The Importance of Information Technology Training from a Management Perspective

Information technology training for IT managers and systems analysts may seem superfluous – these folks are usually well-learned in their areas of expertise. But, do they understand how a company’s technology fits into the bigger picture from a business perspective? That’s where management training becomes important. Every manager who plays a role in researching, selecting or implementing enterprise technology needs to have a firm grasp on the basics of emerging technologies, as well as how they serve a larger business purpose, to ensure that technology is being used to the company’s best strategic advantage.

Stay Current on Revolutionary, Emerging Technology Applications

A program of continual information technology training is crucial to the success of any IT team. Technology is constantly evolving, and it seems that there is a new application released every day that is meant to simplify doing business. This can be overwhelming if you do not stay current on the high-level trends of technology and their corresponding impact on business. With the Web 2.0 revolution in full swing, management training is a useful tool for managers to become familiar with the online trends such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and RSS feeds, as well as how the trends are going to change the ways we view the Internet and communicate with each other. It is estimated that these technologies will have significant business impact in the coming years, and companies everywhere have to consider directly how it affects their business strategies.

Information technology training can help managers determine the impact of new technologies and how to adapt their business processes. Trying to envision how Web 2.0 changes traditional business models is difficult when you have no knowledge of how these new technical applications are being used from a business perspective. First and foremost, managers must take it upon themselves to become proactive by keeping abreast of emerging trends and understanding them not only from a technical standpoint, but evaluating them from a higher-level, strategic standpoint. Management training courses on technology focus specifically on the ways that emerging technologies affect businesses on a high level. This is the type of knowledge needed to make conscious and informed decisions on what aspects of new technologies will affect your organization in the next few years and transition your thoughts into strategic action and implementation.

Collaboration and information sharing, within and outside of enterprises, are two areas that have made huge strides that management training can help your organization harness to improve business strategies. The advent of user-created content sharing has transformed the way that enterprises communicate. Enterprise-class blogs and wikis boost productivity and innovation by enabling ad hoc teams to participate in complex, collaborative problem solving, and then make the results available to the rest of the organization with ease. Information technology training gives managers the high-level information about these technologies that they need to bring them effectively into your organization.

Large companies will often struggle the most with adopting new business strategies based on emerging technologies due to organizational inertia and the lag that comes from changing any integrated system. Not only do the right people need to be convinced of the value of a new application, but the proper infrastructure often needs to be developed or tweaked to implement the technology. This is where the importance of management information technology training to understand the potential impact of technology from a business perspective comes into play.

Management Training for Appropriate Technology Selection and Recommendation

Management training courses typically deal with logistics and personnel management but fail to guide managers when it comes to making decisions about technology. As a manager in today’s world, what really matters isn’t just your ability to lead and maintain technology infrastructure – it’s your ability to deliver positive business outcomes. Cutting IT costs and managing infrastructure are only part of the equation. Technology must also reduce business risk and generate new opportunities and growth. Information technology training can help managers transition their views of technology as an isolated island off the coast of a business and look at it as one working part of the whole machine that is the organization.

Finding a cool application that has all the shiny bells and whistles you dreamed of and recommending implementation based on the technology’s sheer innovation is no longer enough to make a good business case. Before presenting a recommendation, you must understand every step involved with the successful implementation of the technology. A thorough study will need to be conducted to determine what departments, processes and functions will need to be modified in order to benefit from the new technology. Management training courses focusing on information technology gives managers the tools they need to make that determination.

If you are going to make an impact on the decision makers of a business, you have to get on their level. When it comes down to making a decision, for many business people it is all about the numbers. That is why it is essential to participate in information technology training courses that help you perform your due diligence and gather the data you need to compile hard numbers around your recommendation. What is the true return on investment that the company can expect to achieve by implementing the technology? It is much easier to convince an associate of the merits of your idea if you can show a real increase in profit based on proven research instead of attempting to sway them based on opinion only.

Conclusion

Technology is rapidly changing the way that businesses communicate and function every day. It is important for managers to take a proactive role in understanding emerging technology trends and how they may affect a company’s business model by investing in an ongoing program of information technology training for all levels of staff. Management training in particular is essential for ensuring the right technologies are pursued to ensure business success. Viewing technology as a direct influencer on the business as a whole ensures consistent alignment of goals throughout the enterprise.

High Technology and Human Development

Some basic premises – often fashioned by leaders and supported by the led – exercise the collective conscience of the led in so far as they stimulate a willed development. The development is usually superior but not necessarily civilized. The premises in question are of this form: “Our level of technological advancement is second to none. Upon reaching this level, we also have to prepare our society for peace, and to guarantee the peace, technology must be revised to foster the policy of war.” Technological advancement that is pushed in this direction sets a dangerous precedent for other societies that fear a threat to their respective sovereignties. They are pushed to also foster a war technology.

In the domain of civilization, this mode of development is not praiseworthy, nor is it morally justifiable. Since it is not morally justifiable, it is socially irresponsible. An inspection of the premises will reveal that it is the last one that poses a problem. The last premise is the conclusion of two preceding premises but is not in any way logically deduced. What it shows is a passionately deduced conclusion, and being so, it fails to be reckoned as a conclusion from a rationally prepared mind, at least at the time at which it was deduced.

A society that advances according to the above presuppositions – and especially according to the illogical conclusion – has transmitted the psyche of non-negotiable superiority to its people. All along, the power of passion dictates the pace of human conduct. Whether in constructive engagements or willed partnerships, the principle of equality fails to work precisely because of the superiority syndrome that grips the leader and the led. And a different society that refuses to share in the collective sensibilities or passion of such society has, by the expected logic, become a potential or actual enemy and faces confrontation on all possible fronts.

Most of what we learn about the present world, of course, via the media, is dominated by state-of-the-art technology. Societies that have the most of such technology are also, time and again, claimed to be the most advanced. It is not only their advancement that lifts them to the pinnacle of power, superiority, and fame. They can also use technology to simplify and move forward an understanding of life and nature in a different direction, a direction that tends to eliminate, as much as possible, a prior connection between life and nature that was, in many respects, mystical and unsafe. This last point does not necessarily mean that technological advancement is a mark of a superior civilization.

What we need to know is that civilization and technology are not conjugal terms. Civilized people may have an advanced technology or they may not have it. Civilization is not just a matter of science and technology or technical infrastructure, or, again, the marvel of buildings; it also has to do with the moral and mental reflexes of people as well as their level of social connectedness within their own society and beyond. It is from the general behaviour makeup of people that all forms of physical structures could be created, so too the question of science and technology. Thus, the kind of bridges, roads, buildings, heavy machinery, among others, that we can see in a society could tell, in a general way, the behavioural pattern of the people. Behavioural pattern could also tell a lot about the extent to which the natural environment has been utilized for infrastructural activities, science and technology. Above all, behavioural pattern could tell a lot about the perceptions and understanding of the people about other people.

I do believe – and, I think, most people do believe – that upon accelerating the rate of infrastructural activities and technology, the environment has to recede in its naturalness. Once advancing technology (and its attendant structures or ideas) competes with the green environment for space, this environment that houses trees, grass, flowers, all kinds of animals and fish has to shrink in size. Yet the growth of population, the relentless human craving for quality life, the need to control life without depending on the unpredictable condition of the natural environment prompt the use of technology. Technology need not pose unwarranted danger to the natural environment. It is the misuse of technology that is in question. While a society may justly utilize technology to improve quality of life, its people also have to ask: “how much technology do we need to safeguard the natural environment?” Suppose society Y blends the moderate use of technology with the natural environment in order to offset the reckless destruction of the latter, then this kind of positioning prompts the point that society Y is a lover of the principle of balance. From this principle, one can boldly conclude that society Y favours stability more than chaos, and has, therefore, the sense of moral and social responsibility. Any state-of-the-art technology points to the sophistication of the human mind, and it indicates that the natural environment has been cavalierly tamed.

If humans do not want to live at the mercy of the natural environment – which, of course, is an uncertain way of life – but according to their own predicted pace, then the use of technology is a matter of course. It would seem that the principle of balance that society Y has chosen could only be for a short while or that this is more of a make-believe position than a real one. For when the power of the human mind gratifies itself following a momentous achievement in technology, retreat, or, at best, a slow-down is quite unusual. It is as if the human mind is telling itself: “technological advancement has to accelerate without any obstruction. A retreat or a gradual process is an insult to the inquiring mind.” This kind of thought process only points out the enigma of the mind, its dark side, not its finest area. And in seeking to interrogate the present mode of a certain technology according to the instructions of the mind, the role of ethics is indispensable.

Is it morally right to use this kind of technology for this kind of product? And is it morally right to use this kind of product? Both questions hint that the product or products in question are either harmful or not, environmentally friendly or not, or that they do not only cause harm directly to humans but directly to the environment too. And if, as I have stated, the purpose of technology is to improve the quality of life, then to use technology to produce products that harm both humans and the natural environment contradicts the purpose of technology, and it also falsifies an assertion that humans are rational. Furthermore, it suggests that the sophisticated level that the human mind has reached is unable to grasp the essence or rationale of quality life. In this regard, a peaceful coexistence with the natural environment would have been deserted for the sake of an unrestrained, inquiring human mind. The human mind would, as it were, become corrupted with beliefs or ideas that are untenable in any number of ways.

The advocacy that is done by environmentalists relate to the question of environmental degradation and its negative consequences on humans. They insist that there is no justification for producing high-tech products that harm both humans and the natural environment. This contention sounds persuasive. High technology may demonstrate the height of human accomplishment, but it may not point to moral and social responsibility. And to this point, the question may be asked: “In what ways can humans close the chasm between unrestrained high technology and environmental degradation?”

Too often, most modern humans tend to think that a sophisticated lifestyle is preferable to a simple one. The former is supported by the weight of high technology, the latter is mostly not. The former eases the burden of depending too much on the dictates of the natural environment, the latter does not. The latter tends to seek a symbiotic relationship with the natural environment, the former does not. Whether human comfort should come largely from an advanced technology or the natural environment is not a matter that could be easily answered. If the natural environment is shrinking due to population growth and other unavoidable causes, then advanced technology is required to alleviate the pressures to human comfort that arise. It is the irresponsible proliferation of, say, war technology, high-tech products, among others, that are in need of criticism and have to stop.

Technology is Disruptive – And Empowering

Technology changes the way we work, live our lives, and have fun. Technology can empower businesses with improvements in productivity, faster development and production cycles, superior decision making by employees, and enhanced customer service. But deriving these benefits from incorporating new technology is not always a smooth process. Technology is often, at first, disruptive before it becomes empowering.

Although the ideas developed in this article may have general applicability, they are mainly intended to relate to the incorporation of new information and communications technologies into business processes. Information technologies involve computers and their peripheral equipment as well as the data flow across local area networks. Communications involve any voice and video activity including the telephone system and related equipment as well as the communications pathways creating the wide area networks.

Technology Changes Business Processes

Every action conducted within a business is part of one process or another. Sometimes the processes are easily defined and readily observable, as in the path of a purchase order. At other times, the process is not so clear but nevertheless it still exists even if by default.

New technologies are introduced into business to:

Speed up existing processes
Extend the capabilities of existing processes
Change the processes

In changing the processes, the new technologies will often allow new ways of conducting business that were not previously possible.

Other than simply speeding up existing processes, new technologies will be disruptive when first introduced. This results from having to change patterns of behavior and/or relationships with others. When disruption occurs, productivity often suffers at first, until such time as the new processes become as familiar as the old ones. At this point, hopefully, the goal has been achieved of reaching a higher level of productivity than the level at which it started before the introduction of the new technology.

Therefore a common cycle that occurs with the introduction of new technologies includes:

Disruption
Lower productivity, and, finally,
A higher plateau of productivity than the starting point

The obvious goals for introducing new technologies are to:

Minimize the disruption
Minimize the time it takes to increase productivity
Maximize the gain in productivity

In achieving these goals it is helpful to understand the:

Context in which the processes operate, that is, who will be impacted by changes in the specific processes affected
Democratizing potential of technology
Types of people that will react in very different ways to new technologies

The processes by which a company operates and the introduction of new technologies do not exist in isolation. Both of these exist within a context that may be a part of and affect:

The social relationships within an organization and possibly with companies with whom you conduct business
Political (power) structures within an organization
How individuals view themselves and their abilities

Technology can be democratizing. If it is used to create and disseminate information useful to the mission and goals of the business, it can be a great equalizer between “levels” of management and staff. The key word is “disseminate.” If access to the information is decentralized, and easy communication of the information is allowed, then “front line” workers can improve the quantity and quality of decisions they make without having to involve layers of management.

Types of People from a Technology Perspective

From a perspective of introducing new technology into your company, you may find it helpful to understand the following four types of people:

Innovators/embracers
Enthusiasts
Acceptors
Naysayers

Innovators/embracers will investigate new technologies on their own. They will sometimes be helpful to introducing new technologies that would otherwise not have been known to the company. They will sometimes be a “thorn” in pushing for new technologies they think will be useful (or just “neat” to have) but do not fit the company’s agenda or objectives. These people will embrace new technologies when introduced by others, will often be the first ones to fully incorporate and make use of it, and could help others to fully utilize new technologies.

Enthusiasts will accept new technology enthusiastically. They won’t usually seek it out but will be eager to incorporate it into their processes where appropriate. As a result of their openness, they will often readily learn how to use the new technology and may also be useful in assisting others through the learning process.

Acceptors will accept new technology because it is required. They will not seek it out. In fact, they will often try to avoid it at first until they are forced to accept it. Once they understand the new technology is here to stay, they will willingly learn how to benefit from it or, at least, live with it.

Naysayers habitually oppose new technologies and often are very vocal about their opposition. They often gripe about any changes and will often never change if they don’t have to or they quit before they are made to change “the way they do things.”

The productivity vs. time curve will look different for each of these types of people. Think of how each person in your own organization fits into these four types. Think of how that impacts deriving the full benefits that you’ve carefully targeted. Think of how that impacts your ability to discover additional benefits once the technologies are implemented. Understanding the differences can help smooth out the rough spots during and after the implementation process.

Lessen the Disruption; Increase the Empowerment

Understanding the context in which processes exist, the democratizing potential of technology, and the types of people will help you achieve the goals stated above for a more rapid payoff from a smoother introduction of new technologies.

In addition, make the new technologies transparent to the user or, at least, make them as intuitive to operate as possible. Extra time in pre-planning the introduction of new technologies and training employees in the use of the technologies can provide a return many times greater than the hours spent in planning and training. You can achieve faster increases in productivity, reduced impact on customers, and lower burdens on support staff.

With proper planning and training, the productivity curve will increase at a faster rate and to a higher level than it might otherwise have achieved

Ed Mass is President of Mass Strategic Communications, Inc., a telecommunications consulting firm since 1993. Visit [http://www.voip-telephone-system.com] and [http://www.masscom.com] for more information. We specialize in Transforming Telecommunications from a Tactical Tool To a Strategic Business Resource. We Integrate Business Strategies with Technology Opportunities.

We act as an extension of your staff. We are business strategists to increase the performance of your company through intelligent and cost effective use of technology.

Specifically, we consult on IP Telephone System Decisions, Service Provider Decisions for Voice and Data Services, and Services Audits to Inventory All Services and Discover Unused Services. We do all this within a framework of Vendor-Neutral Consulting.