Forecasting Tomorrow: Teams of IT and Business Students Vie Over a Company's Future

The savviest business leader can predict which way the wind will blow in any given industry. It’s what prompted Nokia to switch from paper products to cell phones, and it’s what teams of information technology (IT) and business students will examine on December 1 when NYU-Poly hosts the regionals of an international competition to prove the strategic value of IT management to a company’s future success. The winners then move on to the final round, to be held in conjunction with CA, Inc.’s user conference in Las Vegas in May 2010.

Sponsored by CA, Inc., a leading IT management software company, the contest will bring graduate students in business and IT programs together to demonstrate their IT and business know-how. Participating schools each field one team composed of three students, at least one of whom is pursuing an IT or information systems degree. Guided by a faculty coach, the team is given a case study of a business in the throes of change and asked to review its IT department and infrastructure. The team then provides recommendations on how the company can manage its IT to best meet the shifting business environment.

For Professor Bharat Rao, chair of NYU-Poly’s Department of Technology Management and one of the Institute’s liaisons for the contest, the competition’s very premise was cause enough to host it. “The nature of the competition — how you use IT for the strategic transformation of an organization — is one of the core ideas we try to get across to our graduate students,” he said. “A lot of them come to us from technical backgrounds, but they end up enmeshed in more managerial realities when they investigate how a company or industry changes.”

The ultimate interview

For him and Dr. Andres Fortino, associate provost for corporate graduate programs at NYU-Poly’s Westchester campus and the Institute’s other liaison for the competition, the educational possibilities inherent in the contest were just one of many reasons to host it. They also wanted to get in on the next trend in recruitment. “These competitions are becoming much more attractive, both for schools and corporations,” explained Dr. Fortino. By sponsoring them, companies can observe how potential employees might approach a work scenario, which offers more insight into the future behavior of prospective staff members than what might be gleaned during a simple job interview.

“You give students a project like you do at work and then have them give a presentation. That’s just as real-life as it gets,” said Dr. Fortino, encouraging NYU-Poly students to attend the proceedings.

By hosting such a contest at the Brooklyn campus, students at NYU-Poly have an automatic advantage: they can brush elbows with industry professionals and — maybe — future colleagues. “It’s a great networking opportunity for [students] to meet people in similar positions from other schools and see how they think, how they approach problems,” said Professor Rao.

Pride in the home team

But enough about the other guy. “We want to showcase our students as being able to compete in a what is essentially a global competition,” Professor Rao said. To his mind, the contest addresses at least two of NYU-Poly’s core values: innovation and entrepreneurship.

“A lot of times entrepreneurship can take place within an organization rather than starting something completely new,” he said. “This contest addresses that and the more overarching theme of technology innovation, technology is one of the building blocks of modern innovation.”

Given NYU-Poly’s long-standing strengths in both areas, Professor Rao feels confident about the Institute’s chances in the competition. However, he is clear about the competitive nature of the event. “Let the best team win,” he added.