telecommunications technologies

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Introduction:

Over the past two decades, a transformation to an information society has been taking place, and computers and telecommunications technologies have revolutionised the way that organisations operate. We live in an information age, and no business of any size can survive and compete without embracing information technology. Information has come to be recognised as a resource of fundamental importance to an organisation, in the same way as the more traditional resources of people, materials and finance. It is not enough to be merely ‘computer-literate’ in order to become an expert in information systems. It is also necessary to understand how to apply modern technology in a business, commercial or other environment to achieve the goals of the organisation.

Management Information Systems

An MIS is an information system, which is typically computer-based, and that is used within an organisation. The thesaurus explains an MIS as "a system consisting of the network of all communication channels used within an organisation". An MIS is also defined as "a system that collects and processes data (information) and provides it to managers at all levels who use it for decision making, planning, program implementation, and control."

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An information system includes all the mechanism that collects, operates, and disseminates information or data. Generally an information system includes software, hardware, people, communication systems for example telephone lines, and the data itself. All the actions involved in an MIS are processing of data into information, inputting data, storage of data and information, and the production of outputs such as management reports.

Definition

An 'MIS' is a planned system of the collecting, processing, storing and disseminating data in the form of information needed to carry out the functions of management. In a way it is a documented report of the activities those were planned and executed.

Allied bank of Pakistan Ltd

Allied Bank of Pakistan Ltd, was the first bank to have been established in Pakistan. Established in December 1942 as the Australasia Bank in Lahore with a paid-up share capital of Rs. 0.12 million under the Chairmanship of Khawaja Bashir Bux, the Bank attracted deposits equivalent to Rs. 0.431 million in its first eighteen months of business. At the time, the Bank’s total assets amounted to Rs. 0.572 million. Today, Allied Bank's paid up Capital & Reserves amount to Rs. 10.5 billion, deposits exceed Rs. 143 billion and total assets equal Rs. 170 billion.

(Source: www.abl.com.pk [ seen at 12 – 07 – 2009])

Today, with its existence of over 60 years, ABL has built itself an institution with a strong equity, assets and deposit base. ABL offers universal banking services to its customers. ABL has the largest network of branches nearly 700 online branches in the country, and offers a variety of technology-based products and services to its diverse customers.

ABL works by the following Vision, Mission & Values:

Vision

ABL vision is to become a energetic and well-organized bank providing integrated solutions and the first option of bank for all customers.

Mission

To play a practical role in contributing towards the society
To provide high-tech innovative solutions to meet customer requirements
To present value-added services to the customers
To present a challenging work atmosphere, and reward dedicated team members
Value

Honesty
Brilliance in service
Best performance
Innovation
Production
Trust

ABL is the trustee of public funds and serve with integrity & commitment. Ethical behaviour is of critical importance to ABL. ABL adopt full compliance with internal and external policies and procedures, operating within the legal framework

Customer Focus

ABL continuously seek to exceed it’s customer’s expectations, forging and maintaining long term relationships

Innovation

ABL strive to be the market leaders in innovative products and services offering customized financial solutions with flawless execution

THE FINANCIAL CONTROL DEPARTMENT

A financial control department makes sure that all financial transactions comply with state laws, rules, and regulations. This Department is responsible for centrally processing and recording the transactions. This department also ensures that enough funds are available before the bank engages in a commitment. This department is also responsible for generation the annual reports in compliance with the company’s ordinance 1984.

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The Financial control department uses the Oracle GL as its information system that our group has selected as a part of our assignment for the Management Information System (MIS) course. Oracle GL is a product of the Oracle E-Business Suite which the organization has acquired as its platform for managing its business transactions and maintaining records. Oracle GL works faultlessly with other Oracle E-Business Suite products to drive better decision-making, sustainable financial discipline, regulatory compliance, and optimized business processes. These are what some elements of the Oracle General Ledger look like

(Source:http://www.virginia.edu/integratedsystem/howdoi/HTML/NAV3018U.htm [seen at 12-07-2009])

THE PREVIOUS SYSTEM AND THE COMPANY’S

NEED FOR A NEW SYSTEM

The Financial Control Department before switching over to Oracle E-Business Suite’s Oracle GL system used an in-house developed system called “Financial Control System”. This was implemented so as to meet the business needs of the company at that time, however as the company expanded and it’s branches increased at a phenomenal rate and it started to offer new services, the Financial Control System could no longer meet the complex needs of the department. Apart from this, there were the usual system break downs which resulted in increased cost (time cost because it required some time to repair the system and monetary cost because it required having separate personnel for training new employees).A need was felt that a new system had to be brought in to the department that would integrate smoothly with the organization and the departments information management needs and at the same time also be reliable. Therefore, after a period of searching and evaluating various information systems, the company bought a new information system, the “Oracle Financial Suite” and one of the elements of this financial suite was Oracle GL which was perfectly suited for the Financial Control Departments requirements. This system was adopted by the organization because it allowed the company to cope with its changing requirements and this software gave the company several options that were not previously available in the previous system. This system also enables the organization to better organize its operations than before. The biggest advantage of this system over the previous one was that it is compatible with other elements of the Oracle Financial Suite, hence the work done in other departments can be smoothly integrated with Financial Control Departments tasks and vice versa.

BENEFITS/ FEATURES OF ORACLE GL AND ITS FUNCTIONAL USE

The Oracle GL provides to its end users a friendly interface and hence the end user does not require specialized training to operate this system (The end users can know how to use this system with minimum of training.)This system enables the department to generate accounting reports according the accounting standards of Pakistan and according to the specific requirements of the bank. The system makes it easy to customize reports the way they are needed which helps the bank and the department adjust to any procedural or any other changes that may need to be implemented. For example if there are any changes in accounting laws or procedures that the bank may need to implement, the system easily facilitates that. This system also has the capability to fulfil most of the requests of the end users by default. The Oracle GL provides high Data Integrity by making sure that the data that is saved will be available for future use and will not have any errors. Data retrieval or data recovery is also made easy by the system and the end users of the system are saved from spending too much time or effort in trying to recover data that may normally be hard to find in other systems. It also reduces the occurrence of a system failure to almost ZERO (according to the person we interviewed) as there hardly are any cases of system crashes or any other issues with the system.

(Sources: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/R/RDBMS.html [seen at at 12-07-09]).

INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE SYSTEM

This system enables the department in making General Ledgers for the bank, completing its transactions, maintaining accounts and balances of the bank and its customers and with the help of that it helps the department to balance the accounts and generate Financial Statements (the ABL generates the following financial statements with the help of this system: Balance Sheet; Profit and Loss account; Cash Flow statement and Statement of Changes in Equity). The system then saves and documents all these reports and financial statements into its database for future use and referencing. This information is not only useful for preparing reports and financial statements for the bank but is also used in times such as making audit reports, company reports, etc.

END USERS OF THE SYSTEM & THE DEPARTMENT IT CATERS TO

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Since Oracle GL is a financial software system designed to for an organization’s financial needs and caters to an organization like ABL’s financial needs. Its end users will be people related to finance. In this case, employees in ABL’s Financial Control Division are the end users of the system. All the employees in this department have been properly trained to use this system. The system itself has also been highly customized to suit all the needs of the department and meet its requirements in an efficient and cost effective manner.

TRAINING OF THE END USERS

The training involved people from Oracle visiting the organization which was the ABL head office. These sessions were held at ABL only due to the fact that they could accommodate space for the sessions, and hence theses sessions were not held outside the organization as is usually the case with other organizations.
The training sessions resembled much like the classroom format. Attendants were given classroom like training lessons regarding the system. They were given books and CDs for studying at home too.
Since the system is meant for only the finance department, only people with financial and accounting expertise could attend these sessions. They were, however, accompanied by technical consultants, functional implementers, and Database Administrators (IT personnel).
While these sessions were going on, the attendants were not assigned with any work. Coming to the organization, they would directly go to these sessions and not to work.
In this course, attendants learned the essentials concerning the table functionality of the core Oracle General Ledger. This course also taught the use of Applications and its tools to find information, and also explain synchronized processing, flex fields, alerts, and Oracle Workflow Builder. Attendants learned how to read and understand Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERDs), and Oracle Applications' Applications Technology ERDs.
The course also deals with the standards for using these interfaces.
Technical overview of Oracle General Ledger.
Customers, and Assets
Flow of application information through major tables
Objectives of the sessions were the following
Describing the Oracle General Ledger
Describing the Oracle Financials purposes incorporation and data flow among applications
Identifying the primary business functions that can be performed using each Oracle Financials application
Over viewing the default account sources, multi-organization architecture, and the use of Multiple Reporting Currencies
Lastly, the attendants were made familiar with the following:
Oracle General Ledger entity association diagrams related to its main functions
The main business functions of Oracle General Ledger
The main tables by business function
The attendants returned as soon as the training sessions ended, ready to carry out their tasks with the new system.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS OF THE INFORMATION SYSTEM

Hardware – HP Blade Server

Software – Oracle e-Business Suite R12

Operating System – Linux Environment

Input – Financial data
Output – financial statements like ledgers, balance sheet etc.

Processing – Batch processing

Storage – both Hot-sites and Cold-sites (to be discussed later in the report)

SECURITY OF THE SYSTEM

Security covers

User authenticity:
As mentioned earlier, the system is restricted for use by the financial personnel, therefore only people from the Financial Control department. Also, since its use is only finance specific, others departments have nothing to do with it. Having said that, there are passwords for the end users; hence passwords ensure security and control.

Physical access:
Physical access is made limited by locked server rooms, sign-in sheets, etc.

BACKUPS

ABL has both cold sites and hot sites for its new financial system – the Oracle General Ledger.
Since it’s not a multinational organization, it has its hot sites in Pakistan only.
The cold sites are the various regional headquarters in the country.
The hot site is the main headquarter in Karachi at the I.I. Chundrighar Road.
Backups are scheduled on a daily bases in the off-peak hours (late nights).
This time of the day has been selected due to the fact that during the day the systems are overworked enough to be able to do in real time. Hence, batch processing suits this organization’s culture.
The data stored would include the financial data converted into statements and ledgers etc.

PROBLEMS WITH THE SYSTEM

The Oracle GL is a perfect system for the company. According to the employees who work in the bank on the system, it seemed they were very satisfied with the system and considered that the Oracle GL was a perfect fit for their department. The IT department too was very satisfied with the Oracle software and according to them; the number of complaints that they previously used to receive from their employees when they were using their in-house software was very high. Ever since the introduction of Oracle GL, those complaints have almost entirely disappeared because of which the efficiency of the departments has also risen. So for the end users of the organization, the software had no flaws other than that some employees thought that the software could be further customized in a better way to suit their business better.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND FUTURE PLANS

ABOUT THE INFORMATION SYSTEM

Although Oracle has provided ABL with a highly customized Information System to suit its business needs, the Financial Control Division feels that Oracle GL has not been customized enough to suit their needs according to their specific needs. Therefore one recommendation that is notable and must be pointed out is that if the company purchases a new version of Oracle GL, it should be further customized in a better way with the specific needs of the Financial Control Division in mind.

System enhancements over time might also need to be carried out that could involve upgrading the server, storage and database systems. As for the future plans of the Company regarding the information system, it seems that the company is satisfied with the system and willing to retain it. It will purchase new versions of the Oracle E-Business Suite as soon as they are released.

In the future, ABL also has expansion plans and is expected to open branches and start operations in some foreign countries also. When that happens, a great deal more will need to be invested in the company’s information system and it would remain to be seen whether the company would continue using the current information system or switch to some other information system.

CONCLUSION

The Oracle E-Business Suite is a top of the line application software used by businesses around the world. Oracle is a software company renowned for providing its customers with excellent software’s that provide fast, easy and efficient business information and support systems which play a vital part in operational running of a business and coming up with improved business solutions.

ABL aims to keep its business in line with the top banks and corporations of the country and therefore, it has chosen Oracle E-Business Suite as the application software that manages and supports its business applications. The Oracle GL has the important task of maintaining General Ledger Balances of the bank from around the country and generating reports and financial statements on a daily basis.

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Pearlson, K & Saunders, CS 2006, Managing and using information systems: a strategic approach, 3rd edn, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ. [HD30.2.P4 2006]

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http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/R/RDBMS.html (seen at at 12-07-09).
17)http://www.virginia.edu/integratedsystem/howdoi/HTML/NAV3018U.htm (seen at 12-07-2009)
18)http://abl.com/thebank/default.asp (seen at 04-07-2009)