress recently revealed that universities are not producing qualified graduates skilled in business intelligence. And, a recent McKinsey Global Institute 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 percent. We’re (IBM) committed to and invested in helping universities and business schools close the gap. While every technology company can say they are working with universities to adopt technology, IBM is unique in that its partnering with hundreds of business schools around the globe to help develop new course curriculum.
For example, at Hult International Business School we are collaborating with two marketing professors, Jeff Saperstein and Hunter Hastings, to create new Service Thinking curriculum for Hult’s Corporate Partnership Elective program. We’re bringing MBA students with IBMers together to help address the need for skills in areas like social business and analytics. We’re 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 global hiring managers seek today.
CC: The Hult partnership is building more on analytics while adding new components like social business. Can you talk a little bit about this?
JS: It’s pretty clear that big data and analytics are here to stay and having a major impact on business and decision-making. But we can’t ignore social, mobile and cloud as they aren’t far behind.
According to the 2012 IBM Technology Trends report, only 1 in 10 organizations have the skills they need to benefit from advanced technology such as social software. Additionally, nearly half of the educators and students surveyed in a recent IBM’s study indicated there are major gaps in their institutions’ ability to meet current and future IT skill needs in the social technology and practices.
IBM is in a unique position to mentor students in social. We’ve been leading the way in policy, technology and practice for many years (http://www.ibm.com/social-business/us/en/). We’re truly a social business, benefitting from our employees use of social technologies every day. Whether it’s how we collaborate internally to drive innovation, share ideas with business partners to expand solutions or connect with customers to best serve their needs. Social is embedded into every business process.
I think people think of social skills or social focused curriculum and think, why, what for? Students are pretty socially savvy on their own. But in reality, it’s harnessing that know-how and applying these skills to business. That will help these students to differentiate themselves as they enter a competitive job market and evolving digital economy.
Also, this new curriculum does not just focus on one discipline. We’re helping to create what we like to call “T-shaped” individuals, folks who have deep skills sets in a particular discipline, and also broad skills across many different disciplines and systems. A “T-Shaped” individual is more adaptive to new emerging and global opportunities. They will be the ones driving innovation will be critical to our future success as a global economy.
What are you doing to shape the future of business?
Our economy is in the midst of a fundamental and radical transition that we have not experienced since the cotton gin and steam engine. Tried and true business methods, beliefs and principles are falling by the wayside because they no longer work. A simple example is the impact that social has had on the buyer-seller relationship. It used to be the seller was in control; today the buyer is completely in control. Obsoleted in the shift are not only countless sales methodologies but also the traditional marketing roles of demand generation, PR, and event marketing.