Information systems (IS) have come to play a key role in management decision making, performance measurement, data management, transaction processing, operational analysis, and other areas of organizational activities. The use of modern IS and management information systems (MIS) facilitates collaboration and communication within organizations, thereby promoting their sustainability and growth.
Unfortunately, a process of IS development is associated with numerous challenges that often lead to a frequent occurrence of failures. According to Bocj, Greasley, and Hickie (2015), more than 40 percent of IS development projects fail to achieve their key objectives. The findings of a study conducted by a joint Cambridge-Massachusetts venture show that out of 18 IS implementation projects, only 3 were qualified as a success (Gibson & Singer, 1982).
Therefore, both project managers and information technology (IT) managers have to ensure that development and implementation projects maximize a return value from their investments by being in alignment with the strategies and goals of an organization. This paper aims to outline the process of IS development. It will also explore how end users can be involved in the process and discuss how project managers can achieve optimal IS-business alignment. The paper will argue that project management, user involvement, and the use of Strategic Alignment Maturity (SAM) IS-business alignment method are essential for maximizing the alignment capabilities of a project.
Before starting the discussion of IS development, it is necessary to explore the concept of bespoke development, which is a recent trend in software acquisition. Unlike off-the-shelf development, bespoke development refers to a process of IS production, in which IT professionals produce software packages that are tailored to specific requirements of a business (Bocj et al., 2015). Even though the process is more expensive and time-consuming than an off-the-shelf purchase of pre-written applications, it has the benefit of conferring a competitive advantage on organizations.
The process of IS development and implementation of presupposes risk management. According to Gibson and Singer (1982), in the framework of change management, “the factors traditionally deemed necessary for successful implementations are not always sufficient” (p. 4). Therefore, user involvement is not only considered desirable for MIS and IS projects, but it is also essential for ensuring “the consistency of the technology with the work processes or work styles” (Petter, DeLone, & McLean, 2013, p. 7).
Most of the modern IS development strategies involve an iterative approach. Spiral, agile, and lean models of software development have different development cycles characterized by a lack of sets of discrete steps (Bocj et al., 2015).
Nonetheless, it is possible to recognize the following phases in these software development approaches: inception, analysis, construction, and implementation. The participation of business users is essential during some of these phases. User involvement in the inception phase provides system developers with a better understanding of the initial scope of a project. It also helps to identify conflict areas and assess the drawbacks of an existing IS environment (Sun, 2013).
User participation in the analysis phase allows system developers to gain valuable insights into sequences of events or use case descriptions that are necessary for solving specific business problems. The implementation phase of a project is a phase during which developers provide training for business users and receive feedback about a new system. During this phase, users should be involved in acceptance testing that helps to measure the success of a project against a set of predetermined criteria.
Project Management and Agile Development
Project management hinges on the philosophy and methodology of a particular IS project. Over the years, numerous frameworks have been developed to assist managers in successfully bringing MIS and IS projects to fruition. For example, a software system development cycle (SDLC) program is an approach to developing an IS that presupposes completion of sequential, formal stages (Laudon & Laudon, 2015). However, such structured, top-down methodologies are not suitable for complex projects requiring numerous adjustments. Therefore, the introduction of iterative, agile methods of IS development helped business managers to obtain more control over technical domains of new systems (Laudon & Laudon, 2015).
From a project management perspective, it is clear that administrative support and rigorous project control can help to ensure the successful fruition of a project. McManus (2014) argues that the use of modern project management planning tools can help managers who are involved in bespoke development to better “plan, coordinate, track resources, and monitor costs” of a project (p. 33).
Such coordinated work of project management systems and software development methodologies can help to translate customer requirements into inputs during the initial stages of a project. Given that agile software development is characterized by the principles of dexterity and maneuverability, the engagement of project management in the process is essential for delivering working software packages on time, which benefits organizations (Dingsoyr, Nerur, Balijepally, & Moe, 2012). Software developers also benefit from such collaboration due to streamlined prioritization of requirements and improved control of quality, time, and resource constraints.
It should be mentioned that project management approaches depend on a software development methodology chosen for an IS project. Unlike waterfall or dynamic systems development methodology (DSDM), agile software development hinges on enterprise involvement. Therefore, the coordinated work of system developers and project managers is key for “implementing software solutions rapidly” (Bocj et al., 2015, p. 279). Also, when it comes to the development and implementation of HR, payroll, GPS, and other systems that rely on the use of non-relational structured data (NoSQL), it is impossible to guarantee project safety without proper application of the project management (Platt & Kim, 2015).
In today’s business environment, it is essential to ensure that the process of developing and implementing IS and MIS is aligned with business strategies and objectives. It means that an IS-business alignment strategy used by an organization has to pursue a goal of increasing business’ competitiveness by creating value. To ensure that IS capabilities support the business objectives of an organization, IT managers have to inform their IT decisions by business strategies. Also, project managers should ensure that project success is measured by “business-related and not IT-related metrics” (Elmorshidy, 2013, p. 821).
Regardless of an IS’s role, the IT agenda has to be focused on overarching business managing activities. To achieve well-informed development decisions, project managers have to convert their business objectives into a roadmap for a project. To this end, successful companies follow a five-stage alignment process (Elmorshidy, 2013). The first stage of the alignment process is to outline key business imperatives. The second stage involves a comparison of IT capabilities with business capabilities. The following stage is to design technology architecture according to business imperatives identified during the first stage. The fourth stage is needed to eliminate alignment gaps. The final stage is to reallocate IT resources according to changing business priorities (Elmorshidy, 2013).
Embracing a holistic approach to IS-business alignment helps to improve organizational agility. To establish a strong link between business strategies and an IS development project, it is necessary to design key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as key risk indicators (KRIs) (IBM, 2012). These metrics will help IT, managers, to better manage their performance, control achievement of strategic business goalposts, and recognize early warning signs during project implementation. Project managers have to concentrate their attention on the following key areas of IS-business alignment: business plan enhancement, obstacle elimination, and relevance to evolving business objectives.
Many IS-business alignment models can help project managers to control the IT agenda. However, the SAM has been widely recognized as the most effective approach to maximizing alignment capabilities of an IS project (Elmorshidy, 2013). The model involves the following steps: goal setting and team creation, exploration of business-IS linkage, gap analysis, project management, development of success criteria, and monitoring (Escalona et al., 2014). By adopting this approach to IS-business alignment, companies can ensure that they sustain a competitive advantage in the modern business environment.
The paper has shown that it is essential to involve business users in the process of IS development to maximize the alignment capabilities of a project, thereby enhancing the core competencies of a company. It has been argued that the adoption of the SAM approach to IS-business alignment helps business and IT managers to synergize their activities for the attainment of optimal results that satisfy the time, costs, and quality criteria of a project.
Bocj, P., Greasley, A., & Hickie, S. (2015). Business information systems: Technology, development, and management for e-business (5th ed.). London, England: Pearson. Web.
Dingsoyr, T., Nerur, S., Balijepally, V., & Moe, N. (2012). A decade of agile methodologies: Towards explaining agile software development. Journal of Systems and Software, 85(6), 1213-1221. Web.
Elmorshidy, A. (2013). Aligning IT with business objectives: A critical survival and success factor in today’s business. The Journal of Applied Business Research, 29(3), 819-827. Web.
Escalona, M., Aragon, G., Linger, H., Lang, M., Barry, C., & Schneider, C. (2014). Information system development: Improving enterprise communication. New York, NY: Springer. Web.
Gibson, C., & Singer, C. (1982). New risks for MIS managers. Computerworld, 12(1), 1-13. Web.
IBM. (2012). Aligning IT with strategic business goals. Web.
Laudon, K. C., & Laudon, J. P. (2015). Management information systems: Managing the digital firm (14th ed.). London, England: Pearson. Web.
McManus, J. (2014). A project management perspective of information system development. Management Services, 34(2), 31-39. Web.
Petter, S., DeLone, W., & McLean, E. (2013). Information systems success: The quest for the independent variables. Journal of Management Information Systems, 29(4), 7-61. Web.
Platt, C., & Kim, B. (2015). Structured what? Leveraging structured data to build a better story. Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, 23(1), 4-6. Web.
Sun, Z. (Ed.). (2013). Proceedings from ICCSEE ’13: The Second International Conference on Computer Science and Electronics Engineering. Paris, France: Atlantis. Web.