With time as the markets are expanding and globalization is taking place all over the world, Companies are finding it more and more intricate to cope with the growing needs of a good organizational structure, plan, and strategy. Whether it may be a manufacturing firm, a service provider, or a retail chain, All Organizations are now putting in more of their resources in implementing various strategies of gaining a competitive edge over their rivals in the market. Technology has a major impact on how business processes are carried out and it is now a vital part for every organization to function in a more effective and agile fashion.
IT is a phenomenon that is on the constant verge of improvement. Newer, better, and more efficient changes are taking place that leads to IT becoming more and more expedient, convenient, and effective. This paper would cover the aspects of the Application service provider (ISP) as well as the system development lifecycle and how they have an impact on the performance and use of technology and software. Moreover, it would focus on the critical success factors in the information systems development lifecycle.
Application Service Provider (ASP)
As the overall competition among businesses is increasing and most large-scale businesses are getting larger and taking an even larger chunk of the market, it is getting harder for medium and small-scale businesses to cope with the advancements and the changing business practices. Application service providers came into being with the advent of the internet and the changes that it brought to the business models. As the demand for technology increased, there were not enough qualified IT professionals to serve the needs of the small and medium-sized firms.
Furthermore, it was extremely difficult for these businesses, which are already stretched in terms of their capital, to invest in the high costs of specialized software. Application service providers are businesses that lease access to software applications that can be utilized over the internet for a monthly fee. The maintenance of the software is carried out by the ASP and not by the client’s IT staff. ASP services are becoming an imperative alternative not only for small businesses but also for large-scale companies for outsourcing and individual users as well. (Factor, 2001)
One example of a leading ASP could be Worldlinc (www.worldlinc.net). Worldline is an ASP that is a web application service provider and offers a large range of applications including website design, search engine optimization, CRM (website content management), e-commerce online shopping, web application development, and web-based business automation technologies. The ASP works over its hardware, software, and support personnel.
The alternative to acquiring software through application service providers is to create in-house custom-based software. Several methodologies can be followed to create software, one of the basic being the system development lifecycle that is used as a stepwise technique for developing an information system. Certain phrases are followed by the SDLC. All the projects or software would progress through the same phases. These would be covered in detail in the following sections. (Morency, 1999)
The first step of the SDLC is the investigation. This stage not only involves identifying but also evaluating. The investigation phase involves the information system planning to decide whether there is a need for an IS. The planning department usually sets the plans, identifies and defines the objects and goals, and also devises the course of the action that would be followed in achieving these goals.
The stage of system analysis is a detailed description of the needs of the business. It refines the project goals and outlines the functionalities of the system based on a comprehensive understanding of the business requirements. The functional requirements are defined including the user interface, procedures, output, storage, and control which would maintain support and security of the system.
The next phase is to design the system or software. The design would involve the user interface, the processes that have to be designed such as the flow charts, the data flow diagrams, the entity-relationship diagrams, and so on. The data design would also be created which would show how the data would be stored. This can be carried out through database tables, data dictionary which would contain details and descriptions of every field in the database. These steps make the project more organized and traceable. The listing of the system specifications is done in the requirements phase.
The budget to develop the system including the hardware and software, the personnel requirements, networking and other sources that are required would be examined in the system specifications. Prototyping comes in the design phase but it is not always made. Prototypes are models that are made to clarify requirements or design elements. It is constructed to test the actual model and make sure that there are no flaws or errors. The user would get a gist of the actual software through the prototype. The prototype is built using minimal programming so that it is easy to modify as it is argued that it is generally more expensive to retrofit a prototype. Testing the program by the end-user is also important to assess its performance. ( Laver, 1989)
The implementation phase is carried out if there are no constraints found in the prototype (if a prototype is made). This stage involves the activities associated with the deployment of the application. The primary tasks include training of the end-users, installation of the system, making the necessary documentation such as the user manuals and other formal documents needed by the end-user. If a prototype has not been created then the detailed testing would be carried out before deployment.
Finally, the feedback and maintenance phase is the process taking place later on. Most System development lifecycles do not include this phase as part of the processes.
The ASP approach has several advantages over the SDLC option to acquire information technology applications. Firstly, outsourcing to ASP cuts down the costs of creating, as well as maintaining an in-house information technology unit. Since the software advancement is continually upgrading, using an ASP ensures that the latest versions are available without any installation process. The requirement for staff training and qualified IT professionals is reduced as there is no need for creating new software and systems. Furthermore, the use of ASP-based software is less time-consuming and can help businesses to concentrate on other areas and use a variety of technologies, services, and applications without wasting time on the development process. (Columbus, 2000)
Task 4: Critical success factors in the IS development lifecycle
As businesses are growing and so is the competition, it is becoming increasingly important to be efficient in terms of maintaining an edge over the rivals. Cost is one of the most vital aspects of the management of the business and needs to be administered with immense analysis and scrutiny. Most businesses have separate divisions that analyze each step based on the financial effects it will have as well as the risks that have to be taken.
Technology is a growing need for organizations to keep up with the increasing pace of industries and advancements. Information technology often requires a large number of investments and it is the most crucial due to its constantly evolving nature. The IT projects carried out in the businesses should be assessed based on their output in correlation with the business processes and goals for these projects to provide the right assistance for the company. This is the reason why businesses carry out an assessment and thorough evaluation before investing in the development of IT projects. ATP Life Assurance Company uses several tools to assess whether IT projects are feasible.
Financially, they test the project in terms of return on investment to measure the increase in the revenue that would be gained with the help of the IT project. This gain is compared to the investment made in the project. This return on investment tool helps in deciding whether the investments made of the project would not incur a loss for the company. Moreover, risk analysis is carried out on the projects which would insure or give a clear idea on whether the project would be profitable or not. These tools are important because IT projects more often than not involve a considerable amount of investment.
The company makes sure that the projects are completed successfully and they support the business goals through monitoring the performance of the projects during their development process to keep a track of which projects are effective and feasible concerning the business objectives. (Hicks, 1986)
The success of the IT projects depends on a variety of characteristics of the project. The project must be correlated with the business aspects of the company and steps must be taken to ensure that these projects are providing the required services. The knowledge of the developers must be managed, the requirements must be kept stable to avoid discrepancies in the development process, and techniques and tools that are used must be appropriate. Moreover, the quality of the project is vital and this maintenance is inevitable. The performance of the project must be evaluated from time to time to monitor its feasibility in terms of finance and functionality. (Wohlin, 2000)
In the end, it is important to understand that Information technology is now one of the most basic and essential aspects of the performance of businesses. In today’s modernizing and expanding world of work, businesses need to remain agile to the environment and for this purpose, there must be a variance in the types and sources of software and systems that are used for the businesses to be able to maintain efficiency while controlling costs at the same time.
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