Author Kenneth SousaExploring information technology effectively in the classroom
Guest Contributor: Kenneth J. Sousa, Ph.D., Bryant University.

“In this business, you can never wash the dinner dishes and say they are done. You have to keep doing them constantly.” (Mary Wells Lawrence)

Business strategy continues to evolve. Through careful planning and analysis, businesses react to changes in market, competition, and the economy. But also to the advances and adoption in information technology.

I have always believed that there is a difference between teaching and educating. Teaching is focusing on communicating in one direction. This method seeks to avoid developing the innovative problem solving skills using the topic at hand.

Educating is creating an understanding and, more importantly, applying concepts for business and daily life. “Teaching” information technology is no different.

Recently, technology has been “commoditized” because it is so tightly and seamlessly integrated in our lives. I believe that this phenomenon has increased the challenge of exposing students to the value and use of information technology.

We take technology for granted. However, the value of integrating technology into a business cannot be approached casually or without strategic planning. Therefore, educators and students should consider… technology is not what it is, it is what it does.

Below, I’ve provided a case study of a current business that exemplifies this principle. Alongside each point, I include questions that you can use to discuss this case in your course.

Technology in Use

Smartphones are the new technology device extending information, processes and convenience to customers. Consider the mobile app RetailMeNot (RMN). It leverages location-based services (LBS) to determine when a customer tracks within a range of a participating merchant or shopping center. As soon as the device is within proximity of a merchant, the phone will alert the customer of special offers at that location. Customers can then use an online coupon or promotion code for discounts and free offers.

⇒ Research RetailMeNot for additional details. What is the business model, structure and general operation of RMN?

Retail businesses have always been focused on sales, profits and unit sales. However, in recent years, those basic concepts have been expanded to the customer experience and value proposition.

⇒ Research these two business concepts. What do they mean to retail?

So, What is Behind the App?

A key strategy is for retailers to create “traffic” into their establishment. Retail stores always want to increase the likelihood of an “impulse” purchase by a customer.

⇒ How could the application create traffic to a retailer’s property?
⇒ How could the RMN application generate impulse purchases? Why are impulse purchases so important to retailers?

Technology disruption is created when the integration and adoption of technology into a business model significantly changes the normal flow of an industry, product line or overall pricing strategy.

⇒ The use of RMN can disrupt other business models or promotional strategies used by retailers. What methods (and subsequent products/services) do you believe are disrupted by this application?

Location-based services (through smartphones) are the focal point of the RMN strategy.

⇒ How would the smartphone and LBS “trigger” an alert on a consumer’s phone?
⇒ Once this alert is triggered, what are the processes that the application executes?

We continue to hear about big data. This new concept can be tightly integrated into the RMN’s application strategy. It will be important to “prove” its value and success to the retailer’s in order to remain a RMN partner.

⇒ What specific details using the data generated by the application could prove successful retailing strategy?
⇒ How can RMN management promote its application to retailers?
⇒ Based on your information, what are the retailing “touch points” that will convince that the RMN application would be a positive initiative?

It’s all about technology obviously.

⇒ What are the technology concepts and “buzzwords” that can allow RMN build successful technology and business model?

Technology is not what it is … it is what it does. Value. Convenience. Innovation. Sales.

So keep washing those dishes with information technology.

Kenneth J. Sousa, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bryant University. Dr. Sousa’s teaching and research areas include electronic commerce, database management systems, applications development, information systems strategy, project management, and systems development. Before joining the faculty at Bryant, he held several industry positions in consulting and information systems. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Roger Williams University, a Master of Business Administration from Bryant College and a Ph.D. in Business Administration from the University of Rhode Island. His doctoral research focused on the use of electronic business technology within the purchasing activities of manufacturing businesses. He is a member of the Decision Sciences Institute and Northeast Decision Sciences Institute. He is also co-author of Cengage Learning’s Management Information Systems, Seventh Edition (with Effy Oz). Visit him online at www.sousamis.com.