Information Systems development

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There are many definitions of Information Systems (IS) for this paper I have chosen to use a Laudon and Laudon definition. “An Information system is a set of interrelated components that collect, process, store and distribute information to support decision making in an organisation”. Laudon and Laudon (2004) 

The development of such systems is done by using a series of methodologies and processes that can be used in order to develop and make use of the information system (IS) to the best of their ability. Over the years IS has progressed immensely with many different types of computer systems such as Basic data processing systems, Integrated data processing systems, Decision Support Systems and Management Information Systems. With each system the potential has grown as to what could be achieved with such systems. IS has developed from one of the oldest development tools: Flow charting in the 1920s, to later in the 1960s when software development methodology emerged. Around the 1970s business journals began to publish articles on IS whose characteristics and capabilities differed from these of previous systems. These systems effected the management of many different organisations and managers began to be familiar with their capabilities, characteristics, design philosophy, elements and structure. According to Elliott (2004) the Systems development life cycle is considered to be the oldest formalized methodology for building information systems, and can still be found today. Information technology departments that are in larger organisations tend to strongly influence the information technology growth such as the decision support tools utilizing the Web for their analysis and their use of graphical user interfaces that allow decision makers to be flexible, efficient, and to easily view and process the data and models by using familiar Web browsers.

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From a managerial prospective many of the failures of information systems development have been caused by traditional methods, due to the way in which the organisations have interacted with the technology and how technology worked with the organization's business processes.  Mintzberg's (1980) classic study of top managers suggests that managers perform 10 major roles that can be classified into three major categories, Interpersonal, Informational and Decisional. Each of which involves subcategories, Interpersonal consisted of Figurehead: which involved the manager performing tasks such as ceremonial and symbolic duties as the head of the organisation. Leader: involving a proper work atmosphere of external contacts to gather information. Liaison: develops and maintains a network of external contacts to gather information.

Informational involves the following; Monitor: gathering internal and external information relevant to the organisation. Disseminator that transmits factual and value based information to subordinates. Spokesperson: that communicates to the outside world on performance and polices. And the final category Decisional this involves Entrepreneur: which designs and initiates change in the organisation. Disturbance: whereby the handler deals with unexpected events and operational breakdown. The Resource Allocator: that controls and authorises the use of organisational resources. And finally the Negotiator: which participates in the negotiation of activities with

other organisations and individuals. To perform these roles managers need their

information to be delivered accurately, efficiently and reliability. In addition to the information they require the managers also need to utilize the computers directly to support and improve decision making.

Nichols (1969) Information and the management hierarchy reading, tells of the amount or quantity of information that is provided to each decision maker is a function of the state of the arts and the individual decision maker as determined by the application of the tailoring concept. The managerial hierarchy and the degree of summary of information by where there is a top, middle and lower level of management. It is the information that exists in the internal environment and the environment in which the organisation exists is the external environment.

This means the level of information is summarized more and more as the levels of management increase on the hierarchy structure, with top level management having the most summarized reports.

The degree of structure is also central, Gorry and Scott-Morton's classical framework which is based on Simon (1977) reading, the suggestion that decision making processes fall along a continuum that ranges from highly structured to highly unstructured decisions.  The structure processes being the routine and repetitive problems for which standard solution methods exist. Semi structured problems are ones that fall between structured and unstructured and also that have elements of both.  Unstructured processes are complex and where there is no simple solution. The steps of control; Intelligence, Design, Choice and Implementation where later added by Simon (1977). This involved searching for conditions that call for decisions, Inventing, developing and analyzing possible alternative courses of action, selecting a course of action from among those available and for the last phase to adapt the selected course of action for the decision situation.

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A system designer's job is to define the architecture, components, modules, interfaces, and data for a system to satisfy specified requirements.  In Mason's reading (1969) how a designer answers the following questions will depend on how the system is created.  1. What is the best point of articulation between the information system and the decision maker? That is, where should the information system end and the decision maker begin? 2. What is the nature of the assumptions which are incorporated in the information system and which consequently influence the user's decision making. 3. Are they consistent with the decision makers needs?

It is up to the designer how he answers these questions. The designer's choice centres on the sequence of activities which begins with the state of the business itself and ends with the actual decision. The sequence of activities are summarised by Mason (1969) as follows:

  • A source consisting of the physical activities and objects which are relevant to the business.
  • The observation, measurement and recording of data from the source.
  • The drawing of inferences and predictions from the data.
  • The evaluation of inferences with regard to the values of the organization and the choosing of a course of action.
  • The taking of a course of action.

The first point of articulation between the information system and the decision maker occurs when they are separated between the process of collecting data and that of drawing inferences. This is sometimes referred to as a databank or database approach.

In addition to this point Nichols's (1969) classification and Information, whereby he suggests that many people reduce the diversity of their environment to manageable order by resorting to the classification and to the formation of general ideas about groups of things. Simply put people use it as an aid to comprehend the information. This is called Information generation, and this requires four steps if it is to be useful beyond the moment of observation or useful to individuals and groups other than the observer is also important. The classification of data, establishment of procedures for recording data that facilitates recall and also sufficiently simplifies the operation, summarisation of data that is classified and recorded and the specification of the collection procedure of the system.

The Classification reduces the complexity of the material, provides a means of identification by grouping similar things together, provides a record of experience and orders and relates classes of events. Three characteristics are: The classes must not overlap and must be mutually exclusive. The items in the classification system must be in distinct categories. The basis of the classification must be related to some specific goal.

Ackoffs (1967) reading suggests that there is an abundance of irrelevant information causing the biggest problem for managers as apposed to a lack of relevant information. For a manager to do his/her job correctly they do not have to understand how an IS works just know how to use it. The manager's need for the information that he/she requires are rarely satisfied, so the better the communication between managers means the improvement in the organisations performance. Without a framework the Management Information System (MIS) would tend to serve the strongest manager and as a result fail to do its task, and this in turn brings unnecessary expense to the organisation. It is an essential part of viewing a management information system if the organisation is to plan effectively. I found that Rappaport's (1968) reading to some extent agrees with Ackoffs theory, that managers should be trained and know how to do their job. Managers should develop better techniques and guidelines for example using exception reporting for discovering systems costs and to develop a more reliable method for hiring systems designers.

The design of a MIS according to H. Van der Heijden (2009) is the shaping of data from transaction systems into management information systems, for the purpose of managerial decision making. The data is shaped by structuring, querying, aggregation and visualization.  Then it must be judged as to its suitability by the managers who will make the decisions.

Gorry (1971) takes the view that a framework developed here is one for managerial activities and not for information systems. It is away of looking at decisions that are made in an organization. Information systems should exist only to support decisions and hence we are looking for a characterisation of organisational activity in terms of the type of decisions involved. Keens (1980) paper on Translating analytic techniques

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into useful tools agrees with Gorry on the available technology that becomes an opportunity for managers to take advantage of and help them in their own jobs and on their own terms. Different kinds of Frameworks exist from the traditional Waterfall model right through to new models such as Rapid application design.

Decision Support Systems are created to help people make decisions by providing access to information and analytical tools. A DSS allows the users to pose what-if questions and by changing a number of variables will then find out what the outcomes would be. The classification of a DSS can be done in several ways as not every DSS fits into one category, there is usually a mix of two or more architectures in one. Holsapple and Whinston classified DSS into six frameworks; Text-oriented, Database-oriented, Spreadsheet-oriented, Solver-oriented, Rule-oriented and Compound DSS. The most popular is the classification of the hybrid system which includes two or more of the five basic structures. The support given by DSS can be separated into three sections Personal, Group and Organizational support. The components could be classified as Inputs: factors, numbers and characteristics to analyze. User knowledge and Expertise: inputs requiring manual analysis by the user. Outputs: transformed data from which decisions are generated. Decisions: the results generated by the DSS based on user criteria.

DSS supports the manager's decisions rather than replaces their judgement. It is a fundamental managerial activity. An example from the paper: a branding manager must determine prices, promotion and advertising budgets and sales force allocation for a product. Up to now, he has set advertising expenditures as a percent of the sales forecast. This is a convenient rule of thumb but obviously not the best approach, since advertising should surely influence sales. The manager has computer reports and forecasts available, but most of his analysis is completed informally. He has several years of experience in his job and feels he has a good sense of the particular market.

He makes his decision sequentially: he determines price first, forecasts sales, and then perhaps adjusts the price and makes a new forecast. Next, he sets the advertising budget. As he lacks the time for a details analysis, he only looks at a few combinations. However this system does little to support this decision process for the manager if he is unwilling to use the DDS. Keens (1980) suggests the managers attention to this approach could be structured better and with some effort the parameters, constraints and relationships could be identified and a single solution derived, but it is up to the manager to interact with the system to achieve the optimum report. Also the manager must be involved in all design aspects of the system.

As the design of the system must be fully understood, I found Huber's (1981) explanation useful as he has outlined the following set of four conceptual models for portraying and interpreting organisations decision environments. They are the Rational Model, the Political/Competitive Model, the Garbage Can Model and the Program Model. These four models serve the process in three different ways. They provide a framework of interpreting the decision making in organisations. The DSS are generally more useful if they are custom designed for the decision maker's environment and the model suggests the nature of information and decision aids that may be useful in specific types of organizational environments.

Uma V Devi article on the Role of the Decision system for decision making process in global environment explains clearly what is required of the DSS. The most important aspects of the DSS are ease of use, its ability to allow non technical people to deal with the system directly. A problem that can occur with the DSS is not letting the person who needs the systems data the most, deal with the system directly. This information should not be restricted to specific users of the system. The resources should be distributed between all and then no data will go unused as it has done so in the past.

The ideal Decision Support System in sharp contrast to previous methods of designing applications should not be a system at all in the strict sense of the term. Instead it should be a system with a high decision support generator that can be used by professionals that can design prototypes to suit the specific needs of the tasks. This adaptive tool must allow quick design changes if the original design does not closely match a person's information gathering style or needs. To adequately support the human element, this highly adaptive support capability must be able to provide access to operational data and as well as to summarise data that already has been processed by application programs designed for other specific operational tasks. Equally important this tool must provide the professional with access to an organization's raw data and it must also allow the access to be accomplished in one step using a single uncomplicated procedure or command, without having to re-key non summary data.

Conclusion

The overall views of Information System development has developed immensely over the years and its continued growth with new technologies are emerging all the time.

For data to be made meaningful it must have a purpose. The purpose of the stored data should reflect the purpose and type of the information system. The improvement of organisations and the information systems in them is not a matter of making more information available, but to limit the human attention so that it can focus on the information that is most important and most relevant to the decisions that have to be made.

References

Ackoff, R. L. (1967). "Management Misinformation Systems." Management Science.

Gorry, G. A. and M. S. S. Morton (1971). "Framework for Management Information Systems." Sloan Management Review.

Huber, G. P. (1981). "The Nature of Organizational Decision Making and the Design of Decision Support Systems." MIS Quarterly.

Keen, P. G. W. (1980). "Decision Support Systems - Translating Analytic Techniques into Useful Tools." Sloan Management Review.

Mason, R. (1969). "Basic Concepts for Designing Management Information Systems." AIS Research Paper No. 8.

Mintzberg, H. and F. Westley (2001). "Decision making: It's not what you think." MIT Sloan Management Review.

Nichols, G. E. (1969). "On The Nature of Management Information." Management Accounting.

Rappaport, A. (1968). "Management misinformation systems - another perspective." Management Science.

Sprague Jr., R. H. (1980). "A Framework for the Development of Decision Support Systems." MIS Quarterly.

Sprague Jr., R. H. and H. J. Watson (1979). "Bit by Bit: Toward Decision Support Systems."California Management Review.

Simon

Web references

http://ezinearticles.com/?Role-of-Decision-Support-System-For-Decision-Making-Process-in-Global-Business-Environment&id=2315787

http://www.provenmodels.com/88/ten-managerial-roles/henry-mintzberg/

H. Van der Heijden (2009)