Demand for Information System Managers

Ten years ago, I was invited to give a seminar about Information Technology (IT) to the management of a medium-sized company. During the visit, I found that the factory was still using paper report to send information from one group to another. I asked: “If there is a major problem on the manufacturing assembly line then what will happen?” A manager told me: “The worker has to write a report to the supervisor; the supervisor must check the problem then writes a report to the manufacturing manager; the manufacturing manager will contact the engineering department and calls a meeting to report the problem; the engineer will write a report to engineer manager and suggests solution to fix the problem; the engineer manager will write a report to the finance department and ask for a budget to fix the problem; the financial manager will write a report to the vice president of finance to get approval; the vice president approves the budget then writes a report to the president about the problem.” I asked: “How long does it take to reach the decision makers like the vice president? And how long does it take for the president to know about the problem?” The answer was: “On the average, it takes about ten days to two weeks because people need time to write report and the report has to be reviewed before it is send to the next level.” Then I asked: “If it takes two weeks to get the problem fixed then what happen to the workers?” The answer was “They have to wait until the problem is fixed because they cannot work when there is problem with the assembly line.”

At that time, I knew why they had invited me to give a seminar about Information Technology. During the seminar, I discussed this issue and recommended that they use information technology to increase efficiency and improve performance which received positive respond among managers. Last year I visited the same factory again and found that they had been using an information system to manage the factory assembly lines. I asked: “If there is a major problem on the assembly line then what will happen?” This time the answer was: “About an hour, the worker writes a report on the computer, IT system will immediately sends the report to all managers at the same time. They have to make decision quickly on how to solve it and at the same time the vice president of finance will approve the budget and the president is informed.” I asked: “What happen to the workers?” The answer was: “They are relocated immediately to another assembly line or other factory works during the fixing time by a Resources Allocation System controlled automatically by the information management systems.” I was impressed, so after the factory tour, I went to see the senior managers and praised them for their efforts.

The senior manager said: “We are operating in a highly competitive environment. As a medium sized company, we are under constant threat from larger companies and if we do not change quickly, we may be pushed out of business. We recognize the importance of managing our factory processes in ways that ensure that our products come to market quickly, having the highest quality, meet all technical specifications, and at good prices. The key to this is having a good information management strategy as part of our business. Today businesses are faced with a lot of documentation, emails, and other paperworks and by using an automation system that managed by skilled information system managers; we can manage and share information throughout our company.”

The Chief Information Officer explained: “Success involves making long-term plans that are clear and well thought out, rather than just reacting to problems when they arise. In this business, we make a distinction between a reactive company and a proactive one. The proactive company is the one that plans ahead. Unfortunately even today many companies are forced to operate in a reactive way, and particularly in the area of developing an information system. Without managers who are trained in information system management, many failed. The problem is as market changes, companies need to deal with customers in more complex ways and their current information systems need to be updated. Without understand the architectural view or without an IT strategy many just buy expensive equipment and add a lot of hardware but receive no benefits because they do not know how to integrate them into a cohesive system. Some add new components to their existing systems and hope to improve its performance while others buy new servers and more computers then find out that these things are not the solution. Whichever decision they made, it is important to think strategically by understand the architect then design a system that can integrate various compatible components of information systems such as copy machines, printers, computers, servers, mobile devices, video conferencing equipment, etc. into one cohesive system. Many companies have all the equipment but may not be using it effectively because they do not have good information system managers. These technologies that could offer big benefits also could lead to big disasters.”

In today’s global economy, IT is the foundation for doing business and companies of all types are discovering that how they manage IT is crucial to their competitiveness. IT determines whether the company’s operation is efficient, effective and timely; whether employees have all information they need to do their jobs. This means that company owner and senior managers must define how the company will do business in a digital economy. It means they must have a good information system in place that span across all business units. And it means they must resolve issues that business units cannot resolve such as what processes and what data will be standardized companywide. Unfortunately, many company owners and top managers often do not even know where to begin when it comes to managing information technology and they need someone who has this skill. That is why in the past few years, there is high demand for Information System Management (ISM) graduates in every country.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University