Windows Phone 7 for MIS Programs – A Chance to Build Inter-departmental Synergies

Over the past week or so, I have been very interested in leveraging the new Windows Phone 7 platform in MIS courses.  In prior posts, I have made my case as to why it is an incredible opportunity for IS programs and shared my initial vision for a phone curriculum.  I would like to focus in on one of the courses in the initial curriculum that I envision and share with you some thoughts on how it (as well as other courses in the curriculum) can build synergistic relationships between MIS programs and other departments on campus.

Much of my argument for why my curriculum made sense was that it was very open in who can take the courses because the technologies that are taught in the curriculum are utilized by different platforms.  Take the XNA Framework, for example.  This framework is leveraged in the mobile platform, for game development on the XBox 360, and also for DirectX games.  This means that with a single course, you can attract students from MIS programs,  CS/IT programs, and even possibly from some digital media programs!  The students will benefit by interacting with students from other programs and sharing each program’s unique perspective on technology.

This brings me to the course that I want to discuss today: Technology Commercialization.  In my prior post, I think I called it “digital entrepreneurship” or something to that effect.  The name change was a result of a  discussion with a colleague of mine  in the Management department at my university.  I pitched the idea of the Windows Phone 7 curriculum and why it made sense for us to consider adding it to our program.   I also told him about my idea for the digital entrepreneurship course,this is when he suggested that naming the course technology commercialization would be more appropriate because by the time the students reached this course, they would already have a product in hand.

He also commented on the types of material that could be covered in such a course.  Yes, there was the standard information on how to market the product that you would expect from a course like this, but he also suggested covering such items as licensing and patents.

This really got my attention!  These are items that not generally covered in most MIS program curricula, and if they are the coverage is cursory at best.  I would also go out on a limb to think that the coverage on these topics is even less present in IT and CS programs.  Yet all students will need to deal with issues such as licensing when they get out into the workplace.  When I took my first position as an IT manager for the state government, I knew that we had to have a license for software.  What I didn’t know was how many types of licenses there were or the benefits/restrictions of each type.

This is what I mean by synergistic relationships.  By reaching out to another discipline (in this case Management and Entrepreneurship), we can fill a gap in our student’s knowledge on the software development process from beginning to end. If we teach our students how to build a software application, we are only getting the job part way done.  Our students need to have some idea what happens after the final build of the software has happened.  It really gets back to the old silo vs. process perspective.  If we exist in a silo and only know our job, then we will do our job well, but we may be dragging down the performance of the entire process because we don’t take into consideration what happens to the product after our part of the job is complete.  By reaching out to others in your university, you can create synergistic relationships that will ultimately benefit your students.

However, this is sometimes difficult.  Sometimes we get so blinded by technology that we forget that there are a lot of other things that students need to know in order to be successful.  Just take a look at all of the dot com startups that failed.  They had tremendous technical knowledge, but possessed little competency in the other areas that were needed to make them successful as a team such as business and customer service skills.  This is why I chose to be an IS professor rather than a CS or IT professor.  I love technology, sure, but I am equally entranced by the other elements that interact with the technology to make it work.

There are also political issues that may inhibit the creation of these synergies that may need to be worked through.  Remember that enrollments equal revenue to academic programs, and some people don’t want to share revenues even if it means that they will have the opportunity to gain even higher enrollments in the future.  For these issues, I have no easy way to handle them.  Political issues are difficult by nature because of the varied nature of the issues and the players involved.

Regardless of the barriers that may be in place, I would encourage those of you that read this to seek these opportunities to create synergistic relationships with other disciplines.  You students will only benefit from it.

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