MGS 659 E-Commerce MBA class by Prof. H.Raghav Rao

School of Management, SUNY Buffalo

School of Management

Working with actual companies such as Rich Products, Delaware North Co., Town of Amherst, or Independent Health, and representatives from EDS/HP, teams of University at Buffalo MBA students have been developing e-commerce applications designed to streamline the company’s online services and generate cost-savings for operations.

The students' work for companies is a requirement of a graduate-level course in e-commerce (MGS 659) offered through the UB School of Management's MBA program. The course has resulted in projects that deal with e-business solutions ranging from managing and tracking product recalls, the technological possibilities of a remote workforce, lower-cost alternatives for search engine marketing services, a supply management price matrix, to security authentication.

Companies’ representatives are pleased with students’ performances. For instance, the Delaware North representatives were impressed with the outcomes of the students’ projects. “The students were exposed to our real world e-commerce needs,” explains Kelli Schimpfhauser, eBusiness manager of Delaware North1). Robert Hoover, Chief information officer of Independent Health also said, “We didn’t know what to expect when we began this project, but we were very impressed at the students’ ability to quickly understand our business and recommend credible e-commerce solutions to meet out needs2).” "The Town of Amherst got insight on how to take advantage of several opportunities provided by e-government, and the students get significant real-world business experience," adds Dennis Shumaker, a client-delivery executive at EDS/HP who coordinated the company's participation3). “ The final presentations were very well prepared,” Nick Beaver, VP of sales and marketing at Caplugs, a manufacturer of premium protection products, said4). In practice, “MBA students were essentially a research arm for our firm” said Paul J. Eusanio, Vice president of HealthTransaction Network5). Fisher-Price’s Madurai, Director of Enterprise Architecture, concurs - “I was impressed by the diversity of the proposals presented,” he says. “It was interesting to observe that some of the ideas and projects the students proposed were already in the works at Fisher-Price"6).
"We knew our Internet presence was pretty poor," said Kent Keating, president, Fire Science. "We thought it would be really valuable to seek solutions from people who understand the technology and have more hands-on experience in areas such as social media." "The students focused on increasing brand awareness, improving customer relationship management practices and maximizing ad dollars using social media and search engine technologies," said Carl Skompinski, senior business consultant, EDS/HP7).

This class has a goal that “gives students a hands-on opportunity to flex their technology skills and apply classroom theory while working as 'consultants'," according to Prof. Rao. The class runs with basic conditions as follows: First, the class is divided into teams of four; Second, each team is mentored by one e-business expert from EDS/HP; Third, the student teams then develop e-business plans/e-solutions (short of implementation) that are useful to the firm and solve a pressing need for the firm. The e-commerce students have also worked with the Central Terminal Restoration Corp (CTRC) 8), the nonprofit organization dedicated to the stabilization and redevelopment of the complex, to generate ideas that would help get more community members involved with the restoration efforts. The ideas they presented to the CTRC included a Google AdWords campaign to increase click traffic to CTRC ads; allowing people to become CTRC members immediately via PayPal; telling the terminal's story through Twitter; an online raffle; and creating a virtual "Supporters Wall" to recognize donors.

This is of course anchored in the firms' needs: typically, a CIO or IT Manager from a firm comes to UB and gives a talk to the students regarding their important needs. Over the years, Dennis Shumaker, Christina Bleckinger and Carl Skompinski of EDS/HP have been the “Adopters of the Course”.
SOM thanks all the the other mentors from EDS/HP who have included Scott Morris, Vic Stachura, and Pete Lapadat. The course has been an enriching experience for students as well as the firms.

1) “E-Commerce MBAs Gain Real-world Experience,” Buffalo Business Magazine, School of management, University at Buffalo, p.3, Fall, 2006.
2) “MBA Students Partner with Independent Health, EDS,” Buffalo Business Magazine, School of management, University at Buffalo, p.4, Fall, 2005.
3) “Teams of UB MBA Students Help Town of Amherst Move Toward E-Government Applications,” Reporter, by John Della Contrada, June 28, 2001.
4) “MBA Students present E-commerce solutions to local manufacturers,” Buffalo Business Magazine, School of management, University at Buffalo, p.26, Fall, 2003.
5) “Technology meets Business in the classroom,” Buffalo Business Magazine, School of management, University at Buffalo, p.7, Fall, 2004.
6) “E-commerce MBAs present proposals to Fisher-Price,” Buffalo Business Magazine, School of management, University at Buffalo, Fall, 2008.
7) “MBA students gain real-world e-commerce experience,” Buffalo Business Magazine, School of management, University at Buffalo, Fall, 2010.
8) “E-commerce class supports community renewal,” Buffalo Business Magazine, School of management, University at Buffalo, Fall, 2013.