Experiences in Developing and Implementing a Capstone Course in Information Technology Management

Article excerpt

Introduction

The signs are all around us.

* "Hailed as a savior when he arrived at AT&T three years ago, CEO C. Michael Armstrong quickly made $120 billion worth of acquisitions to position the company for the digital era. Now, amid a steep decline in its share price, Armstrong is separating the company into four pieces." (Rosenbush, 2001)

* "I guarantee that if you were a fly on the wall at almost any board meeting, you'd hear the same kinds of questions: 'I wonder how we can do more business over the Internet? What kind of intranet will best serve our needs? How can we better communicate with and manage our suppliers? How can we get closer to our customers?'" (Maruca, 2000)

* In 2000, Wipro Industries increased their profits by more than 100% over 1999 and has recently won contracts with General Electric, Home Depot, and Nokia. According to Vivek Paul, Wipro's CEO, their goal is to challenge IBM Global Consulting, Accenture, and Electronic Data Services as a major player in the business/information systems consulting industry. What makes this claim significant is that Wipro is based in Bangladesh, India. (Einhorn, 2001)

It's a new game with new rules.

IT challenges are both growing and changing. Global organizations, supplier-to-customer supply chain connectivity, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, outsourcing, and major e-business components are all standard fare in today's business environment. Information technology has become strategic to many businesses and essential to virtually all businesses. The need is clear. Never has there been a better time to be an information technology management major. However, a number of studies have questioned whether or not graduates of information technology management undergraduate programs possess the proper balance of technical, business, and interpersonal skills to allow them to immediately contribute after moving into today's business environment. (Chow et. al., 1994; Alexander, 1996; Coffee, 1998)

In fact, there is evidence that formal undergraduate information technology education is coming up short. According to a survey of 1,250 IT users, 78% of those interviewed thought encouraging people to study IT full-time was the best way to deal with the IT problem. Ironically, despite this response, only 20% of the IT managers interviewed "thought undergraduates were equipped for work." (Kennedy, 1998) Other studies have found a similar lack of preparation on the part of information technology graduates. (McGee, 1998; Buckingham, 1987)

According to a study sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), "Large software and hardware systems continue to fail despite rapid advances in information technology ... [and] the problem is even deeper than reported. Failures of complex information systems are generally not reported by industry. Within the companies where these failures occur, the valuable lessons to be learned by these failures rarely are reported or examined. In academe, exploring the reasons for these failures is not addressed. Graduates are not prepared to cope with the complexity of medium to large systems ... Something is amiss in the nation's ability to generate well prepared new graduates in the information systems-centric disciplines." (Lidtke, 1999) The NSF-sponsored study identified several skill deficiencies: (1) inability to solve problems relating to medium and large computing systems; (2) inability to apply systemic thinking to complex computing systems; (3) deficiencies in business case preparation and assessment in computing systems applications work; and, (4) inadequate written, verbal, group and listening skills.

The NSF study also identified three categories of industry-defined attributes an IT graduate should possess: (1) personal skills, including problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, persistence, and curiosity; (2) interpersonal skills, including collaborative and communication skills (verbal, written, listening, group); and, (3) technical knowledge and skills, including systems development skills and application capabilities. …