Information Systems Management

Executive Summary

The intention of this research study is to examine the role that information systems management usually plays at the firm level. To start with, a brief preview of the background of Global Communication Services shall be provided. This is an organization that is concerned with the provision of information as well as communication solutions to its customers, most of whom are in the mining industry. In addition, the research study shall also endeavor to explore the role played by this researcher at Global Communication Services. Information flow within Global Communication Services has also been examined. This has paved way for the exploration of the existing information system at the organization. Accordingly, SWOT analysis of the IT infrastructure at Global Communication Services has been determined, in effect paving way for recommendations for improving the performance of the existing information system.

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Research Methodology

This research study shall rely on both primary as well as secondary methods of research. It is the intention of this research study to embrace a qualitative approach, as a way of collecting the data needed to inform the research. In this case, the use shall be made of both the primary as well as secondary sources of research information. In the case of primary research, the researcher shall engage the management at Global Communication Services, to further gain an insight into the operations of the existing information system. Specifically, members of staff within the information technology (IT) department will be consulted. In addition, the research shall also make use of secondary information on the subject matter, in the form of books and scholarly journals that have exhaustively examined the issue of information systems management. This will go a long way in enriching the findings of the research study.

Organizational background

Global Communication Services was formed in 1994 by Hahn Electrical Contracting (HEC), to enable the organization to provide communications system technology to the mining industry. This was because HEC realized the need to ensure that the services that it provided to its clients, mainly in the mining industry, were expanded to meet the growing needs of the clients. At the time, HEC realized that the production and regulatory related services that the clients sought were growing rapidly. As a result, the inception of a communication system section in the organization became necessary, and this is how Global Communication Services came into being.

Since October 1994 when this section was established, it has grown, enabling HEC to realize significant growth in the different areas of its operations. In an effort to match the ensuing rate of growth, and in a bid to enable the organization to maintain the sound service provision at the levels that the clients require, HEC has deemed it necessary to increase additional technical staff at Global Communication Services, its subsidiary. As a result, Global Communications Services has over the years recruited additional communications engineers, electrical personnel, and communications apprentices.

In terms of training and development programs targeting the employees, Global Communication Services has implemented an in-house training program. In addition, outsourced training programs have also been adopted to supplement in-house training. The test equipment that Global Communication Services uses is state-of-the-art, and this has ensured that over the years, the organization attained the leadership position in its field of operation. Currently, Global Communication Services remains the largest and leading provider of communication services in Western Australia. The industries that receive their communication services from Global Communication Services include industrial, commercial, exploration, rural, underground, and surface mining.

Moreover, Motorola™ has also appointed Global Communications Services as its premium dealer in Western Australia’s Goldfields. CITECT™ has also appointed Global Communications as its exclusive distributor in Western Australia. Other reputable manufacturers that Global Communications represents include Rothenbuhler Engineering, Telstra Mobile Satellite, Motorola, Miri Technologies, Tunnel Radio of America, CITECT, and GME.

Thanks to the extensive electrical skill base that the parent company (HEC) offers, Global Communication Services is therefore in a position to ensure that its clients get a complete package of products and services, Right for the design stage, then the manufacturing stage, and finally, the actual installation4. This is in addition to the maintenance services that the organization provides its clients with, once they have made an installation of a product. As a result, Global Communications services have drastically enhanced the communications requirements that the mining industry in Australia seeks.

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Vision: To be the leading provider of information and communication solutions in the mining and other affiliated industries

Mission: To assist clients with sound information and communication solutions

Values: Integrity, quality, customer satisfaction, quality, people, leadership.

Role in the organization

This writer works at Global Communications Services as a Communication Equipment Salesperson. As such, the writer is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that clients to Global Communications Services, most of who are in the mining industry, have access to communications solutions to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their business. One of the products whose sale to the clients this writer is involved in is the Leaky Feeder Equipment. In addition, the writer is also involved in the provision of fixed and mobile satellite solutions to the clients, such as Telstra, a product manufactured by Motorola, with Global Communications Services having been appointed as the exclusive distributors in the Western Australia region.

Additionally, this writer is also involved in the sales of WIFI and broadband products by Motorola. These solution suites have over time proved to be of sound quality within the mining industry and for this reason, they are sought after by clients from this industry. One such solution is MESH. Moreover, the writer is also involved in the sales of Remote Blasting Systems, to ensure that clients obtain safe and reliable products, while still ensuring that they are cost-effective.

Products and services

There are several communication systems products that Global Communications Services offers its clients. A leading product that Global Communication Services provides the mining industry with is the leaky feeder cables, along with the associated components. The organization endeavours to ensure that clients in the mining industry get the most advanced and reliable leaky feeder systems, in the whole of Australia. Given that Global Communication Services provides their clients with superior products, and the corresponding superior knowledge regarding such products, it is no wonder then that the organization is in a position to give clients the best available service.

The leaky feeder cables and associated components that the company provides are in large stock. Furthermore, their prices are quite competitive. In addition, these cables and components have been adapted to comfortably support the systems devised by large VHF Leaky Feeder manufacturers like MST, Minecom, and MRS. The products also have desirable features that clients in the mining industry find appealing, such as local and remote diagnostics. The manufacturer warrant for the cable is 2 years, and this helps clients to not only save money owing to its competitive price but also downtime.

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Fixed satellite solutions is an additional product that Global Communication Services provides to their clients in remote locations, and who intend to use fax and relocatable voice services. In this case, reliability becomes a priority, and the organization ensures that clients get value for their money. With respect to remote blasting systems, Global Communication Services have over the years emerged as a specialist in this field. As a result, the company offers clients blasting cost-effective solutions. This has been possible following the appointment of Global Communication Services by Rothenbuhler Engineering to become an exclusive dealer of the company in Western Australia. This is a product that miners usually utilize when they are detonating mines’ explosives.

The market

The market serviced by Global Communication Services is diverse, but mainly, the company deals with automation and communication solutions provision for the mining, commercial, heavy industry, as well as retail customers. The main target market that this organisation serves is mainly in Western Australia, although it also has operations throughout Australia.

Information management

Information management is a term used in reference to information collection and management from diverse sources, in addition to a distribution of the same to various audiences. It is having a control and organizing the processing, and structure of information, in addition to its delivery. Filing was the predominant systems of information management during the 1970s. However, following an explosion of information technology later in the decade, data maintenance became a crucial part of information management. Information was now being stored through electronic means. Organizations could be viewed as cooperative systems whose information processing levels are high, and which requires making of decisions at different levels (Wigand, Picot and Reichwald 53). Information management is therefore thought to constitute a fundamental part of the managerial and organizational competencies. What this means is that organization design strategies need to focus on enhancing the capabilities of information processing. Some of the organization design strategies that have thus far been identified include the enhancement of the capability of organisations to process information, and a reduction in information processing needs. With respect to the reduction of the needs for information processing, this strategy entails environmental management within an organisation, the establishment of slack resources, and the establishment of tasks that are self-contained. On the other hand, the establishment of lateral relations, along with vertical information systems has been seen to play a crucial role in increasing the capacity of an organization to process information and consequently, manage it.

Existing system

The complexity of information flow within an organisation increases as its structure becomes more complex. The vice-versa is also true. Bearing in mind that Global Communications Services would like to have a competitive advantage over its competitors in the information communications service provision to its clients, it has therefore sought to adopt two strategies that will ensure that it remains a force to reckon with9. To start with, the management has ensured that even as the organisation has grown, it has remained simple in nature, and this has meant that the flow of information is also simple.

Secondly, Global Communication Services has fully exploited information technology to enable it not only handle, but also manage documentary work, even as it endeavours to enhance its communication levels, with a view to gaining a competitive edge in the market. Desouza and Hensgen (84) argue that from a business process point of view, some of the leading IT benefits include flexible and direct interpersonal communication. Organisations usually need information to enable them make important decisions. At Global Communications Services, information is a vital tool for the organisation, to facilitate the different processes to proceed. Accordingly, the various activities that are undertaken by the company require the generated information from preceding activities, and this has to be integrated with the most relevant knowledge. As a result, the different forms of communication that take place at Global Communications Services while undertaking the various activities, turns out to be an information flow.

According to Dhillon (76), information flow entails information systems that are interconnected. Separately, (Curry, Flett and Hollin 137) opine that information usually passes through diverse organisations or people over the internet, and this makes it possible for those seeking it to get the information, according to their desire. In addition, they are also in a position to also send information to other people, using the internet. As a result, this helps in the creation of an information flow.

At Global Communication Services, wireless internet communication at the organisation enables the organisation employees to communicate with their clients, as well as the personnel at HEC, the mother company. On the basis of business process point of view, Macdonald (114) contends that it is possible for the flow of information within an organisation to be enhanced when the different departments either outside, or inside the organisation share a computer network that also connects them.

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An intranet network at Global Communications Services helps to connect the various departments at the organisation, such as the IT department, human resource, and the administration. As a result, the organisation is best placed to understand the changes in terms of customer demands, in addition to maintaining high levels of efficiency at the management level, an intranet network at the organisation allows for enhanced accessibility to information, and lowering of information barriers. The use of information technology at global Communications Services has helped the organisation to enhance efficiency in communication within the various departments involved, as well as with the clients.

There are several forms of information flow that are in operation at Global Communications Services. For example, when the management at Global Communications Services holds meetings, the secretary assumes the role of an intermediary because it is her responsibility to ensure that that all the participants required to attend the meeting are provided with the relevant information, such as the time when the meeting shall take place, and the time. This is a form of wheel information flow. Chiu (177) argues that since there is the possibility of transforming the same information through continuous contacts, this result in bottlenecks in the flow of information. Accordingly, the speed at which the information flows is processed is slow.

Chiu has also noted that since wheel information flow usually relies on continuous information transformation, they are normally time consuming. In recognition of this drawback to the flow of information, Global Communication Services have embraced information technology to speed up the process of information flow within the organisation. Accordingly, when a meeting is due, all that a secretary needs to do is send a single letter to multiple addresses through the use of electronic mail. This is regardless of the distance that could be involved between the various recipients, and the sender. In addition, it also becomes possible for recipients to give their feedback to the sender using an e-mail, such as confirming their attendance of the meeting. This way, the use of information technology helps the organisation to increase the efficiency of operations and processes.

Moreover, information technology helps Global Communications Services reduce its operating process time. At a time when information needs to be passed to multiple participants, use is made of e-mail services at Global Communication Services. This ensures that the information is sent to multiple destinations, resulting in another information flow mechanism that has been regarded as one-to-many. This type of information flow ensures that inefficient communication in the organisation is overcome. In addition, the use of e-mail within the organisation has also enabled the staff to exchange and share opinions regarding the nature of their work in an effective manner, and this leads to an overall increase in the efficiency of the organisation. When the accounts department at Global Communications Services wishes to share with the administration department information regarding for example, the supply of products to clients, or even orders that have been placed by customers, the form of information flow in this case becomes many-to-many.

Malone, Crowston and Crowston (85) posits that when an organisation desires to send information from one group to another through the use of ‘one-to-many’ technique, then a ‘many-to-many’ information flow is created. Given that many operations usually gets repeated in this form of information flow, the method is usually perceived as being complex by a majority of the organisations, and Global Communication Services is no exception. There is also the issue of time and cost inefficiencies that are usually associated with it. It is therefore important that the organisation identifies a method of information flow that is cost-effective but still efficient enough to ensure the smooth operations of the business process at the company.

Systems analysis

At Global Communication Services, the IT infrastructure is mainly composed of hardware and software. The hardware is composed mainly of 2 server computers of the model, DL740 G1, and 2 Server computers of the model DL380 G3. on the other hand, the software consists of a visual studio.NET (2003 version) supported by Microsoft, a Microsoft server ‘product portfolio’, the standard edition of 2003 windows server, Microsoft office server (2003) sharepoint portal, and SQL server 2000 (Microsoft).

The “Visual Studio.NET 2003” that Global Communication Services uses includes a.NET Framework upgrade that enables its operators to create program meant for mobile devices through the use of.NET Compact Framework, or ASP.NET Framework. Not only does this software offer the information technology personnel cross -language support, it also enables them to establish Web services. The developer productivity of this software is also very powerful. Moreover, using the.NET CLR (‘Common Language Runtime’), the IT personnel at Global Communications Services are in a position to integrate code obtained from such other legacy codes as Fortran and COBOL. This way, they are in a position to match and blend various languages. This enables components sharing across the organisation, using several selected language options.

The visual studio that is a characteristic of this version enables the provision of superb UML diagramming. This is important, because the use of sketches and diagrams in the mining industry are widespread. In terms of Web forms creating, Visual studio has proved to be an extremely excellent tool. The IT department at Global Communications Services is able to achieve this through the use of windows forms (through the use of standalone applications) and ASP.NET. Thanks to this software, it has become possible for the IT personnel to not only drag, but also drop set properties, forms, as well as the attachment of codes. Due to these benefits a majority of the developer prefer Visual Studio when performing their programming strategy.

One of the drawbacks of this software is that it is quite poor in business object modelling, as well as in UML support. Even as this software provides its users with multiple language options, one of its drawbacks is that the IT personnel at Global Communication Services are not in a position to target other servers that operates on the java software. Another drawback of using this visual component is that it produced skimpy codes and diagrams. Even though this software has been used by Global Communication Services to enable their clients, mainly those in the mining industry, to generate different class stubs out of diagrams, while embarking on mining projects, nonetheless, the results cannot be compared with those that could be obtained when real tools of enterprise modelling have been used, and hence an additional drawback.

The SQL server that Global Communications Services has installed is full of useful features and administrative tools for information systems management, administration, development and maintenance. One of the useful tools that the SQL server comprises of is the enterprise manager. This tool has over the years provided the IT personnel at Global Communications Services with a “graphical birds-eye” view of the different installations that the SQL Server network comprises of. As a result, technical team has found it easier to undertake high-level functions of administration. Moreover, this server has also made it easier for the scheduling exercise of common tasks of maintenance. This is in addition to enabling structural modification of individual databases within the organization information system.

A query analyzer is yet another feature of the SQL server being used by Global Communication Services. Thanks to this features, the personnel at the information technology department of Global Communication Services have found it easier to retrieve the necessary information regarding clients, as the need arises. This is in addition to the ease with which the tool enables users to modify or create procedures that have been stored, not to mention the implementation of administrative tasks. The SQL Server that Global Communication Services uses is clustered in nature. One of the advantages of having a cluster server environment is due to its high availability that it has. In this case, in the event that one of the two, if not more, server machines (often called nodes) that runs the SQL fails, its responsibility is often assumed by one other machine out of the cluster.

Chiou (181) defines a server clusters as a group that is made up of more than tow servers that are physically separated, and which are working in harmony, thereby forming a single “virtual” server. In order to easily manage their clustered server, Global Communications Services have made sue of MSCS (Microsoft Cluster Services (MSCS). An SQL server is also characterized by a low cost of failover. Furthermore, operators are in a better position to undertake maintenance work of the different nodes within a cluster, without the need for a complete inaccessibility of the server. One of the weaknesses that characterize the SQL server that Global Communications Services has implemented is the associated high cost of establishing a clustered environment. The reason behind this is that there must be a conformance of the clustering nodes with the compatibility hardware of these clustered nodes. In addition, the setup involves a complex network. Another drawback of is that the clustering occurs in a similar geographical area. In this case, should a natural disaster occur, the cluster may be rendered useless. This would then mean that the disaster recovery site requires being converted to enable continued operations.

Systems evaluation

The existing information system at Global Communications Services has been useful in helping the staff at the information technology department provide the customers with the products and services that they need in a timely manner,. Furthermore, the system has also improved to be quite efficient in assisting the management to liaise with the customers in an efficient manner. However, the system is also characterised by poor business object modelling, which is less efficient that the enterprise modelling tool that is more preferred by customers especially those in the mining industry. Accordingly, it could be argued that Global Communication Services has not been very successful in meeting the needs of its customers as a result of the existing information system.

Areas of improvement

  • Simplification of information flow
  • Assessing the existing system’s ability to handle simplified information
  • Embracing of rapid communication between the organisation and its customers to enhance product and service delivery
  • Facilitation of a faster access to information needed for the decision making process
  • Implementation of a specialised systems solution to cater for geographically dispersed customers
  • Upgrading of the existing systems infrastructure for efficient and effective service delivery

Systems options and selection

To better improve the flow of information within the organization, there is a need for Global Communications Services to make use of a simplified information flow21. On the other hand, it is important to put into consideration how capable the current system is, in supporting a simplification of information flow. In this case, the management needs to consider various options. For instance, when a client sends their order to purchase say, a Leaky Feeder cable via the internet, the customer care representatives receiving such information could then create an electronic file for purposes of storing this kind of an order. When the order has been safely stored into the hard disk of a computer, all that the sales department now requires to do is to key in the details of this particular order into the computer. At the same time, the production and accounting departments could also enter their respective activities, as they affect the order in question. Finally, the operators from the sales department could then gain access to the system and retrieve the data for the Leaky Feeder cable order, to facilitate further information processing.

Davenport (87) argues that when work processes are simplified, the process of ordering becomes fast. In addition, it is also easier to increase the efficiency and quality of service that the customers receive. Global Communications Services could also consider adopting real-time flow of information. Rapid communication between the processes of a business and an activity is what real-time flow of information is all about. As a result, one activity is succeeded by the other immediately, thereby ensuring no delay in time. On the other hand, real-time flow of information could be limited by media transformation and storage of information, resulting in deferred information. Thankfully, it is now possible to utilize information technology to convert the flow of information from deferred to ‘real-time’. Global Communications Services should take advantage of this, to minimize customers’ waiting time for information, by avoiding delays. Faster access to information needed for decision making is yet another advantage that Global Communications Services could obtain by embracing real-time flow of information. On the other hand, the system also helps to increase management efficiency and by extension, the overall efficiency of the organization.

Owing to the fact that the clients that Global Communications Services serves are geographically dispersed, and bearing in mind that there are several drawbacks that characterizes a locally clustered server in operation at the organization under study, there is a need for the management at Global Communications Services to consider implementing a specialized solution. The use of a geographically dispersed server would come in handy in this case. This server will help the organization overcome the problem associated with a locally clustered server, such as the cluster becoming useless, in the event of a natural disaster. According to Hirt (129), the process of implementing a cluster that is geographically dispersed is far more complex, in comparison with that of a server cluster of standard means. However, given that a geographically dispersed server shall further ease the process of information flow within and without the organization, it could prove to be quite beneficial in the long-term, as its advantages may outweigh the associated drawbacks, such as high cost and complexity (Clegg 544), by far.

One of the drawbacks of the visual studio that is on use by the current system at Global Communications Services is that it is not java-enabled, not to mention the production of poor skimpy codes and diagrams. For this reason, Global Communications Services could be better advised to try out a newer version of visual studio, such as Visual Studio 8. Released only in 2007, this version comes with an in-built enhanced intellisense support for JavaScript. The implementation of this newer tool will come in handy, especially for senior mangers at the organization. This is because this new feature would enable them to delegate such tasks as recalling of signatures and method overloads, through the use of IntelliSense. By implementing Visual Studio 8, it will be possible for the IT personnel at Global Communication Services to make use of JavaScript debugging. This feature allows for the inspection and debugging variables.

Implementation plan

Activity Timeline Budget (in pounds)
Simplification of information flow 2 months 150,000
Installation of a geographically dispersed server 3 weeks 10,000
Visual studio upgrade 3 weeks 5,000
Total 165,000

Recommendation

The existing information system at Global Communication Services has over the years proved to be a resource, helping the company to win the more customers, an increased market share and by extension, increased revenues. However, the management has not been able to keep pace with the advances in technology and as a result, there is a need to improve on certain areas of the existing information system, to help the organisation meet the needs and requirements of the market that it serves. One of the areas that need to be improved in the current system is the simplification of the flow of information to the organisation from customers. This is necessary to ensure that customer’s needs and enquiries are attended to in good time. Accordingly, it is the intention of this report to recommend that the management consider adopting real time method of information processing. Considering also that many of the customers to global communication services, and more so those that are within the mining industry are geographically dispersed, and given the fact that the current server is not able to serve them from these remote locations, it is important to upgrade the existing locally-enabled server, for purpose of enhancing the flow of information. The existing visual system is also not Java enabled, and this is a real drawback since most of the customers need this feature to assist them in their line of work. Accordingly, it would be important if the current Visual Studio 2000 could be upgraded a current version, such as Visual Studio 2008 that is Java-enabled. When these changes are instituted into the current system then Global Communication Services shall be in a better position to achieve its set goals and objectives.

Conclusion

Global Communication Services is an organisation that is concerned with the provision of information and communication solutions to customers, most of whom are in the mining and the affiliated industry. For this reason, information system management is a very important tool for the company. The organisation has therefore embraced information technology to help it meet its goals and objectives to better serve the market that it operates in. so far, the existing information system has enabled the company to gain a competitive advantage in its market of operation. However, Global Communications Services needs to ensure that it upgrades the existing systems infrastructure, by addressing the gaps that the system has failed to address in the years it has been in existence, such an the inability to access information of customers that are geographically dispersed, regarding this, this study has recommended that Global Communication Services adopts a geographically-dispersed enabled server to overcome this problem. In addition, the Visual Studio system cannot be integrated with Java, and the study has therefore recommended its upgrading. Although these improvements on the existing system will be at a cost to the firm, nevertheless this is an invaluable investment, because the organisation shall be better placed to address to the needs of the market.

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