My family and friends often ask me what I do. They ask me to explain my degree and what I’ll be doing after school. If you’re in the Information Management (IM) or Information Systems (IS) field, you probably get this often. In fact, just recently I was interviewed by Centerline Productions for an IBM video on enterprise technology education and was asked this very question, “How do you explain what you’re learning and doing to people who aren’t familiar with what you do?”
So I thought I’d take a little time to try and write this down for my family, friends and anyone interested in IM or IS.
I’m going to use the term IS to encompass all things technology so if you prefer the term ‘information technology’ or IT, please don’t take offense. Through my eyes, and the eyes of @GETsyr, the industry of IS can be bifurcated (an often-used and overly complex word we like to use in the IS industry) into ‘consumer IS’ and ‘enterprise IS’. You say, “What’s the difference?” I say, “Thanks for asking.” Enterprise IS differs from consumer IS in several ways, but it’s important that the distinction is made not by the particular type of technology that is used but by the requirements of the system as a whole. For example, an iPhone by itself may not qualify as enterprise IS, but depending on how it’s integrated, it may certainly be a part of an enterprise IS.
I’ll use a few anecdotes to illustrate the differences between consumer IS and enterprise IS. Some of you may be reading this on your personal computer (Apple or Microsoft) which may freeze at any moment, at which point you would feel frustrated and then hold down the power key to force a reboot and wait a few minutes before you’re back reading this article. This is an example of consumer IS and would be completely unacceptable at the enterprise level. If you went to an ATM and the screen said “We’re sorry, our systems are rebooting,” you’d be pretty irked. But then if you worked at the NYSE and you went to make a $100,000,000 trade and your terminal said, “Whoops, sucks to be you. Good luck explaining this to your clients,” you may lose your job. Finally, imagine you work at mission control for NASA and seconds after liftoff your boss asks for the shuttle’s current coordinates and you say, “Hold on, the system is rebooting, I’ll let you know in a minute.” At which point your boss turns around to the anxious sweaty man in the corner (whose job it is to destroy the shuttle and everyone in it in case the shuttle veers dangerously towards civilian populations) and says in a trepid tone, “Prepare for flight termination.”
Image source: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/nasa/4262479
An escalating list of what I like to call #enterpriseproblems.
#enterpriseproblems are (according to Dave D. in his most recent blog) those that must be solved in a different way than one would solve a corrupt Word document or a bad home wireless system. #Enterpriseproblems require you to think about high volume (think credit card transaction processing), high volatility (think cellular networks during a regional disaster), complex workloads (think government tax systems) all while maintaining high performance (think millisecond latency in stock trading).
So what do I do in school? I learn how to analyze, solve and implement information systems that solve problems like the ones listed above. What will I be doing after school? Solving these problems! A business problem can be solved with consumer level IS as in a small business that uses Microsoft Access to maintain a customer database. But when that business is selling 1,000 different products to 1,000,000 different customers, you’ve entered the realm of #enterpriseproblems.
Hopefully this has given you a sense of what global enterprise technology is all about and why @GETsyr exists to train students how to solve problems at the enterprise level! If you’re still confused, come to the @iSchoolSU and take a few @GETsyr classes.
For some examples…check out: http://bit.ly/JaUcaN
To what extent can consumer IS (like the iPhone) be integrated into enterprise IS? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section!
Sam Disston is in his second year of the M.S. Information Management program at the iSchool at Syracuse University. He works part-time for J.P. Morgan Chase as a business analyst and is a graduate assistant for the Global Enterprise Technology program at the iSchool. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Spanish from Syracuse University.