Success in today's business world depends on being well connected in two distinct senses. On the one hand, it is important to have an extensive network of personal contacts and strong relationships; on the other, every company needs advanced IT systems and tailor-made applications to link it to suppliers, business partners and customers.
Noting this, the Department of Information and Systems Management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's School of Business and Management is offering a master's degree in information systems management (MScISM). Besides covering key technical concepts, the course also equips students with the management skills needed to provide IT business solutions.
"It combines the management of technology with the essence of information systems (IS) technology," says programme coordinator Theodore Clark. "For those without a technical degree, it gives them the knowledge essential for the management of IS technology and staff. For those who have a background in IT, it gives them new skills and insights, particularly in project management," he says.
The programme is offered on a part-time basis and can be completed in anywhere between 16 months and five years, with classes held mainly on Saturdays.
The curriculum includes core courses and electives. There are also some required courses specially designed for students with only limited experience in information systems, computer science or engineering. Among the main subjects covered are the management of information systems, e-commerce, relevant policies and regulations, and marketing. Where appropriate, some of these courses are run by other departments within the business school.
"We are seeing increased demand for professionals who can play a liaison role between the technical world and other areas of business," Professor Clark says. At present, around half of those taking the course are from non-technical backgrounds, coming from fields such as accounting, finance, marketing, telecommunications and the government. Over 35 per cent of them have at least 10 years' work experience before enrolling, meaning the programme is also a forum for aspiring leaders to interact and learn from each other."
According to Professor Clark, there can be occasions when non-technical students find it difficult to get the message across to information systems professionals and vice versa. Such "miscommunication", though, is soon overcome as the course progresses.
"Students learn the vocabulary of systems management, so they can liaise better and manage the technical environment more effectively," Professor Clark adds. "The programme helps managers get to the next level in their careers."