Strategic information systems planning

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1.0 Introduction

Information System (IS) leads to tremendous benefits for organization. It promotes tangible benefits along with intangible benefits to the organization including the deduction on work task, improvement on management and efficiency, enhancement of automation, progress in revenue and others. However, IS development process involves a tough stage and phase. Even the issues on SISP improvement became critical among practitioners (Brancheau & Wetherbe, 1987) as cited in (Lederer, et. al., 1988). It requires a detail study on the business practices and goals to assure the reliability and effectiveness of the system.

The most important thing is that the system itself should provide affirmative transformation to the organization and align with the key business goals. In view of the fact that information system promotes high benefits, lots of organizations are willing and prepare to invest a huge amount of budget to develop proficient system. An organization may have more than one system to support the different organizational levels and roles. As the project of IS always involves high amounts of investments, the development process should be as fluent and success as it can.

2.0 Organizational Database Development

Information System (IS) availability in organization allows data and information be managed effectively. IS is build with the combination of components such as software, database(s), hardware, application programs and procedures. Database is a group of related items of information that is stored in a computer in some kind of form (Reymann, 1984). This will require a careful plan, commitment and management in order to get the best result and product of IS.

The SISP Perspective

Planning process is a prime function of management (Wang & Tai, 2003). A good planning will lead to a good management practice. There are many approaches that can be use or select by organization in their planning process. Parts of the approaches available including operational planning, management control and strategic planning. Strategic planning involves people to categorize objectives for system development, establishment of policy and appraisal of computer systems potential.

As for Strategic Information System Planning (SISP), it can be defining as a method that can convert inputs into outputs (King, 1988) as cited in (Hartono et al, 2003). It is also a process that function to establish a program or application and implementation of IS thus giving benefits to organization (Hartog &Herbert, 1986) as cited in (Lederer, et. al., 1988) in terms of the effectiveness of the information resources (Remenji, 1991) as cited in (Rogerson & Filder, 1994). SISP is also well known as a process of describing a portfolio of computer based applications that will assist organization business plans and goals (Hartono et al, 2003).

SISP is more common to Information System Planning (ISP) that was recognized in the early 1969 (Lederer,1989). However, the use of SISP approach also be use and adapt in the database development, as the database is a part of IS.

There are many techniques that can be use by developers to support the SISP process, including value-chain analysis (VCA), critical success factor (CSFs) and SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (Rogerson & Filder, 1994). Each stage or phase in the Database Life Cycle (DBLC) could make use of the approach. Seeing that there have been many models and frameworks being discussed for the SISP approach (Earl, 1989) as cited in (Rogerson & Filder, 1994), it was the job of system developers and database developers to make decisions on what framework to be chosen. Database is considered as crucial as the system itself since database also support those applications.

3.0 The Importance of SISP

SISP is an approach that can be use in database development. The approach can be absorbed into the database planning process. SISP will cater the big or large perspective of IS and database planning will touch and focus to database development. SISP and database planning is an important aspects that must be consider by project team. It can help an organization to detect the most information systems applications needed to be focus or invest (Henderson & Sifonis, 1988). This is because by developing plan, there will be clear and comprehensive ideas and concurrences on what are the database requirements (CompuMentor, 2001), is it affordable and can the database able to be support.

Besides that, strategic planning is important for the reason that it examines and inspects current information and make clear on future needs (CompuMentor, 2001). Appropriate database need the project team to study the information moves within organization. In addition, planning theoretically will lead to enhancement of communication with users and to amplify the management support (McLean & Soden, 1977) as cited in (Lederer, et. al., 1988).

During database planning, security measures are considered very important. Database security may be divide into two levels, which is security on catastrophe such as theft and against the unwarranted use. Contingency plan should be form to cover the security issues. (Rolland, 1998)

Risk on SISP Abundance

Planning process will minimize the chances of failure. In other words, it can be said that without planning, database will fail (Lederer, 1989). The effectiveness of planning is not only depends on the planning process, but somehow also depending on the organization characteristics and IS function (Wang & Tai, 2003). Effectiveness will derived from planning capability and the fulfilment of the objectives. On the other hand, for those who implemented SISP, they also face a decisive and critical issue. This is because SISP often unsuccessful. Things that have been proposed in the SISP sometimes were ignore and other applications are applied (Earl,1990).

4.0 SISP Difficulties on Database Development

SISP implementation process may take a long time to be accomplished. This also depends to the difficulties or challenges faced by the project team. The challenges at some stage in database development may perhaps different with each organization, nevertheless there still be similarity with it.

The common challenges appear while having database development is the resource related problems. These include the hitch or problem of time-requirements, personnel and top management support that usually happened during the initial study stage (Lederer, et. al., 1988). Difficulties will ease to happen when the planning team involves too many people (Vacca, 1983) as cited in (Lederer, et. al., 1988). Involvement of more people will convey and express variety ideas and requirements. Therefore, it will be hard to comeout with an agreement.

Choosing a team leader also brings challenges. Team leader plays an important role in the SISP whereby the success of it is greatly rely on the team leader (Zachman, 1982) as cited in (Lederer, et. al., 1988). In addition, many support personnel are needed during the initial study (Rockart, 1979) as cited in (Lederer, et. al., 1988). This is because data gathering process and analysis may involves a long period of time.

Sometimes, it is also difficult to align the project with the management goals and objectives as well as obtaining their understanding (Kearns, 2004) of the database strategic roles (Lederer,1989) . Additionally, there could also be challenge to determine the end users' requirements. The ideas and requirements from both of top management and end users may be diverse with each other and also change from time to time. This situation will give difficulties to project team to follow the date line. If the client keeps changing requirements, the database designer should make further study and provide other database design, before proceed to system development. For this kind of situation, database designer and other team members must be prepare to change.

The implementation of SISP methodologies also faced the problems of process related. It occurs when there were limitations on the analysis done throughout the planning stage. For example, parts of the organization reports or documents could not be access by the project team or worse, the documentation of the organization is inadequate and improper.

Finally, the output related problems. Is the output or database planning comprehensive and appropriate for the system and does the organization management or users satisfy with the database?. Therefore, through SISP for the database, project team shall think out and consider the potential difficulties raised and what solution they could carry out.

Adapting from the success factors of IS planning process from Md Hafiz Selamat, et.al., the success indicators can also be view from the database planning aspects. The points can be view as follows:

* It is necessary to align the corporate objectives with the database development strategy.

* A primary inspiration and incentive should be practice in the initial planning process.

* The database planning and development relates to the organization level and maturity.

* The most suitable method must be use in the database planning.

* Measure the effectiveness of the database planning

* Include preparation of implementation plan so that it meets the SISP objectives.

5.0 SISP Practice in Database Development

Before going much further, it is important to highlight the elements of database. Database should support business goals and business strategies. In this discussion, six phase of DBLC will be touched by aligning with the SISP approach. (Source: Rob & Coronel, 2007)

SISP should be practice as soon as the first phase of database development started. Beginning with the database initial studies, the developer and user really need to cooperate together. In this stage miss-communication may happened. To have the same understanding, many meetings have to be arranged. It is important for both parties to meet the same understanding.

Database Initial Study

The initial study phase involves the activity of analyzing organization's goals and objectives, structures and operations that was in practice. The accurate information received from an appropriate organization study will supply problems and constraints identification to the project team. Revision on documents and reports should not be ignored. This is because reports will allow the team to identify the database outcomes. The team should make sure that the database does not collect too broad or too narrow information (CompuMentor, 2001)

In this stage, SWOT analysis on previous system used by the organization need to be perform. This step allows the team members to identify the strengths, opportunities, threats, problems and weaknesses for the current database process.

The team can identify whether they just need to fix the database or replace it with new databases. If they were to decide building new databases, they may construct database system specifications whereby objectives, scope and boundaries for the database were identified.

There are several reasons why organization wanted to replace their existing databases (CompuMentor, 2001). Some of the reasons are:

i. The current database depends to old platform such as Disk Operating System (DOS) but the software used need to be run on current platform.

ii. It is complicated and hard to fix bugs or upgrade the system, thus new system need to be developed.

iii. Good and proper reports could not be generate from the database and enhancing the database requires high cost.

Database Design and Information Flow

The second phase of database development is the database design. Before designing the database, there are several basic steps to be followed such as gathering all information needed, identify the entities or objects, model the entities, identifying the types of information for each entity and also clarify the relationships (Microsoft.com, 2009). After data required are gathered, the team should organize it into the types of data object, depends on the DBMS used (Rolland, 1998).

It is necessary for the team to interview the organization staffs those involve with the system to get the need from the database. Collection of customer statements, management reports any other documents related to the existing system will be useful for designing phase. Planning on data and information required should be handle in advance so that project team clear about their tasks (CompuMentor, 2001).

This phase engage the conceptual design, logical design and also physical design. In producing the conceptual design, study on requirements and analyzing data is crucial. This is to create data modelling for the database. Database designer should collect information that will help him or her to build a good design for the database. The information usually could be obtained by exploring the current system in the organization, gathering data from end users and also through communication with project team members (Microsoft.com, 2009).

Later then, Entity Relationship Modelling and normalization should be carry out. Database designer can use several tools in order to produce conceptual model. They are Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD), normalization and finally data dictionary. In this stage, designer must identify the entities, attributes, primary keys and foreign keys. All definitions have to satisfy the end users and processing requirements. After deciding the treatment of multi-valued attributes, derived attributes as well as classifying the relationships, designer could construct ERD and normalize the data model. In addition, standard naming conventions must be use so that the ERD is easy to be understood.

Next, data model verification need to be done. This part is vital to receive end users satisfactions and agreements and also to examine the processing contentment. Verification can be made through a few inspections. Firstly through end users data views and necessitate transactions. Then, designer can test the access path and security control and lastly, a test on business imposed data requirements.

When entering the logical design part, it actually defines the conceptual design. In this stage, Database Management System (DBMS) dependent is consider. Then, for physical design, designer will choose data storage and data access characteristics of the database. In this stage, designer will counter with several challenges that needed him or her to be detail in designing database. Besides the issue on database performance, the database designer should also consider on the security issues. Database should be always in a secure environment. Other than the physical security, access rights and audit trails also need to be on hand. Other than anything else, the database should have backup and recovery system. As the data being kept is the asset for organization, its existence need to be assured. Once the database have problems such crash, the team should have backup plan to cover it.

Implementation

Implementation stage requires installation of DBMS and creation of all databases. It starts from creating database storage group and tables to inserting data to the database. During the process of implementation, there may be involve the process of creating database, modifying database, viewing database metadata, documenting and scripting databases and deleting a database. Database being created should have a primary data file and at least one transaction log file.

Testing and Evaluation

The testing and evaluation phase is a vital phase whereby team could re-analysis the function of the database. Usually, programmers will use any database tools such as screen painters or report generators to come out with prototype. During the testing period, if any problem occurs or happens, the team could make solutions. Of course they may need to re-modify the physical design and look back at the Database Management System (DBMS) specifications and configurations. Then, the project team must up-grade and settle all problems occurred.

Operation, Maintenance and Evolution

After evaluation phase have passed, database can be put in operational stage where further analysis could be perform. Maintenance also should be on hand to support the database performance. Some maintenance methods that can be performed are such as security audit, corrective maintenance and preventive maintenance.

6.0 Conclusion

SISP improvement becomes a challenge for the practitioners today. Either it is being used for IS development or focus for database development, SISP could not be a pass ticket of IS achievement. However, success is a half way through if SISP is put into practice. The other half could be gain if the planning is effectively and efficiently being done as well as the implementation of the SISP itself within the development process. Further analysis also should be done after the SISP is complete. The failure on SISP will cause the organization to lose competitive advantage (Hartono, et. al., 2003).

Planning requires too many resources. Even to obtain top management commitment could be a challenge. It is a must for having their participation in the planning process so that the plan is aligned with the business goals and supports business strategies.

7.0 Bibliography

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Hartono, E. Et al. (2003). Key predictors of the implementation of strategic information systems plans. The Data Base for Advances in information systems - summer, 34 (3), pp.41-53.

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Md Hafiz Selamat, Mohd Adam Suhaimi, & Husnayati Hussin. Integrating strategic information security with strategic information systems planning (SISP). Retrieved from http://eprints.utm.my/3387/1/NICT'06_-_SISP-SSP_Ver_1.3.pdf.

Reymann, J. (1984). Quick and easy dBASE II. United State: Alfred publication.

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