Section 1: Why I think that the following six topics are most important for SuperTraining IT
These topics either speak to issues that are directly relevant to SuperTraining Corporation’s core businesses (advertising, distance learning, internship/placement and tuition finance counseling). Effectively, issues and/or technologies that referred to these core business areas, concerning quality and security (e.g. network security), service delivery (e.g. audio and video streaming) have been chosen. I understand that all the topics in module 2 are necessarily relevant to SuperTraining Corporation, but I was interested in those topics that refer to, or can help create a unique value for the company. For instance, I have given the communication and collaboration topic ample space, because I believe it is indispensable for this company’s business, as against technologies such as m-business that would be more valuable to companies in other lines of business.
Section 2: Sustaining Competitive Advantage with IT
While different IT resources exist out there, every firm must choose a portfolio of technologies and use them in ways that create unique and sustainable value for the customer. Effectively, for SuperTraining Corporation, it needs to adopt cloud computing to reduce costs and maximize the quality of services, move from its functional computing systems to an ERP to facilitate better management of the organization’s resources, communication and decision-making. For instance, ERPs can easily integrate with similar systems run by employers, which in turn ensure seamless matching and placement of students with employers. For instance, the company can make available its students’ curriculum vitae to employers, by automatically matching their qualifications with different employer requirements, as against students having to do this manually. Enterprise resource management systems are also integrated with suppliers and other business partners to for effortless business cooperation.
Section 3: Cloud Computing
SuperTraining Corporation owns a range of information technology infrastructure (hardware and software), necessary to support its hands-on training websites, online/distant learning portal and internal functional and enterprise business systems. However, these translate into immense costs, human capital requirements and frequent downtimes due to system upgrades and maintenance. This is worsened by the fact that information technology changes fast, which in turn translates into more capital replacement costs. With the adoption of cloud computing, SuperTraining Corporation can outsource these problems to cloud providers at a lower cost, while at once reaping the benefits of uninterrupted services, flexibility, reliability, security, multi-tenancy, and location independence.
Given the fact that there is high unemployment, cost-leadership is a critical strategy for any firm in this economy, and cloud computing would ensure this. SuperTraining Corporation’s cloud services may include PaaS, IaaS or SaaS, deployed using public and/or hybrid clouds depending the level of commitment, efficiency gains and cost savings that firm wants to achieve. The adoption of cloud computing will allow the company to cut back on its IT spending (staff, hardware and software costs), effectively freeing up resources to focus more on its core business (provision of training/education). Other benefits include scalability and agility. These are crucial given the fact that the demand for SuperTraining Corporation’s services fluctuates depending on the level of employment (as well as school/college calendars e.g. the resources are expected to be idle during the summer and even at night). Without cloud computing, the company is forced to invest in resources that cater to the highest possible level of demand, and thus whenever its capacity is not met, the vast majority of the resources are underutilized. Cloud computing allows for agile resource provisioning, scalability, and utilization-dependent costing. Cloud computing also allows SuperTraining to develop and deploy new products without having to adjust its hardware/software resources.
Section 4: Big Data
As an advertising firm, SuperTraining Corporation requires considerable data and information about different markets (demographics, tastes, preferences, media usage and responsiveness, etc.) in order to be able to target its marketing campaigns more effectively. With larger players in the advertising business such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft investing heavily in data mining, traditional media companies have resorted to intensive market research. Smaller firms can neither afford regular market research (given that markets change rapidly) nor the sophisticated technology to rival industry leaders such as Google. However, there are third party providers for data mining services, coupled with low-cost (albeit with limited capability) data mining and processing technologies that SuperTraining Corporation can utilize to gain competitive advantages. Engaging the services of data scientists is may also be helpful, especially when coupled with cloud computing (which can help reduce IT staff and thus free resources to higher data scientists).
Section 6: Communication and Collaboration Systems
As a learning institution, and one that offers distant learning, constant communication among students, the academic and administrative staff is immensely important. This is even more important given the fact that its courses often include mathematics and science subjects. According to OECD (2014), performance in STEM subjects is worse than arts and humanities, which is in turn affecting the uptake of science subjects. While the number of people working in STEM occupations in the OECD rose by 12% in 2013, many countries are struggling with STEM skills shortages. This explains the high demand for highly qualified employees despite there being high unemployment. Collaborative learning is recommended to increase both uptake and performance in STEM subjects. Effectively, adoption of synchronous, task focussed and interactive audio-visual communication technologies including VoIP, video streaming, instant messaging, conferencing and synchronous collaboration systems. The use of these technologies foster interaction, collaboration, content accessibility, understanding, and performance. Internally, leveraging communication technologies ensures more efficient undertaking of administrative functions, efficient communication and productivity.
Of the sub-topics under this topic, audio and video streaming is easily the most important. Hands-on training and distant learning are more effective when students have an experience that is as close as possible to the traditional instruction. Effectively, audio and video quality are indispensable. Poor quality audio/video directly translate into poor service quality of SuperTraining Corporation, which has implications for customer satisfaction. The Quality of Service (QoS) protocols chosen in the development of applications is important, as are other IP-level factors such as the quality of the internet connection. For instance, the utilization of the Differentiated Services, Multi-protocol Label Switching and Traffic Engineering Protocol reduces can reduce resource overprovisioning and service level problems at no additional costs, complexity and scalability issues, by classifying traffic flows into aggregators that are assigned different QoS priorities. It is also possible for the company can ensure that students have access to high-speed internet, e.g. by subsidizing it, to facilitate more efficient instruction and other communication by the students.
Social media has a different value proposition, which SuperTraining Corporation, which has interests in advertising and tuition finance counseling. With the proliferation of smartphones and mobile computing devices, social media has gained even more significance. Social media offers an effective, interactive communication media that the company can leverage to expand its market reach, customer engagement. Its value in enhanced collaboration, brand awareness, and equity, at a relatively lower cost than traditional media, is particularly appealing. The company should establish a tangible presence across different sites as soon as it is possible. Other than marketing itself, social media is also critical for the company in advertising its client’s products, not only because such media serves as a perfect/free focus group that a firm can use to gauge the effectiveness of adverts, reception, and attitudes, etc.
Section 7: Network Security
Evidently, the vast majority of SuperTraining Corporation’s business is dependent on the internet/intranet, which in raises the need to ensure that the systems’ integrity is protected at all times. Sensitive student and other data, as well as proprietary resources (including learning resources), need to be secured from unauthorized access. Even most importantly, cyber security threats and vulnerabilities change by the second, which means that while it is impossible to guarantee security, but measures must be taken to achieve the highest possible security. Firewalls and data encryption are an option, but since cloud computing is strongly recommended, it also poses several threats. Firstly, while cloud computing centralizes security, but if the firm uses public or hybrid deployments, it means that third parties may be in charge of security. Even most importantly, there numerous other network security vulnerabilities that are unique to cloud computing, including malicious insiders, isolation failing in multi-tenancy facilities and possible offshoring of servers that has regulatory implications . If the company opts for cloud computing, it must ensure the SLAs contracts ensure security, including through the inclusion of clauses that allow independent auditing and mandatory independent certification of security measures (Snowden, 2010; European Network and Information Technology Agency, 2012).
Section 8 Why I think that the remaining topics in this week’s notes are less important for SuperTraining IT.
All the technologies and knowledge areas in this module are relevant to SuperTraining Corporation, but some have lesser importance/priority/relevance to the company, given its core business. Firstly, organizational change topics with regard to the management of technological changes and the impact of different technologies on the organization’s structure, culture, management, and other aspects are important, but are similarly important to any other organization. These topics are not relevant to SuperTraining Corporation in any unique way. Perhaps even most importantly, organizations have to agile, in order to adapt to the rapidly changing technology. However, I did not think technological changes have such a fast impact to this institution, not least because technologies in the training/education industry are often adopted relatively slowly for reasons that include cost, reliability, and acceptance, etc.
I also did not think mobile communications and m-Business were as important. SuperTraining Corporation has interests in advertising, and mobile advertising represents an attractive and rapidly growing segment (with the proliferation of mobile phones). Even most importantly, the company may use mobile devices that allow geographical targeting of adverts helps. According to MarketLine (2015), mobile-enabled commerce is seeing an expansion due to the proliferation of smartphones, and the convenience value that it gives users. However, this technology has greater value to retailers such as Wal-Mart. For an advertising firm, delivering content to the users is a more difficult proposition, not only for SuperTraining Corporation but also larger players in this field. For instance, Facebook’s $18 billion WhatsApp app is still struggling with the best way to monetize its large user base through advertising, not least because users are not receptive to short messages, and short messages may not be the most effective media to advertize most products.
Knowledge management systems are critical in fostering teamwork, collective decision-making, the creationg of business intelligence and collaboration. However, given its cost implications and the nature of an academic institution (highly independent and qualified experts in different fields), as well as the cost implications involved in fully implementing these technologies, I do not believe it would have as much value to SuperTraining Corporation. Similarly, having adopted cloud computing (virtualization and SaaS) are integral parts of the decision to adopt and implement cloud computing, and therefore they are not individually important for SuperTraining Corporation.
It is also important that SuperTraining Corporations adopts energy-saving technologies, e.g. by recycling and disposing off hardware, printing ink, and other computing supplies in an environmentally friendly way. However, the company can only add very little value. Effectively, green computing has more relevance to hardware and software manufacturers and regulatory agencies that need to design green products and ensure that lifecycle implications for the environment are acceptable. Module 2 also include conferencing and synchronous collaboration systems under the communications technologies, but these are more relevant at an intra-organizational level, possibly with teams working in geographically diverse areas. While these would be great for teaching, these facilities are overly expensive to roll out in order to meet the teaching/training demand (e.g. to serve a population of 1000 students doing different courses).
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