What are the business requirements of SIQ? Which business processes should SIQ computerise and what benefits would that bring about for SIQ?
The case in study regarding the scenario where Study in Queensland finds itself today presents a classic scenario of a small organization on the verge of expanding. The use of conventional processes for managing the operations was possible single handedly by HUI when it was just a single center. However, with time the volume of work seems to have increased and it becomes more than essential to have innovative and technologically advanced operative systems to manage the entire processes. The company can take a leaf out the planning systems of big MNCs who not only operate in multiple locations within a specific country but also has several branches across the world. The major element which makes it possible is the advanced systems which offers information accessible to all within a click of a mouse.
Therefore, in order to open multiple offices at different locations as mentioned in the case, Hui needs to invest further in technology and advanced software systems. It is indeed important to offer them an option to centralize all operations and collaborate the efforts of the entire organization to serve to the needs of their students. The introduction of a technically advanced information system would not only help them to cater to the students in a better way but also facilitate an easier, error free and far more efficient operations within the organization. Hui would no longer need to carry out the entire processes in a manual system. She would only need administrative heads to take care of each division and delegate the work to them (Aminer 2012).
She would be having the access to master control of all the processes which are running. This would allow her to keep a tap on what’s happening at each of the locations and give out instant figures and data for every required information. For instance, she would no longer need to keep a hard copy of student forms and store them in files. Moreover, with the system being accessible to all branches, it would no longer need her to carry the files from one place to the other. A common database system would offer access to information from all the centers.
1. Information Systems and its benefits to SIQ
Going by the simple definition of information systems it is a combination of software, hardware, trained professionals and an infrastructure setup which is organized with the objective of facilitating planning, organizing, controlling, and taking decisions within an organization. It acts as a database which is aided by several tools which facilitates the user to access information with ease and process them as and when required. There are several benefits which Information systems come with and would be an ideal solution to SIQ. Some of them have been discussed below:
1. Customer information: SIQ has two kinds of customers. One is the students and the other is the institutions. Information systems are known to provide a database of information for customers and their relevant information. The administrative head who is in search of student applications with respect to their preferred institutes can see the entire data set stored in the system. On the other hand, he has the access to information regarding admission procedures and number of seats left for getting admission to. Accordingly, at that very instant he can get in touch with the student and inform them instantly about the processes. When compared to manual processing this entire process would have taken a few days. But with the Information system in place, they can answer all queries the moment they have enquiries (ProMeng 2008).
2. Custom Formats: The information system which would designed and used by SIQ would be custom software which would function in the very manner it is required to be used within the organization. Thus, operators would just need to input required credentials and the entire processing would be done by the software itself.
3. Offers Real Time Information: Previously, Hui has been reported of being too slow in responding to students and offering adequate information. There have been instances where she found it difficult to find hard copies and appear unprofessional to the students. However, this would not be the case with Information system in place as it would offer real time information to all queries put forward (OULU 2002).
4. Adaptability: Information systems are highly advanced and are very flexible which makes them capable of being reprogrammed for the future needs. It is possible to upgrade individual parts of the system or may be add a new solution to the existing system with ease.
2. Problems faced by SIQ
There are a few issues which has been creating a problem for SIQ to manage and expand its operations across newer centers. The problems have been discussed below from high to low as per the priority:
1. Processing systems: The biggest problem which SIO has been facing is its use of manual processes to record student data and store them in hard copies. Starting from filling out student forms to shortlisting candidates as per college choices to offering required updates and information to the students when required, everything was done manually. All these took time and eventually led loss of time and wastages.
2. Employee Management System and collaboration: Till now, Hui had been manually managing staff leaves, payrolls, timesheets and other activities pertaining to employee management. However, in order to expand and operate, she now faces the need of holding regular meetings with each center and talk with them personally. Also, in order to carry out the activities in a collaborated manner, the current processes would have meant that each files were required to be carried to every location or stored in multiple copies at each (Exciting IP 2010).
3. Absence of a website: Currently, the organization is losing out on a large customer base which comes through online sources. Other companies have been quick to increase their web presence and allow students to communicate and even register from the comfort of their homes. It would need to create a website which is integrated with the Information systems used within the organization. It would ensure that direct information is transferred to relevant departments. To add on to it the company would need to indulge in process of social media promotion as well as Internet Marketing activities.
3. Business requirements of SIQ and computerizing the business processes
The current business requirements of SIQ can be summarized as below:
1. Capture: The first stage of the client contact starts with getting the data and filling out forms with relevant information of the interested students.
2. Store: The next thing which the organization needs is to store data in a centralized database which is accessible to all the centers of the organization.
3. Process: Once, they have collected data, the business needs to make sure that it matches or processes the information collected with the student requirements and the colleges (Ijar CSSE 2014).
4. Results: Lastly, it needs to offer an instant information about the relevant data so that adequate processing and information for student admission could be offered. It includes admission dates, admission procedures, relevant documentations, etc.
5. Transaction Processing: The business needs to have an effective transaction processing mechanism which is directly linked to the enrollment and admissions processed by them. On every successful admission, the relevant authorities need to process the amounts at the university and the admissions could be closed upon transaction fulfillment.
Employee Management: Lastly, Hui cannot carry out manual processing and recording of employee activities such as payroll or attendance. An automated system is required which logs in data with employee attendance and offers instant solutions for payroll processing (UEA 2003).
Therefore, in order to take care of the above issues and business requirements of the company the entire core operations needs to be integrated and computerized to facilitate information processing. The business processes which needs to be computerized are as follows:
- Transaction Processing Systems
- Customer Relationship Management Systems
- Business Intelligence Systems
- Knowledge Management Systems
Type of Information Systems which can help SIQ
1. Transaction processing:
This feature would facilitate data collection, storage, processing and outputting functionalities. It collects relevant data and generates outputs based on the data collected. An example of such system would be addition of a website which would offer the students to select their preferred institutions, preferred courses, and other relevant details for their application online. With such a facility, they would be able to fill the forms online and it would directly be processed to the administrative heads of the organization. It would reduce the overall paperwork which was the basis for work over the years. They would no longer need to devote extra time to reaching students or students reaching them to collect and process information.
2. Customer Relationship Management: It would be an essential feature to manage and synchronize customer data with the marketing efforts of the organization. It would basically facilitate SIQ to offer a better service to the students. The competitive advantage which this information system would add to the existing business is to allow the company to interact with the student related to their service and offer problem resolutions. It would further be integrated for collaboration strategies whereby each of its business centers would be able to interact with each other for developing ideas and enhancing their service standards (SBA n.d.).
3. Business Intelligence: This is important for the business aspect of the company. The results are processed using the current business patterns and sales to facilitate future prediction. It would be required to analyze the progress of each of its units and ascertain their efficiency. For instance, this Information system would be used to collect the revenues each of the centers has been collecting through the admissions processed. Both individual and overall collections and profits would be recorded and analyzed to see how good the business has been doing and what progress it has made.
4. Knowledge Management: Lastly, information system would bring innovation, improve the performance, and bring an integration for retaining and distributing knowledge within the organization. Although, it is usually the larger enterprises which uses Knowledge Management Information systems, this could be a create source of harvesting knowledge for organizations which are growing like SIQ. It would act as a central repository and help in retaining information in a standard format. It would facilitate the organization to maintain consistency and enable a speedier response system to the customer and the partner inquiries.
5. Contribution to improve the business decision making process with the help of Information Systems
The primary objective of the above information systems which are proposed to be introduced is to provide the management, its managers as well as stakeholders with the relevant information to facilitate precise planning, forecasting, monitoring as well as carrying out the regular business processes. The information system would be aided by the use of powerful computer software as well as network information systems which would help SIQ to become a far more flexible, and a less layered organization. It would reduce the redundant functions and separate the aspect of location from restraining the work flow (OECD 2000). For maximizing the benefits of the information systems in today’s competitive environment which is dominated by an information based economy, there is a far wide need of planning the information architecture and infrastructure for the organization.
The emergence of smartphones, tablets and other computer based mobile gadgets which are mostly connected by wireless communication networks, the implementation of the proposed information systems would extend the support to mobility. Furthermore, SIQ would be enabled to carry out diverse human activities. It would further quicken the pace of daily processes and affect the structure as well as mix within the organization. As per Whitten Information system is defined as an arrangement of people, data, and processes as well as interfaces which interacts in a manner which supports as well as improves the day to day operations of the business. He further extends the definition by saying that in the 21st century Information systems would be one of the most important elements for problem solving and making decisions by the management as well as the customers. Therefore, adding to the competitive advantage of SIQ, these Information Systems when implemented in a desired manner would provide information to managers for supporting their operations as well as decision making within the entire organization.
6. Connecting the proposed new centers of SIQ by use of Information Technology
The company would largely rely on the professionals and the resources it adopts for using the new Information system mechanisms. SIQ would be operating more units in future besides the ones it presently plans to expand. Therefore, a well-defined and robust information system would be required to be deployed which would be easier to expand, modify and process. The constituents of the proposed Information System would comprise of the following elements:
1. Hardware: The hardware requirements of the company would not only comprise of computers but also networking hardware (UST n.d.). Each center would be equipped with equal standard hardware systems which would be used to store and process the organizational data. A networking hardware system would be used through the use of internet which would allow the different systems for collaborating and sharing information within themselves.
2. Software: Software would be the medium which would be used on the hardware installed for utilizing the information networks. The software used would assist the organization to execute the business processes and add a competitive strategy to its existing line of business. On the other hand the increased reliance on information systems for managing would effectively increase the need of utilizing software resources and become increasingly critical and complex. For instance, SIQ would have to manage the software they have installed on each of the computers used which would include managing updates, fixing bugs and managing all kinds of issues related to software licenses.
3. Networks: The reason why information systems in organizations have become powerful is the fact that it has the ability of interconnecting and allowing the internal as well as external constituents to communicate and hence collaborate with each other. In case of SIQ the infrastructure which would support these would facilitate interconnection of different computers and enable collaboration with across the world. Introduction of a common mailing system or instant messaging systems to facilitate easier and faster information processing would be a few parts of this network. Further, the company would use videoconferencing for bridging the gap between the offices and its business partners (JYU 2001).
4. Data Facilities: Data and knowledge is the most important asset to SIQ which is used for executing the business processes and gaining business intelligence. In order to manage this, SIQ would need to deploy an infrastructure with sufficient capacity, performance and reliability. Moreover, the company would need to install specialized facilities as a part of the information system infrastructure. It is not a single desktop that would be required but installation of server farms may be required for the company. This can be installed and expanded from time to time which depends on the company’s business flow. Contrarily, the company can rent out servers from several reliable companies.
5. Human Resources: The other aspect which would play a crucial role in using the invested information systems and making the best use of it would be the trained professionals who would be using the systems. The company would need to train its administrative heads and ensure that they are aware of the processes involved and the way each information system needs to be used. These are critical areas and a mistake on part of a responsible person at important positions may lead to deletion of valuable data. Hence, as protective measures, proper backup mechanisms also needs to be in place besides training the employees (UEA 2003).
6. Services: Lastly the range of services which the company would offer would be the final component of the entire setup. It would be the most crucial component where the two way process to act as an intermediary to both students and institutions would be a crucial role. It needs to make sure that it works in time with both the parties and ensure good quality services to them. The services would be offered in a delegated manner with high level of expertise in place.
7. Security, ethical and privacy issues related to introduction of new information systems
Information Systems would offer benefits but would also come with its own costs. Security, ethical and privacy issues in information systems have already given a new urgency with the rise in Internet and electronic commerce. SIQ would find it easy to assemble, integrate as well as distribute information but unleash a new set of concerns which pertain to the customer information and the protection of personal privacy. There is a possibility that insiders with special knowledge could fool the information systems and divert the information to competitors and cause damage worth unimaginable scale. Other issues which could arise would be establishment of accountability for the use of these systems, setting up of standards for safeguarding the quality which protects the safety of individual and society (OECD 2000). The question which SIQ would need to answer while implementing the new information systems would be “What are the ethical and social responsibilities for the course of action?”
1. Health Risks: Increased use of Information Systems has led to a lot of health concerns like Carpal tunnel Syndrome, Techno Stress, Computer Vision Syndrome, and Repetitive Stress. So SIQ would need to be aware of such consequences and use the best systems available which cause minimal damage.
2. Employment: The most important benefit cited out of Information systems is the reengineering work. What this would mean that implementation of high end Information System would lead towards loss of jobs for several clerical and middle level managers who could have fit in their relevant divisions.
3. Information Privacy: Privacy would be one of the biggest challenge which would be associated with SIQ when using Information system. As its system would accommodate vast amount of data, it would need to store them and keep them confidential. For instance, student information provided is of specific use for admissions. Any unethical use of that information may lead to a serious concern for the organization.
Change Related Issues with the new Information System implementation
The changes mentioned above in respect to the implementation of Information systems would come with its own set of issues and challenges. Some of them which SIQ might have to face would include:
1. Lack of consensus: There is every possibility that the existing staff members would be reluctant to learn new things and adopt new processes. Thus before it implements and introduces the new systems, Ms. Hui would need to take everyone on board and make the advantages of the new systems clear to everybody.
2. Communication: In a case where the company is not able to communicate with the employees in the might manner and does not provide enough information of how to use the proposed information system, the entire processes and business operations might stumble and fail (JYU 2001).
In order to implement the changes and information systems, the company would hence require to make a phased implementation and test it at different levels. It should start with stages and only start operating at all its locations when the process has been tried and tested. Besides, for each department and software which the company uses, it would be important for it to train the relevant employees beforehand. Moreover, it should recruit adequate people whose profile matches with the divisions required within the management.
Conclusion and recommendations
To conclude we can say that SIQ is moving towards a new business proportion and implementation of such policies would facilitate it to grow further. It would simplify their processes and hence facilitate an easier access to the students. It would also contribute towards decreasing the wastages and hence allow an easier management within the organization. As a part of recommendation it would be advised to Ms. Hui to speak with her entire team, explain the need of such a process, and tell them its benefits. It would be advised to take a collective decision and take the views of all those part of the organization. It would give her the issues they face and issues which they might face. Thus a robust system would be in place with efforts from all ends. It needs to be facilitated and backed by resources and right training standards for the organization as well. A thorough control mechanism and periodical checks would also need to be in place to check the impact and the progress which the new systems have been made. For all the diversions or the problems there needs to be corrective measures which have to be placed when such need arises.
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