Connecting business and technology Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

Dr. Bradley C. WatsonProfessor, MIS program chair
Franklin University

In a wired world, the success of any business is linked to its ability to effectively integrate technology into its operations.

Most companies recognize and recruit top-notch businesspeople and technology professionals, but at times, these individuals often don’t speak the same language and no one knows how to act as a translator. Management information systems (MIS) professionals fill this gap in a business.

“From a business organizational viewpoint, MIS is a functional area whose mission is to gather, store and disseminate the information necessary to successfully operate the organization,” says Dr. Bradley C. Watson, professor and chair of the MIS program at Franklin University. “From an academician’s view, MIS is the study and teaching of all the interrelated areas of knowledge, skills and technologies in which MIS professionals must be literate and functional.

“CS (computer science) education focuses on how to best design and develop computers and computer programs. IT (information technology) focuses on how to best organize, manage and perform the operational aspects of keeping the hardware and software of an organization successfully supporting the mission of an MIS department. In contrast, MIS education encompasses, at a high level, both of these technical areas, while melding them with business education.”

Smart Business spoke with Watson about the importance of trained MIS professionals to the success of businesses.

What key roles do MIS professionals fill within a company?

MIS professionals are found in corporate leadership, management and staff positions. The two most common leadership roles are known as chief information officer and chief knowledge officer. As managers, they manage staff and resources within an MIS Department. As staff members, MIS professionals fill such roles as business analysts, systems architects, systems analysts, quality assurance analysts and business applications programmers.

Why is it important for individuals to receive an MIS education?

Without timely, accurate, useful, relevant, comprehensive and sufficiently abundant information flowing into all areas of an organization, that organization will fail. Businesses absolutely need people who can competently organize, manage and operate within the MIS functional arena. Trained MIS professionals are those people. An MIS education is vital because it equips these individuals to be competent in all of the necessary skills and knowledge arenas.

How do MIS professionals add value to an organization?

First, it’s the MIS professionals who orchestrate the flow of information to all the appropriate places and people within an organization in — as I said earlier — a timely, accurate, useful, relevant, comprehensive and sufficiently abundant manner. Without all of these attributes associated with the flow of information, businesses can’t operate successfully.

Second, MIS professionals guide the rest of the organization in terms of what information technologies should be used, where they should be used and how they should be used to successfully carry out the missions of the various corporate departments and the organization as a whole.

How do MIS professionals decrease IT expenses?

Not to oversimplify, but they apply the same set of skills, tools and approaches that any competent manager in an organization should apply, while also applying their specialized understanding and knowledge of technology and the people who work with technology. They make sure that the physical resources acquired and used are not only sufficient to accomplish the mission, but also are acquired, installed, managed and operated at as low a cost as possible without undermining the mission of the MIS department. They also make sure that departmental human resources are employed as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Why is it crucial for MIS professionals to continually increase their business and technical knowledge?

Successful MIS professionals hold within themselves and apply in the corporate world a fully even-handed blend of business and technical expertise and acumen. This means that an MIS education must include an even-handed blend of business and technical competencies.

But even after graduation from a comprehensive, balanced MIS program, an MIS education is not complete. Successful MIS professionals are in a continual state of learning, because falling behind in either their business skill and knowledge set or their technical expertise will mean failure for them and, quite possibly, their organization. Successful MIS professionals and organizations will always forge ahead, applying the latest technologies and business knowledge to make themselves as competitive as possible in the global marketplace.

DR. BRADLEY C. WATSON is a professor and chair of the MIS program at Franklin University. Reach him at watsonb@franklin.edu.