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Definition: Management Information Systems (MIS) is the term given to the discipline focused on the integration of computer systems with the aims and objectives on an organization.

The development and management of information technology tools assists executives and the general workforce in performing any tasks related to the processing of information. MIS and business systems are especially useful in the collation of business data and the production of reports to be used as tools for decision making.

Applications of MIS

With computers being as ubiquitous as they are today, there's hardly any large business that does not rely extensively on their IT systems.

However, there are several specific fields in which MIS has become invaluable.

Strategy Support

While computers cannot create business strategies by themselves they can assist management in understanding the effects of their strategies, and help enable effective decision-making.

MIS systems can be used to transform data into information useful for decision making. Computers can provide financial statements and performance reports to assist in the planning, monitoring and implementation of strategy.

MIS systems provide a valuable function in that they can collate into coherent reports unmanageable volumes of data that would otherwise be broadly useless to decision makers. By studying these reports decision-makers can identify patterns and trends that

would have remained unseen if the raw data were consulted manually.

MIS systems can also use these raw data to run simulations hypothetical scenarios that answer a range of what if questions regarding alterations in strategy. For instance, MIS systems can provide predictions about the effect on sales that an alteration in price would have on a product. These Decision Support Systems (DSS) enable more informed decision making within an enterprise than would be possible without MIS systems.

Data Processing

Not only do MIS systems allow for the collation of vast amounts of business data, but they also provide a valuable time saving benefit to the workforce. Where in the past business information had to be manually processed for filing and analysis it can now be entered quickly and easily onto a computer by a data processor, allowing for faster decision making and quicker reflexes for the enterprise as a whole. Management by Objectives

While MIS systems are extremely useful in generating statistical reports and data analysis they can also be of use as a Management by Objectives (MBO) tool.

MBO is a management process by which managers and subordinates agree upon a series of objectives for the subordinate to attempt to achieve within a set time frame. Objectives are set using the SMART ratio: that is, objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-Specific.

The aim of these objectives is to provide a set of key performance indicators by which an enterprise can judge the performance of an employee or project. The success of any MBO objective depends upon the continuous tracking of progress.

In tracking this performance it can be extremely useful to make use of an MIS system. Since all SMART objectives are by definition measurable they can be tracked through the generation of management reports to be analysed by decision-makers. Benefits of MIS

The field of MIS can deliver a great many benefits to enterprises in every industry. Expert organizations such as the Institute of MIS along with peer reviewed journals such as MIS Quarterly continue to find and report new ways to use MIS to achieve business objectives.

Core Competencies

Every market leading enterprise will have at least one core competency that is, a function they perform better than their competition. By building an exceptional management information system into the enterprise it is possible to push out ahead of the competition. MIS systems provide the tools necessary to gain a better understanding of the market as well as a better understanding of the enterprise itself.

Enhance Supply Chain Management Improved reporting of business processes leads inevitably to a more streamlined production process. With better information on the production process comes the ability to improve the management of the supply chain, including everything from the sourcing of materials to the manufacturing and distribution of the finished product.

Dell Computers Vital PLM Processes Dell has achieved dramatic success streamlining its product data management activities to product life cycle management. Its ability to keep the project focused on core business processes has yielded short time to value.

In 2000, Dell Computer faced these trade-offs as part of its constant efforts to improve its supply chain processes. In this case, it improved its product data management (PDM) capabilities, most notably its engineering change management (ECM) processes, internally and across the supply chain. In addition to streamlining the engineering workflow, this IT effort was key to building a foundation that can enable more-efficient product life cycle management (PLM). The goal of PLM is to manage the stages of a product's life to improve business performance. PLM depends on PDM for timely and accurate information about the status of a product definition. Problem: Dell determined that it needed to reduce costs associated with managing product data and improve its engineering change workflow internally and across the supply chain as part of its ongoing efforts to improve business performance. The established infrastructure and processes were supported by internally developed applications to define products and manage bills of material (BOMs), manage related documentation and support ECM. As the enterprise continued to grow, it was becoming harder to monitor and control product development and production startup. Dell sought to address these issues before they became widespread. Objective: As a cornerstone of Dell's strategy, engineering management recognized the importance of adopting standard software and processes for the workflow from design through manufacturing implementation. The scope of the effort required the inclusion of suppliers and manufacturing sites; otherwise, Dell would face increasing challenges with the timeliness and accuracy of product data. These problems could, in turn, create product quality problems, as well as unacceptable levels of scrap, rework

and material shortages, resulting in inefficiencies in a highly competitive market. By improving these processes, Dell hoped to discover opportunities to further reduce material costs. For a company that ships more than 4 million PCs per quarter, small material savings per PC can improve the bottom line significantly. Key objectives included: Enabling consistent engineering change workflow globally across Dell and suppliers Improving data integrity, as well as the timeliness and accuracy of product data Reducing engineering change cycle times Increasing the automatic reuse of product data across multiple applications, while eliminating the need for data reentry. Reducing the workload required for product configuration management Detecting product data errors before they reach manufacturing Integrating with established applications, such as Dell's sales configuration tool for servers and storage devices in the United States Reducing system downtime Improving user acceptance and use of enterprise-standard software Dell was concerned about the time and cost for such an effort. Based on its own knowledge and anecdotal evidence, the company was aware that such large-scale initiatives typically require more than a year to accomplish. On occasion, they may take many years, at great expense, and with the risk of unsatisfactory results. In the fastpaced PC industry, failure could have hurt the companys ability to compete.

Approach: Dell decided to replace its internally developed infrastructure for PDM with commercial, Web-based software that would support product definition, configuration management, and ECM across the enterprise and the supply chain. During 2000, the stewards of product data, Dells Product Group Configuration Management (PGCM) team, drove this effort in conjunction with the engineering services project team. Meetings with senior executives reaffirmed the need for the project, reinforced corporate commitment, and confirmed the goals, scope and expected results from this initiative. Enterprise wide awareness of this support from

senior executives encouraged cooperation from all affected groups. Central to this strategy was Dell's decision to focus on the IT capabilities that would be useful to improving its infrastructure. It focused on secure document and file management, BOM creation, product configuration management, ECM, and the Web based ability to coordinate these activities across Dell's global operations and with suppliers. Although Dell recognized that supporting multiple types of workflow could be valuable, it decided to streamline workflow options during the initial deployment of software. After exploring options with major systems integrators (SIs) and suppliers of PDM applications, Dell decided to partner with Agile Software and to support the effort with an internal team dedicated to the deployment. Dell adopted this approach because: Agile addressed the major focus points of this initiative During the evaluation process, Agile instilled the greatest confidence that Dell could work with it to deploy in the Dell environment Given their knowledge of engineering processes and software, an internal deployment team from Dell would deliver a more-economical and timely solution than those proposed by Sis Figure 1 depicts the upgraded infrastructure. At the core, the ehub and the Internet file server provide the backbone for archiving and sharing electronic files securely across the Internet. The product data validator and the Agile integration server provide the interface between Agile and Dells enterprise resource planning (ERP) environments worldwide, as well as to its sales configurator for complex servers and storage devices in the United States. By integrating Agile with its sales configuration validation tool, Dell enabled its U.S.-based sales department to automatically validate server and storage device configurations based on engineering technical attribute data housed in the Agile tool. Dell executed the bulk of the deployment in two phases. The first enabled Agile as the system of record for 2,500 internal users and 37 of Dell's top 50 suppliers. More than 250,000 part numbers and 20,000 documents were converted from the legacy database into Agile's software environment. This phase lasted seven months (from March 2000 through October 2000) and cost between 200 percent and 250 percent of the software's purchase price. Nonsoftware costs comprised Agile's consulting services, the time of internal team members, travel and ancillary software support for the Web-based environment, including extranet support. On 1 October 2000,

Dell went live on Agile as the product change system of record to manage all product platforms. During the second phase of the deployment (from October 2000 to June 2001), Dell added 800 users and 63 suppliers to the system. It improved interfaces with ERP systems and developed the data validator with Agile's Software Development Kit. The data validator checks product data accuracy, compliance with local manufacturing conditions and the compatibility of translated data with local ERP data formats. Further steps in this effort will involve refinement of the workflow internally and with suppliers.

Results: The initiative reduced the product development cost structure by improving the timeliness and accuracy of product data and ECM processes across Dell and its supplier network. Dell achieved most of these benefits during late product design stage (just before manufacturing begins). This is the point in the product life cycle with the greatest volume of engineering change to manage internally it is the point in time at which suppliers have the greatest risk of error. Dell reduced the resources necessary to process engineering changes by more than 30 percent. The average time to process an engineering change dropped by 50 percent. Thirty percent fewer people are needed for configuration management globally, since employees are able to process four times as many engineering changes as they had done previously. This enabled personnel to be redeployed to other critical tasks throughout the product's life cycle. Improvements in the accuracy and timeliness of data reduced unnecessary scrap and rework. On average, Dell processes more than 4,000 changes monthly on more than 20,000 parts. The data validator traps more than 8,500 errors each month. This has substantially reduced the amount of personnel required to intervene on the translation of product data to ERP systems. Critical Success Factors/Lessons Learned: An enterprisewide IT project does not have to be broad to deliver value. Such an initiative should focus on the business processes with the greatest impact. Dell achieved a rapid time to value seen across the enterprise because it focused the effort on a vital business process. Software tools with the greatest breadth of off-the-shelf functionality do not necessarily offer the best solution for the enterprise. Dell compared Agile's Product Collaboration

module to applications with greater scope and selected Agile because it was the best fit for the business processes to be addressed. The user and vendor must coordinate the quality assurance effort. More regression testing and greater quality assurance effort would have saved additional time and money. Standard, but imperfect, workflow is more-efficient than attempting to implement ideal, but complex, workflow. Agile supported much of what Dell wanted in workflow as part of its packaged software; however, it was not ideal across the enterprise. This standard, but imperfect, workflow support significantly contributed to the success of this effort.

Dell Computer Corporation enjoys a reputation for outstanding customer service. This expertise has helped the company become one of the fastest growing computer manufacturers in the world. But customers in the rapidly evolving information age expect even more. To meet its customers demands for faster, better-informed, and more responsive service, Dell has developed a host of Microsoft Exchange Serverbased knowledge management solutions that has helped the company increase productivity and cut costs while improving customer service. The concept of direct customer contact has made Dell Computer Corporation one of the most successful companies of the 1990s. But to carry their success into the next millennium, Dell executives realized they would need to make sure that when customers come into contact with Dell, they receive quick, accurate, knowledgeable service. Dell has a two-part sales force, an internal sales-support team and a fleet of field sales representatives. Historically, the groups were challenged to keep their information about customers in synch and up-to-date, often resulting in needless duplication of efforts and missed sales opportunities. Dell also needed a way to respond to customers whether they contacted the company by letter, fax, phone call, or e-mail. Complicating that communication was the fact that the people who needed to respond to customer issues were dispersed among the companys more than 33,000 employees in 33 different countries. As Dell and its customer base began to experience explosive growth, it became increasingly difficult for Dell employees to provide high-quality service using nonautomated processes, says Arnie Panella, Dell senior manager for global messaging infrastructure.We needed to create an infrastructure to support development of workflow-based applications that would enable us to efficiently organize, share, and disseminate information throughout Dell, so we could better serve our customers. Uniting a Disparate Sales Force By May 1998, Dell had standardized on Microsoft Exchange Server and the Microsoft Outlook messaging and collaboration client, which the company chose not only for their reliability and scalability, but also as a knowledge-management platform.

Exchange gives us more than a messaging system, says Panella. It gives us a stable, scalable platform we can also use for collaboration, data storage, application development, and knowledge management. To help better connect its internal sales support team and its field sales representatives, Dell created a universal contactmanagement system that sales reps can update and synchronize easily, whether they were accessing the system from an internal desktop computer or an offline laptop. Dell found the solution simple to implement, thanks to Exchange Public Folders on the server side, and Outlook Contacts on the desktop. Now, with the universal contact repository in place, sales, management, marketing, and executive staff can access any customers full history, including the most recent activity at a customer site, order status, and relationship or competitive details, all from their standard Outlook Contacts interface. The contact information is stored in Exchange Public Folders, so it is automatically synchronized every time an employee logs on to his or her e-mail account. This system has standardized the customer information corporate wide and united the inside and outside sales forces into a single team because of the timely information sharing. Its also helped with sales productivity because of the ability in Outlook to plan meetings, assign tasks and manage follow up. Responding to Customers Promptly and Accurately Dell has also used Exchange to create a workgroup document-management system called Customer Recovery. With these system customer service representatives, who handle incoming customer issues and orders, enter inquiries into a custom Outlook form. The Keyfile Keyflow automated workflow application then automatically routes the form to the appropriate person within Dell. Dell managers can quickly check to see if a customer service representative has officially closed the inquiry or not, and they can track who is resolving issues and how theyre being resolved.

Recovery makes sure that weve addressed whatever issues the customer

has raised in a timely and efficient manner, Panella says. With this knowledge management solution, we make sure that the correct people see the complaint, resolve it, and close the loop with the customer, and that gives our customers a better experience with Dell. Dells order-fulfillment and tracking process has also improved. The company receives many orders by fax, and customer service representatives used

to write down additional information or customer questions on the actual hard fax copy. These records were very difficult to track, manage, and follow up on. In fact, it could take weeks for Dell employees to find the correct fax order and respond to a customer inquiry. Dell IT staff made a number of changes that help make these fax orders more manageable. First, they installed the Omtool Fax Sr. fax server to receive all incoming faxes and send them directly to employees desktops via Exchange Public Folders. Then, they designed a knowledge management solution that makes it easy for employees to find the order information they need. Now, when a fax order arrives at Dell, an employee enters all the relevant information into a custom Outlook form, and the fax and form are sent to a Microsoft SQL Server-based database. Any Dell employee can then find the order almost instantly and answer questions or update information. Business-Critical Results According to Panella, the document-management system is helping Dell in a few very important areas. The system has cut the material costs of printing faxes and has saved the company for each page not printed. In addition, the time it takes to service requests has been reduced dramatically from a number of days to the number of minutes it takes to service online image retrieval. The document management system has dramatically improved Dells responsiveness to order inquiries. Because accounts receivable can also find payment information almost immediately, it has helped Dell to come up with the correct document quickly. Because Dell employees can invoice customers more quickly and follow up on payment status easily, Panella considers this a businesscritical solution. In addition to increasing sales productivity, the shared-contact management system has also given the Dell sales force a competitive advantage. If a Dell employee learns that a competitor is courting a Dell customer, he or she can target and quickly contact the appropriate people at the customer site. Then the representative can update the contact information immediately, so other Dell employees know about the situation and the action taken. Dell has many plans to refine and expand its use of knowledge management solutions. For example, its IT staff is developing reporting tools that will help managers record, track, and analyze the success of systems such as Customer Recovery. In addition, the company is in the process of developing an

automated approval system that will reduce the time it takes to fulfill employee requests, whether for new equipment or a change in benefits. Employees will enter their requests in a custom Outlook form that will then automatically be routed to the correct managers for approval. And the efforts wont stop there. Dell executives have embraced knowledge management as an integral component of running an efficient business. Says Panella, Very soon after migration, weve gone from using Exchange just as our messaging system, to using it for business-critical knowledge management applications.


REMOTE MONITORING AND CONTROL OF UPS PRODUCTS Dell UPS Management Software supports Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) products connected to an individual computer as well as UPS models connected to a network using the Network Management Card (NMC). The Dell UPS Management Software allows you to monitor and manage several UPS products through one intuitive graphical user interface. In addition to monitoring the UPS products the software also safeguards computer systems from uncontrolled shutdowns due to power failure. With the Dell UPS Management Software, you can configure UPS products on any computer within the same LAN and monitor their status. Using the UPS software, you can manage the power to multiple computers on a network as well as shut systems down in the event of a utility power failure, saving vital application data. The Dell UPS Management software also supports different UPS products in redundant configurations through the same user interface.


Dell UPS Management Software has three components. Of these, the first is the Agent, which is the core component and runs in the background as a system service. It communicates with the UPS, logs events, notifies users of events, arranges actions according to the users specifications, and initiates shutdown when necessary. The Agent can be managed by the Monitor. The Monitor is the graphical user interface application of the Dell UPS Management Software. Communicating with the Agent, it gathers real-time UPS information, UPS status, and server information, and allows the user to tailor the UPS working parameters. It can run on any computer on the LAN or on a standalone computer. The final component, the Tray Icon, is the management tool of the Dell UPS Management

Software, and it appears in the status area of the system task bar. It is available only for the Microsoft Windows platform.


Dell UPS Management Software features include: User-friendly GUI showing status of all locally connected and networked Dell UPS products Remote control and configuration of Dell UPS products through network Redundant UPS configurations support even with different Dell UPS products Automatic closing of applications and initiation of multiple server shutdowns in the event of power failures Wake on LAN server action enablement after power outage Energy-saving design: Manages timed (on/off) control of UPS Allows customized messaging upon power events Easy access to historical data logs and events Automatic local and network discovery of all Dell UPS products Self test and power on/off scheduling calendar ADDITIONAL ADVANTAGES The Dell UPS Software is bundled free of charge with every Dell UPS, so you can manage multiple servers and UPS products without buying additional software. The software also includes information in English, German, Spanish, French, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Finally, you have the assurance that the Dell UPS Software is Dell tested, approved, and supported.