An Information System
“An Information System is the mechanism which delivers the right piece of information to a decision-maker, at the right time, and in the right format so that effective decision making can take place” (Snape 2003). The adoption of an Information System framework is vital for any firm’s long-term prosperity and survival.
Somerfield’s Information System was different in each local unit. Moreover they did not establish International standards for their hardware1 and software2. In this report a holistic analysis will be undertaken by analysing the effects of establishing a new Information System and discuss how this fits with Somerfield’s corporate strategy. In addition, it will highlight the importance of Information Systems Strategy in the organisation, including recommendations on the form that any such scheme could take. Finally some conclusions will be drawn emphasising the necessity of implementing a new Information System Strategy for Somerfield Stores Limited.
2.0 Strategic Planning of Information Systems
Information Systems Strategy is vital for any organisation and is the starting point where all objectives will be settled, determining how the planning of the organisation will be developed. An Information Systems Strategy might contain the following:
* Information Technology Strategy
* Communications Strategy
* Manual Systems Strategy
* People/Systems Strategy
* System/Planning and Development Strategy
2.1 Information Technology Strategy
A business analysis of a work system must include Information technology and should emphasise the way the technology will be used in the work system. Hardware and software must be compatible in the various departments and divisions of the organisation. Using Information Technology, Somerfield needed to succeed in installing an open system allowing staff to seek information for individual and collective learning about the organisation’s goals and processes. In order for Somerfield to accomplish the above in would need to appropriate Hardware and Software for:
* Providing Data Storage
* Get better control of inputs and outputs
* Office automation
2.2 Communication Strategy
It is up to organisation’s communication strategy how it will link together its various Information Technology Systems. Most organisations are linked via a computer network. Somerfield is developing a fully-fledged network by linking a UNIX3 server in each local unit with the company’s headquarters in Bristol.
Telecommunications4 are widely used in many companies. Today telecommunications are used to organize more or less remote computer systems into telecommunications networks5. Moreover many companies have their own intranet and many have EDI6 (Electronic Data Interchange) links with its customers and suppliers. If Somerfield uses EDI it will increase the transmission speed of messages.
2.3 Manual Systems Strategy
Manual procedures should also be developed and some work must be kept on paper. In addition, it is essential to make arrangements for back-up of electronic systems. Any manual systems should be fitted in with and be compatible with computerised systems (Snape, 2003).
2.4 People/Systems Strategy
“Factors such as training needs, human/computer interface and social interaction within the organisation should be considered in the context of the overall information system” (Snape’s 2003). In the case of Somerfield, users only need two of three hours of training to become independent, which suggests the system in place is very user-friendly.
2.5 System-Planning and Development Strategy
Information Systems are generally developed for the following reasons:
* To respond to a directive.
* To capitalize on an opportunity.
* To solve a current or anticipated (James A. Senn. 1978, p: 683).
All systems development projects have to follow a common view of methodology and techniques. So all projects that Somerfield will use, must be developed using the same method.
3.0 Systems Development Process
“Systems development refers to all the activities that go into producing an Information Systems solution to an organisational problem or opportunity. It is a structured kind of problem solving with distinct activities” (K.C Laudon, J.P. Laudon, 2000, p: 433). These activities consist of System Analysis, System Design, Programming, Testing, Conversion and Production and Maintenance. The traditional method of developing large information systems relies on the SDLC (Systems Development Life Cycle). “This is a sequence of development stages that ultimately produce an operational system” (Zwass, 1998, p: 477). SDLC consists of the following stages:
* Project Definition
* Feasibility Study
* Systems Analysis
* Systems Design
* Review and Maintenance
Figure 1: “The systems development process”
Adopted from K.C Laudon, J.P. Laudon (2000)
3.1 Project Definition
This is the stage of SDLC that determines if the company faces any problems and outlines the details of the current system. It helps the company to acquire:
* Description of scope of project
* High-level systems concepts
* Overall project data model
* Work plan and estimate of effort for next phase
* Summary of costs and benefits (Paul L. Tom, 1991, p: 208)
3.2 Feasibility Study
Feasibility study is the way to determine whether the solution is achievable, given the organisation’s resources and constraint (K.C. Laudon & J.P. Laudon, 2000, p: 348). There are three major areas:
a) Technical feasibility: involves questions such as whether the technology needed for the Information System exists and whether the firm has enough experience using that technology.
b) Economic Feasibility: “whether the business can afford to build the Information System, whether its benefits should substantially exceed its costs, and whether the project has higher priority than other projects that might use the same resources” (S. Alter 2002, p: 481).
In this phase Somerfield had to check whether the benefits justify the costs in order to decide if the project would be undertaken. It wise to keep in mind that a very small increase in Somerfield’s market share equates to a significant increase in revenue.
If for example Somerfield increase their market share by 1%, from “5.5% that it has now” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/supermarkets) to 6.5%, their annual revenue increases by ï¿½65million.
c) Operational feasibility: “whether the proposed solution is desirable within the existing managerial and organisational framework” (K.C. Laudon ; J.P. Laudon, 2000, p: 348).
3.3 Systems Analysis
In this face all the relevant information has to be gathered and discussed by the business team defining the information requirements. In order to achieve that, the team has to produce any relevant questionnaires and diagrams developing a detailed statement including all the specific activities that have to be taking place.
3.4 Systems Design
“Whereas systems analysis describes what a systems should do to meet information requirements, systems design shows how the system will fulfil this objective” (K.C. Laudon ; J.P. Laudon, 2000, p: 348).
Somerfield uses an open system that will help in the creation of a national network, which each unit is linked to the company’s headquarters in Bristol.
System Design is can be broken into:
* Logical design-The aim of logical design is to design the schema of the database and all the necessary subschemas. A relational database will consist of tables each of which describes only the attributes of a particular class of entities. Logical design begins with identifying the entity classes to be represented in the database and establishing relationships between pairs of these entities (V.Zwass, 1998, p: 221)
* Physical design-All fields are specified as to their length and the nature of the data (numeric, characters and so on). A principal objective of physical design is to minimize the number of time-consuming disk accesses that will be necessary in order to answer typical database queries (V. Zwass, 1998, p: 221)
Implementation is the process of putting a system into operation in an organisation. Somerfield had no original system. Somerfield uses two databases. So what they wanted to achieve with a new system was to gather customer behavioural data (when, what, how they buy a product and why they prefer one to another). The purpose of having this system in place is to predict consumer’s future behaviour.
3.5.1 Steps in the Implementation phase
* Training: “Training is the process of ensuring that system participants know what they need to know about both the work system and the information system” (S. Alter, 2002, p: 484). The training plan explains how and when the users will be trained. Somerfield’s employees had to be trained according to the new system’s requirements in order to adjust to the changes. Now users only need two or three hours to become independent.
* Conversion: The conversion plan explains how and when the organisation will convert to the new business process. This needed to be as smooth as possible to give Somerfield as little disruption as possible.
* Acceptance testing: is testing of the information system by the users as it goes into operation.
* Post-implementation audit: The purpose of post-implementation audit is to determine whether the project has met its objectives for costs and benefits and to make recommendations for the future.
Figure 2: “Steps in the Implementation Phase”
Adopted from S. Alter (2002)
3.6 Review and Maintenance
* Review is the stage, which evaluates the success or failure of the new information system. The criteria that a company has to use in order to evaluate its position are: performance, cost and satisfaction.
* Maintenance is the process of modifying the information system over time. As users gain experience with a system, they discover its shortcoming and usually suggest improvements (S. Alter, 2002, p: 487). In the future Somerfield is considering allowing key suppliers access the sales and wastage data through the Internet. So the database needs to be expandable.
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