The increasing complexity of modern businesses, opportunities driven by continually decreasing technology costs and the dependence on these technology assets have led to similar patterns of problems across many companies. The right projects are not being identified, selected or scoped properly. Projects are not consistently completed, often delivered late or come in significantly over budget. Business decisions are made without solid understanding, even though we're seemingly swimming in data, spread throughout the company's disparate systems. Computer viruses, social engineering attacks and headline-making data breaches are causing Board-level attention to the risks, threats and reality they pose. Each of these problems in turn create career opportunities for the creative, the disciplined and the deeply curious. And these in turn created the demand for advanced degrees and concentration in these specialized areas.
That led me to take a critical look at the creation of four concentrations within the University and Dayton's graduate Management Information Systems (MIS) program. The business problems described above are addressed by focused curriculum on Business Analysis and Design, Project Management, Business Intelligence and Cyber-Security.
I put a single word to describe each of these, hoping that might lend some insight. Here's what they mean to me.
- Business Analysis and Design - “Starting”
- Project Management - “Finishing”
- Business Intelligence - “Knowing"
- Cyber-Security - “Protecting”
So what does that mean to a prospective student? That depends on understanding what you really like to do. That can be a difficult introspection for those early in their adulthood, and those preferences can change over a lifetime. But perhaps some guidance or direction can be gained by seeing which of the following, if any, is appealing.
"Starting" appeals to the creative person who sees a blank sheet of paper as their type of challenge, willing to explore the unknown and quickly turn around when they’re headed down a dead-end alley. One win amidst five losses is not just OK, but the way they want their world to work. Like many entrepreneurs, they are big-picture risk-takers, flexible and open-minded.
"Finishing" appeals to the disciplined person that defines success as getting it done, completed, put to bed. They like picking up a defined project with clear goals, laying out responsibilities, caring about the details, clearly communicating, understanding the interdependencies among hundreds or thousands of tasks and being the task-master, holding people accountable for completing their parts on time. They deal with the inevitable roadblocks, bottlenecks and issues, finding creative ways to restructure the plan to meet the objectives.
"Knowing" appeals to people that like bringing clarity, a deeper understanding or a new insight into an existing situation and the persistence to solve complex problems. Most of the data that exists within companies start in transaction-based systems. This data is structured to support running their defined business processes, but it's typical that this data is not designed to help support changing those processes. Merging this type of data, which can originate in many different systems, and performing advanced analysis is an appealing big reward, big challenge puzzle.
"Protecting" appeals to the safety minded, those who look to defend their set of technology assets, increasingly a "life or death" struggle, to ward off computer hackers, data thieves and anyone with an agenda against their company. It's an environment of constant learning and challenge as these criminals employ the latest techniques against both the technology and their users. You must be ever vigilant, never satisfied or complacent, and persevere through the tough times, as most companies will be compromised at some point from either external or internal threats.
All four MIS concentrations should provide a long-term career as their underlying business and technology drivers continue to become ever larger and more complex. If one or more of the above sounds like your type of challenge, explore them with the faculty at your university.