Can an MBA help leaders harness the power of digital disruption?

Digital business is the order of the day in nearly every field today. To rise to the top of an industry, a company needs to be on the cutting edge of technology. Instead of fitting in with their peers, the most ambitious and effective organizations are disrupting their respective industries. This is the playing field executives have to compete on.

The new state of affairs raises an important question: Does a Master of Business Administration degree still matter? Can this longtime mark of business knowledge still hold weight in a world that has changed so radically in recent years?

Any assumption that MBAs are less relevant today comes along with another, related assumption: that degree programs aren’t evolving. Maryville University’s Online MBA program proves that this isn’t so, by not only integrating modern industry thinking into all of its courses, but by offering a concentration specifically aimed at imparting modern IT thinking.

Below are three different concepts spotlighted in the backbone classes of the Maryville MBA with a concentration in IT, along with insights into how these forces are affecting business. It’s clear that even in an era that elevates outsider and upstart companies, it’s possible to gain relevant knowledge and perspective through the pursuit of an advanced degree.

Agile design and analysis

One of the most telling examples of how IT has evolved in the past few years – and taken business, in general, along with it – is the emergence of agile design and analysis methodologies. This software development method has become a touchstone for project management of all kinds. Its prominence shows how far companies have come from their traditional practices, and it represents strategies growing to suit the available IT resources.

TechTarget’s breakdown of agile’s role in business draws up the main difference from the way IT projects were run in the past, namely by waterfall methods. Waterfall development worked in clearly defined stages – develop new solution, hand it off for testing, hand it off again to get it into production. It’s a sensible approach to work, but out of step with industries that want to iterate quickly, get products into use in a hurry and avoid cycles in which products are frequently passed back and forth.

The precepts of agile strategies: less isolation, more communication, and added teamwork clearly represent the impact that disruptive, fast-moving ideas are having on IT and business in general. Now, corporate and tech personnel all pitch in their ideas on new IT-based projects as they progress. Considering that software is often the solution to both customer-facing and internal improvement projects, and it’s clear the kind of impact an agile focus has brought to the table.

For agile design to work, analysis must come along. Agile Modeling specified that analyzing company needs and potential roadblocks has become a process that is constantly underway. Rather than setting aside time to analyze problems and solutions, every stakeholder on a project is thinking about where development is going, and how to make sure all the work going into it is relevant and solution-focused.

Examples from real business cases show agility at work in some of today’s major organizations. CIO Magazine recently reported that TD Ameritrade has fully embraced an agile methodology to get its new IT solutions off the ground. By combining the agile philosophy with DevOps, a concept in which development and operations teams work hand in hand, the financial firm has changed the way it introduces new products.

Today’s industries move quickly, and consumer tastes and expectations move with them. The waterfall design methodology can be too slow to cope with this new pace of business. That was the thinking behind the TD Ameritrade changes, and similar processes are playing out at companies of all kinds. The need to get useful new software experiences in front of customers and employees quickly has become a rallying cry at companies of all kinds, and failure to adapt to this new business environment may leave an organization disrupted rather than disruptive.

Database principles

The present tech ecosystem, in which moving quickly has become a default, has brought new meaning to age-old IT concepts. This means that keeping databases has not only remained relevant, it has changed significantly. People who learned the art of database management years ago may be taken aback by the sheer amount of new practices in place today. Data has grown, and its usefulness and value as a business asset have kept pace. Now, companies are managing this information with updated practices, hoping to stay one step ahead of a changing industry.

The cloud is moving in, and the practices around database management are evolving as a result. Database Journal recently laid out the challenges and opportunities facing modern administrators who are considering either purchasing cloud resources or fully embracing database-as-a-service models. If they opt for the former, they’ll be shifting the burden of computing off of their in-house servers, saving upfront costs. The latter approach is more extreme, with many basic database-building functions going to outside workers. There are unique challenges and advantages to this method.

For example, Database Journal noted that these professionals can take advantage of cloud resources to hurry their new applications into production, but this new power is accompanied by a need to undergo complex negotiations with DBaaS providers. They’ll need to make sure their databases remain adequate for their needs, which include such important features such as backup and recovery.

The fact that database management has evolved in recent years is a given, and it’s not done yet. A ZDNet review of today’s relevant technologies offered a reminder that blockchain systems are becoming a new standard regarding the logging of transactions. Blockchain tech is partially based on database management, with next-level networking and security mixed in for good measure. As long as there is data, its management will be an ever-evolving part of IT.

Big data and analytics

What good is data if companies aren’t going to use it? One of the primary uses of the huge, new databases at organizations’ command is as fuel for the fast and powerful new wave of business intelligence and analytics solutions that have been ramping up over the past few years. IT leaders today should likely be familiar with analyzing data, no matter their particular industries, because just about every company is capable of saving and using unstructured information, gathered during ever-more-digital transactions.

It’s no shock to see that big data analytics has a place alongside the blockchain in the ZDNet list of tech to watch. The source explained that software developers and CIOs alike are keeping an eye on big data. The relevance is clear: When companies have good analytics in place, the value of their data goes from hypothetical to very practical. They can put their information to work in a problem-solving manner in just about any department. If the solutions are advanced enough, decision-making help can approach real time.

Though big data’s potential is widely regarded as a product of the present rather than the future, getting value out of the programs isn’t automatic, and leaders inside IT’s walls and out need to be ready to contend with the technology. Forbes Tech Council contributor Shelly Blake-Plock presented the current state of big data: Parsing massive mounds of information will be a little different depending on the company in question.

There are a few different types of employees who will interact with data. There are warehouses full of raw data meant to be accessed by specialists, but user-friendly dashboards also exist to bring data insights to the masses. These various takes on data use are designed to make decision-making processes better throughout organizations.

When data usage programs go right, companies will be able to debut exciting and exclusive new advantages. For instance, Blake-Plock gave the example of dashboards in talent management that allow firms to create work experiences tailored to individual workers’ preferences. Other departments throughout companies will have their own efficiencies to address.

Whether it’s acting as a facilitator for the raw materials behind analytics or managing a dashboard on a day-to-day basis, it’s clear that there are many roles that deal with vast (and fast) data resources. Executives who understand data may be poised to fit into modern work environments, whether within IT or merely at a company with strong tech elements.

IT and business: Joined closely

The fact that IT progress is constant, and making its presence felt in industries around the world, has presented a new set of practices that aspiring leaders can study. When technological progress is factored into an MBA curriculum, it represents a convergence between a traditional path of study and the realities of business today: Stepping into an executive role today is not the same as it was even a decade ago, and technology is largely the reason why.

The increasing pace, connectivity and global nature of commerce today are all part and parcel of the close relationship between business and new tech. It’s hard to imagine today’s markets and operational environments without the online tools that have grown up alongside them. Just as IT development is a catalyst for business change and evolution, it has become one of the areas that executives can stay on top of to look for ways forward for their companies.

Disrupting an industry means being both original and first. Leaders who want to create this kind of activity within their own companies will likely lean on IT expertise to get it done. When a firm uses an IT approach that none of its competitors have yet mastered, it can end up setting the standards for years to come. That is the very essence of disrupting a market, and it has become a canonical, widespread concept in today’s enterprise world.

Recommended Reading

How and why to defend business data

Exploring 8 Concentrations for the Maryville University


Tech Target – Agile Software Development

CIO – TD Ameritrade accelerates innovation with agile, design thinking

Agile Modeling – Agile Analysis

ZD Net – The enterprise technologies to watch in 2017

Database Journal

Forbes – Where’s The Value In Big Data?

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.