Preparing Students to Thrive in the Digital Enterprise

The business world is experiencing a wave of digital disruptions that are reshaping what it’s like to launch, lead, and work for companies. Consider this stunning change: In a 2015 survey, fewer than 1 percent of executives believed digital technology would disrupt their industries. Only two years later, more than 75% said digital would have a “major” or “transformative” impact on their industries.

In a fundamental way, virtually all businesses are becoming digital enterprises, regardless of what they produce, because digital systems are essential to how they create value and connect with customers. This digital transformation is affecting every aspect of business, from HR to finance to marketing.

Many companies in the past two or three decades were “born digital,” but many others have learned that digital competency has become key to their survival. Even a business as small as an espresso stand can use social media to expand sales, for example, and it can live or die based on the reviews it gets on Yelp. And in industries that might seem as far from the digital world of cloud computing and mobile apps as it’s possible to get, thousands of companies are turning to digital. Sectors ranging from agriculture to mining to heavy manufacturing increasingly rely on these technologies to improve productivity, manage operations, and market their products.

The Exciting—and Unsettling—Prospect of Digital Transformation

Students need to be ready for this new world of business for two key reasons. First, executives who are scrambling to implement their own digital transformations are looking for employees who are tuned into these concepts and technologies. New graduates aren't necessarily expected to be experts in these fields, naturally, but all business graduates should be aware of the basic concepts, particularly those that are prominent in their chosen career field.

Second, students can’t afford to set their sights on traditional career paths without understanding how those paths are changing—or in some cases, disappearing. Many of today’s jobs are vulnerable to disruption from artificial intelligence and related technologies, and many graduates will be working in jobs we can’t even envision today.

Predicting the eventual impact of a disruption this profound is also challenging. Artificial intelligence (AI) is finally going mainstream as a business tool after many decades of hopes and hype, but its long-term impact is difficult to gauge at this point. Millions of jobs involve tasks and decisions that AI could conceivably do (and is now doing in many cases), but it’s impossible to pin down how disruptive it will be to the job market. AI will redefine many jobs, eliminate some, and create some—and people in most professions should be prepared to learn new skills and adapt as opportunities and expectations change.

Integrating Digital Concepts in the Introduction to Business Course

Of course, the last thing any intro to business instructor wants to hear about is another topic that needs to be covered in a course that already covers so many.

To make it as easy as possible to introduce your students to these vital ideas without adding to your workload, the new Ninth Edition of Business in Action offers a unique approach called Thriving in the Digital Enterprise. Each chapter concludes with a section that explores one aspect of the digital enterprise, from general concepts such as big data and virtual reality to more specialized tools such as marketing analytics. These brief, nontechnical introductions help students understand the basic ideas and be more prepared if one of these topics appears in a job posting or comes up during a job interview.

To learn more about this new edition, please visit


Image credit: Jeremy Keith