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La Trobe MBA – Practical consulting skills for the future

La Trobe’s MBA students gain practical experience, deeper perspectives on business challenges and valuable contacts through a new subject that was launched in July 2018.

The Business School worked with local economic development organisation NORTH Link and other partners to identify businesses in Melbourne’s north that would benefit from a semester-long MBA consultancy. The result was a broad range of projects that will make a positive impact and directly benefit priority industry sectors in the region.

Dr Geraldine Kennett, MBA director and subject coordinator, explained that the subject has a positive impact on both students and businesses.

“Companies in our region get real assistance in solving a business challenge, which contributes to local economic development. At the same time, our MBA students use their expertise to gain real-world consultancy experience, with individual mentoring from their lecturers throughout the project. It’s a genuine win–win.”

 

 

MBA student Abdul Majeed Mohammed undertook a consultancy with the Brunswick Business Incubator (BBI), which provides premises, advice, services and support to new and emerging businesses. His client needed a marketing campaign. Abdul worked on the premises one day a week, got to know the tenant businesses and produced a detailed report that included recommendations on how BBI could remain self-sustainable in the future.

 

 

“The project gave me a unique opportunity, because you don’t normally get to do an internship in consulting. People don’t open their business to you so you can practise,” said Abdul.

“With this subject I learned a lot – how to write a consulting report was a challenge at first – and I learned how to operate on a tight timeline.Ultimately, I hope my recommendations help the incubator to succeed and grow long term. The subject was definitely a great experience.”

Abdul was invited to present his report to the BBI Board of Directors, leading to him making valuable contacts in his career field.

This new subject is a great example of how the La Trobe MBA assists students to accelerate their careers through a practical, industry-focused approach.

LBS Innovation Series: GAPs to perfection

Welcome back to the LBS Innovation Series, developed in 2018 by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics at the La Trobe Business School. We kick-off this year’s series with a Summary Report by Mark discussing the key take-aways from the LBS/NORTHLink Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum. Please access the full report below.

LBS Innovation Series

The LBS Innovation Series is based on the annual LBS forums that promote two-way knowledge transfer and opportunities for direct dialogue between cutting science and technology researches and business leaders. The LBS Forums provide insights as to how La Trobe University can contribute to best help businesses to innovate and deal with disruption.

2017 NIF

In 2018, the LBS Innovation Series explored how to create sustainable bonds between universities and industry with a view towards creating a more mature innovation culture and ecosystem. The blogs were based on the successful LBS/NORTHLink National Innovation Forum (NIF) held at the end of 2017. More information and last year’s blogs on this event can be found here.

2018 IFAF

In 2019, the LBS Innovation Series will focus on innovation in the food production and agribusiness sector in Australia. The blogs are based on the successful LBS/NORTHLink Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum (IFAF), held at the end of 2018. We explore the role innovation plays in food production and agribusiness and how to succeed globally in an era of increased disruption.

Introduction to the 2019 LBS Innovation Series

In the video below, Mark gives an overview of the LBS/NORTHLink Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum and provides an introduction to the 2019 LBS Innovation Series.

Challenges and gaps for Australian food and agribusiness

The overall discussion during the 2018 forum was very positive in terms of the opportunities for Australian food and agribusiness to meet increasing global demand for food and fibre. However, several challenges and gaps were noted that need to be addressed to maximise the sector’s productivity potential.

The gaps include:

  • Gap to Perfect’ – that is driving strategic management of firms to address the gaps between Australian business performance across the value chain and international best business practice.

  • Gaps between farm technology (farmers and their ‘ecosystem’) and the investment and finance community, tech developers, urban based research institutions and the agri-political community.

  • Gaps between agriculture and health scientists and researchers.

  • Gaps in youth education and training for this sector (i.e. data analytics, AgTech, robotics, computer and science literacy).

  • Gaps in expectations across customers (demand), producers (supply) and researchers (R&D).

  • Gaps in telecommunications and transport infrastructure holding back agriculture’s supply chain productivity.

  • Gaps in accurate data and agronomic insights for forecasting and risk assessment.

  • Gaps in the application of vision assisted capability in farm and manufacturing robotics.

  • Gaps in Australia’s current AgTech and agricultural science research funding models.

  • Gaps in the use of agriculture big data use driven by legal, privacy and cultural concerns.

The generally agreed view by delegates and speakers at the forum was that these gaps are not insurmountable but in the Australian context require greater private and public collaboration and investment to effectively bridge.

We will present each of the speaker presentations at the 2018 IFAF as part of the LBS Innovation Series throughout 2019.

Dr Mark Cloney is Professor of Practice in economics at LBS. Prior to joining La Trobe University, Mark was the Senior Executive Service officer responsible for enterprises risk management, business planning, audit and protective security in the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water. Mark teaches in the economics discipline in which he holds a PhD and in risk management practice.

Applying agricultural and management skills through an internship at BASF

Emily Clymo, an agribusiness student from Bendigo, was selected for an internship at BASF at their Mt Gambier site. BASF is the largest chemicals producer in the world focusing on creating chemistry for a sustainable future. Not only was it a paid internship, BASF also provided Emily with accommodation and a work vehicle during her stay at Mt Gambier. LBS Newsroom sat down with Emily to hear more about her internship experience.

Emily on site at Mt Gambier

Congratulations on getting selected and then successfully completing the internship! Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?

Growing up in a farming community I had always had a keen interest in the agriculture sector, coupled with an interest in business lead me to begin studying the agribusiness degree at La Trobe in 2017. Shortly thereafter I was giving the opportunity to work as a student ambassador for the university providing information to potential future students about life at La Trobe and more specifically about the agribusiness degree. This gave me the opportunity to represent La Trobe at the Australian Sheep & Wool Show in both 2017 and 2018. This began to open my eyes as to the vast job prospects available, developing a keen interest to understand the various application of agribusiness to all areas of agriculture after growing up in a predominately dairy farming town.

The position for the BASF internship was offered to all agricultural science and agribusiness students and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to undertake the 14-week summer program breeding hybrid canola.

What did you have to do to get an internship?

To get the internship at BASF I was required to submit a cover letter outlining my suitability to the position and a resume. The candidates were then shortlisted and interview times for the following week were arranged. A formal interview took place at the La Trobe University campus in Bundoora. I received a phone call in the following weeks to inform me that I had been successful in attaining the internship. 

What did the internship involve?

The internship was in Mount Gambier, South Australia, working on canola breeding sites to produce experimental hybrid canola lines for Australian and Canadian breeding programs. I worked alongside field agronomists to learn the process of growing unique hybrid canola that has the potential to be released into the commercial market if proven to be successful in further trials. It was a very hands-on internship involving seeding, crop care and site maintenance, erecting pollination tents, handling pollinators (flies and bees), harvest and the supervising of casual labour workers.

How did the internship enrich your student experience?

The internship has enabled me to gain an understanding of real-world application of agricultural and management skills learnt in the agribusiness degree. It has allowed me ‘test out’ the industry and determine if it is the best fit for me going into the future and expand my knowledge as to the available positions within the agriculture and agribusiness sectors. BASF has provided me with a large range of networking opportunities working with professionals from the Canadian breeding program increasing my connections not only nationally but internationally within the organisation.

My student experience at LTU has been enriched by having a practical knowledge of the industry to support the theory learnt at La Trobe. The internship has provided me with more clarity going into the future about which subjects I should enrol in to learn the necessary skills that are required to succeed in the agribusiness industry. Undertaking the BASF internship program has complimented my studies at La Trobe to build a competitive advantage and a solid foundation to develop a career in the industry.

What is your next step study/career-wise?

Going into the future I still have one remaining year of my agribusiness degree, which I will complete at the Bendigo campus. Once I have graduated from the degree I’m currently looking into various graduate programs within the industry to continue gaining a greater understanding of all areas within agribusiness to expand my knowledge and career options.

It’s all about entrepreneurship ecosystems

LBS was recently fortunate to host an interesting presentation by a distinguished visiting scholar, Professor Steven Johnson from Sheffield Business School where he is Assistant Dean Research.

Steven shared research, collaboration and engagement initiatives currently being developed at Sheffield Business School. Some of these initiatives will be in collaboration with LBS, which brings opportunities to our students and staff.

Professor Steven Johnson with several staff members of the La Trobe Business School

Steven gave a presentation for the Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Marketing (EIM) Department on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the city of Hull. He will further share his research findings with the LBS entrepreneurship team at the upcoming Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research Exchange (ACERE) Conference in Sydney, an annual conference co-sponsored by LBS. We will soon share more news about this conference. For any queries, please contact Professor Alex Maritz.

Farm Mate: An idea that went from Mildura to Silicon Valley

Last year, La Trobe University and Hacker Exchange organised the La Trobe University Hackathon in Muldura. The event was part of the La Trobe Accelerator Program (LTAP), a free 12-week program dedicated to support, mentor and provide seed funding to regional start-ups and entrepreneurs.

LBS Agribusiness student Julia Payne and her mother took part in the hackathon and won tickets for a funded trip to Silicon Valley with their idea of “Farm Mate”: a one-stop-shop for all resources and programs to help farmers prioritise tasks and save money. Their trip took part in December 2018 so it was time for Business Newsroom to sit down with Julia and ask her about the trip.

Congratulations on winning those tickets at the hackathon! First of all, what is a hackathon?

In August my Mum and I attended a hackathon run at La Trobe University Mildura Campus. This hackathon was run over a weekend and the whole concept of it was an intensive, thought-provoking weekend to develop an idea we were passionate about. We had to research it, validate it with real customers and put forward a pitch at the end to display the progress we had made during the weekend. The prize up for grabs was three tickets, which was later turned into four, sponsored by the La Trobe Accelerator Program to attend the Hacker Exchange trip to Silicon Valley.

Julia and her mother presenting Farm Mate

Could you tell us more about Farm Mate?

Our winning idea is Farm Mate: a customisable home page for farmers where they can access all of the information they need, relevant to their jobs or tasks, all in one location. This includes weather, drone footage, OH&S, budgeting, mental health, chemicals and more. This platform is enhanced by the networking feature to allow farmers to communicate in a trusted environment, with the aim to remove an element of isolation out of farming. While the idea sounds simple, it’s actually quite complicated to set up. It is a passion of ours and we were able to pitch it in a way that won us a trip to Silicon Valley.

It sounds really interesting! So how was the trip to Silicon Valley?

It was great. While in America, we were based in San Francisco where we lived, worked and explored for two weeks. During this time, we met with many different influential people from Silicon Valley and San Francisco. They told us a lot about what it is like to live and work in America, the protocol differences from Australia, what it is like to be a start-up, how to prototype a product or service, but also about venture capital, marketing and networking. We even learned how to build an app.

Throughout the two weeks we attended the Hacker Exchange program during the day and were encouraged to meet with people in our industries, go to Meetups, and network at the end of the day. This is where we were able to make many connections, many of which we may not realise the value of yet.

It was amazing to see how everybody in the group progressed. The Hacker Exchange program is one like no other. It provided us the opportunity to learn skills and meet people that I would otherwise never have met. In the classroom, you often get told to prototype your product/service but a program like the Hacker Exchange teaches you HOW to prototype. I believe that is the main difference with the classroom environments and is what made the program so much more rewarding.

The Hacker Exchange group at Stanford university

What is the next step for Farm Mate?

A really important lesson we learned was that we are not interested in venture capital and we are not driven by money. We are passionate about our idea, it being about information sharing, networking and easy access to much needed information, and find that it is integral to the future of farming, particularly in Australia.

We believe that we can build the community required to contribute information into the platform, however we are still seeking the technical support and advice to build the platform for both phone and computer. We would like to start small and just contribute the information we already have, freely available to the public on a platform such as a blog. We would like to monitor the reach and need for this information and then slowly develop the web page and app from there. We are at an exciting point in the start-up process, now it is just up to us where we choose to place our next foot along the path to getting Farm Mate up and running!

Julia and her mother in Chicago

Julia Payne is a second year Agribusiness and Accounting student at La Trobe University Mildura. She has been working for Southern Cross Farms as an Agribusiness Assistant since January 2018. Julia completed the La Trobe Accelerator Program in 2018, she has also joined the ABC Heywire and Macpherson Smith Rural Foundation Alumni, as well as being accepted into the La Trobe Hallmark program. Julia is a co-founder of Farm Mate.

Mind the perception gap: Reconceptualising supply chain performance management

In the service industry, success often favours those who deliver higher performance and value in the eyes of their partners and/or end-customers. The performance of the delivered service, however, may not always meet the expectations of the buyer, or the service quality may be evaluated differently by the supply chain partners, leading to a performance shortfall in both cases.

Perception gap

A perception gap refers to the differences in perception among the stakeholders regarding any aspect of the supply chain relationship. But how are such gaps associated with the performance of service supply chains and any resultant performance gaps? How can service supply chain partners identify, quantify, and eliminate the perception gaps?

Above research questions have recently been studied in an international and multi-institutional collaboration project conducted by LBS researcher Dr. Sean Asian, Dr. Dawei Lu (University of Warwick), Dr. Gurdal Ertek (Abu Dhabi University), and Mete Sevinç (Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation, Netherlands). Their results have been published as a research paper, entitled “Mind the perception gap: An integrative performance management framework for service supply chains”, in the International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management (Impact factor 2017: 4.215).

Improving supply chain performance

In this multi-disciplinary project, the project team collaborated with a leading UK-based insurance company to improve their supply chain performance in three phases: First, they investigated the existence of perception and performance gaps along the supplier-buyer interface: Second, examined the association between the perception gaps and the performance: And, third, constructed an integrative framework that factors-in the perception gap into service supply chains and measures them through meta-KPIs.

The presented research confirmed that perception gaps do exist and can have significant association with the performance gaps along the service supply chain. The development of the presented analytical framework for quantifying the gaps extends the theoretical boundary of supply chain performance management and offers a new window to both researchers and practitioners.

Implications

Although the data tested and analysed in this research were sourced from the insurance service industry, the nature of the findings are general and can contribute to a more extensive body of knowledge from which new theories specific to supply chain management may be induced. For example, the presented methodology can be used as the computational engine behind the supply chain initiatives that aim at the identification and elimination of perception gaps. This ultimately can enable them to reduce the perceived gaps to an insignificant level through collaborative efforts, such as sharing key relevant information and synchronizing their perceptions.

Another possible implication is the analysis of data from diverse real-world cases and the observation of patterns across them. While big data is ubiquitously available and data science tools are becoming mainstream, the potential for similar research is practically unlimited. For example, unexplored primary data readily available in companies’ ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning), as well as additional secondary data, can be analysed through exploratory, descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive data science techniques to observe phenomena, propose hypotheses, and develop a plethora of general theory that is highly relevant, actionable, and applicable. This research can serve as an example, especially in the supply chain performance management literature, of how such a combined study can be conducted.

 

Dr. Sean (Sobhan) Asian is a management scientist and operations researcher, with special interests in exploring and solving complex Supply Chain Management, Logistics, and Transportation problems. To further discuss this research and explore any possible collaboration please directly contact Dr. Sean Asian (S.Asian@latrobe.edu.au).
 
  • The full paper can be accessed as: Dawei Lu, Sobhan Asian, Gurdal Ertek, Mete Sevinc, (2018) “Mind the perception gap: An integrative performance management framework for service supply chains”, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPDLM-09-2017-0302
  • LBS’ United Nations PRME commitments

    In 2007, during the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit in Geneva, the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) were launched. Since then, PRME has become the largest organised relationship between the United Nations and business schools. LBS joined PRME quickly after its inception.

    Last year LBS celebrated its tenth anniversary as a signatory to UN PRME. We also released our latest PRME report and we’re hosting the 2019 CR3+ Conference.

    PRME’s mission

    According to the UN Global Impact the mission of PRME is:

    “To transform business and management education, research and thought leadership globally, while promoting awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals, and developing the responsible business leaders of tomorrow.”

    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    The PRME philosophy sits alongside the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formally adopted in Paris in 2015, as part of the universal, integrated and transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 17 SDGs balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental. The goals and targets provide a framework to stimulate action over the next years in areas of critical importance for the long-term sustainability of human society and the planet.

    PRME report

    LBS just released its latest PRME report (read it here). The report outlines the ongoing commitment to each of the six Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME):

    1. Purpose: Develop the capabilities of students to be future generators of sustainable value for business and society at large and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global economy.

    2. Values: Incorporate the values of global social responsibility as portrayed in international initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact.

    3. Method: create educational frameworks, materials, processes and environments that enable effective learning experiences for responsible leadership.

    4. Research: Engage in conceptual and empirical research that advances our understanding about the role, dynamics, and impact of corporations in the creation of sustainable social, environmental and economic value.

    5. Partnership: Interact with managers of business corporations to extend our knowledge of their challenges in meeting social and environmental responsibilities and to explore jointly effective approaches to meeting these challenges.

    6. Dialogue: Facilitate and support dialogue and debate among educators, students, business, government, consumers, media, civil society organisations and other interested groups and stakeholders on critical issues related to global social responsibility and sustainability.

    CR3+ Conference

    Besides our 10th year anniversary, and the release of our PRME report, LBS is also hosting the seventh edition of the CR3+ Conference in late 2019. CR3+ is a partnership between LBS, Audencia Business School (France), Hanken School of Economics (Finland) and ISAE Brazilian Business School (Brazil). The partnership builds on the schools’ involvement with PRME.

    The topic of the CR3+ Conference is “Using Dialogue to Build Partnerships for Sustainability”. More information about this great conference can be found here.

    If you want to know more about LBS’ involvement with PRME, please email Dr Swati Nagpal.

    Research collaboration between LBS and Thuongmai University

    Happy New Year! Our first article of 2019 is about Professor Simon Pervan‘s visit to the Thuongmai University, in Hanoi. He was there to discuss research collaboration and to deliver a presentation on future research focus in business, and the publication of academic research. The visit was hosted by Professor Hoang Viet Nguyen, who is the Head of Department of Research Administration. Professor Viet is overseeing a strong program in research development and he and Professor Pervan discussed opportunities for staff at both La Trobe Business School and Thuongmai to collaborate on future research projects.

     Stay tuned for more information about these opportunities.

    Professor Simon Pervan giving a presentation at Thuongmai University

    LBS students conducting successful Capstone Project

    Students enrolled in LBS’ Master of Business Information Management and Systems (MBIMS) got the chance to work on a real-world project for the subject Business Intelligence Project Analysis and Design (BUS5BPD). Their task was to design a Digital Twin Inspection Tool project for the Australian Marine and Ship Services.

    Even though the scenario was fictional, the industry partners were very real. Students had to design the Digital Twin Inspection Tool to be an inspection application for Deloitte, compatible with Apple technology. Both Deloitte and Apple have been closely involved with the subject through guest lectures but also by mentoring the teams.

    Awards night

    At the end of the semester LBS and Deloitte organised an awards night where the best five teams presented their project and received an award. Awards were handed out for the most complete design, the most innovative design, the very simple design and the most logical design.

    Team Black Pearl presenting their design
    Team The Sailors presenting their design

    The next step

    After designing the application during BUS5BDP, the award winning projects are going to be developed and tested during the subject Business Intelligence Project Implementation (BUS5BPI). Both subjects are so-called capstone subjects, and in this case, twin capstone MBIMS subjects. Capstone subjects provide the student with opportunities to demonstrate their capacity to integrate the knowledge and skills acquired throughout their degree and apply them to a real-world problem. Usually the industry partners are only involved in BUS5BDP, but both Deloitte and Apple have already indicated that they want to be part of BUS5BPI as well. If one or more Digital Twin Inspection Tool applications would be fully developed, tested and implemented, that would mean a unique outcome for a Capstone subject at La Trobe University.

    LBS staff and students with Deloitte delegates

    Watch this space next semester for updates!

    Social Robot Matilda is a big hit in classrooms

    LBS researcher Dr  Seyed Mohammed SadeghKhaksar was recently interviewed by Channel 9 News Melbourne on his research with social robot Matilda.

    Matilda

    Matilda was originally co-created by LBS’ Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovations (RECCSI) in partnership with Japan’s NEC Corporation and Kyoto University. Matilda is a communication robot with emotional intelligence. Matilda can recognise human voices and faces, detect emotions, read and recite text, dance and play music. It can read a person’s feelings by the tone in their voice and interact accordingly. Matilda was previously used successfully in aged care research. Early this year, RECCSI teamed up with Waratah Special Developmental School to trial Matilda as a classroom companion.

    Matilda in the classroom

    The current research aims to investigate how social robots like Matilda can emotionally and socially engage students with special needs (e.g. children with autism), enable them with personalised services and empower them to live more independently in classrooms. Matilda’s personalised services could be used to create a more effective teaching environment and provide tailored support to teachers and students. Dr Khaksar is the Research Project Manager and said that “this study is about assisting both teachers and students, especially those who have special needs, who face particular challenges in their learning environments.”

    According to Dr Khaksar, the results are positive. “As soon as the kids see Matilda in the classroom, their faces light up and they become more interested and engaged”. Matilda is patient, non-judgemental and interactive which allows students to form a bond with it. “The robot can speak to students, read and act out characters in books, as well as set tasks. But it can also tirelessly repeat things hundreds of times if necessary”. Matilda is not only enabling students to develop better communication, but also social and cognitive skills.

    Social Innovation

    RECCSI Research Manager and Associate Professor Debbie Chu said this type of technology is in high demand. “La Trobe is at the forefront in creating solutions for social innovation. Our hope is that La Trobe’s robotic technology, which delivers emotional assistance and companionship over physical services, will be employed widely across Australia”.

    Watch the interview: here

    Some information in this blog was originally published by LTU News

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