Business applications describe software solutions and technology-based applications and tools used as part of electronic business communications with partners, suppliers or customers. Business applications have become a significant market for software solutions providers. The 21st century emergence of popular technology-led business systems like customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM) have increase awareness and need for electronic applications in managing business and customer relationships. The focus of this paper will portray roles database management play in managing data as a business resource, describe the business benefits and drawbacks of client/server networks, discuss some of the challenges limiting the widespread use of wireless technologies in business applications, define CRM and explain the challenges of implementing SCM system.
A Database Management System (DBMS) is a set of computer programs that controls the creation, maintenance, and the use of a database (Database management systems, 2001). It allows organizations to place control of database development in the hands of database administrators (DBAs) and other specialists. A DBMS is a system software package that helps the use of integrated collection of data records and files known as databases. It allows different user application programs to easily access the same database. DBMS's may use any of a variety of database models, such as the network model or relational model. In large systems, a DBMS allows users and other software to store and retrieve data in a structured way. Instead of having to write computer programs to extract information, user can ask simple questions in a query language. Thus, many DBMS packages provide Fourth-generation programming language and other application development features. It helps to identify the logical order for a database and access and use the information within a database. It provides facilities for controlling data access, enforcing data integrity, managing concurrency, and restoring the database from backups. A DBMS also provides the ability to logically present database information to users (Database management systems, n.d.).
Data Resource Management
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Data is an essential organizational resource, that's required to be managed like other critical business resources. Many organizations would be unable to survive or thrive without quality data about their internal operations and exterior environment. It is critical that managers practice data resource management which is a managerial activity that utilizes information systems technology, like database management, to the task of managing an organization's data resources to meet the information requirements of business users (Data Management, 2009).
Implementing Data Resource Management
Managerial end users should view data as an important resource that they must learn to manage properly to ensure the success and survival of their organizations. Database management is an important application of information systems technology to the management of a firm's data resources. Data resource management includes database administration, data planning, and data administration (O'Brien & Marakas, 2008).
Database administration is an important data resource management function accountable for the appropriate use of database management technology. Database administration has more operational and technical responsibilities than other data resource management functions. This includes liability for developing and preserving the organization's data dictionary, designing and monitoring the performance of databases, and imposing standards and security (Database management systems, n.d.).
Data planning is a business planning and analysis role that centers on data resource management. It incorporates the responsibility for developing a general data architecture for the organization's data resources that ties in with its strategic mission and plans, and the objectives and processes of its business units. Data planning is a major component of an organization's strategic planning process. It is done by organizations that have made a formal commitment to long-range planning for the strategic use and management of its data resources (Database management systems, n.d.).
Data administration is another data resource management function. It includes the formation and enforcement of policies and procedures for managing data as a strategic corporate resource. Additionally, it consists of the collection, storage, and distribution of all types of data is administrated in a way that data becomes a consistent resource available to everyone in the organization. Furthermore, it includes the planning and control of data in support of an organization's business functions and strategic business objectives. Finally, it requires the establishment of a data planning, developing policies and set standards for corporate database design, processing, and security arrangements, and to select database management and data dictionary software (Database management systems (DBMS), 2001).
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Client-server computing is arranged to maintain accessibility and integration. Through networking each client or workspace is linked to the host or server. This permits clients to access software and hardware applications whenever they are as needed. One main benefit of this is the integration of software or hardware products from a multitude of different vendors. These products can work together to create the business benefits of client-server technology such as reliability, security and mobility, cost reduction, and increased flexibility and productivity (O'Brien & Marakas, 2008).
Because server routines are separated from application code, there is less of a chance of one corrupting the other. Unfortunately, this is not true with static or runtime libraries. Libraries sooner or later share the same logical address space with the application, risking corruption by reckless pointer manipulation. On the other hand, servers are insulated-running as their own process in their own address space and usually on their own machine. In the case of machine failure, surplus servers somewhere else on the network can continue processing client requests, all translucent to end-users (Mitchell, n.d.).
Security and Mobility
Remote procedure calls offer equal amounts of protection to servers as they do clients. Additionally, added security is provided if access security is employed. Logon security is an essential firewall to transaction, database, and mail servers. As an alternative to porting your entire system, you can port only the client software or the server software. Getting into new markets or platforms the entire application doesn't have to move, only the part you want to move. This started the concept of software plumbing (PeterL, n.d.).
Actual business grounds are needed to fund new development. There are many economic reasons to start utilizing client/server designs, which are more than insignificant. The two main financial reasons to develop client/server systems are reducing the cost of entry-level client systems and also to safeguard investments in equipment previously purchased. By relocating much of the heavier processing to servers that have the capacity to handle it, client machines do not require powerful CPU's, large amounts of memory, or substantial disk space. If there is already a sizeable inventory of older PCs, for the cost of a network card, these PC's may profit from the processing power and functionality of the server (Advantages and disadvantages of client-server networks, 2008).
In reality the number of client/server success stories has far out-numbered the client/server failures. This is not shocking bearing in mind two things: the common belief client/server applies strictly to database and GUIs, and when it does work it offers a definite benefit to the successful organization who is not about to share their strategy with its competitors. This also explains numerous consulting organizations' declaration of client/server's low-acceptance and premature death. The second point accounts for the fabrication that client/server is new-companies utilizing it back in the '70s weren't running ads or writing articles about their designs for fear they'd lose the advantage they'd just produced (Advantages and disadvantages of client-server networks, 2008).
Network computing symbolizes the recent surge in the progression of IS architectures from mainframe to mini to PC-LAN and beyond. Information systems hold fast to the network computing model when functions are properly distributed between clients and servers connected by local and wide-area networks. Functionality is centralized to the degree that performance restrictions allow and adequate intelligence is supplied locally to support a powerful user interface. Moreover, server capabilities are physically distributed as needed to improve performance and flexibility (O'Brien & Marakas, 2008).
The Total Cost of Ownership
Network computing can reduce the overall cost of ownership. There are considerable potential savings for organizations that perform software distribution, software support, and system administration and management from the server. These costs are comprised of training, support, management, server, network, client, and applications. Some studies highlight the costs required and particularly the high costs of system administration, maintenance, and user support. To these costs are added the personnel costs in terms of staff training and staff time for backup, software updates, which are decreased or removed when employing a network computer, or configuring a PC to act in the same manner, in a network computing environment. These cost studies are indicative of possible savings; business managers will want to examine their existing costs now and projections for the future. Obviously the hardware purchase cost remains a small factor in the equation (Database management systems, 2001).
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A network computer linked with a server which has no user-accessible storage devices is intrinsically more secure than a PC connected to the network. Viruses can be launched locally through the PC. Security can be infringed in many other ways through access to the PC's own operating system, local applications, or modem connection. The network computer, unlike the PC, has an operating system that is not user configurable. It is intended to impose much tighter security than is possible in a Windows-based environment. In a network computer the tools for the computer hacker are just not available (Mitchell, 2008).
Cheaper Equipment, Competition, and Choice
This claim is rooted on the opinion that network computers have no user accessible local storage devices and therefore a lower parts count. In general, they also need considerably less processing power because they utilize browser and Java-based applications allowing the use of less expensive technology for most applications. Network computers have a smaller footprint, use less power and produce less noise as a result of the lower number of parts. The Open Network Computer promises portability and interoperability and a universal set of features. With the confidence of this guarantee, buyers can concentrate on deciding on a supplier that understands their business needs, and provides the greatest support and economical services (Mitchell, 2008).
Network Computing Challenges
One way to recognize the factors that may affect the growth and development of network computing is to examine the useful characteristics of network computers. Some of the drawbacks of network computing are network availability, server capability, and software applications. Some of these challenges are important and the Industry is addressing them. However, the best possible solutions can only be determined with appropriate input from the buy-side (Mitchell, 2008).
Peer to Peer Networks
Peer to peer networking is a method to computer networking where all computers share the same responsibility for the processing of data. Peer-to-peer networking is unlike client-server networking because certain devices have accountability for providing or serving data and other devices expend or otherwise act as clients of those servers (O'Brien & Marakas, 2008).
Peer to peer networking is customary on small local area networks (LANs), especially home networks. Both wired and wireless home networks can be set up as peer to peer settings. Computers in a peer to peer network operate the same networking protocols and software. Peer networks are also often located near to each other, normally in homes, small businesses or schools. Some peer networks, on the other hand, utilize the Internet and are geographically dispersed worldwide. Home networks that make use of broadband routers are hybrid peer to peer and client-server environments. The router offers centralized Internet connection sharing, although printer and other resource sharing is administered directly between the local computers concerned (Jelen & King, 2003)
Benefits of a Peer to Peer Network
Computers can be configured in peer to peer workgroups to permit sharing of files, printers and other resources and devices. Peer networks let data to be shared in both directions, whether for downloads or uploads to a computer. On the Internet, peer to peer networks carry burden out a very high volume of file sharing transfers by spreading out the burden across numerous computers. Because they do not depend solely on central servers, P2P networks both scale better and are more flexible than client-server networks in case of failures or traffic jams (Jelen & King, 2003).
Drawbacks of Peer to Peer Networks
While peer-to-peer networks are generally low-cost, easy-to-install solution, they do have a few drawbacks. If a user turns off his or her workstation, their information or peripherals will no longer be accessible for others to share. Additionally, accessing data and applications from another person's workstation can cause performance problems for that user (O'Brien & Marakas, 2008).
Challenges of Wireless Technology
The use of wireless technology in the workplace, especially in the public sector, has been increasing at a rapid pace. There are many reasons behind this boom. Wireless can take an organization where no wired technology has taken them before. However, even with all the advantages of wireless solutions, there are some risks in exposing systems to this inherently open technology (Hearmon, 2007).
Issues for Consideration
The freedom and flexibility of a wireless solution does not come without its challenges.
Whenever you hear about wireless solutions a discussion about security is not far behind. There are ways to secure wireless enterprises, but it is not always intuitive. You need to weigh the benefits of your solution and the costs of implementation, on-going security and support. There are impacts on existing business processes when wireless solutions are introduced. Security concerns include exposing your locked down, wired environment to a more open, easily accessed solution. As with every technology decision, there are costs and benefits that must be outlined and weighed. Dollar considerations may also be part of the impact to your existing infrastructure. Both wired and wireless solutions are coming out of the same pot of money. If the focus on wireless is made, you must ensure that your existing infrastructure is not forgotten (O'Brien & Marakas, 2008).
One of the biggest hurdles to the proper funding for implementation of a wireless solution is caused by mass media. The focus on wireless technology for the non-techie user makes it seem like an effective solution is only a click away. Most consumer implementations of wireless solutions are not secure, and ignorance seems bliss. Rarely do those communications emphasize the wireless implementation, management costs and security concerns. Most people see the wireless movement as just another plug-and-play device. Unfortunately, battling that myth in the workplace, while educating executive management on the true costs of a wireless implementation, can be challenging (Hearmon, 2007).
The computer-based Internet era in which we operate is very dynamic and has changed quite rapidly over the past few years. Many view the second wave of interconnectivity as one of pervasive computing-anyone connected anytime, anywhere, using any device, communicating anything, in any format. Because computing is becoming pervasive, it must also become autonomous. To understand autonomous computing, think of pervasive computing, defined above, with 'no one substituted for anyone. Computing should work more like our autonomic nervous system, which regulates basic functions without our awareness of it. Given the size and complexity of today's networks, this is a requirement. Advances in mobile and wearable devices and network connectivity will allow for an implementation that is based on location-specific business needs instead of more generic functional needs. What is required is an extremely flexible solution that is precisely targeted to the objectives of the enterprise and meets the specific needs of a wide range of users (Hearmon, 2007).
Lately, industry has made considerable advances in resolving some limitations to the widespread acceptance of wireless technologies. Some of the limitations have incorporated disparate standards, low bandwidth, and high infrastructure and service cost. Wireless technologies can both support the organization's mission and provide cost-effective solutions. Wireless is being embraced for many new applications such as to connect computers, to allow detached monitoring and data acquisition, offer access control and security, and to provide a solution for surroundings where wires may not be the best solution (Oriaku, 2008).
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is an expression used to describe a type of approach that is designed to be put into action by organizations with the idea of increasing profits, reducing costs and improving customer relationships. Frequently CRM is employed by using a specific type of software application that can reduce the amount of strain involved in organizing projects, employees and customer information alike. This leaves organizations with more time to focus on other aspects of their business, such as their bottom line (What is CRM? 2010).
Regardless of all the talk about CRM being one of the most profitable customer plans of the decade, there still is room for failure. Statistics show that only one in every six companies that have installed CRM have been successful. CRM has lost its charm as it has failed to meet expectations. Almost 75% of projects failed in delivering the expected ROI and have met various problems with CRM. Nevertheless the true failure rate is just 5% (What is CRM? 2010).
One of the problems with CRM is the huge investment needed to maintain a customer database. The additional expense comes because of the money needed for computer hardware, software, personnel etc. The costs involved are enormous and most often than not the resultant ROI from the CRM implementation fail to cover the costs involved. This leads to a negative feeling within the company about CRM and it's so called successes and ultimately results in CRM collapse (CRM's challenges - What's going wrong? 2010).
Another failure of CRM is its inability to provide quick returns on investment. Organizations find themselves waiting for years before they are able to see actual returns on their investment. Most experts view the low ROI as a major problem with CRM but fail to see that the long wait is just as difficult. Waiting for years to see their investments show results, tests patience and leads to both employees and management slackening their efforts in the implementation (CRM's challenges - What's going wrong? 2010).
Most CRM problems can be mitigated, resolved and ultimately obliterated. What is highly required is the ability to focus on the business needs, choose a CRM package that works towards it, employ the right resources and assume the right metrics. Adopting these measures would go a long way in alleviating CRM problems (CRM's challenges - What's going wrong? 2010).
Companies are in business to make money. CRM, if it is a successful business strategy, should help your company grow profitably and create a competitive advantage. Successful customer relationship management will bring about an increase in profits as it offers businesses a way in which to bring together all relevant data about each of their customers to provide a better service. This in turn leads to increased customer loyalty as customers will feel valued, something which is in short supply in today's marketplace - resulting in repeat custom. Sales are also increased as CRM allows sales staff to access customer records instantly and provide them with information on previous purchases and use this information to recommend new products and services which may be of use to them (What is CRM?, 2010).
Supply Chain Management
The idea behind Supply Chain Management (SCM) is based on two central ideas. The first is that nearly every product that arrives at an end user represents the collective effort of numerous organizations. These organizations are referred to together as the supply chain (O'Brien & Marakas, 2008).
The second idea is that while supply chains have been around for a long time, the majority of organizations have only paid close attention to what was happening within their organization. Few businesses realize, much less manage, the entire chain of activities that eventually deliver products to the final customer. The result is disorganized and often ineffective supply chains (O'Brien & Marakas, 2008).
Challenges of SCM
SCM has become an integral part of corporate performance and is drawing increased attention from senior management. In my opinion, the training of people and development s the number-one key challenge for SCM. This includes: skill development; the right recruiting and retention practices; and career paths in other functions outside of SCM (Challengers facing supply chain management, 2008).
Second, is also related to organizational aspects. It is the organization of global sourcing. That is, how to set up and how to manage global sourcing offices. That is also more in terms of processes, a linkage between the global sourcing offices and the headquarters. It's also how the global sourcing offices do work with other non-procurement functions (Challengers facing supply chain management, 2008).
Third is cross-function and collaboration. How does SCM work with not only engineering and quality management, but also with other areas like sales and marketing? Combining that with financing, controlling, and logistics makes SCM tricky to implement effectively (Challengers facing supply chain management, 2008).
The Internet and SCM
All information on goods and output can be made accessible from the Internet. By combining business and this technology, companies can control long, complicated supply chains and decrease stock inventories - both with simplified administration. These opportunities were unknown just a few years ago! This new technological approach to business shows there are both strategic and operational rewards to be had. On the strategic level, SCM gives the ability to change a company from being functionally focused to being process-oriented. In doing so, management achieves the goal that all processes in the supply chain become more transparent, which makes it possible for them to improve control and make better business decisions. On the operational level, SCM makes it easy to link different information from the sales channels and to better direct sales with both suppliers and customers via the Internet (Adamson, 2010).
The use of the Extranet in SCM is relatively recent phenomenon. There have been few, if any studies done on the use of the Extranet in SCM. The principle literature support comes from the descriptions of project of companies, on how they have utilized the Extranet in the management of the individual supply chains (Lancoini, Smith, & Olivia, 2000). Pawar and Driva (2000) have explored the effect of implementing Extranet in the supply chain. This study shows evidence that companies reduce operating costs and improves profit margins by the implementation of an Extranet. A basic issue for companies considering an Extranet is to look at and understand the reason for doing so.
Strategic or Tactical
Adopting SCM technology can be strategic or tactical. Debating whether a particular activity is a strategy or a tactic consumes many hours. Typically, ff the action can be broken down into meaningful and related standalone activities, it is probably a strategy. If it cannot be broken down as such, it is probably a tactic (Lancoini et al., 2000).
Tactical supply chain decisions concentrate on implementing new measures that will create cost benefits for an organization. Tactical decisions are made within the restrictions of the overarching strategic supply chain decisions made by business management. The strategic supply chain decisions include the scope of the supply chain for the whole company. Tactical supply chain decisions take the strategic message and concentrate on creating genuine benefits for the organization. These can comprise tactical decisions in manufacturing, logistics, suppliers and product development (Lancoini et al., 2000).