Everything Changes

In 1903, Wilbur Wright successfully flew the world’s first airplane for less than one minute and, in the process, everything changed. Neil Armstrong would walk on the moon only 66 years later. In 1953, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins, and Francis Crick won the Nobel Prize by exploiting biophysicist Rosalind Franklin’s work in co-discovering the double helix DNA structure, and everything changed once more. Medicine was changed so drastically by this discovery that some diseases were eradicated altogether. On January 2016, a private company successfully launched the SpaceX Falcon 9 to deliver the Jason-3 Earth observation satellite into space. A Virgin Galactic rocket plane blasted to the edge of space in late 2018, capping off years of difficult testing to become the first US commercial human flight to reach space since America’s shuttle program ended. And now, rocket boosters are reusable after landing on a craft out in the ocean. What’s next, an electric airliner? If that happens, everything will change again.

Falcon 9 first stage after landing on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Will we be able to access a live feed of the Earth from the internet instead of still photos of blurry neighborhoods? The answer is yes. Live satellite cameras fed directly to Google will replace satellites taking pictures from space, and everything will change. Will parents be able to locate their children with Google? Will the police be able to track criminal activity on Google Live? Will a program like Google Live profoundly affect our concept of privacy? If law enforcement can see you speeding from cameras in outer space, will traffic cameras become a thing of the past? The answer to all of these questions is yes.

The next question is, “When will all of these potentially world-changing ideas come to fruition?” The answer is sooner than you think. Technology, inventions, concepts, and knowledge are advancing so fast that it often seems like an indistinguishable blur. So, how fast is “fast?” No one knows for sure, but the consequences of not knowing are dire, especially in business. Paradigms shift so quickly that it’s difficult to decide what technological concepts are real, what will last, and what will happen next.

Let’s look at the term paradigm shift. The definition of a paradigm shift is “a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions about a process or way of thinking about or doing something.” Advances in information systems have caused many paradigm shifts over the last few decades. Examples of paradigm shifts are the internet and the way business is conducted, cell phones and the way people communicate, and scanning documents and sending them via email replacing the fax machine.

Remember the Apple iPod?

As a business, were you ready for that paradigm shift? Did it occur to you that MP3 players would lose ground, or do you have a glut of MP3 inventory in your back room that you’re now forced to put on sale? Consider one of the primary business tools: the personal computer (PC). In 1988, a single state-of-the-art PC cost $14,000. Today, $14,000 can buy twenty-five business-ready personal computers that are exponentially faster and more powerful. In fact, one of today’s PCs has more computing power than all the computers on the Lunar Lander in 1969. Will PC prices and capabilities change as radically in the future? The answer is yes. Making decisions about an always changing, ever-moving technology now starts to seem unfeasible.

Time to make a critical business decision: What is the correct smartphone for your employees? Imagine that you’re the chief information officer (CIO) for a medium-sized pharmaceutical company. You need to purchase 1,250 smartphones for your representatives in the field. If you choose the wrong smartphone, and your competitor chooses appropriately, they win and you lose. Doing your best in business is an assumption, and doing it right is an expectation. When it comes to technology and the incredible speed of its advancement, business decisions are as critical as they are difficult, and this is one decision you cannot afford to get wrong. However, there are ways to make sound, tactical, and strategic decisions regarding technology. This is based on a framework that outlines the major areas of information systems knowledge needed by business professionals.

Executive Framework

This framework consists of five specific areas that business executives need to be skilled in to make sound technology decisions. The five areas are as follows:

  • Foundation Concepts: the fundamental behavioral, technical, business, and management concepts about the components and roles of information systems.

  • Information Technologies: the management issues in understanding the technology, consisting of hardware, software, database management, networking, and systems development

  • Business Applications: a strong knowledge of how to use information systems for business operations, management, and competitive processes.

  • Development Processes: the use of information technology and information specialists to develop information systems to be competitive and meet business opportunities.

  • Management Challenges: the ethical management of information and the use of technology, not only at the employee level, but at the department and overall business level.

As you can see, there are multiple facets of the business that must be taken into consideration to make intelligent information technology decisions. We will explore each of those within this course.