An Academic Management Portal


E-management is a definition for a group of tools and actions used in the organizational steering based on data systems. E-management can make strategic planning more solid and valid using data and information on past performance provided by the management information system (MIS). E-manage-ment requires a meta-level data system through which the data produced by the basic operational data system can be modified, restored and merged for use in operational steering. The possibility of merge the operational and financial data is especially important.

This article describes how the strategic management and the balanced scorecard approach developed by Kaplan and Norton (1992, 1993) can be used as a basis of the MIS and an academic portal. The Balanced Scorecard translates the strategy into tangible objectives and measures. The implementation of the strategy can be continuously monitored openly by everyone in the organization. The trends and development of operations can be monitored and evaluated in order to make the changes necessary to achieve the desired strategic objectives.

The empirical case of this article illustrates the development and the usage of an academic management portal at Turku Polytechnic. It is the largest multi-disciplinary polytechnic in Finland, having more than 8000 active students, six multidisciplinary educational departments, 36 degree programs and 750 full-time employees. The polytechnics in Finland are professionally-oriented higher education institutions (HEIs) unlike the universities, which have a scientific orientation. The increased autonomy and greater accountability of HEIs emphasise the importance of strategic management and management tools to implement strategies.


Strategic management is a matter of mapping the route between the perceived present situation and the desired future situation (West-Burnham, 1994). Strategic management involves taking stock of the educational policy, local economy, and other factors in the organization’s environment. It adapts the organization to its environment, but on the other hand, tries to exert a positive effect on the development of its local community.

The balanced scorecard approach is a framework for the communication and implementation of the strategy (Kaplan & Norton, 1996, 2001, 2004). The approach has been used extensively in Finnish HEIs (Kettunen, 2004, 2005). The Balanced Scorecard approach was introduced at Turku Polytechnic in 2002. It was followed by a thorough description of the management process starting at the beginning of 2004. The entire management process was described in detail during the development project to create the basis for the information system.

The MIS should include a description and measures regarding how the strategic objectives can be achieved. The balanced scorecard is easily left halfway due to the fact that the existing information systems do not directly support the approach. The balanced scorecard approach creates a shared understanding of the strategic plan, translates the plan into objectives and measures, and balances them usually into four different perspectives: customer, finance, internal processes and learning. The approach supplements the traditional accounting information. It does not only describe the monetary figures but also reports on the real course of events in the organization.

The concept of an MIS refers to the use of information technology in management, which is more specific than the term of a decision support system by Blanning and Bui (1999). Compared to earlier systems, the main difference of the MIS introduced in this article is the increased reciprocity and dialog between the users, decision makers and other stakeholders involved in the future planning and the goal to gain a stronger sense of collective commitment and open minded communication.

Our experiences show that tailoring all the necessary components of the MIS to meet the needs of the organization is important. A proper MIS presupposes modelling and reshaping the entire management process, which is specific to each organization. Another point is that the strategic plans and tools to communicate and implement the strategies are also specific to each organization. The balanced scorecard may well be an inadequate tool due to the unreliable measures and troublesome calculations.

The purpose of the MIS project was to achieve a system for the exchange of knowledge within the organization. The purpose was also to stimulate dialogue within the organization, encouraging innovations and reciprocal open discussion about strategic issues. The information system and the unit of the supporting information services provide means of combining, transforming, and sharing the existing information. An advantage of the decentralized system is that members of the personnel at the various levels of the organization can see how they can contribute to the achievement of strategic objectives.

The MIS gives the organization a common language and codes that form the cognitive dimension of the organizational culture. More than 800 concepts were defined in the project during the description of the management process. Metadata were added to these concepts in order to give the users of the portal solid meanings for the issues, measures and concepts.

In capturing data from the diverse source system and storing them in the integrated database, the data warehouse approach turned out to be useful. Finally, an information system with an intranet portal was developed during the years 2004-2006. The new portal is open to the management and personnel of the HEI. It will increase the transparency of how the objectives will be achieved. The management process is supposed to enhance strategic dialogue and the commitment of the personnel to the chosen strategic outlines.

The communicating of large organizations is nowadays carried out through intranets. Data mining is an attempt to extract useful relationships from large bodies of data. The data can be collected from different levels of the organization and aggregated to the overall level. Data warehousing is the process of capturing data contained in an organization’s various operational systems. The data from external sources (e.g., demographics, queries, registers, etc.) can optionally be added to the data warehouse and utilised for analysis and decision-making purposes (Darling, 1997). A rapid response is often necessary for decision makers in their ad hoc information requests.


The introduction of the balanced scorecard approach to Turku Polytechnic in 2002 was followed by a view that the entire management process needed to be described in depth. The description of the management process started at the beginning of 2004. During the description of the management process the self reflection resulted in the conclusion that the process needed some improvement. All the phases of the management process were described in detail and developed using flow diagrams and instruction documents.

Changes were made in the timing and agenda of the procedures and meetings included in the management process. The definition and development work produced the new management model, which describes the main aims, meetings, documents and time table of the management process tailored for Turku Polytechnic. The details of the management process can be aggregated to four sequential phases including objectives, resources, steering and results.

The whole management process is based on the principles of reciprocity, dialog, and flexible expert organization management, which refer to the values of the organization. The goal set for the development project was to create an appropriate, uniform, and open MIS to support the management process. It was important for the strategic planning and the implementation of the strategy to be appropriate and come across all levels of the organization from the institutional level to the level of the administrative units to the degree programmes and also the level of employees.

The main stages of the e-management development project were:

1. Evaluation, description, and reshaping of the management process

a. Process specification of the management process

b. Design of the document and report models of the management process

c. Definition of concepts of the management process

2. Description, planning, and implementation of the MIS

a. Planning of the information architecture

b. Planning of the contents of process modules

c. Definition of the process tasks and user roles

d. Planning of the data transfer and warehousing

3. Design and production use of the portal

a. Designing the computer screens of the MIS for the e-management portal

b. Planning the contents of process modules

c. Testing and demonstrations of the portal

d. Incremental extensions to portal functions

e. Evaluation of the management process, MIS and the portal

f. Development of the portal functioning

The management process was evaluated, described, and reshaped for the MIS at the various levels of the organization. This phase of the development project produced a large chart of the management process. The main goal of the evaluation process was to design strong ties between the strategic planning, objectives, measures, action plans, curricula, and the work load plans of the personnel. The aim of the management process was to enhance strategic dialogue and support the commitment of the personnel to the chosen strategic outlines. The description of the management process served as the basis of the planning of the e-management solution.

The description and planning of the MIS is necessary to create the e-management solution. The management process is structured independently from the information technology solution, which was tailored for Turku Polytechnic with the help of a private consulting company Ineo Ltd. The copyrights, further development rights and immaterial rights of the e-management solution belong to the consulting company which supplied the expert services for the implementation of the MIS. The system can be tailored so that it can also be used in other organizations and implemented by increments.

An academic portal was designed based on the MIS. Knowledge sharing technology builds a new layer of social and business value on the top of the existing information and knowledge stores. The MIS combines the approach of a traditional information technology solution with elements of knowledge sharing and social networks. Virtual communication provides faster transmission of information and it also allows people to do things on their own schedule and in their own time. This means a simultaneous compression and expansion of time as argued by Gray and Igbaria (2000).


Figure 1 roughly describes the management process. The full description of the management process is a large sheet put on the wall. It cannot be easily presented in a article. The management process includes four main phases describing the management process. These phases can also be applied in other organizations, but the detailed descriptions have to be tailored for each case.

The first phase of the management process includes the strategic planning and definition of objectives and measures.

The phase incorporates the updating of the strategic plan based on an analysis of the environment, target negotiations with the Ministry of Education and budget negotiations with the owner of the HEI. All the administrative units of the polytechnic draft and update their strategic plans within the MIS. This phase also includes the results analysis of the previous year.

The balanced scorecard framework translates the strategy into tangible objectives and measures and balances them at Turku Polytechnic into five different perspectives including the regional development, customer satisfaction, finance, internal processes, and learning. A strategy map is used to describe the linkages between the objectives located in the different perspectives. The internal processes have a positive effect on regional development and create value for customers, including students and employers. Funding is aligned with the internal processes and structures in the budget. The learning perspective includes the objectives that are necessary for efficient internal processes.

The second phase of the management process includes the planning of operations and resources for the three successive years following the instructions of the owner. The polytechnic and its administrative units will complete the plans including detailed budgets, action plans and personnel plans for the next year. The board of the polytechnic will present the budget proposal to the owner. Thereafter the executive management of the polytechnic will conduct the internal target negotiations with the administrative units. The owner will ratify the budget proposal, after which the eventual adjustments will be made in the budgets and action plans at various levels of the organization.

The third phase of the process includes operations and steering. The board of the polytechnic reports on the achievement of economic and operative targets three times a year to the owner. The senior management team and administrative unit of the polytechnic follow the economic situation and operations in meetings using real time reporting. It is important to keep the balance of payments and ensure that the organization is on the right track towards the strategic objectives.

The fourth phase includes the reporting of results. The annual report is written to meet the needs of the executive management, owner and other stakeholders. The Ministry of Education also requires reporting about how the targets agreed have been achieved. The self-evaluation report is discussed in the target negotiations with the Ministry of Education. Other reports such as the report of the sustainable development are also produced annually.

Figure 1. Main phases of the management process

Main phases of the management process  


The development of the academic management portal shows that it is important to describe and reshape the management process and necessary concepts in detail. A rigorous planning methodology is necessary for the development and implementation of a campus-wide MIS. On the other hand, e-management requires organized and controlled information technology architecture. The data warehousing provides a centralised database that integrates data derived from the diverse data sources.

The experiences of the development project described in this article indicate that the strategic planning and Balanced Scorecard are applicable as a basis for a campus-wide MIS. The portal can be used with an Internet browser and it can be used by all the employees of the institution. An advantage of the decentralised e-management system is that teachers and other workers can directly see how they contribute to the strategy of the whole institution. The portal changes the working culture of the organization and makes it more coherent.

Functionally the e-management portal is meant to be a combination of the communication channel, information processor, the tool of the management work and the j oint memory of the organization. The academic portal is an action plan or a notebook for the individuals in the different organizational units. As the use of the portal expands to the all levels of the institution portal literacy is an important element among the skills and competencies of the portal users.


Academic Management Portal: A management tool which can be used by managers and other members of the organization. Other stakeholders can have reports produced in the portal.

Balanced Scorecard: A framework for the communication and implementation of the strategy. The Balanced Scorecard approach translates an organization’s strategy into tangible objectives and measures and balances them typically into four different perspectives: customers, financial outcomes, internal processes and learning.

Data Mining: An attempt to extract useful relationships from large bodies of data.

Data Warehousing: The process of capturing data contained in an organization’s various operational systems. The data from external sources can optionally be added to the data warehouse and utilised for analysis and decisionmaking purposes.

Management Information System: Presupposes modelling the entire management process and tailoring all the necessary components of IT support system to meet the needs of the organization. The management information system should include a description and measures as to how the strategic objectives will be achieved.

Strategic Management: A matter of bridge building between the perceived present situation and the desired future situation. Strategy implies the movement of an organization from its present position, described by the mission, to a desirable but uncertain future position, described by the vision.

Strategic Themes: Describe the strategy of an organization in a concise way.They describe what management believes must be done to succeed and achieve the desired outcomes.

Strategy Map: The concept of the strategy map is used to describe the strategy. The strategy map is a visual representation of the cause-and-effect relationships among the objectives of an organization’s strategy and a great insight to executives and stakeholders in understanding the strategy.

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