Do What They Say, Not What I Teach: A Strategic Look at the Information Systems Skills Gap

Do What They Say, Not What I Teach: A Strategic Look at the Information Systems Skills Gap

Joseph Kasten
DOI: 10.4018/jsita.2012100105
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There has been a great deal of research conducted to examine the alleged gap between the knowledge and skills taught to students regarding the tools used to design and implement information systems and those tools actually required in industry. However, not as much effort has been put into determining the actual use of those tools. This research examines what tools and procedures are actually being utilized in the creation of information systems in industry. Utilizing semi-structured interviews, a much different view of systems design procedures emerges than what students are led to believe are actually used. The prevalence of “home-grown” processes, or sometimes no definable processes at all, can have a serious impact on employee productivity and, ultimately, a system’s ability to fulfill its strategic objectives.
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Literature Review

This research falls squarely in between two distinct streams of literature. First, there are the inquiries that have been made into the gap between what new IS professionals bring to their first assignments from the education. The second are the studies that explore the potential strategic benefits of IS to the firm. The space between the two bodies of literature is where the current study fits. These two streams of literature are reviewed in this section as well as their relationship to the current study.

When reviewing the studies that explore what is commonly known as the “skills gap,” a few common themes emerge. The predominant theme calls for the need for business skills to be a part of the new graduate’s toolkit. It is no longer the case that IS workers are relegated to their caves to work in solitude for hours on end on a specific coding problem. Cappel (2001) identified this fact at a point in time when IS departments were just starting to find their strategic footing. Lee and Han (2008) extended this concept when they noted that the need is no longer for programmers, as was the case in previous decades, but rather for developers. The difference between the two terms is more than semantics. Developers, to use the authors’ approach are responsible for much more than proper coding. Developers are concerned with the success of the application, and in order to create a successful application the needs that drive it must also be understood. This requires knowledge of not just how a system works, but also why it provides value. These business skills are especially important for those who become systems analysts (Lerouge, Newton, & Blanton, 2005). Though the title might vary between organizations, the functionality of this position is to orchestrate the creation of the new system by blending the needs of business and the users with the technical capabilities and constraints of the development staff. Since this position is a popular target for many IS graduates, this skill set is a particularly important one to study.

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