Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eating our own dog food

University business professors teach strategic decision making but unfortunately we are not immune to common decisions traps that can derail even the best and most experienced decision makers.  Strategic decisions, such as whether or not to introduce a graduate program or a create new business minor, can have long term consequences on the quality and sustainability of current undergraduate programs.  Complex decisions that involve a large amount of uncertainty are difficult to get right and, as the research clearly shows, bad business decisions are common across industries. 
The recipe for a bad strategic decision is pretty clear –just step into some common decision traps.  For the case of deciding whether or not to introduce a graduate programs or new business minors at the Monfort College of Business, here's a recipe for getting it wrong:
  1.     .    First, assume that experiences with undergraduate programs will directly translate to experiences with graduate programs and minors.  Do not explore the differences and only seek information that confirms the bias that our experience in offering a quality undergraduate programs will apply to new graduate or business minor programs. 
  2.          Put personal interest above the needs of  the college's other  stakeholders.   A graduate program would lend prestige to graduate faculty, confer benefits to individual departments, and a business minor would enhance the reputation of the business college across campus in the eyes of administrators.
  3.            Let our current attachment to colleagues or our individual departments rule our emotions.  If the decision could upset our friends, that have an interest in new programs, then we should avoid confrontation and hide negative information that could upset these relationships. 
  4.          Don’t evaluate risk/return trade-offs between different options.  Do not ask for any contrary information that should be weighed.  Those developing the plans should not have members that holds contrary or opposing views.  Don’t use outsiders to provide an unbiased analysis.
  5.           Don’t challenge key assumptions and avoid any formal analysis of alternatives using 'what if -scenarios', financial, statistical or simulation modeling. 
  6.            Finally, remove all governance safeguards such formal committee review processes.   Promise that a plan’s details will be provided latter.  Present one alternative at a time and solicit for its quick approval. 
Business people make bad decisions all the time. We teach our students to avoid  traps to help them make better decisions and we need to make sure that, as business professors, we eat our own dog food.

*See the origin of this phase at's_own_dog_food

Monday, September 07, 2009

University of Northern Colorado could be missing out

One of Porter’s five strategic forces concerns substitutability which provides new products or services that come from outside and offer customers a lower price and/or a higher quality alternative.   The University of Northern Colorado charges students a technology fee (over $300 for 30 credits for business students).  That fee and other funds from the IT instructional budget supports classroom technology, staff for computer labs and provides access to campus infrastructure facilities such as BearMail and BearDrive.
Google is offering free partnerships with universities that may provide a substitute for internal UNC  IS (Information System) resources and free up technology funds for other uses.   According to Google schools can substitute hardware, software, people and procedures to strategically take advantage of free:
Gmail – With 7GB of storage, built-in chat, innovative search, and IMAP capability, students no longer need to worry about email quotas or spam.
Google Talk – Keep students in contact even when they’re not on campus, with instant messaging, file transfers, and voice calling over the web.
Google Calendar – Google Calendar makes it easy to organize schedules and share calendars with others.
Google Docs – Enable students to collaborate real time on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, across campus or around the world.
Google Sites – Google Sites makes it easy to share all types of information, without any technical language to learn and access from anywhere.
Google Video – Securely and privately share videos with your school’s faculty and students. (10GB free)
Extensibility APIs – Easily integrate with your school’s current systems or other third party solutions.
Help and support – 24/7 online and phone support assistance available. “
 Free is good especially since UNC students are now paying for internal email applications, virus and spam software, networks, computer equipment and staff to help users and staff to maintain availability and security. 

While there may be technical, privacy and organizational issues that need to be considered, we should at least be exploring free partnerships that substitute costly, proprietary and closed UNC IS systems for open and free substitutes available from companies such as Google.  

Here’s a partial list of schools that have embraced a  Google partnerships to save money and better support student computing at their respective universities: University of Notre Dame, Arizona State University, Northwestern University, Abilene Christian University, University of Southern California, Virginia's Community Colleges, Vanderbilt University, George Washington University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Hofstra University, Utah State University, San Jose City College, University at Buffalo, Northern Arizona University, University of Akron.  More are signing up every day.  

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Google and Strategy

This week we are investigating corporate strategy as the first step to deciding where our company fits into a competitive landscape and then (and only then) will we worry about how technology can help. One company that has probably been the most successful in competing in today's e-business, global and ever changing world is Google. Google’s ten strategic principles that drive their technology and decision making can be found at . Here’s how Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 fits with the first three of Google’s guiding principles

Google Says: 1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.

The customer is key to a corporate strategy - We will ask the question “How can we make our customers successful.”    To answer that question we need to know the who, what, when, where , why and how concerning our current and, perhaps more importantly, our future customers.

Google Says: 2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.

Porter’s 5 force model provides a way to identify what is lacking or changing in our competitive environment. We can’t do everything so we first need to identify our competitive advantage.

Google Says : 3. Fast is better than slow.

Business Processes drive the value-added in our value chain. Process must be efficient and effective all the time. But, everything is changing all the time. Companies need flexible process that can be quickly reconfigured to take advantage of opportunities. Flexible processes demand flexible information systems. Remember he who has the best (most flexible) business processes wins.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome to Fall Semester Information Systems

Fall semester is here already. I hope everyone had a productive summer. I spent this summer doing research on the semantic web and writing papers. My research found that soon most of the internet’s information will be linked and understood by machines. Soon artificial agents will be using the internet to help us poor humans make sense of the "web of data". Who said "surfing the web" was only for humans. The semantic web will change the way managers work and this semester we’ll explore how WEB 3.0 will change your life.
I also attended the American Accounting Associations annual meeting. A key theme was that accountants (and also marketing, finance and management and CIS majors ) will soon need to be aware of new technologies such as XBRL. If you don't know what XBRL is, you've come to the right class. My goal this semester is to prepare students to survive and thrive with the technology changes that will up-end business management in the next 5  years.
Random Fact - German soccer teams are sponsored by cell phone companies and fans are passionate wearing T-MOBILE or VERIZON jerseys of their home teams ( and you don't want to be between the opposing fans at the beer garden).

This semester I'm teaching Information Systems (bacs 300) and Systems Analysis and Design (bacs487) for CIS majors.
This semester I’ll be teaching such software hits as Access, Excel, Visio, Twitter, Google Docs, MS Project, .Net,LINQ, Second Life, Twine, Rational Software Architect, Simple DB - it is exciting (and scarey to think) that none of this software that we are using this semester even existed 3 years ago in its current form . Who knows what software we will be using 3 years from now?