IT Strategy Plan

Department of Management Information Systems
Jon M. Huntsman School of Business
Utah State University

Section A – Center for Ecommerce and Business Analytics
4/27/2011

Jason Baddley
Anie Aghababyan
Ravi Kannan
Dewey Denning
Corey McBride

   

LETTER FROM THE CEBA PROGRAM MANAGER

I would like to thank all those who participated in this first draft. It was completed as part of a final assignment for our IT Strategy class in the spring of 2011. It is a very rough draft but I think it is a good start. The problems with this first draft will be obvious in a cursory reading, but some specifics are noted here:

  1. Several voices. This was a team assignment which we split into 6 areas for each of us to cover. All though each of us did a fairly decent job, the style and voice of each of us is different enough to be distracting, especially in cases where we change perspectives. The next draft needs to address by identifying what this document is to represent. For example, are we declaring what CEBA seeks to be will wording such as “CEBA will . . .”? Or are we stating where we currently are and where we would like to be? Before writing the next draft we need to understand the reason we are writing this document. Some sections read as if we are merely stating what good IT is. So are we defining general IT principles to live by? I think it would be best to consider this document a working document that allows us to state where we are and present goals for where we are going. Had we had more insight and additional time we might have collectively aligned our perspectives around that ideal.
  2. Artificially used the Gartner Template. As part of the IT Strategy course we were able to take advantage of an incredible resource by using the Gartner CIO handbook. It was extremely helpful in writing this strategy plan. The main problem is we used its IT strategy plan template without identifying if each section applied to CEBA itself. We also struggled in translating some of the areas into what CEBA needs. This was helpful for understanding the basics of an IT strategy plan, but makes this document needlessly verbose. The next draft will need to rip out areas where there is no relevance to the CEBA organization.
  3. Identity. We struggled with identifying for what organization we were actually writing this document for. Is CEBA an IT organization within the MIS department? If so, we must write the IT strategy plan according to the parent company. If not, is CEBA an organization unto itself? If that is the case then we need to write this strategy plan specifically for CEBA.
  4. Does CEBA really need a strategy plan? Does it have enough strategic pull on decision makers to warrant such a plan? We ultimately don’t know if CEBA will utilize this plan in the future, but we do know that there needs to be some foundational documentation to allow us to look at where we are and where we want to be. We will call it an IT strategy plan with some understanding that it will be a stripped down version because not all sections apply to CEBA.
  5. Misplacement and Redundancy. One of the problems with a team project like this is that the main way I communicated to the team about what CEBA is all about was by sending everyone a copy of a brainstorming document I wrote in January as a way to understand what CEBA is myself. The problem with doing so is that, unbeknownst to anyone (and without fault of anyone), some of the material of that early document show up at some interesting places throughout this plan. Sometimes even multiple times throughout. Had we organized ourselves a little better we might have made time to look at that document together and identify parts that might fit and where to put them. Second draft needs to make sure each section is specifically speaking about itself and not diving into other territories.

Although this draft is rough and needs a clear re-write, it does identify some clear objectives for CEBA to strive to meet. It also gets us thinking strategically, while admittedly we have yet to completely think functionally. It will be my responsibility for the next year to set a precedent for clearly identifying where we need to take the organization. This document does nothing for us if we don’t read it and change it. It will only be useful when it role of mapping out a clear path toward operational and strategic success. We have one year to get it there so that the foundation can be more clearly established and a smooth transition can be assumed by the next program manager of CEBA.

Jason Baddley

IT STRATEGY PLAN – MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS (MIS)

Section A: Center for Ecommerce and Business Analytics (CEBA)

   

1. Executive Summary

Center for E-Commerce and Business Analytics (CEBA) seeks to become advanced, student-run laboratory for researching and utilizing information systems. The main goal is to build applications and conduct research to support Jon M. Huntsman School of Business and their stakeholders.

CEBA is considered a non-profit organization within the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department of the Hon. M. Huntsman School of Business.

It will be funded through MIS Department’s allocated funds, beneficiary fees and donations or/and grants. Hence, financially the center is guaranteed to have success.

CEBA’s advantage of its liaison with the department is in its marketing support from the faculty, business school and associated profession clubs such as AIS set aside its own business connections with the current and potential clients.

Center’s primary mission is to recruit most prominent students in key area of management information systems and related fields to prepare them to immediately step into highly competitive careers as information systems managers with experience and skills above those of their peers.

Center’s strength is in initial contacts/clients and financial support provided from MIS Department.

Being a non-profit organization lifts up the heavy burden of competition.

In fact, being founded in a student town within a respectful Business College, facilitates the word spreading for the Center and busts its reputation.

2. DEMAND

2.1 The value proposition (what value we provide to which customers and markets).

We provide a unique experience for both students and stakeholders. Students have the opportunity to get real hands on experience with project management, systems development, analysis, and programming. Stakeholders get a quality product while allowing students to grow and develop their IT leadership skills.

We are the premiere student run IT development organization at Utah State University.

CEBA is considered a nonprofit organization within the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Spending of funds is authorized by the MIS Department Head. It is funded through the following ways: (1) Department allocated funds. (2) Beneficiary Fees. (3) Donations and Grants.

Department Allocated Funds:

As a State funded organization, the MIS department allocates resources to accomplish its specific mission.

MIS Mission Statement:

Our mission is to provide for the success of the college, university, and community through exemplary teaching, research, and service by:

  • Offering interrelated undergraduate and graduate degrees of national and international distinction in management information systems.
  • Recruiting high-quality students from diverse backgrounds with strong potential for program completion.
  • Providing student-friendly instruction.
  • Incorporating state-of-the-art technologies into course subject matter and teaching methods.
  • Creating new knowledge through basic and applied research.
  • Promoting the college, university, and State of Utah through service in university committees, national professional organizations, civic groups, and local and national businesses.
  • Capitalizing on research projects through entrepreneurial efforts and consulting opportunities.
  • CEBA seeks to help the MIS department accomplish two parts of this mission statement:
  • Creating new knowledge through basic and applied research
  • Capitalizing on research projects through entrepreneurial efforts and consulting opportunities.
  • CEBA acts as a type of applied research arm of the MIS department. Applied research refers to investigating new technologies and methods for improved information systems for stakeholders and has nothing to do with academic research. As such, the department allocates funding to allow CEBA to operate and accomplish its internal mission.

CEBA is supported by the MIS department. MIS faculty and the department head primarily make the decisions for the organization. However, they have delegated much of the responsibility of day-to-day decisions to graduate students in charge of the program. The program manager must request additional resources from the department. Decisions for granting additional resources will be made by the MIS Department Head.

2.2 Business Success

CEBA seeks to become a world-class, student run, laboratory for researching and utilizing current information systems tools, techniques, and technologies in order to build professional business applications for Utah State University, the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, and their stakeholders. CEBA intends to recruit the most promising students in key areas of management information systems and related fields to prepare them to immediately step into highly competitive careers as information systems managers with experience and skills above those of their peers.

As CEBA becomes more known, it will be an excellent tool for the MIS department to use in recruiting strategies, which will result in more success for CEBA and for the MIS program in general. Business success for CEBA is not measured by money but by experience and knowledge that students gain by actively engaging in real world projects. Because the organization is mainly focused on helping students achieve superior skills in IT, the program will be successful so long as it maintains great leadership.

2.3 Business Capabilities

CEBA’s business capabilities have to do with our vision statement, “Bleeding edge technology,” which is essentially one step above cutting edge technology.

By providing a professional project development atmosphere the program recruiters can highlight CEBA on recruiting trips, campus tours and on the program website. More qualified students will become interested in the program and more will attend, increasing the value of education in the MIS department.

3. CONTROL

3.1 IT Principles

Our goal is to have our IT Principles guide every decision in which will contribute to business success in CEBA. With this in mind we have developed the following Principles with three objectives in mind. First, making sure each principle is clearly connected to business success. Second, making sure each principal is specific with our organization, and third, making each principle detailed enough to drive decisions, behaviors, and trade-offs.

Our IT Principles for CEBA are as follows:

IT Roles- MIS Department will drive the IT strategy and IT will strive to allocate resources appropriately where beneficial to the Department and to the stake holders as a whole. IT Excellence- Recruiting, Research, and Building up Students to be more competitive in the job market require IT to meet the highest standards of excellence. IT Staff and Skills- Recruiting students of high quality, diverse backgrounds, and that have strong Potential with the skills needed for current and future positions. Support - Providing a responsive IT that builds and enhances the students learning and creativity. Integration and Agility- IT will need to be agile to meet the needs of the stakeholders and the MIS Department. To be able to grow and integrate systems as needed. Security and Reliability- IT infrastructure will be stable, safe, and secure. Ease of Use- IT technologies will be integrated and easy to use.

The following chart is a graphical depiction of CEBA’s IT Principles.

3.2 Governance

CEBA realizes the importance of Governance in its day-to-day decision making process. Governance according to Gartner is, “the assignment o decision rights and the accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the use of IT.” In other words, governance ensures that the strategic direction is used to direct every decision. There are three main objectives that governance should cover, which are- First, the main domains of IT decision making. Second, the mechanisms and stakeholders used for each domain, and third, the tools used to support governance.

Following this process we have defined CEBA’s main types of decision, decided who will have input, who will make the decision, what tools and mechanisms will be used, and who will communicate and enforce the decision.

The types of decision would include- IT Principles, Strategy, Operations, Assistantship/Internship, Staff/Skills Needed, and Financial. We believe that between these six the majority of our decisions can be governed by this process. We have also defined the major players within CEBA which are: Team Members, Project Managers, Program Managers, CEBA Advisor, AIS President, Advisory Committee, and the MIS Department.

The following chart is a graphical depiction of CEBA’s IT Governance.

3.3 IT Financial Management

The current situation for CEBA’s financial management is incomplete. The MIS department head handles all financial issues as discussed, but there are not formal procedures for requesting resources or for telling students what they can expect if given an assistantship as far as compensation. We currently have each student meet with the department head to discuss those matters.

Although this works, we feel it is less-effective. The procedure for procuring resources and hiring students needs to be more deliberate, organized and documented. In the next year it is our goal to have a system in place in order to more effectively handle these financial issues.

3.4 IT Metrics – Ravi

With all the control measures in place, it is essential to monitor them to ensure success. We need metrics to track progress of these measures. IT metrics gives us an effective tool to track this and lets us determine how close we are to achieve our strategic goals. Some IT metrics to be used in our department is listed below.

Service Availability: When providing software as a service, it is important to track the service availability. This indicates the need to upgrade/downgrade the existing infrastructure. This is to ensure that there are no service discrepancies at reasonable costs and making sure the service is available to the users.

Defects per Software Release: By tracking defects per software release we can track the quality of the product. Being a software organization, this is an important lead-lag indicator as it provides a way to measure the quality of the output. By constantly tracking and improving the metric quality of the deliverable can be increased.

Students Job Percentage: One of the strategic goals of the organization is to provide real world training to the students so that they can get jobs easily. By tracking the number of students trained in CEBA, we are able to determine that the objective is being completed. It can also be used to make changes to the training program as required if any discrepancies arise.

Customer Satisfaction: This is one of the important measures for the organization. Higher customer satisfaction means CEBA is doing a good job. By using this as a lead-lag indicator, necessary changes can be made to boost the metric.

4. SUPPLY

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4.1 IT Services and Processes

Services

Current Technologies Used:
Server Side Scripting Framework/Language: ASP.Net in C#
Database: MS SQL Server 2008
Web Standards: JavaScript, XML, XHTL 1.0/HTML 4.1, CSS 2.1
Client Side Libraries: JQuery

We mention these technologies to indicate where we are so that we can show the reasons for adopting other languages in the future and why doing so is advantageous. ASP.Net, C# and MS SQL Server where chosen because they the technologies taught by many of our faculty members. These technologies are also available for free through the Microsoft Academic Alliance. We are also finding some success finding students (through our own recruiting efforts or by sheer luck) who have advanced experience in these technologies, which is a huge advantage while CEBA is building its foundation.

The disadvantage of these particular languages is that many stakeholders would rather not go through the increased expense of perhaps changing servers or installing these technologies, which can be much more expensive than many of the open source technologies available. This means that CEBA can only work with stakeholders who are comfortable with these technologies. For some stakeholders, CEBA will provide software as a service which will negate this disadvantage as CEBA will host the application for the stakeholder. There is also a disadvantage for students who would rather learn other technologies taught at USU. For these and other reasons we are looking into including other technologies into our capabilities.

Near Future Technologies:

Server Side Framework/Language/CMS: CAKE PHP, Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal (others are still being looked at for feasibility)
Database: MySQL
Web Standards: HTML 5, CSS 3 (students will learn these languages but not deploy them in live applications until these standards are more generally accepted, when IE 9 is widely adopted)

PHP is currently being taught at USU with some success. We are not currently working with the PHP professor in order to align goals and objectives and recruit students into the CEBA program. This is something we would very much be interested in pursuing. In order for CEBA to use PHP students we would have to have stakeholders with a need for PHP based applications. This makes it difficult to build up a PHP program without stakeholder interest. Our initial plan is to name CEBA itself as the primary PHP stakeholder. We would recruit students with PHP knowledge to help build internal tools for CEBA. CEBA currently uses Wordpress as its blog engine. PHP students would help build and maintain the blog and CEBA’s website.

4.2 Enterprise Architecture

The MIS enterprise architecture (EA) is built securely on the architecture on its parent organization, the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. It utilizes the same IT resources provided by the University’s central IT department. This includes all networking into the USU backbone, email services, web hosting, and all other common IT services provided by central IT. MIS will continue to support the use of these resources for most of its IT functions. The purpose of this document is not concerned with these IT services, but rather specific internal IT functions that were designed for the unique mission of the department of MIS. In order for MIS to fulfill certain key parts of its mission, namely: to recruit high-quality students, create new knowledge, and capitalize on entrepreneurial and consulting efforts, the Center for Ecommerce and Business Analytics (CEBA) was created as part of its architecture. CEBA is currently in its infancy and has much to do in order to realize its potential and fulfill its role within the MIS department.

The following is CEBA’s current architecture:

Business Processes

CEBA’s organization is managed primarily by students with MIS faculty serving as advisors and financial overseers. The CEBA Program Manager (PM) has primary managerial responsibility. Most day-to-day decisions are made by the PM. The CEBA advisor functions as a liaison to the MIS department and also serves as a mentor, coach and subject matter expert to the CEBA student team. The PM handles day-to-day operation and management of CEBA. Project managers report to the PM. All financial decisions are made by the MIS Department Head. This includes final authorization for granting CEBA internships and assistantships.

Strategic planning and development for CEBA is the responsibility of the MIS department faculty, led by the MIS Department Head and the CEBA advisor. The PM is involved in the process for training and development as well as having stake in the end results. After adding some input the PM is tasked with implementing the strategy and reporting regularly to the CEBA advisor.

There are currently no processes for tracking assistantship time on projects. Collecting this data can be helpful in a number of ways. First, it provides a way to help students track their required hours and report them more accurately. This will allow CEBA to identify more quickly when students are either under or over-working and to address the issues early. It also allows data to be collectively about how long projects actually take. This will allow us to project much more accurately haw many students are needed to accomplish projects.

There are currently no processes in place for working with stakeholders in a deliberate, controlled way. The Shingo Institute team has been able to create very documentation and their work will be very helpful in moving forward. We need to create processes for the following areas:

  • Determining project requirements
  • Service level agreements
  • Assigning teams to work on specific projects
  • Project lifecycle
  • Resource allocation for specific projects (additional server space or specific software)

Physical Architecture

The CEBA team works from a 10 X 10 room with one client computer and one server. It is sufficient for about 4 people working at a time. The CEBA class works from one of the teaching labs. It is sufficient for about 30 students and will be sufficient for CEBA’s needs long into the future. The problem with where we currently meet is that it is specifically intended for CEBA’s use. In fact, it can be used by anyone and a place to work on any project. Although they will not have access to the server, this situation is not ideal. CEBA needs a more permanent place to work from. The CEBA advisor and the MIS Department Head are currently looking at utilizing a back room of the basement in the Eccles Business building as a place for CEBA to operate. If this room can be utilized it will be able to serve up to eight development computers and a server rack. The cost of ventilation is slowing the progress of acquiring the permission needed to start renovations work.

4.3 People

In just the same way a business requires a marketing or information technology strategy, it also requires a human resource or people management strategy.

The main problem for the organization in developing this strategy is the development and implementation of an organization-wide approach to human recourse management, and people-oriented performance.

Human capital is the right set/combination of competencies, knowledge and personality attributes that provide the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value.

Workforce planning is one of the most important processes for the organization and the IT department since it guarantees the successful performance of the organization based on well-structured team guided by a leader.

Organizational structure:

Currently this is how CEBA’s organizational chart looks like:

Human capital management:In our definition people management and human recourse management is an important process of creating a healthy work environment that will enable people to perform to the best of their abilities and for the best interests of the Center. People-oriented performance management embraces practices that help develop and implement planning, training and instruction, empowering, assessment, recognition and appraisal of employees which converts actual results into desired results.

Program manager must be the leaders inside the CEBA. He must define what jobs need to be done, what tools are needed, and how they should be completed. This includes decisions like funding utilization, work group selection, which processes, competencies and technologies should be put in use etc. However, he has to be capable of delegating responsibilities and trusting project managers and team members in successful completion of their tasks.

Simultaneously, he must maintain high morale, which is the key to high productivity and retention. IT organization should be built around its people and for its people.

Skills:

CEBA’s objective is to prepare MIS students for future real world projects and to step into highly competitive careers. Therefore, constantly updated technical skills are the primary concern of the Center. However, beyond these job-specific technical skills, certain general skills are nearly universally sought by employers and CEBA is not an exception. The following is a basic list of skills that are encouraged and appreciated at the Center:

  • Critical thinking – since the Center is composed of mainly student workers, the projects require close attention and fast response to critical needs.
  • Decision-making freedom
  • Agile, change adaptable
  • Personal initiative, encouraging resourcefulness
  • Expertise
  • Self-learning
  • Trust and confidence in peers
  • Collaboration and teamwork: through virtual, ad hoc and face-to-face interaction
  • Soft skill set along with technical knowledge

Organizational Culture:

The culture of CEBA is defined as the combination of values, norms, diverse backgrounds and experiences as well as management style that are present or are being practiced within the Center. As part of our people management, we develop and reinforce the following values:

  • Acceptance and appreciation for diversity
  • Respect for others: both clients and peers
  • Honesty and fairness
  • Open communication, cooperation and understanding
  • Customer service
  • Economy and efficiency
  • Excellence, innovation and leadership
  • Recognition of skills and commitment of others
  • High employee motivation and loyalty

4.4 Sourcing

CEBA is considered a nonprofit organization within the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Spending of funds is authorized by the MIS department head. It is funded through the following ways:

  1. Department allocated funds
  2. Beneficiary Fees
  3. Donations and Grants

Department Allocated Funds:

The current funding for all CEBA assistantships is paid through the MIS department.

Beneficiary Fees:

It is projected that department funding will not be enough to sustain CEBA’s operation and promote its growth. Because of this, beneficiaries’ of CEBA’s services will be asked to pay certain fees. These fees will be assessed based on a case-by-case basis and be negotiated with the stakeholder by the MIS department head. The fees may include paying for one of more student internship or assistantship or a flat/percentage based fee for ongoing services, including development and maintenance of information systems provided to the beneficiary. This source of funding will most-likely not pay directly for the services rendered, but will allow the MIS department to allocate funding to CEBA in order to not only sustain operations but grow the organization.

Donations and Grants:

As CEBA grows and builds relationships with a variety of beneficiaries, there is hope that past beneficiaries and CEBA alumnus’s will want to make donations and provide grants for CEBA to continue to grow and develop. The solicitation of these donations and grants will be considered a higher priority in coming years as the program gains a successful reputation.

5. RISKS AND ISSUES

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Failure percentage: realistically it is not possible to avoid failure. However it is critical to reduce the percentage of it and make sure every projects has an appropriate follow up and conclusion even if not satisfactory. Center’s reputation is dependent on teams reputation and hence it is vital to make sure that every client gets an appropriate attention and project resolution.

Credibility from the stakeholder’s part: This refers to the fact that the research and the work is being done by students.

MIS Department’s reputation: CEBA is the IT Center for MIS department. Hence, for its actions it is accountable to both the MIS Department as well as to its internal management.

Financial difficulties: CEBA is a non-profit organization that is financially dependent on MIS Department’s allocations such as grants, research assistantships etc.

Internal/organizational structure: even though CEBA is under MIS Department’s organizational structure, it still requires internal organizational chart and management team.

Client/data privacy, work ethics: while working with outside companies or inside clients, CEBA will be handling private or restricted information. Hence, ethical workplace is encouraged and required at the Center. It will guarantee trust and confidence in Center’s work and credibility.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths Weakness
  • Access to state-of-the-art equipment
  • Outstanding academic and professional staff as advisors
  • Large student pool for recruiting
  • Large network of students in other disciplines to draw from for project completion (graphic arts, computer science, business, marketing)
  • Wide-open opportunity to build CEBA from the ground up utilizing best-practices learned from MIS courses
  • Low technical ability of students
  • Very limited budget
  • CEBA has very limited voice in larger organization
  • Training is slow due to semester-based class system (versus self-study or self-paced certification)
  • Curriculum teaches syntax and tools verses principles and methodologies (that allow for broader ability to learn other languages and tools)
  • MIS staff are inconsistent in their approach to teaching technological material
  • Large student turn-over makes it difficult to find continuity for extended projects
Opportunities Threats
  • MIS staff are constantly looking for ways to build the department (building MIS may allow CEBA to grow)
  • The Association of Information Systems (AIS) USU chapter has aggressive recruiting campaigns that can help promote CEBA
  • USU’s IT Department is growing fast and can be integral in helping CEBA become a capable student-based software development center by coordinating with them on projects
  • USU IT Department might look at CEBA as a threat to its goal of centralization
  • Budget of department may not be able to support CEBA without revenue generated by CEBA
  • Recruited students may not be up to the standard the CEBA requires to sustain itself