GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 27, 2009 — When it comes to making business run efficiently, it’s all about integration, according to Simha Magal, professor of management in Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business.
In the old days, a large company would be organized along functional lines, each with its own ways of keeping track of what’s going on. Thanks to cutting-edge enterprise resource planning software, companies now share information between departments and facilities internationally as they execute the business processes for purchasing, design, production, sales and accounting. Magal has co-authored a new book that helps students understand what an end-to-end business process is.
Magal co-wrote the book, “Essentials of Business Processes and Information Systems” (Wiley), with Jeffrey Word. The book focuses on the processes that are executed in companies. “It talks about what are the key steps in the process,” Magal said. “When a customer order comes into a company, what happens to it? Many students don’t have an idea of what a purchase order is. This book is designed to teach them about how these processes work.”
The book is the culmination of 10 years of curriculum development, working with partners from business and industries. Magal is the director of Grand Valley’s ERP Initiative, which works to teach all business students about Enterprise Resource Planning computer systems across the entire curriculum.
“The idea for the book came out of what we do here, which is teach about entire processes,” Magal said. “We are trying to fundamentally change how we teach, to move away from a silo perspective into a much more integrated process perspective. The better students understand those processes, the better they will be in making sure those processes work effectively.”
Grand Valley has partnered with SAP AG Inc., the world’s largest enterprise software company, to help that curriculum evolution. Seidman College of Business is a member of the SAP University Alliance, which allows it to receive software licenses and training at greatly reduced rates. Training, technical support and licenses for the use of SAP software represented an in-kind contribution totaling more than $9 million for the 2007-08 academic year. Grand Valley is one of a handful of schools nationwide that runs a SAP Certification Academy in the summer, and two Grand Valley students were among the nine recipients of SAP’s $10,000 scholarships last year.
In order to be successful, Magal said, students need to have an understanding beyond their own area of expertise. His book is designed to be used in any introductory college business course as a supplement. There is a Web-based SAP simulation offered with the book, as well.
“Historically, faculty would teach in their specific area without being fully aware of other courses, so students didn’t see how each of the courses was connected to each other,” said Magal. “This silo approach has been true for companies as well. That is changing and Grand Valley is changing to provide students with a cross-functional process view of the world and at the same time give them practical experience with ERP software.”
The approach, Magal said, is cutting-edge. “There are just a handful of universities who are even attempting anything like this,” he said.