Helping small business with IT challenges during COVID-19

MIS students look to take on projects this summer

Maric Boudreau | May. 19, 2020

COVID-19 is having a tremendous impact on the economy. Particularly hard hit are small businesses that traditionally operate in-person, not online. Many of these businesses switched their operations as best they could, coordinating by phone or through remote work. For some, going online is a lifeline to survival, but they may not have the time, knowledge, or resources to quickly implement an online model. Even after stay-at-home orders lift, many consumers will still prefer to go online. 

At the same time, many students had summer internships canceled or shortened, including MIS (Management Information Systems) students from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. These students seek virtual work and/or educational opportunities that align with their professional interests.

The MIS Department of the Terry College of Business is providing an opportunity for small businesses to involve students in projects related to their technology acumen or online presence. Each project will be carried out by a student (or team of students) under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The focus will be on solving a technology problem or helping a business better leverage their technology investments. Our goal is to complete all projects in two months. All work will be done in an accountable, responsible, and customer-serving fashion.

The services include but are not limited to:

  • Create or modify a website
  • Create a database and queries
  • Analyze data and visualize findings
  • Improve business processes
  • Assess and improve information security
  • Enhance remote worker productivity via leveraging current IT capabilities
  • Help businesses prepare for the “return to work” world

Service requests will be quickly screened by faculty and those selected will be passed to an available student or student team, after the signing of an MOU. The screening focus will be on the ability to address the requested project in a two-month period and the critical need for the business. Some projects may be too big or not fit the skill sets of the students available.

The services will be provided by one student or by a two- to three-member student teams. Each team will have a faculty mentor to guide them and will meet with the client (virtually, of course), and determine a plan to address the project. Project specifics including communication and resource issues will be discussed and formalized between the team and the client during the planning process. In case any resources are required by the project team, it will endeavor to find economical solutions but there may be instances where the client may need to provide resources.

A critical element of the process will be enabling the client to operate the new technology after the project team leaves, so some of the time will be spent in transferring knowledge to the client, not just implementing a technology solution and leaving.

We plan to run this program during the summer, i.e. May 2020 - July 2020. Clients requiring additional project work, based on changed or increased scope, will have to discuss with the students about continuing work. We will re-evaluate its value and impact to determine if it makes sense to continue in the fall.

Interested parties should contact Dr. Maric Boudreau, MIS Department Head, at mcboudre@uga.edu.


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