The MSIM Curriculum Part Two: Data and Project Management

June 06, 2012

Companies are increasingly looking for the depth of expertise that students acquire in specialty masters programs like the Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM). The W. P. Carey School’s Department of Information Systems offers students their choice of two delivery platforms for this degree: the 12-month on-site program at ASU’s Tempe campus or 16-month online program. This is Part 2 of KnowIT’s tour, outlining what students learn by visiting each class. Part 1  explored the first two courses in the curriculum: Strategic Value of Information Technology and Business Process Management. For this story we interviewed professors Robert St. Louis and Haluk Demirkan about what students learn about data and databases, IT services and project management.

Course 3: Data and Information Management

Professor Robert St. Louis paraphrases Will Rogers this way: it’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble – it’s what you know that just ain’t so.

That’s increasingly true today. Making the best decision has always been critical to success, and good decisions are based on evidence. That means using data, but what kind of data? One problem decision makers face is quality: bad data is worse than no data at all, says St. Louis.

“Data and Information Management” – also known as CIS 506 – teaches students how to build databases and the importance of data integrity. Companies are now gathering huge volumes of data about transactions – data that can be used to guide the strategy of the company. “In the first part of the course we cover data accuracy – what can you do to be sure that the data is right,” St. Louis said. Students learn about master data management, one version of the truth and normalization – how to screen so bad data never gets in. “It’s a case of pay now or pay twice as much later,” St. Louis added.

Then there’s the issue of quantity: too much data poses a drowning risk.

Collecting and storing good data isn’t enough, St. Louis said. It must be available to users, otherwise, the IT department can become a bottleneck. How can a decision maker sort out what’s important and what’s not important in his company’s well of data? Dimensional modeling provides filters to separate the relevant from the irrelevant, and it gives users self-service access to the information when they need it.

But knowing what question to ask is important, too. Enterprise Performance Management links data to company strategy. Here students learn about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and what information is needed to support them. Students learn to use data visualization and vigilant information systems, which alert the decision makers if they get off track.

Finally, students learn how to use data to provide a look forward for their companies.

The threads come together as students analyze cases from business. Topics covered include:

  • How to make sure your data is high quality
  • How to provide for data privacy
  • How to prevent data warehousing failures

Course 4: IT Services and Project Management

A quick look around almost any company will uncover examples of the evolution of IT as a service rather than a product. This new orientation has IT departments managing service-oriented technology, cloud computing and Web 3.0 for their companies. Meeting the needs of these internal customers requires project management. But the statistics on failed project management are dire, and IT projects account for a large portion of the money and productivity lost.

“Many information technology/system projects tend to go over budget, not be on time and don't meet the end user's needs,” says Professor Haluk Demirkan. “This leads to customer dissatisfaction. Most often the root cause of these troubled projects can be traced to simply not following sound project management principles.”

This is the core of the fourth course in the MSIM: CIS 591 -- IT Services and Project Management.

“The primary goal of this course is to prepare you to effectively define and manage IT projects and services in organizations regardless of the industry and the position you work in,” Demirkan explains in the syllabus. “The course also discusses the added complexity introduced by globalization and virtualization of IT services and projects. The main objectives are to review the fundamentals and to offer practical solutions for some of the challenges.”

Students begin by learning how to link company strategy to IT and IT-enabled strategies. Then they are introduced to IT product development and service delivery processes. They see how the application of sound management principles can yield on-budget and on-time projects that meet the end user’s needs for high quality of service.

The class takes students through project management, starting with the initial idea phase. Students then learn project planning, execution, monitoring and control and closing phases. Students get to see project management at work in a variety of industry environments, such as information systems, accounting, marketing, operations, manufacturing, supply chain management, healthcare, design, art, engineering, education, legal, and more. They also study the strategic context for projects.

“In today’s competitive and complex business environment, the ability to 'do the right work' and “do the work right” defines who becomes successful and who does not," Demirkan says. "Implementing the right IT services the right way with fundamental project management skills is very important for organizations’ success.”

The MSIM Curriculum Part One: Preparing Students for the Line-of-Business Ladder

The MSIM Curriculum Part Three: Business Intelligence and Security