ADMN641 Information Systems Design and Integration
Lesson 3 - Information Systems Planning and Selection
"When you get to a fork in the road, take it." Yogi Berra
Execute or Plan?

Let's start with a Dilbert cartoon by cartoonist Scott Adams.

In the first frame Dilbert is sitting with his boss. His boss states, "I'll need a project plan to justify the resources we need to change our software." In the next frame Dilbert whips around to his computer and says "I can make those software changes in ten seconds." Shortly after some obvious furious typing Dilbert states,  "Done." In the next frame Dilbert turns around, and his boss says to him "Good Work. Now all we need is that plan."
While this cartoon pokes fun at over zealous planning (and an empty headed boss), we could easily also poke fun at over zealous execution with little planning. What is the right balance of planning and execution?

If you are looking for the "right" answer, you won't find it here. And if you think you can find it elsewhere, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you. The key is not trying to find the "best" answer, but to work toward a "better" answer in assuring that information systems are properly planned and that the battle plan is well executed. Half that battle, in well planned and executed information systems, is just insuring that all the issues are raised. Once that happens, you can balance those issues and be certain (to the best of your ability) that all major concerns have been considered.
Would you consider your organization more inclined to over plan or over execute? Do you suspect this may have much to do with the personalities of key organizational members or with a corporate culture.
The Information Systems Planning Process

Ronald Zackman, who spent 30 years with IBM studying these created a large matrix which ... His matrix points out the wide variety of approaches people and organizations have created for insuring that their IS efforts stay on track. Your text, Loudon and Loudon itemizes some of the better approaches toward IS planning including Zackman's Business System Planning/Enterprise Analysis, Critical Success Factors, and Business Re-engineering. The five step plan outlined there is sage advice for IS planning - 1) Understand the vision & objectives [both organizational and relating to IT] 2) Identify current system - what is/is not working 3) Establish measures to understand impact of changes 4) Identify specific opportunities, and 5) Buiild/exercise a prototype. A big part of good planning is establishing metrics for measuring organizational performance. We will cover this process in more depth in lesson 6.

The diagram below comes from Turbo BPR, a government guide to process improvement. More about the program may be found at the Electronic College of Process Innovation. This diagram goes a long way in visually explaining the overall process.
Note the link of actuals versus plan back to the Strategic Planning process. This is because the process is really continuous. An IS manager must constantly be weighing the options for improving delivery of IS services to his/her customers, whether internal or external.

Source: Turbo BPR 2.5
There is an adage which has developed within the Silicon Valley business community. "When business is good, planning seems unimportant. When business is bad, planning seems critical." How would you rate where your organization stands in this continuum. 
But now we come to the questions - What are the issues surrounding information systems development and maintenance? and How do we evaluate the value of an upgrading or changing information systems?

What are the issues surrounding information systems planning and selection?

If you were to ask the members of your organization and your customers what they thought most important about an information system, the issues would differ depending upon their viewpoint. The sales entry person wants a magic wand to wave over the merchandise, the senior manger wants dig down color screen reports, the IT maintenance department wants an easy way to trace changes, and the customer wants faster processing. But how might we gather, structure, weigh, evaluate and synthesize all this data to make the most coherent decision? Most often in the past, most needs were ignored in favor of strictly financial concerns - what is the least costly solution that will get the basic job done. Fortunately the world is changing

Understanding how to deal with theses issues requires an understanding of how to generically make better decisions and how to balance the economic factors against the other impacts. While many organizations focus almost exclusively on economic analysis alone, more astute organizations recognize the value of more holistic approaches toward making decisions. Two Harvard professors, Norton and Kaplan, have developed what they term the "Balanced Scorecard" approach toward better management and decision making. Their research is founded upon studies of firms that have survived over centuries. N&K  recognized that with these organizations, dollars in the bank are only  the surface of the available capital they possess. Human capital and knowledge capital are equally valuable in creating products which are continually in demand. Apple, Applied Micro Devices,

Years of dealing with multitudes of information systems professionals have taught field experts that the issues surrounding information systems are no different than the issues surrounding any other change force. Ultimately all these issues may be placed somewhere within the taxonomy of economic, social, political and technical factors. Ideally groups would work together to elicit the organization's requirements / objectives. You can find an interesting tool for accomplishing this type of task at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business. It is called TCBWorks. If you have difficulty getting through at that site, try Consensus@nywhere, a commercial version of this software, from the company Softbicycle.

Your reading for this week by C. James Bacon2 provides a look at decision objectives both on the higher level - such as "Response to Competitive Systems" and on the lower financial level - where he utilizes the common term Discounted Cash Flow. There are a number of techniques that are being used for analyzing what IT investments should be made. A short manual on decision analysis and techniques including references for locating software should be reviewed. It will provide you with some additional guidance in this area.

A final note of levity for today.
A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces the balloon height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts: "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am? 

The man below says: "yes, you're in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field." 

The balloonist then says "You must work in Information Technology." 

"I do," replies the man. "how did you know?" 

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but it's of no use to anyone." 

The man below say "you must work in management." 

"I do," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?" 

"Well," says the man, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. You're in the same position you were before we met, but now its my fault." 

1. Kaplan, Robert S.; Norton, David P. "Putting the balanced scorecard to work."Harvard Business Review, Sep/Oct93, Vol. 71 Issue 5.

2. Bacon, C. J. (1992). "The use of decision criteria in selecting information systems providers." MIS Quarterly, 16(3), 335.

Assignments (due by midnight, Saturday, 02/12/2000):

1. Post, in the "Distance Education at UMUC" Conference, some objectives/criteria that might be considered by the participants in the UMUC community (administrators, faculty and students) to make a decision about adopting different types of curriculum delivery.  Utilize the options that were likely considered - traditional classroom, distributed Video Teleconferencing Centers, and the current WebTycho environment. Pay special attention to those objectives relating to IT, the IT infrastructure and it's impacts.
Post, in the same list what you believe may have been some of the planning elements UMUC had to consider in converting from a typical classroom delivery system to the WebTycho environment.

2. Post, in the "My WebTycho Decision" conference, your own Cost/Benefit analysis (see figure 11-8 in Laudon & Laudon) for opting for the WebTycho approach versus starting or continuing in the traditional classroom environment.

Organization Analysis Paper Track -  Task 2:

Complete the section of your paper which looks at MIS/IT Structure and Personnel. The sample provided in the originally posted guidelines should especially aid in your effort here
(c) John H. Saunders 1998. Permission granted for use in courses at the University of Maryland