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Building IT Into an MBA

March 14, 1999

 

Reprinted from PCWeek -- January 18, 1999


STRATEGIES

On a crisp day in October, Joseph Morone participated in a ceremony that was truly ground-breaking. As the shovels moved the first clumps of dirt to make way for Bentley College's new $20 million Smith Academic Technology Center, slated to open in the fall of 2000, Morone knew he was helping bridge the gap between business and technology for the next generation of IT execs.

The center will eventually be home to Bentley's Information Age MBA, a new program offered through its Graduate School of Business. Beginning this fall, students will be immersed in a learning environment that melds the business management expertise of a traditional MBA program with the hands-on training of a technical graduate curriculum.

 

Bentley College President Joseph Morone oversees the laying of a foundation for an IT-focused MBA program.
"The problem with higher education is there are good programs for information technology and good programs for business, but there aren't programs that are really good at both," said Morone, the president of Bentley College, in Waltham, Mass.

Like Bentley, other top-ranking business schools, including Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, are starting to offer technology-focused MBAs. While these programs might not be the right fit for all aspiring IT professionals, they can benefit those willing to step off the career track for a couple of years.

"Absolutely, an IT-focused program is going to be important," said Phil Schneidermeyer, vice president at executive recruiter Korn/Ferry International, in Stamford, Conn. "It should be balanced with finance and marketing components, but technology is part of every business today."

CIOs who will eventually be hiring students in these programs agree. A recent survey of 340 CIOs conducted by Korn/Ferry found that a full 70 percent ranked an MBA an important part of the background necessary to succeed as a CIO or IT director.

"This is the type of well-rounded candidate we want to see walking through the door," said Tim Murphy, vice president of commercial banking systems at State Street Bank, in Boston, and a member of the Bentley MBA advisory committee that helped shape the Information Age curriculum.

The program will drill down a level below business/technology theory. For example, rather than just learning about the importance of ERP (enterprise resource planning) software in a finance or manufacturing course, students will have access to a live SAP AG R/3 application running in the new Academic Technology Center's lab. Classes, all held in Internet-enabled, networked classrooms with videoconferencing, will teach how to use the new systems to solve business problems.

Time constraints

Career experts advise IT professionals to think long and hard about taking on a full-time MBA course load. In this fast-paced industry, taking a two-year hiatus to go back to school, no matter how enlightening, can be a long time to be away, according to Fallaw Sowell, the director of the master's degree program at Carnegie Mellon. "[IT] is so hot right now, they might not want to take the time away from their careers to go back to school," he said.

More often than not, Sowell said, it will be the business professionals who will pursue an IT-focused MBA program. With their business backgrounds, they are likely to want to round out their knowledge base with some high-level IT business courses.

Both Morone and Sowell said they are aware that IT professionals need to be sensitive to the time they spend away from the industry. Thus, both universities are looking at offering more flexible technology MBA programs in the future.

For that reason, a new master's degree program in electronic commerce, slated to kick off in May at Carnegie Mellon, will run for 12 months straight. The e-commerce master's degree will be a joint project with Carnegie Mellon's Computer Science School and the Business School.

Since enrollment for the Information Age MBA doesn't begin until March, Morone said there's no way to know how many will participate in September's incoming class. Still, he's confident that those who do come on board will stand a good chance of graduating at the top of the IT field.

 

Copyright (c) 1999 ZIFF-DAVIS, a SOFTBANK company. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff-Davis Publishing Company is prohibited.

 

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit www.bentley.edu

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