Friday, February 12, 2010

Incoming Changes with Impact on the University

(Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 9: The pace of change seems to increase relentlessly, especially changes involving information technology. Using your crystal ball, identify and discuss three changes likely to have substantial impact on your school services in the next three years.)

Change, as inevitable as it is, has been the foremost factor of the rise and fall of organizations. Technology is one of those which is innovated and fostered because of such transformations. Nonetheless, change is actually the motivator why technology surfaces at its height, and, though still advancing, organizations use it to deal with business competence in the industry.

For how many years did we knew that the changes brought by technology greatly affect the entire universe, we could think of the probabilities and experiences that what we do not have or do in the past are the things that occupy our attention now. Likewise, the way we are living today might not be similar in the future in some ways. And because technology is the catalyst of these fast variations, things that we anticipate in the forthcoming years might be the effects of the changes in the trends of information technology (IT).

These things affect us in one way or the other. We in the Philippines might say that we are far from the current advancement of information technology. But even though how far or near we are, still we could not deny the fact that it still has affected us. Moreover, although we belong to those third world countries, agents such as those in the highly industrialized countries are coming in and out of the Philippines bringing with them new trends of technology that are introduced to the massive people.

Most of the organizations like those that are involved in information and communication technologies, or ICT companies, introduced new techniques and offer help for firms which need information technology in running their business. They develop systems that are being used as tools and techniques in managing the information systems (IS) in the company. Firms and corporations who rely on information and communication technology in running their business are what we call ICT-enabled companies. These comprise of such corporations, schools, government agencies, private firms, and many others who use technology applications to excel in their fields of industry.

Colleges and universities are institutions of higher education that offer programs beyond the high school level. Colleges and universities provide necessary training for individuals wishing to enter professional careers. They also strive to develop students’ creativity, insight, and analytical skills. By acquainting students with complex ideas in an intellectually stimulating environment, colleges and universities can provide unique opportunities for personal enrichment while also preparing students for future careers.
Colleges and universities strive to inform students of established principles of knowledge as well as of the most recent developments in academic research. Methods of instruction may be a lecture, lecture-discussion, discussion, laboratory, seminar, internship, clinical experience, community service, distance education, or a combination of these and other formats. (Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.)

In my years spent as a student, I have observed the inclination of learning with regards to technological applications in education. And as I study in the university where I am taking up a course very relevant to what I am discussing now (I am a BS Information Technology student), I took notice of the effects of information technology in the learning and instructions in the university, including its everyday business.
As aforementioned, colleges and universities (or schools, in general) provide trainings for students to prepare them for future careers. As an institution of higher education, they should strive in giving the best teachings to produce highly competitive students. A lot of colleges and universities now engage in using computers and other audio-visual aids as means in delivering instructions in the classroom. There are also several schools which offer distant education programs. Apart from instruction, universities and colleges need to have the essential tools to deliver their business to satisfy their customers and clients. Schools rely on information technology for a more efficient process in its business transactions.
To further improve the service to the customers and clients as well as their partners, the university develops strategic information systems planning (we have discussed a lot about it in the previous forum topics) so to also address on how to deal with changes brought about by the effects of technology in the organizational management. And in the continuing years, new sets of strategies will be implemented to cope up with these changes.

I have found and read a research article made by Anita Chi-kwan Lee which conveys the IT trends in four years of incoming students at the University of Hongkong. I find it quite applicable for this topic so I made it a basis and reference of study. The paper actually talks about the survey results made in the university’s initiative efforts of adopting technology in education. (Well I thought those key points they have tackled are the same as what we are concerned right now but when I checked the date, theirs was actually many years ago. I could just imagine that we are moving quite late regarding these IT application concerns.)
Well, seriously speaking, if there are changes most likely to happen within the university I may say it would be more on the expansion of the information systems. Probably there would be great emphasis on the upgrades of hardware and software components, supplementary trainings and empowerment of more IS/IT personnel, the use of technology as a method of instruction, and students’ access to computers and internet in learning.
With the fast evolution of new products and services in information and communications technology, hardware components are now increasing in specifications with high speed and efficiency. I believe there is no need to get the latest trends in hardware units just to make out the success in the organization because it does not solely depends on it and having the newest and most advanced computer units does not guarantee utmost productivity. However, a firm may maximize its hardware components to give out the necessary job outputs in a fast and efficient manner. With this, I imagine our institution considering in upgrading the hardware elements in the information system. This is important especially that the institute houses the servers which are essential in processing the data and information in the campus. Not only that, new computer units with better (higher) specifications appropriate for the course learning methods would replace those old units and other audio-visual materials. This will further improve the transactions of the university in view of the fact that better facilities will increase efficiency and productivity of the services. Of course, this will yield better results if there are supplementary trainings and empowerment of more IS/IT personnel that will be done. Since the framework of IT will now expand due to the expansion of the university’s information systems, more staff that will cater these responsibilities is required.
The expansion of the information systems in the university might also mean the integration of the subsystems of the school, especially those of which roles greatly affect the major functions of the institutions. Since right now, our co-students are developing subsystems in the university as projects in software engineering, and system analysis and design subjects; these might give way to more and more system developments in the school in the forthcoming years. If these systems that are being developed will be highly regarded and implemented and maintained, such features and functions will draw attention from other students and university personnel and might give way to all-out support for the enhancement of the university’s information system.
In the event that more subsystems are proposed to be designed and developed that will function in replace of the old manual ways of processing data this calls for the advancement of IT skills of students, faculty, and staff in the university that will be regarded as the users of these systems. This also calls for a demand in student access to computer and internet. As the applications of IT in education are being greatly emphasized, course syllabus will require using computer applications in the learning process. Therefore, there might be an understanding that students who own computers especially those with internet connection will be more competitive than those who do not. Students who acquire more advanced computer skills will highly have more confidence in using computers.

As the conventional methods of instruction being conducted in the classroom and/or campus are also revolutionizing, I would not be surprise that in the next three years, the university will be initiating distance education programs that use technology to carry instructions to students in off-campus locations. In this case, there would be relatively less demand for faculty members who will handle large number of students thus also reducing cost. In addition, students that cannot attend classes on campus for a variety of reasons will now have the opportunity to learn without having to be onsite. That would mean more students enrolling courses off-site while lesser students in the campus.

These changes however, will have considerable impact on the university, the school services, and the personnel. The expansion of information system will surely boost the processing time of the transactions of the school services. Instead of extra time that will be used in the old manual systems of processing data and information, the development and enhancement of the systems will take less time thus increasing time for other concerns. The advancement of skills, student access to computer and internet access, particularly the method of instruction could affect the attitude of students and faculty alike towards information technology and education. Probably students will have diverse reactions regarding the computer use in education. The effectiveness of computer use in studies is now at issue. Truly, distance learning for example, gives opportunity for those who cannot manage to be on the campus and study onsite. However, this does not guarantee effective learning at all. Many would still believe that computers do not replace the need for lectures and class discussions. This I think will draw out attention especially to those colleges which have courses that are not so reliant on technological advancements or those who have minimal IT applications. Although many would say that computers make learning easier and more efficient, some faculty and staff may choose to have the conventional way of teaching as the need for it arises.

Nevertheless, changes brought about by IT trends affect the business in general as it affects the subsystems and its other components. Things may be very small to notice but each piece will greatly be involved.

I would like to acknowledge the following references in my essay:

Lee, A. C. 2002, IT Trends in Four Years of Incoming Students in University of Hongkong, Educause Quarterly

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Time and Love

"Time is too slow for those who wait,
too swift for those who fear,
too long for those who grieve,
too short for those who rejoice,

but for those who love,
time is eternity...

Hours fly, flowers die,
new days, new ways pass by,
Love stays."

This quotation remained in my memory when I first read about it in my high school years (actually I never knew Henry Van Dyke was the author, and I only remembered just a few lines..). It would me make me think of how it is so difficult to fight with time. I've been pressured by time so many times and well, I could recall more than many moments when I had bad and worse experiences just because of trying to compete with time. As expected, most of it are of beating the deadlines and fitting into schedules. Whew! I could say I am a procrastinator, I'm not denying it (I'm not boasting it either. Hehe.)  Nevertheless, until now I'm trying hard to learn the art of time management. But most of the time I feel that I'm always catching up with time just to do the tasks I need to. And it seems that other people also do.

Why should people race against time just to do things that needs to be done before the last hour? It seems that man is living to beat the deadline that is being imposed to him. And not to enjoy the things that he wants to do. What if we turn it the other way around? TIme shall be the one racing with us, and begging us to have a moment where we become followers of our schedules. You know, that sort of situation where we can make things the easy way we want, do things we like, and never mind time is running its way from us. I was wondering how life would be if there were no task schedules and man will just have to face a job when it is in queue (I mean, man will have to make tasks because he wants to and not because he needs to). If then, we will not be the one asking for teh extension of time rather, time will be begging for us...

* * *
However, in the magical world of love, time has no limits. You can just imagine two lovers never thinking there will still be tomorrow when they are together and so they don't want to be apart. If they are together, they are inseparable - do things on their own without minding the long minutes which turn into hours and into days. For them time is eternity.

What makes it amazing is, true love doesn't have deadlines. Love has no boundaries. And true love above all, is unconditional. This is being expressed at its fullest when God gave His only Son to be nailed on the cross just to save us. Yet love doesn't end when Jesus was risen from the dead and ascended back to heaven. His never ending love continues to be with us forever. And how sweet it would be when you knew you are being loved by an unending love, just like the care and comfort of a mother to her child. But you can just imagine, we would not have that chance to feel special love if it were not for the chance given by time.

I am trying to reflect here the best of love that could be spent through time. Even though at time it's hard how time pressures us, time is there for us to share our love to our special someones. Because time is essential to make golden memories with your loved ones. In spite of the complexities, still, be glad of life because it gives you the chance to work, to play, to look up at the stars to dream, and most of all, to love...

Happy Valentines everyone...


Friday, February 5, 2010

Fast Forward: Questions for Strategic IS Planning

(Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 8: fast forward ... You were hired and have been tasked to develop a strategic information systems plan for a company. The company officers have extended an invitation for you to meet with them to discuss the direction of the company. Before this meeting, they have asked that you provide a list of questions with some explanation about the "why" of the question so they can be prepared, thus maximizing the output from this meeting.

Looking forward and into the coming years, being hired to make a strategic plan for the company is not far from possibility. But it takes foundation of knowledge and experience considering that the task is a critical element of the firm. Big deal. However, provided that I have read, reviewed, and studied the basic aspects about it, I may be able to explain to them the essential elements of the plan. I have gathered all related data regarding the previous lessons on Strategic Information Systems (IS) Planning and Strategic Planning Retreat, and perhaps, I have enough to mention some vital points which I could be used in developing the strategic questions.
First, let us talk about the strategic information systems (IS) plan of an organization. It has been stressed that planning is a major step and a necessary one when it comes to running a business. So to begin a clearer perspective on the purpose of having a strategic IS plan for the firm who hired me, I will warm it up by this question:
Why plan? The organization is established to do business. And for business to grow, it has to aim for success. Success can only be accomplished if there is a concrete game plan which is to be followed so to make things organize and keep them on the right path. A firm plans to obtain resources – the financial, facilities, and staff of the company. These things are essential to run a business. Secondly, an organization plans to align information systems (IS) with business. We may have business targets that are to achieve, and because the IS of the company is considered as the heart of business, it shall be fueled making its goals in one with the overall goals of the company as what we see it from the general business aspect. Thirdly, we plan to identify needed applications. Fourthly, plans are made to establish goals, schedules, and milestones in order to track progress (which could be the very point why I am called in to develop a plan). Finally, we plan to provide an opportunity for communication with top management and user management. I would like to emphasize here, since the company officers invited me to discuss with them the direction of the company, planning is somewhat diverse than plain forecasting, or calculating what is likely to happen in the future of the business. Yes, forecasting is predicting the future, but planning is being prepared for that future. And this is the rationale of the task.
So now that we have warmed up a little bit, let us get in to this more serious. In a general point of view, a strategic information systems plan involves establishing a mission statement, assessing the environment, set goals and objectives, deriving strategies and policies, developing long-, medium-, and short-term plans, and implementing these plans and monitor results.
Where are we now?
This question examines first, the world we face. This is a broad environmental analysis. The company officers should be able to respond on the issues like, what is going on in the world today? Be it on the political, social, economic aspects, demographical, cultural, and educational facets. Then, will tomorrow’s environment be different or still the same? The management could give relevant information from media or other resources. Assessing the environment is evaluating the capabilities of the IS/IT department for example, the readiness of the company to use IT, the status of our customers and the industry, and the status of the society.
Second, it evaluates, after the issues in the world we face today, what is happening in other like industries. What can we learn from their strengths and weaknesses? Who are the competitors in the field? What do we need to know about them? These will give us the idea of our competitors and their edge from us or our edge from them. Typically, it will give us a basis for comparison from somebody of the same industry where we belong.

Thirdly, this will urge us to have an internal analysis – of who we are and why we are here? So from here we could specify the company strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
Lastly, what do we value? What values have guided us to this present time? These are the organization’s core values that every employee strives to live with. Do we still hold these values? If we do have it?
Why do we exist?
This question focuses us on evaluating what is our mission. Typically, it answers: what are we? What do we do? Who are our customers? What is the benefit to our members? What makes us unique? These are the services that we are responsible for – the place in the organization – of what you do in the company.
Where do we want to be?
This is the question which leads to our vision for the strategic plan. Key questions include: what is our vision for the future? What should be our focus for the coming years? What vision do we have for our organization in the next five years? These questions are visionary and not process. They are also measurable. In other words, all these make up on what is/are our dream(s) in the future?
How do we fill the gap from where we are and where we want to be?
After assessing ourselves and being able to answer the previous questions, we now have a basis on our focus questions: how wide is the gap between where we are and where we want to be? How do we measure that gap? What barriers keep us from reaching our vision? How can we bridge those barriers? What steps can we take to fill the gap?
So the first step is to identify critical success factors – think of the goals to accomplish the mission, the business processes to achieve these goals. Questions that should be focused in to are: what would it take to achieve these goals? What are the business processes that we need to achieve each critical success factor or goal?
So we should make out what plans do we have to make. What people resources and financial resources do we need? Are any new structures necessary? If so what are they?
Filling the gap is addressed by formulating long- and short-term goals to be achieved. These goals should also be achieved by breaking it down into objectives (specific and measurable targets) to be aimed. In every strategic goal are critical success factors or outcomes (how will we get there).
To have the closing part, we should answer the questions, what could we do to establish this mission and attain these goals, given who we are and what we represent. Where do we go from here?
Those essential points I have mentioned above are also guide questions I have taken from my research in my report topic. They are simple and straightforward, yet you will be forced to think critically since even planning involves planning. What you think of right now shall make out the consequence of the future aspects of business. That is why in strategic planning, every factor is intensively deliberated because it will determine better and efficient results.
That’s it. I hope I was able to satisfy the company officers who hired me. These may be a lot of questions but they were necessary to have a thorough reflection.

I would like to express my acknowledgment and gratitude to the following resources I used as references in the above statements:
E.R. McLean and J.D. Soden, Strategic Planning for MIS, Wiley-Interscience, (1977)
Strategic Planning Retreat, Volunteer Power: Mobilizing the Power and Passion of the Volunteer Network, Copyright 2010
Marilyn Snider & Michelle Snider, Pacific Northwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (Pnw Cesu) Strategic Planning Retreat, Center for Urban Horticulture, University of Washington, Seattle, (April 30, 2001)
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