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Susan Blouin Information Technology Strategy
ABSTRACT This IT assessment describes the current state of IT Corporation’s information technology infrastructure and outlines business recommendations that would provide a suitable approach to the company’s strategic move towards IT improvement. The analysis describes the company’s internal issues, and its current state of sustainment within its current infrastructure.
1). Assessment of Information Technology Infrastructure The IS Organization IT Platforms and Systems
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2). Information Infrastructure Assessment 3). Analysis 4). Business Systems Recommendation 5). Conclusion 6). Appendix
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(Attached) Appendix A – IT Corporation’s Information Services Organization Appendix B – Current Systems State/Recommendation of front-end System Appendix C – Gap Analysis, Benefits and Values Analysis
Assessment of Information Technology Infrastructure Introduction --The IS Organization IT CORPORATION current has an Information Services Organization that operates computing and other information systems supporting the operation of all business and functional units. Information Services is managed in a hierarchical manner to other corporate departments. The Information Technology function within the Information Services Organization is lead by IT Corporation’s Senior Vice-President and CIO. The CIO directs the operation of Information Systems and resources, and manages their contribution to satisfy the corporate objectives. This function is accountable for all information management solutions in support of the corporations business needs. The Organization is dependant on the individual IS organizations centre of excellence as an alternative of an IT Steering Committee.
IT Platforms and Systems IT Corporation’s computer platforms are each managed by different organizations that control service delivery, production operations, network service platforms and some outsourced for technology management. The platforms consist of IBM mainframes, Sun Solaris minicomputers for Unix production operations, Network Service Platform management for OSS systems, and Windows 200 PCs. The various organizations are not optimized to see all of the platform elements. It is difficult to roll out common processes across all platforms because of the different reporting structures, which precludes their use for using cross platform applications to respond to difference corporate needs. The company is not organized in the structure of the organization in order to facility new growth strategies within the mainframes and platforms. Cross platform applications are difficult to introduce. Many departmental and groups administer their own platforms. Ownership is slit, however recommendations and guidance for the use of technologies comes from Enterprise Architecture group within IS.
IT CORPORATION has a defined a set of IS guidelines and standards. The Architecture Council publishes new standards and updates existing standards on a regular basis.
IT CORPORATION does not plan to evolve its mainframe platforms in the future. All of the efforts will be focused on advancing the Solaris 9 and Windows 2000 based systems, which will allow for integration within those technologies, but not within the larger reporting and SAP type systems. The technical architecture currently being used in support of IT Corporation’s LAN and WAN networks has a baseline LAN environment that consists of a transport network (TCP/IP, IPX, SNA, X.25) Datalink and the physical layer. The WAN protocol environment consists of a baseline of transport, Network and Datalink. The company has two standard communication voice platforms, Business Centrex Communications and Internal PBX Systems both having a defined set of standards and guidelines. Other communication platforms exist in the form of video conferencing, teleconferencing which is internally hosted and corporate voice services. The current communication platforms are not proposed for any future evolution requirements. The technology used to manage information through database management is IBM and Oracle databases, and Microsoft SQL. The workgroups used are Informix, Objectstore and Oracle 7,8. Visio, Microsoft Office 2000 and Xerox DocuShare are used for creating and publishing information. For report distribution, Microsoft Exchanged is used along with Crystal Reports, Visual Networks Visual Reports and Xerox DocuShare. The ability for integration amongst these technologies is limited within some, however there are plans to move towards an integration of these in the future. Currently, the data is managed in a centralized fashion.
IT CORPORATION currently has a software baseline environment, which are the tools used for managing and communicating information. This consists of Microsoft exchange, outlook and email gateways. An upgrade to the Microsoft Exchange 2000 will be a tactical deployment that the company will undertake within the next year. IT CORPORATION has a Corporate Communications department that manages all communications such as NetMeeting and Exchange. These communications tools could use additional redesign however this is currently not one of the company’s strategic priorities.
The key information systems used are IBIS, which is a billing system that has been in operation for approximately 12 years. FARS has been with the company for 50 years and is a facilities record systems for custom service report maintained by IS. CLOC is an operational database used for remedy ticking systems and has been within the company for 25 years. Information Warehouse, which has been used for 2 years and extracts, records and reports for data products and long distance information. SAP is used as an efficient infrastructure as well as a reporting mechanism, and BITS has been used for over 5 years and is used as a securities billing system. Within the last year, the Enterprise Architecture Organization maintains control over the design of these systems, of which only 5% of these systems are strategic.
There is a very broad administrative structure in place for managing all information technology, and a back-up and security system is in place for risk management. The company maintains a core of IS expertise (See “Appendix A”, IT CORPORATION IS Organization Chart), supplemented by qualified IS consultants where required for workload peaks or specialized knowledge. In terms of education, IT CORPORATION supports IS training both internally and externally offering specialized training and support for the IS organization. Internally, employees are quite literate about the use of technology and the systems. The prioritization of managing IT resource allocation is driven by the business priorities.
Currently there are no formal systems for tracking new technology developments, or conducting experiments or innovations. There are plans to have this in place sometime in the later half of 2003. In relation to the industry, IT CORPORATION spends approximately less than half of its percentage of sales on IS for the year. The spend as a percentage of sales is more than likely to stay constant due to the limits in budget being constrained as the company prepares for its future new activities as a newly formed organization within Canada.
Information Infrastructure Assessment There is sufficient detail available that provides a detailed understanding of the company’s core operating processes. There is an IS Quality and Process Management Group that handles all of the IS operating processes for product and service delivery being implemented through project management. The company utilizes information intelligence to gather external data on the industry to help provide insight to IS changes in the marketplace. The information is current and updated on a regular basis, and utilized mostly by IS management.
The company’s Information Warehouse System provides comprehensive access to information across all product lines. This system is accessed initially by analysts providing financial reports, and charts on each product line that the company manages. Sr. Management will obtain reports in order to make decisions cross-functionally. The company has access to the final analysis in order to keep abreast of the final product and service results quarterly. Unfortunately, IT Corporation’s systems have not been designed to incorporate future evolution. This is due to various company mergers that have transpired over the years where planning of systems re-design did not occur. As the Organization gains knowledge of the systems dynamics, it potentially has had to face impacts on the cost of minor changes within legacy systems and has brought to light various systems limitations. From a policy standpoint, there is information shared and acknowledged on the company’s information policy requirements. These are policies that are in place that govern the sharing of information, access, security and use of the systems.
Some of the key strengths that IT Corporation’s IS infrastructure has acquired is: having employees that are skilled at programming and manipulating legacy systems Benefiting from specialization, having worked on the systems for a long time period, which provides the stability, maturity of working on these systems
Some of the weaknesses are:
Systems are inflexible when adding new product line or features It is costly to maintain the older COBOL code There are multiple legacy billing systems that are unable to be consolidated. There is difficulty in these systems ability to integrate, due to reworking of old code
The company does not have the flexibility to grow without systems enhancement Billing systems are not able to provide single billing customization or enhanced reporting features Lack of systems budget to update the systems The organization does not have the ability to use the systems as a strategic asset for sales
Gaps arise as a result of legacy systems not sharing data efficiently. For example, Solution Managers in Marketing are unable to get profit/loss reports on complex solution specials. (See “Appendix C” for further analysis – Gap Analysis and Benefits and Value Analysis).
Analysis The organizations performance ability to manage Information Systems is fair as the company’s financial situation has placed constraints on the IS departments ability to perform.
The relationship between the IS departments and the organization is functional but not optimal. There is a tendency for the IS department to look inward and focus on the Operation of the current infrastructure. The company’s IS Organization plays a support --“maintain the machine” role instead of a strategic one due to not having sufficient finances to grow the IS strategy further, and currently sustains its legacy systems. This role of “maintaining the machine” is appropriate given the company’s situation on its future direction towards rebranding due to the IT CORPORATION Corp. divestiture. However it is evident that with this, the role will change over the next 5 years. Given the current situation, the IT architecture and its management are positioned appropriately in their respective roles. IT expertise is being developed however, there is insufficient cross-functional consultation on
planned IS projects which results in some friction with the Product Development and Sales Organization. Some Customer Service end-user friction tends to occur due to limitations of operational and reporting systems.
There is example of excellent relationships, primarily where success has been achieved through team-based integration such as the representation that IS has on the Opportunity Review Committees to provide an opinion on possible new business solutions. Having improved cross-functional communication and the alignment of an IS strategy, with cross-pollination with the broader corporate goals would provide alignment within the corporation, and the HR relationships would also increase. Externally, communications on IS projects with third party partners, is managed well.
Current risks may not be recognized or perceived. This is partly due to the sustainment role that the organization works by. It is not evident that any of the possible risks are being properly recognized or perceived by Sr. Management.
The use of resources on IT development are effective in that they do manage to fulfil the ongoing sustainment of the company systems quite well. However there are limited opportunities for the organization to use IT to add value to the business. This is not persued as the method of operation is focused specifically on sustaining the existing enterprise, and as a result new IT opportunities are somewhat limited. The acceptance of IS enhancements have been very minimal over the past eight years. Resources both from a human capital and financial perspective will continue to be the driving limitation of improving the systems.
Business Systems Recommendation
In assessing a recommendation for the company, certain considerations were made in order to view IT Corporation’s current state as one of the driving factors of the organizations sustaining its systems. As the company cannot absorb too much change at this time, due to the financial constrains and limitations the following three systems recommendations are being recommended as an implementation that should be considered
unequivocally. Each recommendation is an element of the solution, in that each involves a system enhancement that would provide an effective enhancement solution for the sales, marketing and revenue financial organizations.
Initially, it is recommended that the company implements a front end system to support the new business solutions that are approved. A front-end system is needed that would also tie into all of the main functional areas. This allows each major functional area, real time access into a database to view new services being developed. Currently IT CORPORATION has key individual functional systems that do not see into each of the other functional areas. It cannot verify when a solution has been approved or accepted and it has no established checkpoints that confirm completion on work being done. The process is manual and is driven by various individuals throughout the functional groups. An established system that ties in all functional areas will allow for automation, clear timelines on each stage of the process towards completion, and tracking record on the data. The application of choice that would be suitable for IT Corporation’s systems would be a front end ERP system that ties all of the organizational processes and systems together. “Appendix B” shows the graphical layout of IT Corporation’s current state with multiple systems and what the newly designed front-end system would look like managing the front end of the business.
The second recommendation is for a sales automation sub-system tool. This would provide the organization with access to enhanced reporting, that would provide a link into the company’s main billing and customer care systems. This recommendation is a consideration that would allow the organization access to current updated information, and provide a single point of access to data that is populated through a single channel. Due to the current over lap in systems both in billing and reporting, it would allow the sales organization to use the IS systems strategically as a way to add customer value.
Third, a consolidation of all of the existing financing reporting business applications would be prudent in order to establish consistent, and avoid accounting and billing errors. This can be accomplished through having in place a system that ties in all of the existing billers, accounting systems and finance tools. For this reason, the most suitable application IT CORPORATION currently has that could be expanded in order to fulfil this would be SAP. By having an enhanced version of the SAP system as a lead system would eliminate the current problems of 9 .
providing customers with multiple products and services, from receiving multiple spreadsheets for reports and billing. SAP would provide a consolidated view and manages the various feeds from each database generating the information into one central repository.
Conclusion Information Services is transforming and it is almost becoming a product – something a customer would buy as a feature of a product not just a backend system. The organization will need to become more responsive to the transformation needs of IS. Currently, the organization is not being retained to take on IS risks, which has become a financial and structural organizational problem. The organization sticks to what they have been incented to do and could possibly not have the means or the opportunity to grow all of their future technologies. Therefore, there is a risk of not looking at forward market changes and the advancement of future objectives for systems overall. Due to the current corporation’s considerations, the company will more than likely stay within a holding pattern for some time. Overall the company needs to recognize the need for control of common information, for automation where possible to improve accuracy and reporting as an overall systems strategy.
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