Management Information System and Data Administration

Should organizations use software service providers for all their software needs? Why or why not?

A service is an act or a set of actions that one party performs for another. In general, the recipient party does not have to hire or own any factor of production in order to access the service. The application of this basic idea is not new in computing and has its origin in the computing centers that were very common in the 1960s and 1970s, such as providers of payroll services. Generally, software as a service is an area of the great potential that needs to be followed closely by those in charge of defining software acquisition policies.

In my opinion, organizations should use software service providers for all their software needs to save costs and improve efficiency. My support for this approach is founded on the fact that there are distinct advantages an organization depends on software service providers to meet its software needs. First, users or service recipients have a choice of service provider which, depending on the modality, can be chosen at runtime. This reduces lock-in and enables users to easily switch to an alternative supplier in case they are dissatisfied. If not checked, lock-in can be used by suppliers to increase the price while letting the quality of software deteriorate, with the user being defenseless. Using software service providers therefore ensures that recipient firms only invest in software that is absolutely necessary. Furthermore, it lessens organizational overheads since payment is only made for the time spent using a particular application, the amount of data stored or transferred, or the number of programs executed. In addition, service recipients do not have to worry about purchasing unnecessary software licenses as this is taken care of by the provider.

Why is selecting computer hardware and software for the organization an important business decision? What management, organization, and technology issues should be considered when selecting computer hardware and software?

The quality of hardware and software has a great effect on an organization’s technological efficiency. It is therefore important to exercise due diligence when deciding to acquire new hardware or software. While modern information technology hardware is extremely reliable, machines do occasionally breakdown and this can be very costly for an organization that depends heavily on computer systems. Considering that technology is always changing, professionals in the information technology field are constantly faced with having to make a choice between two or more options for the purchase of hardware or software. In selecting computer hardware and software, a thorough understanding of what is critical to the organization is therefore very important. Essential hardware considerations include performance, price, expansion capability, and capacity. One of the most common hardware risks is that a machine underperforms. Usually, this happens when there are problems with hardware design, the machine is under-specified, or simply because the machine is not capable of handling the organization’s workload. There is also a danger of hardware becoming obsolete and hence useless to the organization.

Decision-making in the field of software selection has become more complex due to the availability of a large number of software products in the market, ongoing improvements in information technology, incompatibilities between various hardware and software systems, and lack of technical knowledge and experience in software selection. While choosing software, it is vital to understand the needs of the organization and to identify the criteria for making the eventual decision. Often times, the computer program code is inefficient, poorly designed, and riddled with errors. It is thus obvious that excellent research and good hardware and software purchasing decisions will save the organization from encountering so much trouble in the future.

What management, organization, and technology factors should be considered when making the decision of outsourcing the software for the companies? Support your argument with useful examples.

Of all the reasons given for outsourcing failures, the most consistent one is a lack of analysis of the outsourcing decision. This is commonly caused by the fact that client firms often do not have the requisite skills to perform adequate software analysis. To a large extent, outsourcing is a dynamic, highly interrelated process of business activities involving many variables and requiring consideration of many factors. Before entering into an outsourcing deal, it is imperative for an organization to answer a number of critical questions regarding its outsourcing needs and the entire process.

One of the key management factors in outsourcing is partnership management. To guarantee the success of an outsourcing deal, effective skills in partnership management are critical. Dealing with contract issues, for example, requires the development of a relationship that is built on trust and a set of mechanisms to determine when the conditions of a contract have changed sufficiently to warrant re-negotiation. Dealing with the management of the outsourcer when the resources are outside an organization’s direct control also requires strong partnership management skills. Although not a limitation of outsourcing, it is very critical in dealing with other limitations. Generally, organizational factors of outsourcing include the determination of the degree of participation by the firm and the vendor. Joint actions taken by the outsourcing firm and the vendor to negotiate and agree on mutual benefits must be handled very carefully. Coordination among employees of the outsourcing firm and the vendor to realize intended objectives and provide support should also be handled in a way that leaves all parties satisfied. Technologically, the outsourcing firm should be careful to check if the solution provided by the vendor will work with the existing technology and guard the firm against future technological changes.

What are the principal tools and technologies for accessing information from databases to improve business performance and decision making?

In parallel with data warehouses, new ways to analyze and present decision support data are in existence today. Online analytical processing (OLAP) is one such application that provides advanced data analysis and presentation tools. Data mining on the other hand employs advanced statistical tools to analyze the wealth of data usually stored in data warehouses and other sources and to identify possible relationships and anomalies.

Business Intelligence (BI) is the collection of best practices and software tools developed to support business decision making in this age of globalization, emerging markets, rapid change, and increasing regulation. BI encompasses tools and techniques such as data warehouses and OLAP, with a more comprehensive focus on integrating them from a company-wide perspective. BI is a comprehensive endeavor because it encompasses all business processes within an organization. Implementing BI in an organization involves capturing not only business data but also metadata, or knowledge about data. In practice, BI is a complex proposition that requires a deep understanding and alignment of business processes, the internal and external data, and information needs of users at all levels in the organization.

As a framework, BI incorporates concepts, practices, tools, and technologies that help a business better understand its core capabilities, provide snapshots of the company situation, and identify key opportunities to create competitive advantage. Basically, BI provides an effective mechanism for the management of data that works across all levels of the organization. The general steps involved in BI are collecting and storing operational data, aggregating the operational data into decision support data, analyzing decision support data to generate information, presenting such information to the user to support business decisions, making decisions which in turn generate more data that is collected and stored, and monitoring the results to evaluate outcomes of the business decisions.

Describe the roles of information policy and data administration in information management

Data administration is concerned with the mechanisms for the definition, quality, control, and accessibility of an organization’s data. It is responsible for implementing and promoting data-related policies. The main responsibilities of data administration include identification of corporate data requirements, data analysis, and modeling, data definition, information sharing, data capture, education, controlled data access, privacy, security, recovery, and integrity of data. Regarding corporate data requirements, data administration advises the organization’s function on policy issues regarding the scope and planning of corporate data. This responsibility involves the definition of data requirements across the organization’s business areas.

It is a coordination role whose primary purpose is to maximize the potential of data sharing and remove unnecessary data duplication. In tune with this, data administration facilitates the development of a plan of the data that needs to be held by the organization, decide where it is to be held, and confirm the time frame over which the desired logical data architecture is to be put into place. Data administration is also responsible for the identification of appropriate data analysis and modeling standards, techniques, and tools. This responsibility includes planning how these standards, techniques, and tools are to be integrated, promoting their use, providing advice on their use, and providing assistance in the production of business data models. Although the requirements for data archiving are the responsibility of data owners, data administration has a role in developing procedures and policies for implementation across the entire organization.