Challenges in Achieving Technology Objectives, Dissertation – Conclusion Example
Words: 4820Dissertation - Conclusion
Strategic technology plans are crucial in many different fields, such as business and higher education. However, it could be argued that since the goal of higher education is to prepare students to enter the business world (whether as a blue collar worker or a top executive of a company), strategic technology plans are most important in higher education. Initial research shows that the strategic technology plan is designed to be a guide that helps in accomplishing the goals of an organization (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). This means that the plan is designed to help the organization determine its future goals as to where its placement of technology and infrastructure will be in the future. As a result, strategic technology plans are commonly highly complex and fraught with difficulties. However, the most common difficulties are not in the development of the strategic technology but in the execution of the plan. That is, there are many different challenges that are associated with achieving the objectives of strategic technology plans.
Keywords: achievements; higher education; strategy; technology; strategic technology plans
Challenges in Achieving Technology Objectives
This paper has a specific format that is designed to help interested parties understand the challenges associated with achieving the objectives of strategic technology plans. To begin with, the researcher discusses the components of the strategic technology plan, showing what factors are related to the goals set within the plan. The second section begins the specific focus on strategic technology plans in higher education with a discussion on how these plans have failed to date. The third section discusses the unique relationships that exist between the failure of strategic technology plans and output within universities. However, it is known that not all strategic technology plans have failed. Therefore, the fourth section discusses how strategic technology plans have succeeded. Despite these successes, many challenges are still faced by higher education organizations, as indicated in the fifth section. The final section focuses on how the challenges of strategic technology plans affect educators, students, staff, and the basic IT structure of the higher education organization.
Components of the Strategic Technology Plan
The basic components of a strategic technology plan include the overview, introduction, analysis, budget, and measurements (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). Each of these major components is broken down into smaller subtopics. These subtopics are further explained in the related sections.
The overview of the strategic technology plan is designed to provide information regarding the organization. This includes the history of the organization, information about its employees and annual budget, planned major changes (such as renovations), timeframes for the strategic technology plan, areas hoped to be improved through technology, and the overall budget reserved for IT (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). This is important because it allows interested parties to get a basic idea of the purpose of the document in question.
The introduction of the strategic technology plan is designed to provide information regarding the organization’s mission and vision statement, description of the organization, and members of the technology planning team. Specific important components of this section include: name of the organization, year that the organization was founded, industry and specialization of the organization, number of clients (for educational institutions, this would be number of students), number of full time employees, number of volunteers, number of locations, and the geographic region served (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). When considering members of the technology planning team, the strategic technology plan includes information such as the member’s name, title, phone number, e-mail address, and specific role on the team (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). With this information, interested parties have a better idea of the goals of the organization and how the strategic technology plan will help improve their standing.
Technology has been proven through studies to improve productivity and decrease expenses. A study conducted in 2002 noted that “the Internet has already yielded current, cumulated cost savings of US $155.2 billion to U.S. organizations that have adopted Internet business solutions” (Varian, Litan, Elder, & Shutter, 200; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). These same organizations report revenue increases to US $44 billion, a significant cumulative growth (Varian, Litan, Elder, & Shutter, 200; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). It is expected that by 2010, “these organizations would realize more than US $0.5 million in cost savings” (Varian, Litan, Elder, & Shutter, 200; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). This would cause the annual productivity growth rate to increase by .43% (Varian et al., 2002; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013).
A more recent study related to the impact of the Internet conducted in 2004 suggested that companies “adopting the best identified practices in using the Internet could experience 45% improvement in efficiency, 40% in service volume, 25% in financials, and 55% in citizen satisfaction” (Brown, Elder & Koenig, 2004; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). It is suggested that there are many contributions to improvements in “business performance, economic growth, and customer satisfaction” (Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 2000; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). While modern technology is one of these contributions, other contributions exist as well, such as changes in business processes, increased teamwork and employee empowerment, and changes relating to products and services offered (Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 2000; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). It has been found that “most investments in modern technology are usually complemented by organizational investments and the product and service innovation associated with it” (Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 2000; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). In other words, when organizational changes are not made at the time of technology investments occurs, it is possible to experience losses relating to productivity (Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 2000; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013).
The analysis could be considered the most important part of the strategic technology plan. This is because the analysis considers current business processes, process improvements, current state of technology, and technology improvements and acquisitions (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). Since each of these components is so crucial to the success of the strategic technology plan, each will be addressed in individual sections.
Current Business Processes
The goal of this section is to discuss all of the major business processes that are instrumental in achieving the goals of the strategic technology plan. The process descriptions come in many forms: flow chart, narrative, diagram, and/or table (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). This section allows the organization to consider future needs.
Once the current business processes are understood, it is possible to create a needs assessment. The needs assessment answers questions relating to curriculum strengths and weaknesses and related processes for strength and weakness determinations, alignment of the curriculum to state standards, current procedures for technology use to resolve curriculum weaknesses, integration of technology by teachers into lessons, and the use of technology by students (McQuillan, 2008). The needs assessment answers professional development concerns, such as technology development certification, available training, and how the effectiveness of professional development is measured (McQuillan, 2008). The needs assessment answers equitable use of technology concerns, such as technology availability to both students and staff, the length of time technology is available to both students and staff, and the description of the assistive technology tools available for students and staff with disabilities (McQuillan, 2008). The needs assessment answers infrastructure for technology concerns, such as the current technology infrastructure of the organization, the effectiveness of the current infrastructure and telecommunication systems, and how technology infrastructure has been improved and/or increased (McQuillan, 2008). The needs assessment addresses administrative needs concerns, such as use of technology by administrative staff, the ability of data access for decision making purposes, tools for student information reporting, communication tools, information gathering, record keeping, and available professional development opportunities (McQuillan, 2008). The whole of this information will assist the organization in determining exactly what technology upgrades are needed to meet the overall objectives of the organization.
Current State of Technology
When considering the current state of technology, the strategic technology plan determines the possibility of surplus or shortage of certain technology types, unsuitability of available technology for goals, and what technology needs to be updated (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). This information is important because it helps provide ways to improve academic performance of students, increase staff usage capabilities, create interactive relationships with other parties (such as partner universities), and increase professional development.
Technology Improvements and Acquisitions
The goal of the technology improvements and acquisitions section is to determine what technology improvements are needed in order to support the business process improvements previously identified in the strategic technology plan. This section focuses on determining the exact improvement, what benefits would result, and the costs of the improvement implementation, including materials and labor (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). This information is crucial to defining the budget for the improvements, as indicated in the next section.
The goal of the budget section of the strategic technology plan is to determine the overall budget that must be dedicated to technology by the organization. The budget must be completed in detail and be consistent with the existing technology, planned changes, and expected needs (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). As a result, the budget is updated regularly to ensure that the strategic technology plan objectives can be met fiscally.
The goal of the measurements section of the strategic technology plan is to determine how the success of the implementation of the technology upgrades can be quantitatively measured (Technology Nonprofit Collaboration, 2013). This can be done in different ways. For instance, it may be a reduction of time spent on certain administrative tasks.
Therefore, the effectiveness and use of these technologies depend upon the population and culture. That is, technology effectiveness is surrounded by “people, processes, culture, and the structure of the context” of the technology (Haller, 2005; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). For instance, the physical world has become aligned with the digital world. This is because communication is done primarily through digital means. This includes communications with “family, colleagues and friends” (Haller, 2005; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). Thus, the digital world is slowly taking over many different components of the physical world, especially as people stop using traditional media, relying instead on emerging media (Haller, 2005; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). In fact, both media types (emerging and traditional) are combining slowly. For example, reality shows are shown on TV, but there is a tremendous social media presence of fans and stars themselves (Haller, 2005; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). This is but one illustration of how emerging and traditional media types collide. Therefore, it is expected that the world will continue to be digitized (Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013).
Therefore, learning can be hindered or promoted through the use of different aspects of the educational institution. In fact, all educational institutions have a variety of levels that are interdependent (Lim, Tay & Hedberg, 2011; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). In fact, the school is part of an ecological system, creating “a change of culture in the broader context, a switch of institutional setting, or an introduction of an innovation is likely to change the learning outcomes of the students” (Lim, Tay & Hedberg, 2011; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013).
Failure of Higher Education Strategic Technology Plans
Research shows that the global economic recession has had an effect on higher educational institutions. In fact, many of these institutions “are experiencing severe pressure from budget reduction” (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009; Trivellas, Ipsilantis, Papadopoulos, & Kantas, 2009). This has led to the creation of competitive uses of resources. Furthermore, competition has increased the capability of these institutions to meet “contemporary rapid technological and organizational changes” (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009; Trivellas, Ipsilantis, Papadopoulos, & Kantas, 2009). As a result, quality management issues have come to head for sustainable competitive advantage purposes (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009; Trivellas, Ipsilantis, Papadopoulos, & Kantas, 2009). However, some issues were not resolved through strategic technology plans, such as infrastructure upgrades and renovations; improved library collections and increased use by students; increased use of career offices on campus; increased use of campus web pages and online learning; allowance for student accommodations, especially as it relates for students with disabilities; and the increase of service and administrative quality (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009; Trivellas, Ipsilantis, Papadopoulos, & Kantas, 2009).
Relationships between the Failure of Strategic Technology Plans and Output in Universities
It is noted that strategic planning and quality assurance are interrelated (Shawuyn, n.d.). Higher educational institutions are not immune to quality assurance practices. In fact, most institutions are focused on “having their educational products and services achieve a certain level of acceptable standards and criteria that finally leads to its being accredited or certified ‘fit for purpose’” (Shawuyn, n.d.). Therefore, it can be assumed that if strategic technology plans fail, these standards may not be met. Research shows that ‘quality’ is not easily defined in higher education. Rather, researchers elect to focus on the main goals of higher educational institutions: “producing competent and qualified graduates to meet the organizational needs in all sectors; pushing forward the frontier of knowledge via research ; [and] developing society through community services” (Shawuyn, n.d.). Utilizing these goals, a related study shows that there is a need of “understanding the quality management from the systems perspective by extending the quality management concepts of economic transactions to social relations by creating value to the stakeholders. This quality perception becomes “‘judgments of values’ that are intrinsically associated amongst the relationships of men and its environment that consist of exchanges of values” (Conti, 2006; Shawuyn, n.d.). As a result, if quality assurance standards are not met, it is conceivable that the objectives of the strategic technology plan were not met either. Furthermore, if these objectives were not met, it is likely that output (such as graduates) decrease.
Significantly, it is found that technology can be found in all aspects of daily life. In fact, digital technology has entered so many different aspects of life (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009). For instance, digital technology can be found within the economy, financial markets, political agendas, and employment (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009). However, digital technology has had a tremendous influence on communication methods, especially within home activities (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009). Therefore, it is unsurprising that digital technology has affected “all levels of education from kindergarten to doctoral studies” (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009). In fact, the impact of technology is huge. For instance, productivity has increased, and the “distribution of knowledge” has spread (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009). As a result, new challenges have arisen for higher education institutions. These challenges include “redefining their student constituencies, their partners and competitors and to redesign their research infrastructures and teaching practices” (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009).
However, there are conflicting claims as to the effects of technology. That is, some believe that “information and communication technologies have already produced an era of a ‘digital tsunami’ and are driving the restructuring of academe by forcing educators to realign and redesign their academic work dramatically” (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009). In contrast, some believe that technology will not dramatically affect academic activities. Despite these conflicting views, technology has provided greater access to knowledge for students and staff members and has “contributed greatly to social equity in higher education” (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009). This is not true globally, however. In fact, there is a widening gap between developed and developing countries and the socioeconomic classes (Guri-RosenBijt, 2009).
Research shows that “the key issue is the alignment through strategic management and the measurement of achievements through quality management of these internal processes to create on this educational value proposed to the stakeholders” (Shawuyn, n.d.). When the educational value expectations are not met, output declines. Quality assurance for higher educational institutions has been broadly defined in the preceding paragraph. However, these can be further defined as: benchmarking, conformance to standards, fit for purpose, achieving institutional goals, and meeting the needs of customers (Shawuyn, n.d.). Finally, quality assurance for higher education was definitively defined through a third study through the definition of five specific standards that higher education institutions must meet, in that the higher education institution “(1) advances academic quality; (2) demonstrates accountability; (3) encourages purposeful change and needed improvement; (4) employs appropriate and fair procedures in decision-making; and (5) continually reassesses accreditation practices” (Schray, 2006; Shawuyn, n.d.).Through these standards, the failure rate of higher educational institutions can be measured, allowing the decline in output to be measured as well.
Success of Higher Education Strategic Technology Plans
Many campuses have succeeded in strengthening their programs through the successful utilization of higher education strategic technology plans (Rowley & Sherman, 2001). In fact, research shows that those for technology argue that technology can resolve numerous problems within society and the economy. In fact, “in certain applications technologies are proving to be cost effective and accessible to learners who are experiencing time, place, or situational barriers” (Bates, 1995; Giffords; Mrabet, 2010). Technology can also add new resources to existing course content in traditional classroom settings. For instance, the Internet enhances the range of information available to students in addition to providing opportunities for communication” (Bates, 1995; Giffords, 1998; Mrabet, 2010). These successes are especially important when considering “a higher educational institution, like any other organization has specific processes that support the achievement of its teaching-learning-research missions and contribution to academic and societal development of the community and stakeholders at large” (Shawyun, n.d.). This led to the creation of a success model.
A study conducted found that strategic technology planning can be considered successful through the “macro-micro linkage of the: (1) interface between organization and stakeholders; (2) capacity and capability of resources; (3) planning evaluation and resource-achievement; and (4) the basic core elements of input-activities-output. This approach of moving from the big picture at the organizational level to the operational level is the key determinant of success” (Franco-Santos et al., 2007; Rouse & Putterill, 2003; Shawyun, n.d.).
In additional circumstances, success has been considered through “the internally focused resource view determining quality by the assessment of their internal resources, such as the number of books in its library, the number of faculty with terminal degrees, size of the endowment and reputation neglecting the influence of the changing external environment and the emergence of sophisticated higher education customers. Increased competition, cost-efficiency, accountability and service orientations forced higher education to gradually swift its focus on a value added or performance approach of excellence, where quality is determined by its outcomes, such as efficient allocation and use of resources and producing highly satisfied and employable graduates” (Koslowski, 2006; Seymour, 1992; Trivellas, Ipsilantis, Papadopoulos, & Kantas, 2009). In this respect, strategic technology plans have been effective and successful.
Challenges of Strategic Technology Plans
All changes are hard to implement. Furthermore, “strategic planning is complex” (Rowley & Sherman, 2001). Thus, challenges do exist and “not everyone has had a successful experience with the process, and many have become highly jaded about what strategic planning is and what it can do” (Rowley & Sherman, 2001). Many higher educational institutions note that they “get mired in process, lose their confidence in strategic planning, find that they really do not want to change, discover that the costs involved are greater than they are willing (or possibly able) to pay, and learn that implementation is unbelievably difficult” (Rowley & Sherman, 2001). Most significantly, it is noted that “many of the failures attributed to strategic planning have had little to do with the strategic planning process and much more to do with misconceptions and false expectations about strategic planning” (Rowley & Sherman, 2001). Therefore, challenges relating to strategic technology plans increase.
In fact, one study notes that “one can argue that education and technology were created by humans. Both activities are not natural phenomena that made up part of the physical world before they were later discovered. From their early beginnings, education and technology have both gradually evolved and intertwined to get to where they are today. It can be reasonably stated that they both have impacted each other in the process of their evolution. However, at various points in history, technological innovations seem to have had a significant impact on education” (Mrabet, 2010). Furthermore, it is found that there are five specific challenges that face higher education institutions, including “the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to an information-based economy; increased student enrollment; new educational providers; advances in technology; and new modes of learning” (Ford Foundation, 2000; Mrabet, 2010).
It is also found that many success stories have occurred in relation to technology investments. Two gaps remain, however. These gaps are related to usage and outcome. Students use technology outside of school much more extensively than in school, creating the usage gap. The outcome gap is created because costs are not reduced as much as anticipated and productivity has not increased as much as expected (Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai & Tsai, 2013).
It is also found that the use of technology can be healthy. However, this requires particular conditions being met (Byrom & Bingham, 2001; Zhao, Kevin, Stephen, & Byers, 2002; Zhao & Frank, 2003; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai & Tsai, 2013). Conditions may revolve around the resources available to the school, as well as the school’s culture (Byrom & Bingham, 2001; Zhao, Kevin, Stephen, & Byers, 2002; Zhao & Frank, 2003; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai & Tsai, 2013). Finally, it is necessary to consider the “readiness and experiences of teachers and students regarding using technology, and the dynamics of the social interactions in the school system” (Byrom & Bingham, 2001; Zhao, Kevin, Stephen, & Byers, 2002; Zhao & Frank, 2003; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai & Tsai, 2013).
There are difficulties related to blending learning. For existence, since online learning is becoming more popular, educators find themselves “confront[ing] existing assumptions of teaching and learning in higher education” (Hicks, Reid, & George, 2001; Williams, 2002; Young, 2002; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). As such, educators are required to meet new technological demands, such as increased on-line presences. As a result, “there is little reason to believe that it [new technologies] will not be the defining transformative innovation for higher education in the 21st century” (Hicks, Reid, & George, 2001; Williams, 2002; Young, 2002; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). This came through the development of the requirement for universities to prepare for a diverse population, as well as emerging educational involvement patterns (Hicks, Reid, & George, 2001; Williams, 2002; Young, 2002; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). Finally, it is required that technology be included in the curriculum (Hicks, Reid, & George, 2001; Williams, 2002; Young, 2002; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004).
One major cause of the technology transformation is due to the Internet. That is, online learners can be individual, in groups, and connected through a mutual community (Hicks, Reid, & George, 2001; Williams, 2002; Young, 2002; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). This has led to the convergence of different curricula types. In fact, to many people, “the convergence of classroom and online education as ‘‘the single greatest unrecognized trend in higher education today’’ (Hicks, Reid, & George, 2001; Williams, 2002; Young, 2002; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004).
Therefore, it can be concluded that, “technology as an innovation introduced into schools is not independent and isolated; it is situated in the ecological system of the school and connected to its broader systems” (Dede, 1998; Zhao & Frank, 2003; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). In fact, innovations require changes in many different aspects of the process, including “pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, and school organization” (Dede, 1998; Zhao & Frank, 2003; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). Therefore, it can also be surmised that innovation causes relationships to change. These relationships are “within and outside the school and the ongoing interaction catalyzes changes in social relationships” (Dede, 1998; Zhao & Frank, 2003; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013).
However, the interaction changes affect different components of the school system. In fact, the interaction changes “determine how the innovation is adopted, but also affect the operation of the school system” (Dede, 1998; Zhao & Frank, 2003; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013). Therefore, only through working together, as well as the need for students, teachers, and leaders to adapt and evolve as one entity with new technology in order for these opportunities to be taken advantage of fully within the school setting (Dede, 1998; Zhao & Frank, 2003; Lim, Zhao, Tondeur, Chai, & Tsai, 2013).
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