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Popular Class Examines Information Technology’s Transformative Power

Prabhudev Konana

Peer inside a Tesla electric car, and Prabhudev Konana can show you the future.

Next to the steering wheel, you'll find an iPad-like device. Under the hood, there are no moving parts. Instead, sensors and computers guide the vehicle's functions. "That's the future of the car industry — and many others — as information technology continues to change how we live," says Konana, professor of Information, Risk, and Operations Management at the McCombs School of Business.

In his Strategies for a Networked Economy class (MIS 381), Konana prepares students for a world where information technology is reshaping industries from automakers to retailers and beyond. Products, services, operations, and interactions with customers, employees, and the government are now linked by technology that communicates information. "Everything is connected," Konana says.

Class: Strategies for a Networked Economy
Course number: MIS 381
Instructor: Prabhudev Konana
Department: IROM

Course description: This MBA class examines the strategic issues around IT and its ecosystem.

In his class, Konana examines how IT innovations mean value is both created (Netflix, Apple)  — and destroyed (Blockbuster, Kodak). Students learn about the strategic issues around IT and its ecosystem, as well as how IT is improving the supply chain and customer relationships. 

Because technology is affecting every industry, the class "helps your thinking about everything that goes on in a business and how to be a better leader," says Amira Fawcett Malpass, MBA '17, a former student who now works at Facebook 

"Industries that you normally wouldn't ever think of as tech companies are shifting toward tech," she says.

Outstanding Professor

Konana has been teaching the elective class to full-time MBAs since fall 2012. He doesn't use a textbook, since he says they tend to lag by about five years, instead mostly utilizing articles along with some case studies. His class integrates with other courses taken by McCombs MBAs, such as strategy, marketing, and finance. "You piggyback on everything they've done, and you take them to the next level," he says.

"If you want to create a unique manager of tomorrow, they can't live in silos."

Slide from Konana's Strategies for a Networked Economy class

Students say their professor brings the course material to life. "Professor Konana is a phenomenal professor," says Fawcett Malpass. She's not alone in her praise: Students voted Konana an outsanding professor in both 2011 and 2012 for the class taught in the Dallas MBA program.

Student Projects

In addition to readings and classroom discussions, students complete a semester-long project. They consider innovations such as the internet of things, bitcoin, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and smart cities.

For her project, Samantha Toth, MBA '17, and her team looked at near-field communication, used in mobile payments such as Apple Pay, and presented their strategic recommendations in class.

It was a direct application of what they had learned. "NFC requires the coordination of multiple market players to deliver value to the consumer," Toth says. "These players must strategically position themselves in the value chain in order to be profitable and ensure they aren't squeezed out of the market as the technology evolves." Her team discovered a current pain point is that consumers don't understand NFC's benefits over traditional options, so the team came up with recommendations for NFC companies to address the issue.

Teammate Fawcett Malpass found it to be an eye-opening experience. "What you think are just edge technologies that may or may not have a chance you realize could actually be really disruptive."

Those are exactly the types of realizations that make the class so popular.

"Most classes focus on the past. You learn from the past, and you apply that for the future," Konana says. "Very few classes focus on the future."

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