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In this section we will look to identify potential improvements for information management within ULD. The implementing and maintaining of the improvements within each area will be discussed in the next section.
This section will identify the current information management System within ULD, look at the way the processes are run, why they would need improving and what impact the current system is having on the efficiency of processes being completed. We will also look at the impact it has on the budget available to the University.
Below are the areas that potentially need improving:
Use of paper based information:
University of Leinster at Dublin (ULD) uses paper based information as their primary Information System. Examples of this where the University uses paper based information is in areas such as Student applications, Personal Records and Management of examinations.
This area could be improved by ULD switching their primary Information system from paper based to electronic in the form of Database systems, such that Student Records, Personal Records and Management Examinations can all be entered into the electronic Database system that could then be searched or updated, information deleted when necessary. This is of huge benefit to a University such as ULD as they have thousands of Students so to keep all student names on a paper based system and having to update, search or add new students into the paper based Database requires huge amounts of man power and extensive amount of time as employees will have to search through files individually unlike an electronic Database System which can easily search, add, update, cross reference information immediately with minimum workload.
Switching to an electronic Database system will save ULD money due to the cut down on paper based information as there will be a reduction in storage needed for the information as the majority of information will be stored electronically in the database, climate control, fire control and the risk of losing the information stored along with the data integrity is one of the primary reasons the University should switch to an electronic Database system. The data in this database can then be secured through authentication processes and security measures alongside backing up the information through hard-drives and cloud computing which means if in the event that the Database system goes down or gets corrupted the information will not be lost. This is not the same for paper based information as if the information gets lost or damaged there is no back-up for the University to use.
A paper based information system must be physically visited to get the information from however an electronic Database system allows remote access from anywhere in the world that has internet access this provides the University with much more flexibility as if the President of the University is in Galway and needs to access a particular file he cannot do it with the current Universities system however if the current system is updated to an electronic database the President would be able to access the file whenever and wherever he is. This can be extended to staff and students, as files can be put up on a designated University note site such as Moodle so Students can access Module notes which will save the University further money as it will cut down on the cost of paper as the Lecturer will no longer have to print off notes for hundreds of students each Semester.
Use of Local Databases:
Currently the University does not have one centralised database, instead individual departments have set up local databases for their department. The result of this on an individual department level is that efficiency is improved within the department but not on a University level.
To fix this the Departments should get together with their data and merge their local Databases and the information in them into one centralised Database system. This has many benefits as opposed to Local database systems. An example of these benefits would be:
Data Integrity: This is possibly the biggest benefit of centralising data as it reduces data redundancy due to the fact that between Local Databases data may be entered in numerous times between the databases. This does not happen in a centralised Database as no data is repeated, this happens as because there is one Database a student's record for example can only be updated/entered in one place which means there's only one correct version of his/her record. This is the opposite in Local Databases as the departments are separate to each other there can be multiple versions of the student records which may not be the same version so data integrity is lost.
Training: With one centralised database system the staff of ULD will only need to learn the processes of one system as opposed to numerous systems under Local databases. In regards to the ULD budget this will save money as less training will be required for staff so less Training days may need to be run by the University.
Support: When using a centralised database system, the support is not spread over many databases it is only focused on one which makes any issues to resolve much easier and efficient than having separate support protocols for each Local Database within the Departments. This would be a benefit to ULD as issues regarding examinations for example could be resolved much quicker than issues between multiple databases.
Security: Maintaining the security and integrity is much easier to do in a centralised Database. Back-ups can be done in the one place, formats of files are the same, Authentication and Security measures only need to be put onto the one Database. Restoring back-ups is convenient too.
Operation: Speed of operation such as locating results of all Second year students is more efficient as the Staff member only has to log into the one database to retrieve all the results.
Record of Systems:
ULD do not currently have a record of any systems developed or in use. This will have a negative impact on the University as they do not have a record of Systems developed or in use means that they may struggle to find records or information at critical times. ULD should adopt a method of recording current and future systems being developed and in-use in the University.
This will bring numerous benefits to the University such as:
Efficiency: If the Staff of ULD know what system to use to complete a certain task or know what system holds certain information then efficiency of completing that task will be increased.
Productivity: Like efficiency if the Staff know what system to lookup information on the amount of tasks they complete in a certain time period will increase dramatically.
Data Integrity: will not be compromised if all systems in use in ULD are recorded as data will not be entered into the wrong system so data redundancy does not happen.
Implementing and maintaining the improvements in Information Management:
Within this section we will discuss how to implement the improvements discussed in the previous section and how to maintain these changes in Information Management to benefit ULD in boosting staff morale while unfortunate staff cuts have to be made, reducing the budget of the University and improving the overall efficiency, productivity and security of information to be increased.
Implement and maintain an Electronic Database System:
Step 1: Define the scope of the Database system.
The scope will include all departments of the University, staff records, Student information and examination records and information. We then must decide on what applications to convert to the database and plan for new applications to be integrated into it.
In our case we want the Database to do all processes for ULD such as hold Student Records, Student applications, procurement procedures, personal records and management of examinations amongst other tasks.
Step 2: Organise the Database Project.
Assign tasks to the IT staff to design the database. Designate a database administrator to control the database in the event of system failure and to oversee future updates or changes to the design of the Database system.
This will allow ULD to have a Database system that will be secure, updated when necessary and be data redundancy free.
Step 3: Develop Initial Implementation plan and a schedule for objectives.
In this step we will have to Identify files, applications, programs and data formats that may need to be converted and transferred to the new Database System.
A schedule will then need to be developed to accommodate programming hours for conversion of programs and applications being converted to the Database.
A schedule will also have to be drawn up for the implementation of the new Database System so that specific objectives are reached and the management of ULD can see how the Database is progressing.
Step 4: Design Database.
Draw up and complete detailed information requirements. This will show how the database will be formed and function. Identifying data requirements is also required at this stage. Determine the data structure of the database and complete the design specifications that were drawn up in the earlier steps. Once the design specifications have been completed, ensure that they are reviewed and approved.
Step 5: Training.
Develop a training schedule for staff to learn how to use the database. Develop training requirements that are the requirements the staff need at a minimum to be able to use the Database to a high standard.
Step 6: Install and Test Database.
Get the IT staff and programmers to test the Database and its schema, code conversion programs, generate the database. Test and debug the Database System.
Finally these test results should be reviewed and amendments made to the Database system where necessary.
Step 7: Release Database to ULD.
Once the database has been tested and debugged, files, applications and programs converted to it, it should then be released to ULD as its primary information management system to replace the paper based information management system ULD is currently using.
To maintain the new and improved information management database system there should be a schedule drawn up to periodically review the Database performance. To review organisational goals and information management requirements. Evaluate how successful the Database has been, where the standards have slipped on to improve these standards and review again after making design changes to the Database System.
Implement and maintain a centralised Database System:
To implement and maintain a centralised Database System, we must get the head of the different departments together who have developed their own local Database systems. Now that the Database system for ULD has been developed in the section above, this allows the heads of the Departments to verify the information that they have in each of their individual local databases and what they want to be converted to the main Database System which is being implemented. When merging the local databases into the main Database System the Department heads, programmers and IT staff must ensure that no data gets repeated such as student records to ensure data integrity is not compromised and that data redundancy does not enter the main Database System of ULD.
Once the information has been transferred the local databases should be closed down to ensure the main database is the only database in use to avoid multiple versions of files. The main database system should be tested after the local databases information has been entered into it to ensure no errors have occurred to the main Database System of ULD.
To maintain the Centralised Database System all information such as personal records within ULD should be entered into it and that Database only, to ensure multiple files do not get created and that staff know exactly where to look up information to keep tasks running efficiently.
Implementing and maintaining a Record of Systems:
To implement and maintain a record of all Systems being developed and currently in use by ULD the University needs to draw up a schedule for IT staff to analysis what systems are being developed within the University and what ones are currently within use.
Dates should be set for when this analysis needs to be completed. Once the analysis is complete there should be a Record of Systems set up on the main database in use by ULD. This will allow the IT staff to enter in the information they have gained from the analysis. The Systems within ULD have now been recorded.
To maintain the Record of Systems in the University, each time a System is set up or being developed it should be recorded into the main database immediately where possible. Periodically the systems should be checked and the database should be updated when necessary.
How the Information Management changes will impact ULD:
Within this section I will discuss the impacts to ULD and its staff if the improvements to information management stated above are implemented.
Impacts may be in areas such as boosting staff morale, making information more secure, making the processes in ULD more efficient such as updating and retrieving files.
Each area that had the potential to be improved will be discussed below:
Impact of Switching from paper based information management to an Electronic Database System:
Speed of operation:
With a computerised Database System ULD Staff will see a sizeable improvement in speed of operation as entering, updating, deleting records can now be done in a matter of seconds once the database system has been implemented.
ULD sensitive information would be safe and secure on an electronic Database system as authentication measures and Security can be applied to individual areas if required. The information can also be backed up to hard drives or cloud computing on a periodic basis.
With an electronic Database system in place staff and Students in ULD can access the information that their authentication level allows anywhere they want. They wouldn't have to be on the University's grounds which has obvious advantages and flexibilities.
This will save ULD money and help cut down their budget by 3% over the five years due to the reduction in information that will be stored on paper. Savings will be made by not having to buy as much paper, physically storing the information and keeping the storage area risk of damage free.
Impact of Implementing a centralised Database System:
Data integrity will not be compromised in a centralised Database System. This is mainly due to no data redundancy entering the system as for each record there is only one version of the file unlike multiple versions spread across numerous local databases. This reduces the chance of errors being made by the staff of ULD.
Speed of operation:
Speed of operation is increased with a centralised database as updated, adding and retrieving files is much more efficient as the staff only have to log into the one system as opposed to many local ones.
Reduction in costs for ULD will be spent on training as staff when working with a centralised Database system only need to get to know the processes of that one system unlike local databases which may function differently.
Security and Authentication measures are easily implemented and maintained for a centralised Database System. Security only has to be implemented on the one Database system where as on local databases it has to be set up individually which is time consuming. Back up of the database only needs to be made in one place and restoring data only needs to be done once.
Impact of Implementing the Recording of systems:
Efficiency and productivity:
Efficiency and Productivity will be dramatically increased by the Staff of ULD as if they know what system has what information they will complete the tasks much more efficiently. Productivity will be increased as if staff know the system that is required to look up certain information the number of tasks completed in a certain time period will be increased.
Will not be compromised as data redundancy will not enter the system as staff will know what system certain information is meant to be entered into as they have been recorded in the main database system.
My recommendations for the areas that could potentially be improved, these areas include switching the University's primary information system to electronic in the form of a Database system, implementing a centralised Database system and keeping record of systems being developed and currently in use by ULD.
If the management of ULD take the information management strategy I have provided to implement these information management changes, they will gain hugely as a University overall. The staff morale will be boosted as processes will become more productive and efficient, especially during economically challenging times. This will be a boost to the University management as they have to make the unfortunate staff cuts during these times. These information management changes will be cost saving to the organisation and help reduce the budget by 3% over the next 5 years. ULD will become organised due to the recording of all systems within the University this will benefit staff as they will spend less time looking for the information and spend more time completing the tasks, which makes ULD more productive and efficient. Man power for managing information will no longer be as extensive trying to update, add, delete or retrieve information as it will no longer be paper based for most of the information as it will easily be able to be retrieved or edited on the Database system.
If the Management of ULD decide to implement the findings of this report by Dublin business information management Ltd they will see benefits of efficiency, productivity and cost saving measures while increasing the high standards of the University and its reputation will increase.