Core problem-solving steps for developing new information systems
The steps involved in problem solving include:
- Stating the clearly understood problem. Before a new system can be put into place the designer need to perceive the problem and generate a problem statement. A clear understanding of the problem is attained through a thorough investigation into the causes of the problem (371).
- Alternative solutions to the problem are then formulated. This involves evaluating the existing alternatives and choosing the one that best addresses the problem.
- Selecting the most viable solution. This is attained after analyzing all the existing solutions. Through evaluation, one is able to analyze the viability of the various solutions.
- Executing the solution in the problem solving process. The proposed solution is introduced into the organisational structure, tested and then incorporated. After incorporation the system must be reviewed from time to time. Here, a detailed analysis of the specifications is required before the system can be tested, assessed and documented (372).
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Information requirements and there importance in developing a system solution
An organization needs to identify the potential beneficiaries of the information before out-sourcing that information. Determination of information requirements seeks to identify the person(s) who need the information, the location where that information is required, the time period and how that information will be availed to the respective department. The requirements of the new system are defined before a detailed description of the functions to be carried out by the modified system is identified. It is important to avoid creating a new system which will not address the needs of the organisation (374).
Types of design specifications required for a new information system
Design specifications for a new information system needs to have an output which can either be assessed in terms of its magnitude or composition. The output provided by the new system should also be timely i.e. provides the required result in time. The input should allow a logical flow of information especially when giving commands to the new system. The user interface needs to have the capacity to give a feedback to the user and should address the needs for which it was introduced. The capacity of the interface to handle occurring errors exhibits its capacity. The database should be simple to use and have a logical sequence of data. A logical sequence enables easier retrieval. The database should also have the capacity to handle the amount of work that an organization is dealing with. Therefore, the size of the organization and activities involved should determine the choice of database. It should also be easily accessible when one wishes to retrieve a file or document some information into the database (374).
The processing of data into information is another consideration. Data is less important to an organization unless it is converted into information. The programs need to have the capacity to handle computations in a logical manner. Activities carried out manually take a longer time and are prone to errors. It is therefore vital that the information system provides a guideline on the activities to be carried out at a particular time, the staff involved, and the mode of execution. The time involved and the location should also form part of the procedures.
Every system needs to have control to limit the access of various parties. This help to ensure that the information is protected and is not subject to unauthorized manipulation. A new system should always be tested before implementation. The method adopted to test the functions of the new system and it conversion approach are vital specifications. New systems require new skills and this are acquired through training and other learning platforms. This ensures that the users are familiar with the design requirements. Documentation has a significant role to play here to allow easier retrieval and reference. Introduction of a new design specification impacts on the organizational structure by introducing some changes from the previous designs (375).
Importance of the testing stage of systems development
Testing is significant in that it guarantees results before the actual implementation within the entire organisation. It is done through sampling particular areas of operations and checking how the new design will impact on that particular area. This allows any malfunctions to be corrected early and on a smaller scale before full adoption. Unit testing is incorporated to ensure that individual programs are tested while systems testing emphasizes on the entire system. A final certification is then done (acceptance testing) to ensure that the system is ready for application in the process operations. The evaluation of information systems is done by the users and the management only steps in to review them. After the system has met all the performance standards as approved during evaluation, then it is ready for installation and adoption (376).
Roles of documentation, conversion, production and maintenance in system development
Documentation is very vital in system modification because it shows the operations of a system from both the technical and final user’s view. Conversion, on the other hand allows a transition from the previous model to the new model. After conversion the system is now in production stage. This stage involves a review of the outcomes to determine the extent to which they realize the initial objectives. This helps to determine the necessity of modifications and revisions. Maintenance is then done to address deviations, adopt the new procedures and improve on the general efficiency of the system (377).
Alternative methods for building information system
The alternative methods for system-building perspectives include traditional systems lifecycle, out-sourcing, end-user development, use of software packages and prototyping. Traditional systems lifecycle involves division of a system into various sections whereby work assigned to a particular stage is finished before the commencement of the next section. There is allocation of duties between information specialists and end-users. Design, systems analysis and implementation are entrusted on the technical specialists while provision of information and review of staff’s work is entrusted on the end-users (377).
Formal specifications and documentation is emphasized in this method leading to emergence of numerous documents. One of the merits of this method lies in its application in creating large and complex models that require formal analysis and tight regulations. However, the approach is time consuming and fails to consider cost implications. The system is also incompatible with many personal small desktop machines which are usually unstructured (377).
Benefits, limitations and stages of information system prototyping
Prototyping is the generation of an experimental system within a short time and at low cost for evaluation by the end-users at the preliminary stage. It is important as it is intended to give an opportunity to the user to understand its requirements and make appropriate adjustments. It is also important since it allows the designing of user interface and its user involvement approach fulfills the user’s requirements. It is undertaken in stages where the user’s needs are first identified before an initial prototype can be developed. The user is then allowed to work with the prototype to determine its efficiency and later revisions and enhancements are made severally to the satisfaction of the user (378).
End-user development is a system that allows users with little or no technical skills to make simple systems to help minimize time and the procedures required for a full application. The user use graphics languages and software tools to obtain data, write reports and create the information system without professional indulgence. This has the advantage of completing the task within a shorter time by avoiding the programming approach. Also, the users are able to choose a system according to their own needs and specifications. However, these systems are limited on the number of transactions they can handle within a particular time with the required procedures and updates. Another limitation is that they fail to follow the development procedures which require regular testing and recording (379).
The advantages and disadvantages of developing information system based on application software packages
Application software packages are important especially kin processes that do not undergo many changes. By use of prewritten and pretested software, the organization is able to save on the cost and time. Also, the package software does not address the challenge of customization and hence the need for applied software packages. However, if the level of customization required is high, then extra programmes and customization packages may become expensive and time consuming; a situation that may reverse the earlier gains (380).
Outsourcing and its application in building information systems
Outsourcing is the assigning the work of creating an operating system to an external organization that specializes in that kind of work rather than building it internally. This approach is used to build an information system when the hiring organization is limited in skills, assets and resources that a client is in possession of. Installation of a new information system for instance in supply chain administration may require hiring of large number of expertise but this problem can be addressed through outsourcing. The cost is usually the driving factor when determining whether to outsource or create internally. Off-show outsourcing may have additional; costs emerging from background differences between the expertise and organisation staff which may lead to termination and relocation costs incurred when existing employees are relocated or laid off (380).
Developing e-business applications
Businesses can introduce e-commerce applications in order to realize fast solutions without interfering with the existing systems and institutional databases. Rapid application development (RAD) is the creation of working systems within a short time using visual programs and other interface building tools. This does not follow a particular sequence and activities can be done simultaneously. Joint Application Design (JAD) is another approach used to speed up the creation of information needs and to advance the initial designs. It involves collaboration between the end-user and specialists to brain-storm on the design requirements (382).
Principle methodologies for modeling and designing systems
The most common modeling methodologies include structured and object-oriented methodologies. The structured approach involves a step by step technique whereby the next step is generated from the previous one. This method is process oriented and seeks to obtain record, manipulate and transmit data through a system. A Data Flow Diagram (DFD) is used to logically represent the flow of information while dividing it into modules which exhibit the extent to which the processes are managed. It also shows the interfaces that exist between the processes (382).
Object-oriented approach treats data and processes as separate activities. Different methods can be used for analyzing and designing processes. An object is a combination of data and particular processes that operate on those data. Data operations can only be modified only by those methods that are associated with the data. An adjustment is set to address an operation within that program but not in separate software (384).
Comparison between object oriented and traditional structured approaches for modeling and designing systems
Object-oriented approach is more incremental and iterative as compared to the traditional system. When analyzing the system, the functional needs of the system are specified by including the various activities that will be carried out by the system. Interactions between the system and its users are used to identify data and processes. Object oriented approach deals with how objects interrelate with each other. Traditional approach involves sub-division of work into section whereby task needs to be completed before the next one commences. Specialists and end-users are accommodated in the design, analysis and implementation. Formalizing specifications and documentation are some of the factors emphasized a situation that leads to proliferation of documents. The application of the traditional model is in complex institutions that need formal analysis and strict controls. However it consumes a lot of time and resources (384).
Selection and evaluation of information systems
To determine the suitability of an information system, an evaluation is carried out to determine the costs and benefits. A cost benefit analysis is done by evaluation the returns expected after introducing a new information system. This is the compared with the cost of establishing and maintains that system. An analysis is later undertaken to establish if the benefits exceed the cost after which the project is undertaken. The project with the highest benefits is selected for implementation. Capital budgeting appraisal techniques used to evaluate projects include IRR, NPV, pay-back period, profitability index etc (387).
Tangible and intangible benefits
Tangible benefits are those, whose value can be expressed quantitatively, for instance the number of units of a particular commodity that will be produced after introducing a new information system. Also may include the number of customers who will be served per day after the introduction of the new system. Tangible benefits include: reduced workforce, increased productivity, lower computer expenses, lower clerical costs, increased sales and reduced expenses Intangible benefits on the other hand refer to those that are difficult to quantify but can lead to realization of tangible benefits. Modification of the existing system is intangible but can lead to an increased service delivery to clients; who can be quantified. Intangible benefits include: improved asset utility, improved control of resources, more ideas, improved staff goodwill, higher level of customer satisfaction and improved corporate image (387)
Major components of an information system plan
The major components of an information system plan include a statement of corporate objectives which specify the importance of technology in the realization of goals. It gives the targeted time dates, chief management decisions and required institutional changes. Institutional changes include the changes in the workforce, authority, training needs, management activities and authority (387).
Use of portfolio analysis and scoring models in establishing the value of a system
Portfolio analysis carries out an inventory of all the systems in a project for instance infrastructure and out-sourcing agreements. It helps to assess the level of risks and use them to realize organisational benefits. By balancing between the level of the risk and the expected returns, an organisation is able to get its returns from investment. The initial focus is on high benefits and low risks and undertaking those investments (388).
Managing an information system for projects
Management of information system projects requires the application of institutional analysis charts in organisation change. Administrative support and regulation of the implementation process is fundamental in dealing with potential risks which may affect the project. The risks are determined by the size, structure and level of expertise of the project team. Gantt and PERT charts are used as control tools to track the resource allocation against various activities. End-users are involved in the system development to make the well versed with installation and training (389).
The importance of implementation for managing the organisational change surrounding a new information system
Involvement of the users in the implementation allows them to modify the system according to their requirements. Also, active participation of the various parties enables them to develop a positive perception towards it. After successful involvement of specialists and end-users better results are realized (391).
The user-designer communication gap and the kind of implementation problems it creates
User-designer information gaps occur when the priorities, interests and foundations are not harmonized between the users and specialists. This leads to a low capacity to address the user’s needs and users are elimination from the implementation of organisational change (391).
The factors that influence project risk and the strategies for minimizing the project risks
Some of the challenges faced is project risk an d successful implementation of the information system. Complexity in technology can be addressed by out-sourcing or involving project managers with strong technical backing (392). The use of formal tools of planning also helps large projects in monitoring and documentation. People involvement; create a positive perception about the change help the users to adopt systems fit for global applications (394)
Part 2: Case study questions
The initial problem that Mark Singleton was trying to solve at Citizens National
Mark Singleton sought to increase the market share due to widening of the customer base. He was able to identify the problem and later devise applicable ways that could address the problem. Then he chose the best alternative of improving customer relationship and went ahead to implement it through the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software (404).
The business case for implementing a new system
Knowledge of existing and potential customers was the basis on which implementation of the new system was based. The tangible benefits realized were the increased number of customers, reduction in the time required to handle each customer, reduction in losses among others. Intangible benefits included customer satisfaction, improved relationship between the bank and its customers among others (404).
Failure of implementation of the Siebel CRM solution for Citizens National
The complexity of the system made it difficult for Citizen Bank’s employees to adopt it. The system was unable to update the potential customer’s records automatically. These factors were limited in terms of incorporating the end-users and the specialists and also could not be perceived by the employees due to technological difficulties. Compatibility between the old and the new system was also a challenge (404).
QuickBase as a solution for Citizens National
QuickBase was a better deal because it could be customized to address the needs of the organization at every level through modifications. QuickBase had the advantage that the business could adjust it to fit its business operations without changing the old system entirely. The costs of ownership and maintenance were also lower (404).
The kind of organisation that would benefit from using the Siebel CRM package
Siebel CRM package would immensely benefit a new organization that needs to generate its own information system from scratch. Siebel system is also applicable for businesses whose software has failed. An example is Oracle Clusterware which ensures that all the nodes are able to link with Siebel software. Siebel CRM is able to create a reconnection where it has failed (Oracle 8).
Building Information Systems and Managing Projects, chap. 11, 368- 406, print
Oracle. Siebel CRM Applications protected by Oracle Clusterware, An Oracle Technical White Paper, 2008 1-28, print.