Thirteenth Annual UCLA Survey of 
Business School Computing Usage: 
Where Are Business Schools in the Process of Computerization?
1996

Abstract

In cooperation with AACSB, the Thirteenth UCLA Survey of Business School Computer Usage focuses on the question of "Where are business schools in the computerization process?" Two hundred ninety-three schools completed the phase diagrams providing data on 43 aspects of the computerization process. Forty-one figures and 18 tables support the data analysis.

For this sample as a whole, business schools can be characterized as in the moderate growth phase, indicating initial acceptance of computer-related concepts but insufficient resources to meet demand. However, the school clustered into five statistically significant groups: Start-up, Mixed , Late Growth, Stable, and Mature. The strategic, instructional, operational and network issues associated with each cluster were contrasted. E.g., the instructional issue of inability to use computers in the classroom was identified by the earlier clusters whereas the problem of courseware development was identified by the clusters further along the growth curve.

Longitudinal analysis comparing the Fifth (1988) and Ninth (1992), and Thirteenth (1996) Survey data provide perspectives of the evolving role of technology in business schools over this eight years period . E.g., when compared longitudinally, the computer operating budget showed a significant reversal on the growth curve between 1988 and 1996, moving from a moderate level of stability back into the high growth phase which may be interpreted as an increased expectation of funding resources available to support the business school computerization efforts.

Executive Summary

Where are business schools in the computerization process? This question was the focus of this year's Thirteenth Annual UCLA Survey of Business School Computer Usage. To answer "where?" the same phase diagram was employed as in the Fifth (1988) and Ninth (1992) Surveys, in addition to more traditional checklist questions. The graph incorporates developmental phases, sub-divided into steps ranging from investigation to growth to maturity to phase out. Based on the responding business schools' perceptions, both a snap shot view of where schools are this year as well as a longitudinal view for the 108 schools which participated in both the Ninth and Thirteenth Surveys, could be developed. Furthermore, in addition to the broad views based on the full sample of business schools, a more detailed understanding of where in the process was gleaned from a cluster analysis which identified five subgroups based on their stage of computerization and their respective issues.

Two hundred ninety-three schools completed the phase diagrams providing data on 43 aspects of the computerization process. For this sample as a whole, business schools can be characterized as in the moderate growth phase, indicating initial acceptance of computer-related concepts but insufficient resources to meet demand. Collectively, the schools perceive themselves to be earlier in those processes which involve newer technology such as Web development and use of laptop computers than those processes which centered around the mini/mainframes and microcomputers.

The area of most dynamic growth between the Ninth and Thirteenth surveys involved the introduction of Windows-based systems. Four years ago, schools were seen in the Start-up phase (initial installation and testing with several users) while this year they were in the Maturity phase (stable user base with resources usually meeting demands). Other areas of significant growth over the past four years were faculty and student use of e-mail systems, and both implementation and use of local area networks, all of which have moved from growth to maturity phases. Within this same period, support to users from the computing organizations was perceived to have not changed at all, remaining at moderate growth, with barely sufficient resources to meet growing demands and expectations.

When compared longitudinally, the computer operating budget showed a significant reversal on the phase diagram, moving from a moderate level of stability back into the high growth phase. This most likely represents a recognition on the part of the business schools that dynamic change is expected by faculty and students and the recognition that it only takes a year or two for both technology and computer skills to become stale. The movement back along the life cycle curve suggests that computer operating budgets are seen as needing to grow rather than having achieved a stable state. However, for the overall sample over the 13 year history of the survey, the median business school computer operating budget allocation per student has remained about the same, approximately $100 per student. The variation across schools continues to be significant with the bottom quartile schools allocating approximately $20 per student in contrast to over $500 per student at the top quartile of schools (when the schools are ranked by computer operating budget expenditures per student).

The survey gathered information from a strategic, instructional, operational, and network perspective. The strategic level concerned planning, the operating budget, strategic issues, and extensive computer facility renovations. Almost three quarters of the business schools reported spending considerable efforts towards their strategic planning efforts. Funding, curriculum development, technological currency, and faculty incentives remained the most critical issues, with emergent strategic issues being concerned with distance education and Web site development. Fifty-eight percent of the schools were involved in a move or significant facility renovation providing opportunities to incorporate the current technological infrastructure into the core of their building.

The instructional level investigated the use of information technology in the pedagogical process. The curriculum-related phase diagrams indicated continuing expectations of higher growth in the use of computers in business schools classrooms and for the impact of that integration. Actual usage of computers in the classroom was perceived to be in the moderate growth phase. Faculty and student productivity utilizing word processing and simple spreadsheets applications were further along the growth curve with averages near the mature phase, followed by on-line library database access a little lower along the growth curve. The instructional issues identified as critical remained focused on an appropriate level of curriculum integration and faculty incentives. The phase diagram related to classroom electronic/computer-linked equipment showed schools to be actively addressing this concern. The only major increases in recommended and/or required student microcomputer ownership occurred within the EMBA programs.

Ongoing daily operations are the concerns and responsibilities of the business school computer center directors and their support staff. Additionally, new opportunities and their attendant issues are emerging with every software introduction, upgrade, and/or modification as well as with the dynamic hardware technological advancements. Over 80% of the responding schools reported a great deal of interest in the further development of a distinct computing services organization. Growth in recommended/required student ownership, the significant mean change in Windows implementation, and the implementation of multimedia systems were shown to be some of the developments requiring major efforts on the behalf of the computer center support staff. Faculty training and equipment maintenance, together with hardware and software concerns, were the most critical issues facing the daily operations of the computer center. All of these concerns and responsibilities, opportunities and issues are constrained by the current economic and budget realities.

Local area networks (LAN) and Web site support was the fourth perspective investigated in this year's survey. As indicated above, LAN development and use showed significant growth over the past four years. Furthermore, connectivity was shown to be pervasive, with over 75% of the 286 schools providing data responding that all of their student labs, faculty offices, and administrative offices were networked and 68% of these distinct LANs were bridged together. Collectively, the responding schools indicated that they were in the slow growth phase with faculty and students just being introduced to the World Wide Web. The development of a business school's own Web site infrastructure lagged behind this use, with expectations of growth in this area. Information access was the primary purpose identified by the schools for Web site development, although student recruitment and competitive pressures were other reasons given for the schools' interests in developing Web sites.

The increase in power and capability of desktop computers continues to create considerable difficulty in establishing hardware category demarcations. Mini/mainframes were considered to be centrally-controlled time-sharing systems which accommodate multiple concurrent users. In contrast, microcomputers were considered as primarily single user desktop systems and laptops as the portable systems. As network technology matures and all systems become or have the option to become nodes on a network, even these distinctions will become less obvious. Accordingly, instead of completely abandoning their use of mini/mainframes, most of the schools are showing stability or phasing out of the traditional three uses (instruction, research, and administrative) while introducing two new uses, communications and client server technology.

A cluster analysis procedure was employed to clarify the relationship between the issues schools face with the computerization effort and where they are in the process. The same cluster analysis procedure (SAS FASTCLUST) was used with the Fifth and Ninth Surveys, and as before, five distinct clusters emerged from the data provided by the schools. However, in contrast to the earlier surveys, only four of the clusters were the same, and a different fifth cluster of schools emerged. Specifically, clusters identified as Start-up, Mixed, Late Growth, and Stable, had means the same as or very close to those found in both the Fifth and the Ninth Surveys. No cluster showed a mean close to the previous Early Growth mean. Rather, the fifth cluster appeared beyond that of the previous Stable cluster mean and formed a new cluster category, Mature. This cluster seems to reflect the natural progression along the phase diagram, and though totally unexpected, is quite logical.

When considering the various issues, whether strategic, instructional, operational, or network, some were seen to be more independent of where the business schools were in the computerization process. For example, the strategic issues of funding, curriculum development, technological currency, distance education, and faculty incentives were common across all five clusters. On the other hand, the strategic issues of lack of goals and concern with organizational structure were identified by the earlier clusters. Web site development and administrative systems developments were identified by the later clusters. The operational issue of student training was identified by the earlier clusters whereas insufficient hardware, staff currency, and Web standards were identified by the later clusters. Concerns for computer staff burnout was unique to the Mature cluster. The network issues of software and licensing were identified by the earlier clusters in contrast to laptop connectivity being identified by the later clusters. Access security and expansion were unique to the Mature cluster. The instructional issue of inability to use computers in the classroom was identified by the earlier clusters and the problem of courseware development was identified by the later clusters.

Finally, some issues seem to have been resolved during the past eight years. The strategic issuesof lack of short term plans and school-wide hardware and software standards, the operational issues of illegal copying of software, insufficient software, and the role of the mini/mainframes, the network issues of data security, incompatibility of competing network technologies, and basic microcomputer connectivity, and the instructional issue of courseware design, were all issues seen as critical in the Fifth but shown to have become less critical in the Ninth. Issues that have become less critical during the four years since the Ninth include the strategic issue of concern (hope) for hardware and software donations, and the operational issues of student training, equipment obsolescence, software licenses, Windows implementation, and graphics, and the network issues of micro to mainframe connectivity and WAN access. The instructional issues remain exactly the same as they were four years ago, indicating that these are primarily issues that cannot be solved by technological advances, learning curves, or even time in the computerization process.

Open Issues

In preparing this survey report we were struck by the fact that the business schools appear to be getting all the "easy" things done. When looking at the longitudinal data, the greatest growth were the changes in infrastructure (Windows operating system and LAN development). When completing the phase diagrams in 1988, technological issues around LANs and obtaining the "right" equipment were primary. However, over the intervening eight years, many of these issues have been resolved. With the growth of open standards, graphical user interfaces, and "plug-and-play" capability, the struggles over which systems to obtain, which protocol to use, and whether software standards should be imposed, have all worked their way towards resolution with relatively little difficulty. In a sense, this growth is a function of funds available to support the equipment and the computer operational staff.

So what's next? Is there a major challenge facing business schools, even those adequately funded, after the technology infrastructure is in place? The answer from our perspective is a resounding "yes." There is an even more daunting challenge than merely the implementation of the technology, namely, the subsequent organizational and individual behavioral changes.

We may derive some insights from an analogy of incorporating the automobile into the very fabric of our lives. We can think of this having occurred in three stages: an introductory stage followed by an infrastructure development stage which leads to a social transformation stage.

During the introductory stage, people substituted riding in cars rather than on horses or in horse-drawn carriages. People did the same things, but were now able to travel further and faster. As people wanted to and/or began to travel more, a critical mass of automobiles evolved and thus a corresponding new support infrastructure of roads, gas stations, service centers, and used car dealers emerged. Third, a social transformation occurred as new "transportation-intensive" social and economic structures emerged, with such changes as seen in dating, courting, and family behaviors, and the decline of the inner cities due to the feasibility of suburb life replete with their shopping centers and strip malls.

There are parallels for digital industries and our business schools. The introductory stage for computers was during the 1960s when the systems were used primarily to automate tasks, specifically bookkeeping and accounting functions. The initial systems were just replacements for backroom daily transactions previously done by hand. The microcomputers which began being introduced in earnest in the 1980s were essentially a substitute for typewriters and calculators. The first real "killer app" was the spreadsheet capability of VisiCalc, which encouraged the wide spread use of microcomputers throughout the business world. With this growth, the critical mass necessary to create the focus on infrastructure evolved. As a nation, the "information highway" is being created. Early entries such as America-On-Line and CompuServe are being challenged by the plethora of smaller Internet service providers, and most recently with the entry of the major telecom and cable companies. We don't yet know what new social forms will emerge with interactive home shopping, entertainment, distance education, and telecommuting.

In our business schools, the decade of the 1980's could be represented as the introduction and development of a critical mass of computer literate users. The current decade is focusing on the connectivity infrastructure of LANs, the Internet, the World Wide Web, and e-mail as common forms of communication. And, if the analogy holds, the next decade should be one of social and behavioral change.

The point of this analogy is that the digital world is around us, that our students who will spend most of their working lives in the 21st century, will need to see the computer and related technologies as an extension of themselves, as a tool as important as paper and pencils, abaci, slide rules, and calculators were during the past several hundred years. The promise or vision for information technology is that it will provide the opportunity to enhance our ability to synthesize ideas, gain greater insights into concepts, and be more effective and efficient problem solvers. Clearly, this is a goal which far exceeds using these applications as a basic personal productivity tools. A major challenge facing us as educators will be to fulfill this vision.

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