College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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In the Classroom: IT and E-Business Strategy


Information Technology (IT) has become the single largest area for corporate capital investment in the U.S.  It not only supports most of the value-adding activities in an organization, but is increasingly used to build a firm’s competitive advantage. “IT and E-Business Strategy,” a course taught by Michael J. Shaw, a professor of Business Administration, provides students with an understanding of the issues concerning IT and its applications in business strategy.  

The MBA elective benefits a variety of students, from those who plan to have careers in IT management to those who want to be on top of IT innovations and the related management issues that crop up, said Shaw.

“The course helps our business students be better equipped when faced with how to manage IT efficiently, what the next wave of IT innovations will bring, how IT can translate in business opportunities, and what e-business models to follow for developing a sustainable competitive advantage,” he said.

Through featured guest speakers and IT practitioners from leading global companies, students hear first hand about the complexities and opportunities of IT management.  GE’s John Seral was a recent guest speaker who shared both his responsibilities as CIO as well as what he sees as trends in IT management.

Seral is one of six CIOs at GE, each spearheading a different area within the company. As Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Infrastructure, he supervises about 6,000 technology employees, about 80 percent of whom are contractors. GE infrastructure by itself is a $47 billion business.

In corporations today, Seral said that managing IT has increasingly become a strategic goal.

“I ask all six GE CEOs how can information technology help and they all say ‘support our business, keep it running, and do it more efficiently than last year,” Seral said.  “As CIO you’re always setting new goals and trying to get ahead.”

Seral advised students that a smart approach to saving money is not just to cut technology. “Cutting is the wrong way to do it.  You have to be creative and use new technology and services out there that are growing and evolving every year around the world.”

Seral outlined a handful of trends in IT management that GE is exploring, including how to take advantage of the Internet in reaching customers around the globe, in different time zones, with targeted advertising. “Our approach at GE is to take one big idea and go deep with it,” he added.

Shaw also teaches a related course, IT Governance, which is sponsored by a grant from Microsoft. It integrates these three perspectives into managing the trustworthiness of enterprise IT effectively.  Shaw said the aim of  that course is to discover the interesting confluence of three business principals: IT auditing,  IT control, and trustworthy information management.  

In IT auditing, there is an overlap in IT and accounting to make sure all the systems, applications, processors, and transactions are in compliance with auditing guidelines, Shaw said.  

That differs from IT control, which “looks at an important question,” said Shaw.  “How do we make sure that all is going well in business activity services, which in turn are all supported by IT?  The two faces of this are planned IT services, and reactive IT services. Both are equally important,” Shaw said.

“Managing information security, risk assessment, privacy, and recent regulatory compliance requirements is a high priority for businesses right now,” he added.

Students are not required to have a technical background to enroll in either course.

UIUC College of Business