Dealing with hackers, cybercrime and system break-downs is a job for managers, not just the IT department.
In many companies, business people and IT people can get in each other’s hair; one group knows everything there is to know about launching products and services into the market but hasn’t a clue about how IT can be deployed to their best advantage.
On the other hand, IT people tend to have a lack of attention for business customers.
‘We educate people so that they can bridge the gap between business and IT,’ explains Professor Marcel Creemers, the program director of the modular MBA Business & IT program at Nyenrode Business Universiteit in Breukelen, the Netherlands.
One illustration of this gap between business and IT is the cat-and-mouse game between hackers and corporate system managers, a relatively new phenomenon that continues around the clock.
However, many companies are not equipped to deal with it and regard cybercrime as purely an IT problem. Nonetheless, most cybercrime is detrimental to the company as a whole, and specifically because it harms mutual trust and, as a result of that, has a large impact on the company’s reputation and consequently directly on its business.
Nyenrode Business Universiteit, KPMG and CIO.nl hosted a master class on Business & IT Security on 29 May, during which an attempt was made to bridge the gap between the various disciplines.
The master class allowed the attendees, all from very diverse backgrounds, to experience what it would be like if their companies were attacked by cybercriminals. They were asked to protect their imaginary lemonade factories from real-time cyber attacks in a simulation.
‘IT can offer solutions for a company’s business issues. But you can’t just use any old system. You have to toss some ideas around and back and forth between business and IT,’ Marcel Creemers says.
‘Much of the problem is caused by the educational system which actually creates this gap between the various disciplines,’ Creemers claims.
‘And then you’re left with business people who don’t know the first thing about IT and nerds who are expert at IT but have no business sense. And they get in each other’s way. I once tried to work out how much this gap is costing us and it runs into billions on an annual basis.
To bridge this gap between IT people and non-IT people, Nyenrode set up the English-taught MBA Business & IT course. Creemers continues: ‘We’re attempting to introduce dual thinkers to the market, who can think in terms of IT and business. We hardly teach any IT on this MBA and the majority of the students don’t come from IT either. We discuss it exhaustively, but the course doesn’t include any technical lectures.’
‘During the MBA Business & IT modules, IT people and non-IT people get together at Nyenrode and the students are taught by Nyenrode’s business professors and Delft University of Technology’s IT professors. And then we can work on bringing these two cultures together.
‘IT people and people with a business background who want to learn something about IT think, by definition, in global terms. After all, nowadays, everyone in China has access to everything you put on the internet,’ says Creemers.
‘That’s why we offer a program with a strong international focus; it is supported by a number of very large Dutch companies that operate internationally, including Philips, Shell, AKZO Nobel, DSM and Rabobank. They are already on the program council and help decide on the curriculum.
‘They wanted an international course so we decided to cover Europe, with identical courses in Germany and Switzerland that were set up the beginning of the year. The program is also supported by the European CIO Association, which unites the 600 largest companies who jointly spend €130 billion on IT.’
‘We have a flexible program for our students, which can easily be combined with a job. Very few universities offer that facility. The whole program can be done in one year, but nobody does that: you can spread it out,’ he points out.
‘The fastest students take about two and a half years, but the slower ones can take as much as seven years. On average, people complete the program in three and half to four years.
‘That means that the workload drops to about ten to twelve hours per week and you can tackle it at a later age,’ Creemers points out.’Despite a busy job which probably involves a lot of travelling, you can find time to follow a flexible MBA, and it makes studying more manageable.’
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