Efficient manipulation of information is the key concept towards ensuring effectiveness in the organization’s operations and facilitating the organization to match up the present competitive nature of both local and global markets. This, therefore, implies that the paradigm of strategic planning needs to change frequently in order to support the new and emerging technologies in information technology and information systems. Strategic Information System Planning (SISP) is always directed towards assisting the business enterprise or organization in the realization of its business goals and objectives through the identification of necessary portfolio and implementation of a computer-based application that will aid the company in the execution and management of its daily objectives (Cassidy, 2006). The management at Cobol engineering, therefore, has to ensure they implement effective information systems and the management information system so as to facilitate the realization of its business goals and objectives.
Cobol Engineering has for a long time put emphasis on the importance of information systems to facilitate the company in the delivery of its services to its clients. Since it was formed, the company has always relied on the use of information technology as its communication platform in terms of management and communication with its potential clientele (O’Brien, 1999).
Proposed Strategic Information System Planning
To ensure effective management and execution of the daily operations of the Cobol Engineering solutions, the company must ensure that it has well laid strategic management information systems. Various approaches should be tailored according to the company’s requirements and its client’s requirements. The plan of approach towards information system strategic planning for the company will put into consideration the following concepts (McNurlin, Sprague R, & Bui, 2009):
- To align the information system with the company’s business operations
- To identify the required applications that would aid the company in the realization
- To offer a platform for communication with the top management and the users of the IS and the staff of the company.
- Establishing necessary goals and schedules in order to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the information system.
- To have the information system for the company to be reliable as a utility.
The level of implementation of the information system will depend upon the capabilities of the Information Technology department of the organization, the readiness of the company and its clients to use information technology, and the readiness of the company to invest as required in information technology (Kotler & Keller, 2005). The proposed strategic management of information systems will be based on Business Systems Planning (BSP) approach.
Business Systems Planning
This is an alignment methodology, implying that it is supposed to be streamlined with the company’s execution of operations and management procedures. This methodology, which originally was an idea established by International Business Machine, involves a mix of top-down planning approach with a bottom-up implementation strategy. For the context of Cobol Engineering Solutions, the methodology will focus on the business processes of the company ranging from management operations to user management. The use of Business Systems Planning is appropriate for the Cobol Engineering solutions primarily because it focuses on the effectiveness of the business processes, which is significant in ensuring the success of the organization. Cobol engineering primarily depends on the use of information systems in the execution of its processes such as employee management portal, access to the company’s corporate resources, and customer transaction processing which may be online or paper based. Other IS management techniques are not effective because Cobol Engineering requires an alignment strategic approach in order to streamline its business processes with information requirements and thus the BSP approach is effective in this context. The approach will be based on the company’s business mission, goals, and business needs. The business processes are usually analyzed in order to determine the data requirements, and then evaluate the data levels as per the design of the information system. The similar data groups/ classes will be combined to form databases in a hierarchical manner. The overall Business Systems planning describes the architecture of the information system and the individual characterizes of the information subsystems within the information system (Knight, 2009). This approach, therefore, aims at an integration of the various departmental information systems so as to enhance the overall functionality of the information system (Ward & Peppard, 2002). The steps in the implementation of the BSP are outlined below
Top management commitment
Acquiring the top management commitment towards the project is the kick start of the information systems development project (Oz, 2006). The commitment by the top management is a critical success factor for any project. The management of the Cobol Engineering solutions has to prioritize the implementation or updating of the present information system that is being used in the company. Any shifts in the company’s priorities will impair the success of the project. The top management of Cobol engineering, therefore, has the task to ensure that the required finance and time are invested in the information system in order to ensure that the Information system is reliable (Ward & Peppard, 2002). Such investments will include the hiring of enough technical resources, the expansion of the capabilities of the Information Technology department, and the enlightenment of the staff on the effectiveness of the IS during the execution of their activities.
The top management will also offer close monitoring and supervision of the functionality of the information system at Cobol Engineering Solutions.
Preparation for the study
An analysis is critical for ensuring the success of an Information System planning and ensuring that the information system delivers what was required of it. The key step in preparation for the study will involve gathering the necessary technical experts who will be required during the implementation of the information system. Another step that will be required during the study of the IS will analyze the extent of the capabilities of the IT department, the present financial status of the company, and the company policies (Stahl, 2008). Having an understanding of the financial position and the nature of its clients and potential clients will facilitate the company’s competitive advantage over other competing companies in the engineering services sector.
Definition of the business processes
The business needs of an organization are the factors that support the existence of the organization (Luftman, 2003). Identification of critical business functions in the company is imperative in the design and implementation of an information system for the company. Presently, the important business functions in the company include the IT department, the marketing department, the finance department, the Human resources department, and the top management entities such as the executive officers and the directors. Another key element in the company is its staff. Designing an information system that incorporates the needs of the various important business elements ensures effectiveness in terms of management and the execution of the company’s business processes such as enhanced customer relations, improved employee productivity, and improved efficiency in the daily operations of the company (Stair & Reynolds, 2009). This will facilitate the competitive advantage of Cobol Engineering Solutions over its key competitors both at the local and international global scene.
Another important procedure during the definition of important business processes is the evaluation of the existing business systems relationships. This helps to design an information system that will be tailored to facilitate the company in the realization of its business requirements. The business processes can be classified as critical and noncritical depending on their urgency and the level of impact they have towards ensuring continuity of the Cobol Engineering Solutions (McNurlin, Sprague R, & Bui, 2009).
The use of Decision Support systems
Decision support systems are primarily used to aid the decision-making process in ill-structured contexts. It is more of a managerial tool that aims at ensuring the competitive advantage of the company through ensuring effective and well-laid decision-making procedures. It will be used to evaluate the impacts of managerial decisions on strategic information system planning. The present competitive market requires efficient decision managerial decision-making skills; therefore incorporating decision support systems in the information systems provides the company with a competitive advantage over its competitors in the engineering services market.
Strengths of the business systems strategic planning
Since the planning approach incorporates both top-down analysis and bottom-up implementation, it offers a good management platform through the use of an integrated approach. This will help in the reduction of management issues at the Cobol Engineering Solutions company. The business systems planning will be beneficial to the company since the top-down analysis establishes an overall understanding of the business needs and the required information needs. Strategic planning uses the power of the top management to ensure that the information system is effective (Ward & Peppard, 2002).
Challenges associated with the BSP
One key challenge in the adoption of these planning is strategy is that it completely relies on the commitment of the top-level management. It also requires their involvement in the information system planning and the overall life of the information system. Another challenge is that it will require a lot of information technology skills among the strategic planning members (Ward & Peppard, 2002).
Comparison Between the Proposed and the Present Is Strategic Planning in Cobol Engineering Solutions
Risk assessment of the present IS strategic planning
The current information system strategic planning activities at the Cobol Engineering solution require a different approach in order to salvage the financial position of the company, ensure competitive advantage, and ease the burden of management issues at the company. Some of the risks associated with the information system strategic planning include:
- The financial crisis at the company.
- Management failure and related issues.
- Closure of the company.
The company presently uses critical success factor analysis (CSF) which does not focus on management issues but puts an emphasis on business operations. The CSF approach lays emphasis on only a few areas that the company deem imperative for it to remain in business; therefore resulting in the lack of emphasis on the management side. The business systems strategic planning approach on the other hand focuses on the top-down design which requires the commitment and involvement of management, and the bottom-up implementation which involves the analysis of the critical business processes that are important in ensuring operational continuity of the company (Kotler & Keller, 2005).
The present Information system strategic planning approach does not draw the added advantage of the information systems but focuses on information system to support the business operations, therefore implies that the approach only facilitates the identification of information needs but does not put into consideration the value that is derived from the information system. The proposed business systems planning strategy on the other hand considers both the information, business, and management needs of the company. Integration of the above ensures effective management strategy and enhanced execution of the company’s operations such as increased customer satisfaction, improved employee reliability, and ease on the management burden (Cassidy, 2006).
The present information strategic planning is based on impact methodologies; it is more focused on the results rather than the internal business processes of the company. The proposed business systems strategic planning is an alignment methodology, implying that it aims at making the information system of the company coincide with the business processes of the company so as to evaluate the outcome of the system, therefore it requires the active involvement of both the top-level management and the staff of the company to ensure the effectiveness of the information system (Knight, 2009).
Impacts of the adoption of the proposed Business systems strategic planning
The adoption of the proposed Business Strategic planning will ensure the involvement and commitment of the top-level management. Through this, the managerial decision-making procedures will be enhanced. The business systems approach employs the use of top-down implementation; this implies that the information needs of the system will be put into consideration. This will in turn facilitate improved employee productivity and enhanced customer satisfaction.
Issues in the adoption of the proposed IS management approach
A key challenge during the adoption of the new information system management approach will be the approval by the management of Cobol Engineering. The BSP also requires more than just approval of the top-level management, it also requires the active involvement of the management towards the realization of its effectiveness. Another issue in the adoption of the BSP will be the end-user management, this is critical in determining how the IS system users will perceive the new approach, and how they will maximize the use of the IS to result in the overall success of the organization.
Opportunities for Sustainable Competitive Advantage for Cobol Engineering Solutions
For Cobol Engineering solutions, the use of Information technology is imperative in ensuring competitive advantage in the following areas:
- Ensuring employee productivity: the use of Information technology will facilitate access to the company’s resources which could either be remotely or within the company premises. The access to the company’s information will facilitate employee productivity through effective management approaches that the information system will implement. This, therefore, ensures a competitive advantage over other companies offering the same service both at global and the local marketplace (Kotler & Keller, 2005). The key elements of employee productivity that will experience a significant boost will include ease of access to the company information and hence fostering enhanced execution of the business processes.
- Increased customer satisfaction: the use of an information system facilitates the availability of the Company’s information to its current and potential clients. Implementation of an information system will ease the company’s transactions with its customers. This can be achieved through online transaction processing, posting of orders via the company’s information system portal. The use of information technology in such strategies will ensure the competitive advantage of Cobol Engineering solutions (Kotler & Keller, 2005).
- Reduced overhead expenses; the use of information technology in the implementation of IS management approach is an effective way to reduce expenses that are incurred by the company compared to the current manual system where the business operations are majorly paper-based. Reduced expenses imply an increase in the profitability of the company.
- Access to the company’s corporate resources; effective IS management approach ensures that the company corporate resources are available by the people who need to use it such as potential investors, employees, government agencies, and potential clients. Integration of the above ensures increased competitive advantage over other companies in the same sector.
Issues in information system management at Cobol Engineering
The significant elements in the management of information technology systems have an effect on the IT infrastructure whether directly or indirectly. The key issues include:
- Information systems development strategic planning; involves establishing the required information system development methods that are tailored towards the realization of the business needs, goals, and objectives. Strategic planning is an important step in the information system management process.
- Competitive advantage; this is the underlying objective of implementing information systems and the information systems management procedures. An outcome of effective information systems management is a competitive advantage over other competitors in the same industry.
- Information as a corporate asset; information should be managed effectively in order to ensure that the business processes run as expected and that the information needs of the enterprise are put into consideration. Information system management procedures are directed towards ensuring the effective management of corporate data through avenues such as accessibility and data availability.
- Measuring the information system effectiveness; for an IS management strategy to be deemed effective, the resources that the information system uses must warrant the expected outcome of the information system use. It is a form of cost-benefit analysis.
- Aligning the information technology resources in the business organization; the management of the information system should attempt to align the IT resources with the business needs of an organization. This entails harnessing the power of information technology by the business organization while carrying out its managerial and operational activities.
- Management and implementation of end-user computing; the end-users are the beneficiaries of an information system, this, therefore, means that their requirements should be met at all costs in order to exploit the efficiency of the information system. End-users may include the company’s staff, potential investors, clients, various departments, and many more. Information system management should therefore aim at the integration of the various elements that make up the information system.
- Taking into account the role and contribution of information technology; the role of information technology in the development of information systems is critical in the present information age. IT offers end-user computing advantages over the traditional paper system.
Conclusion and recommendations
The present information strategic planning at Cobol Engineering Solutions requires changes to match up the present Information technology trends and the competitive nature of the market. The information system strategic planning for the company requires a different approach that will ensure that the business processes are in line with the information system. Some of the recommendations include
- Change of information systems management approach towards a business system oriented approach
- Total involvement and commitment of the top-level management in ensuring the effectiveness of the information system.
- Readiness in terms of financial requirements towards the design, implementation, and operational maintenance of the Information system.
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