Boise State on Business by Kit Scott: IT management training focuses on solving problems

KIT SCOTT, assistant professor of information technology management, College of Business and Economics at Boise State UniversityAugust 13, 2013 

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Kit Scott

There is a supply and demand problem in the market for information technology professionals in the Treasure Valley. In the 30 days prior to July 31, the Career Builder website listed 121 jobs in the information-technology category in Boise. Why so many listings? Part of the problem is a lack of supply. Our area lacks both incoming undergraduate IT students and qualified graduates/applicants for these technology jobs.

Over the past several years, the information technology management and computer science departments at Boise State University have each averaged less than 25 graduates per year. The demand for technology professionals is like an empty swimming pool and our supply of qualified professionals is trickling through a garden hose when a fire hose is needed to fill the pool.

In the information technology management department at Boise State’s College of Business and Economics, we have identified a variety of reasons that incoming undergraduates decide not to pursue IT management as a major. One common reason is that they don’t know what the ITM degree is, or what information technology professionals do. They understand that it has something to do with computers, but a common misperception is that all information technology careers involve sitting in a drab cubicle and writing programming code all day.

Certainly, some of our graduates do take jobs as programmers, but former graduates from the ITM department have taken jobs with titles such as information systems technician, systems analyst, business analyst, network administrator, web developer and financial reporting analyst, to name a few.

Our graduates can achieve such diverse employment because our program takes the approach that the information technology domain of knowledge and skills is a range from highly technical to highly managerial, all of which empower our graduates to serve as problem-solvers. At the technical end of the range are topics such as application programming and telecommunication networks. At the managerial end are topics such as project management. In between are topics such as systems analysis and database management, which require a mix of technical and managerial knowledge and skills that help the information technology professional align technology to strategic organizational goals.

Our purpose in conceptualizing the information technology management domain this way is that we know our graduates’ problem-solving skills will be put to the test when they enter the workplace. Some problems they encounter will be technical, such as providing business intelligence for decision-making. Managerial problems that an IT professional might need to solve include things like redesigning a business process to take advantage of new efficiencies, new technologies, and/or new personnel. Ultimately, IT professionals need to be able to solve business problems, and because technology is ubiquitous, the other business disciplines — management, marketing, accounting, finance, and supply chain management — are all closely tied to the domain of information technology management.

The shortage of information technology professionals in the Treasure Valley serves to drive up salaries to attract and retain qualified people. As the price goes up, will companies find it more cost effective to relocate to areas with better supplies of IT professionals? If we want to attract and retain companies in Idaho that operate in technology fields, then increasing awareness of the ITM degree among potential students can only help increase the supply of qualified IT professionals here, with the end product being stronger economic conditions in Idaho.

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kitscott@boisestate.edu

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