The need for business managers with strong information technology (IT) skills in general, and data communication and networking skills in particular, is now high and will be even greater in the years to come. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2007), occupations in the area of network systems and data communications analysis are projected to increase 55% by 2014. Given the trend in business to leverage information technology to decrease costs and increase efficiency in all functional areas, this demand is understandable. What is more difficult to understand is the lack of response to this demand by university IT departments as reflected in their curriculums (Hawk, 2005.) In this article we describe how one information and technology management department has attempted to meet the challenge of integrating networking skills in a coordinated fashion over a wide variety of courses to, at least in part, better prepare their students for the demands they are certain to face when they graduate.
During the 1990s, dot.com companies, spawned by the meteoric rise of the Internet, spearheaded a period of frantic growth in IT throughout the economy. No functional area of business was unaffected. E-commerce was predicted to replace traditional methods of merchandizing, entire companies underwent radical business process reengineering, and functional areas such as accounting, sales, and human relations were all affected by new technology-driven processes. As a consequence, the enrollment of students across computing disciplines grew rapidly with computer science departments reaching an all-time high of over 22,000 undergraduates nationwide in 2001, compared to only 10,000 in 1995 (Zweben, 2007). The growth in information systems programs paralleled that of computer science (Shah, Martain & Mehta, 2006).
The dot.com bubble burst in 2000, which combined with the impact of a recession, led to a drop in demand for IT professionals nationwide. Many companies turned to outsourcing in an effort to meet IT demands while reducing costs. Outsourcing, and in particular, offshore outsourcing, has its greatest impact in the areas of technology support, application development and IT related financial, marketing, and e-HR business processes. It has relatively little impact on basic IT infrastructure services, such as network management, server maintenance, and PC support (Gartner Group, 2003).
The decline in demand for IT professionals nationwide, coupled with the effects of off-shoring, are reflected in a drop in enrollment of IT undergraduates of over 40% over the last 5 years (Zweben, 2007), with enrollments in some information systems programs declining as much as 70% (Shah et al., 2006). As the economy began to pull itself out of the recession, the number of IT jobs started increasing, especially in the areas of networking and e-commerce (Minch & Tabor, 2003). During this same period, the nature of IT within corporations and organizations has undergone rapid and profound changes to the point that “today it is hard to distinguish between business and technology at all, given that nearly all business transactions are enabled by technology” (Andriole, 2006, p. 3).
Key Terms in this Chapter
ABET: The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This organization has been accrediting engineering programs for over 75 years and began accrediting IT programs in 2002. (see www.ABET.org ).
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A broad term for software designed to manage all aspects of customer management. CRM are often described as front-office applications that support such areas as sales and marketing. CRM is often a module in a more encompassing ERM system.
Client-server: A computing architecture implemented over a network that separates the client (application or computer requesting service or data) from the server (application or computer which delivers the data from a remote location). Typically, clients request information from one or more servers who return the information. Web browsers function in this way as they communicate with e-mail, database, and Web servers.
e-Portfolio: An electronic portfolio is a collection of user materials assembled on the Web. Material typically includes text, images multimedia, blog entries, and hyperlinks. The e-portfolio showcases the user’s accomplishments and abilities and the electronic format allows dynamic maintenance and reorganization. The concept is similar to an artist’s portfolio, which highlights their works. An e-portfolio is a type of learning record that provides actual evidence of achievement.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): An integrated software system that integrates many or all company functions into one package. ERP systems may include modules for manufacturing, supply-chain management, back-office operations, customer relationship management, human resource management and others.