With many startup companies — along with tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM and Microsoft — disrupting traditional industries such as banking, entertainment, pharmaceuticals and retail, firms are looking for new ways to be competitive.

Leaders from around the globe are asking the same questions: How will technology impact our business environment? How do I understand these trends and translate potential disruptors into opportunities? How do I create innovative business models that keep my company relevant? What investments do I need to make in technology and in training my managers to stay competitive?

Leaders are striving to leverage artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning to create the next generation of products and services, delivering exciting but hard-to-replicate value propositions. These innovations require connected ecosystems and agile operating processes to implement new business models successfully.

Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy, has led the charge in educating firms on business model transformation. Managing organizational change is a necessity for firms to make the transition from a pipeline market to a platform world — an environment that requires businesses to master business analytics and technology management.

The challenge that many face, even the most sophisticated companies, is that executive leaders do not appreciate the full power of new technologies while technical experts do not fully grasp the market possibilities. Linking technology advancements to business opportunities is the most important imperative for success.

Since spring of 2016, Indian Railways has sent more than 250 general managers and higher administrative grade managers to the Tepper School of Business Executive Education center in Pittsburgh to participate in a series of programs that support their vision and achievement of “Future Railways.” The fourth-largest railway network in the world running 22,200 trains a day and the world’s eighth-largest employer with over 1.3 million people, Indian Railways is focused upon its business transformation into the digital economy.

As a global case study, many would benefit by taking note of the organization’s ambitious approach: Indian Railways’ goals include finding new ways to monetize its assets by creating digital sources of revenue using its extensive fiber optic network, supporting the government’s push to create a cashless society, and electrifying the vast system to reduce operating costs and environmental impact.

As I’ve worked with and watched our Indian Railways students, it’s clear that in order to be successful, leaders must think and act differently:

  • Examine their assumptions about how customers buy and how competitors operate.

  • Envision how technology will disrupt their industry and use technology to monetize assets and create new business models.

  • Create ways to provide access, transparency and value to customers while capturing the value from eliminating intermediaries.

  • Expand beyond traditional views of supply chain to create ecosystems of partners, suppliers and networks that link unique capabilities and serve vast customer bases.

  • Translate vast amounts of data into insights and capitalize on those insights with product and service offerings.

  • Empowering and unleashing collaborative interdisciplinary teams that combine deep technical expertise and advanced analytics with design and strategic thinking is key to accelerating innovation and the pace of change. Educating these teams to be catalysts of change and building agile processes around design thinking and innovation can create key leverage points for performance.

Executive Education at the Tepper School of Business works with leading organizations to develop the leadership capabilities to address strategic challenges. Carnegie Mellon's executive education paradigm merges academic excellence with practical business application to solve real problems through open-enrollment programs and single-client learning engagements in strategic leadership, innovation, advanced analytics and business model transformation.


by Maria W. Taylor, executive director, Executive Education


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