Where to find the facts on information

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The Independent Online
Once upon a time, information technology was a highly specialised activity that companies could safely confine to dark corners of their operations. Not any more.

As shown by the number of computer screens on desks, IT has escaped from the broom cupboard and - like some terrifying monster - has become all-pervasive. Of course, it is not all sinister stuff. In addition to getting executives out of the "Take a letter, Miss Smith" school of management, computers do with ease such wonderful things as capturing all kinds of marketing data and speeding communications around the globe.

The only problem is that few people are adept at managing it. IT specialists are fine at convincing boards of the need for investing in the latest generation of kit, but are often less good at seeing the bigger picture beyond their domain. On the other hand, general managers often have little experience of dealing with IT, beyond hacking about on the equipment dumped on their desks, and consequently feel ill-equipped to take on the specialists.

Given such a background, it is hardly surprising that things go wrong - often, expensively so.

Into this breach is stepping the management school at Bath University. It has just announced an MSc in management and strategic information systems, and claims that it is already receiving an enthusiastic reaction from employers because it satisfies two important needs. First, says the university, it is enabling new graduates with no previous management or information systems experience to acquire a certain level of competence in this area. Second, there is a noticeable trend towards employers expecting some form of master's degree as the entry point for top jobs.

Developed by David Targett, the management school's professor of information systems, the course is open to graduates from any discipline and allows them to slant their studies towards the technical or management aspects of information systems according to their backgrounds. Like Bath's existing MSc in management (which offers a general introduction to management for non-business graduates), it does not require previous work experience. But it does offer the chance of an accelerated route to the Bath MBA after gaining three years of relevant work experience.

Professor Targett explained the rationale as follows: "Whether they go into general or functional roles in business, it is very likely that today's graduates will have to manage information systems at some stage in their careers, and a number may find themselves responsible for major IS projects. Others will want to go into consultancy, where the skills required increasingly include advising organisations on how they can get the best from IS, their people and the fit between the two"n

Roger Trapp

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