Information Systems Management
Strengths: Because BSP combines a top down business analysis approach with a bottom up implementation strategy, it represents an integrated methodology. It also has the reliability as IBM is the vendor of this methodology.
Weaknesses: BSP takes considerable time and effort for its successful implementation. BSP also requires a firm commitment from the top management and their substantial involvement and also requires a high degree of IT experience within the BSP planning team. There also is the problem of bridging the gap between top down planning and bottom up implementation.
Strategic Systems Planning (SSP) Also known as PROplanner this methodology is similar to BSP. Although steps in the SSP procedure are similar to those in the BSP, a major difference between SSP and BSP is SSP’s automated handling of the data collected during the SISP process. Software produces reports in a wide range of formats and with various levels of detail. Users are guided through menus for on-line data collection and maintenance. The software also provides a data dictionary interface for sharing SSP data with an existing data dictionary or other automated design tools. But in overall, BSP and SSP have similar advantages and disadvantages.
Information Engineering (IE This methodology was developed by James Martin (1982) and provides techniques for building enterprise, data and process models. Theses models combine to form a comprehensive knowledge base which is used to create and maintain information systems. Basic philosophy underlying this technique is the use of structured techniques in all the tasks relating to planning, analysis, design and construction of enterprise wide information systems. Such structured techniques are expected to result in well integrated information systems.
Method/1 Method/1 is a layered approach for SISP. The top layer is the methodology itself, the middle layer of techniques supports the methodology, and a bottom layer of tools supports the techniques. Techniques supported by this methodology include data flow diagramming, matrix analysis, functional decomposition, focus groups and Delphi studies. This methodology has five distinct objectives
– To identify the organization’s information needs. – To find new opportunities for using information to achieve competitive advantage. – To define an overall IT strategy for satisfying the organization’s IT objectives. – To define data, applications, technology and organizational requirements for supporting the overall IT strategy. – To define the activities needed to meet the above requirements and thereby implement the overall IT strategy. This methodology incorporates the value chain analysis in its approach towards business and competitive assessment.
Key Lessons from SISP Methodologies Lederer and Sethi (1988) surveyed 80 organizations to examine the problems faced by information systems managers when they attempt to implement one of three alignment methodologies, BSP, SSP or IE. According to this survey, the most severe problem identified by IS managers is the failure to secure top management commitment for carrying out the final plan. The second most severe problem identified is the requirement for substantial further analysis after the completion of the IS plan. Both these problems are related to the output of the planning process. Besides these top two, six of the next top eight problems are related to the resources required to carry out the strategic information systems planning (success of the plan depends on the team leader, difficulty in finding the team leader meeting the criteria specified in the study, methodology lacking computer support, planning exercise taking long time, etc.).
The results of this survey suggest that IS planners are not particularly satisfied with their methodologies. If the objective of the SISP exercise is to align IS objectives with business goals, then detailed, lengthy and complex SISP may be of limited value. Where the objective is to use IT to impact a business strategy, these methodologies may not generate useful ideas for that purpose. It seems to me that a large number of methodologies that have been developed to add confusion rather than clarity to the (IS) planning process.
Although SISP is a major concern, most organizations find it difficult to undertake it. Besides their lack of experience with SISP, absence of a comprehensive, structured, easy to use methodology may also be a main reason for it. A comprehensive methodology for SISP will need to incorporate both the `impact’ and the `align’ views. Method/1 incorporates Value Chain Analysis. IE supports Critical Success Factors Analysis. Even BSP is now incorporating CSFs.
Since it is difficult to find a team leader who meets the criteria specified in SISP methodologies, it is proposed that detailed guidelines on how to perform a SISP study by way of an automated tool will help. Such a tool will make the task more structured and less leader-critical. Based on the case studies and a careful study of the current methodologies, certain generic steps in a typical SISP formulation can be identified.
Study Internal Business Environment This is to determine the business IS needs. The internal business environment is comprised of mission of the organization, its objectives, strategies and plans, business activities, the organizational environment, core competencies, its critical success factors and the internal value chain.
Study external business environment This helps an organization focus attention on the forces and pressure groups it encounters. These external forces exert a very strong influence on the business strategy of an organization. Factors to be considered here are the industry that the organization is in and that industry’s critical success factors, competitive position of the organization in the industry, relationship with major buyers and suppliers.
Study internal IS/IT environment This is mainly comprised of the current and planned applications portfolio that supports the business. Other aspects to be considered here are the present IS organization, skills and attitudes of people in the organization, IT environment and the IS/IT budgets. External IS/IT Environment This consists of scanning the environment for available and emerging technologies and their business implications. An important aspect of this is to understand how the competitors are using information technology.