Now more than ever, truly successful professionals must be educated in more than the nuts and bolts of marketing, business administration and management. They also must be immersed in the concept of corporate culture and their responsibilities in promoting an ethical business climate. Perhaps no place is this more evident than in the fields surrounding Information Technology, Information Systems and Business Informatics.
Think of it: Even at the most basic levels, seemingly “simple” new information technologies are at the heart of major social, ethical, security and privacy upheavals redefining the corporate and healthcare worlds. A few examples:
Email – This everyday business tool has opened a Pandora’s box of ethical and legal conundrums, ranging from spamming to employee and management privacy, security of company communications, the language and conduct of employees when communicating with each other, and the consequent criminal and civil liabilities that companies may face when email systems are misused.
Social Media – The rise of blogs and sites like Facebook has brought a special breed of privacy concerns. Sharing or disseminating personal information, including photos and videos, can risk not only personal and corporate reputations but personal and company security as well. On the flip side, Human Resource personnel and business managers are increasingly reviewing social media sites like Facebook to inform their hiring decisions of potential applicants.
Intellectual Property – Shared music, video and online publication sites like Napster, YouTube and Google Books are redefining issues of authorship, licensing, copyright and the legal ramifications of their infringement. Employees can easily download, pocket and share company data. Material posted on a company Web site or blog can go viral at a moment’s notice, rendering control of intellectual property a virtual losing battle.
Data Mining and Hacking – Networking and accessing of multiple databases now allows sensitive information to be collected, combined and exploited in unprecedented ways. Unscrupulous people can leverage this intelligence for a host of questionable and even criminal purposes. Hackers can also intercept, disrupt or bring a business to its knees via the Internet, heightening the need for corporate responsibility and technological security.
In the modern work environment, managers, designers and even builders of information systems and applications have instant access to employee, client and company data, making questions of ethics and responsibility a priority. In the healthcare realm, recent Federal mandates to create Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems are forcing nursing, business and IT professionals alike to rethink patient privacy and the secure handling of their personal/medical information.
No matter what the business sector, there are grave legal exposures to organizations failing to institute suitable policies and procedures. Moreover, workplace conduct is no longer considered the purview of Human Resource managers alone. Increasingly, management teams at all levels are finding themselves accountable for the overall standards, practices, moral character and “corporate responsibility” of their companies. This goes far beyond articulating and enforcing the employee handbook. Today’s professional is expected to be an ethical model among his or her peers.
This is not to paint a bleak picture of business in the 21st Century. Just the opposite. These are exciting times, filled with opportunity for properly educated professionals. Ethics and corporate responsibility should be key components of a reputable online bachelor or master’s degree in Business Administration, Management of Information Systems, Information Technology and related degree programs.
A solid grasp of the key ethical and social trends reshaping the American workplace will go a long way in preparing candidates for future leadership and keeping them marketable as they climb the career ladder.