1. How important is the reservation system at airlines such as WestJet and JetBlue. How does it impact

operational activities and decision making?


2. Evaluate the risks of the projects to upgrade the  reservation systems of WestJet and JetBlue and key

risk factors.


3. Classify and describe the problems each airline faced in implementing its new reservation system. What

people, organization, and technology factors caused those problems?


4. Describe the steps you would have taken to control the risk in these projects?


IVP A R TBuilding and Managing Systems 11 Building Information Systems and

Managing Projects

12 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems

P art IV shows how to use the knowledge acquired in earlier chapters to analyze and design information system solutions to

business problems. This part answers questions such as these:

How can I develop a solution to an information system problem

that provides genuine business benefits? How can the firm adjust

to the changes introduced by the new system solution? What

alternative approaches are available for building system solutions?

What broader ethical and social issues should be addressed when

building and using information systems?


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After completing this chapter, you will be able to answer the following questions:

1. What are the core problem-solving steps for developing new information systems?

2. What are the alternative methods for building information systems?

3. What are the principal methodologies for modeling and designing systems?

4. How should information systems projects be selected and evaluated?

5. How should information systems projects be managed?

Building Information Systems and Managing

Projects 11C H A P T E R



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CHAPTER OUTLINE Chapter-Opening Case: A New Ordering System for Girl

Scout Cookies

11.1 Problem Solving and Systems Development

11.2 Alternative Systems-Building Approaches

11.3 Modeling and Designing Systems

11.4 Project Management

Business Problem-Solving Case: JetBlue and WestJet: A Tale of Two IS Projects


Peanut Butter Petites, Caramel deLites, Thin Mints—Girl Scout Cookies are American favorites. Cookie sales are a major source of funding for the Girl Scouts, but collecting, counting, and organizing the annual avalanche of cookie orders has become a tremendous challenge.

The Girl Scouts’ traditional cookie-ordering process depends on mountains of paperwork. During the peak sales period in January, each Girl Scout marked her sales on an individual order card and turned the card in to the troop leader when she was finished. The troop leader would transfer the information onto a five-part form and give this form to a community volunteer who tabulated the orders. From there, the orders data passed to a regional council headquarters, where they would be batched into final orders for the manufacturer, ABC Cookies. In addition to ordering, Girl Scout volunteers and troop members had to coordinate cookie deliveries, from the manufac- turer to regional warehouses, to local drop-off sites, to each scout, and to the customers themselves.

The paperwork was overwhelming. Order transactions changed hands too many times, creating many opportunities for error. All the added columns, multiple prices per box, and calculations that had to be made by different people, all on a deadline.

© Michael Newman, 2011, PhotoEdit, Inc.


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The Patriots’ Trail Girl Scout Council, representing 65 communities and 18,000 Girl Scouts in the greater Boston area, was one of the first councils to tackle this problem. The council sells over 1.5 million boxes of cookies each year. The council initially investigated building a computerized system using Microsoft Access database management and application development tools. But this alternative would have cost $25,000 to develop and would have taken at least three to four months to get the system up and running. It was too time-consuming, complex, and expensive for the Girl Scouts. In addition to Microsoft Access software, the Girl Scouts would have to purchase a server to run the system plus pay for networking and Web site maintenance services so the system could be made available on the Web.

After consulting with management consultants Dovetail Associates, the council selected Intuit’s QuickBase for Corporate Workgroups. QuickBase is a hosted Web-based software service for small businesses and corporate workgroups. It is especially well suited for building simple database applications very quickly and does not require a great deal of training to use. QuickBase is customizable and designed to collect, organize, and share data among teams in many different locations.

A Dovetail consultant created a working QuickBase prototype with some basic functions for the Girl Scouts within a few hours. It only took two months to build, test, and implement the entire system using this software. The cost for developing the entire system was a fraction of the Microsoft Access solution. The Girl Scouts do not have to pay for any hardware, software, or networking services because QuickBase runs everything for them on its servers. QuickBase costs about $500 per month for organizations with 100 users and $1,500 per month for organizations with up to 500 users. It is very easy to use.

The QuickBase solution eliminates paperwork and calculation errors by providing a clear central source of data for the entire council and easy online entry of cookie orders over the Web. Troop leaders collect the Girl Scouts’ order cards and enter them directly into the QuickBase system using their home computers linked to the Web. With a few mouse clicks, the council office consolidates the unit totals and transmits the orders electronically to ABC Cookies. As local orders come in, local section leaders can track the data in real time.

The Patriots’ Trail Girl Scouts also uses the QuickBase system to manage the Cookie Cupboard warehouse, where volunteers pick up their cookie orders. Volunteers use the sys- tem to make reservations so that the warehouse can prepare the orders in advance, saving time and inventory management costs. The trucking companies that deliver cookie ship- ments now receive their instructions electronically through QuickBase so that they can cre- ate efficient delivery schedules.

Since its implementation, the Patriots’ Trail QuickBase system has cut paperwork by more than 90 percent, reduced errors to 1 percent, and reduced the time spent by volunteers by 50 percent. The old system used to take two months to tally the orders and determine which Scouts should be rewarded for selling the most cookies. Now that time has been cut to 48 hours.

Other Girl Scouts, councils have implemented similar QuickBase systems to track sales and achieved similar benefits. The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, serving Los Angeles County and parts of Kern and San Bernardino counties, has reduced the paperwork associated with the sales for 3.5 million boxes of cookies annually by 95 percent.

Sources: Liz McCann, “Texting + QuickBase Make Selling Girl Scout Cookies Easier in LA, ”March 8, 2010, www.quickbase.intuit.com, www.girlscoutseasternmass.org/cookies, accessed July 15, 2011; and “Girl Scouts Unite Behind Order Tracking,” Customer Relationship Management, May 2005.

The experience of the Patriots’ Trail Girl Scout Council illustrates some of the steps required to design and build new information systems. It also illustrates some of the benefits of a new system solution. The Girl Scouts had an outdated manual paper-based system for processing cookie orders that was excessively time-consuming and error ridden. The Girl Scouts tried several alternative solutions before opting for a new ordering system based on the QuickBase software service. In this chapter, we will examine the Girl Scouts’ search for a system solution as we describe each step of building a new information system using the problem-solving process.

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Chapter 11: Building Information Systems and Managing Projects 371

11.1 Problem Solving and Systems Development

We have already described the problem-solving process and how it helps us analyze and understand the role of information systems in business. This problem-solving process is especially valuable when we need to build new systems. A new information system is built as a solution to a problem or set of problems the organization perceives it is facing. The problem may be one in which managers and employees believe that the business is not performing as well as expected, or it may come from the realization that the organization should take advantage of new opportunities to perform more effectively.

Let’s apply this problem-solving process to system building. Figure 11.1 illustrates the four steps we would need to take: (1) define and understand the problem, (2) develop alterna- tive solutions, (3) choose the best solution, and (4) implement the solution.

Figure 11.1 Developing an Information System Solution Developing an informa- tion system solution is based on the problem- solving process.


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372 Part IV: Building and Managing Systems

Before a problem can be solved, it first must be properly defined. Members of the organization must agree that a problem actually exists and that it is serious. The problem must be investigated so that it can be better understood. Next comes a period of devising alternative solutions, then one of evaluating each alternative and selecting the best solution. The final stage is one of implementing the solution, in which a detailed design for the solution is specified, translated into a physical system, tested, introduced to the organiza- tion, and further refined as it is used over time.

In the information systems world, we have a special name for these activities. Figure 11.1 shows that the first three problem-solving steps, where we identify the problem, gather infor- mation, devise alternative solutions, and make a decision about the best solution, are called systems analysis.


Defining the problem may take some work because various members of the company may have different ideas about the nature of the problem and its severity. What caused the problem? Why is it still around? Why wasn’t it solved long ago? Systems analysts typically gather facts about existing systems and problems by examining documents, work papers, procedures, and system operations, and by interviewing key users of the system.

Information systems problems in the business world typically result from a combination of people, organization, and technology factors. When identifying a key issue or problem, ask what kind of problem it is: Is it a people problem, an organizational problem, a technol- ogy problem, or a combination of these? What people, organizational, and technological factors contributed to the problem?

Once the problem has been defined and analyzed, it is possible to make some decisions about what should and can be done. What are the objectives of a solution to the problem? Is the firm’s objective to reduce costs, increase sales, or improve relationships with customers, suppliers, or employees? Do managers have sufficient information for decision making? What information is required to achieve these objectives?

At the most basic level, the information requirements of a new system identify who needs what information, where, when, and how. Requirements analysis carefully defines the objectives of the new or modified system and develops a detailed description of the functions that the new system must perform. A system designed around the wrong set of requirements will either have to be discarded because of poor performance or will need to undergo major modifications. Section 11.2 describes alternative approaches to eliciting requirements that help minimize this problem.

Let’s return to our opening case about the Girl Scouts. The problem here is that the Girl Scout ordering process is heavily manual and cannot support the large number of volunteers and cookie orders that must be coordinated. As a result, cookie ordering is extremely inefficient with high error rates and volunteers spending excessive time organizing orders and deliveries.

Organizationally, the Girl Scouts is a volunteer organization distributed across a large area, with cookie sales as the primary source of revenue. The Scouts rely on volunteers with little or no business or computer experience for sales and management of orders and deliveries. They have almost no financial resources and volunteers are strapped for time. The Girl Scout cookie-ordering process requires many steps and coordination of multiple groups and organizations—individual Girl Scouts, volunteers, the council office, the cookie manufacturing factory, trucking companies, and the Cookie Cupboard warehouse.

The objectives of a solution for the Girl Scouts would be to reduce the amount of time, effort, and errors in the cookie-ordering process. Information requirements for the solution include the ability to rapidly total and organize order transactions for transmittal to ABC Cookies; the ability to track orders by type of cookie, troop, and individual Girl Scout; the ability to schedule deliveries to the Cookie Cupboard; and the ability to schedule order pickups from the Cookie Cupboard.


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What alternative solutions are possible for achieving these objectives and meeting these information requirements? The systems analysis lays out the most likely paths to follow given the nature of the problem. Some possible solutions do not require an information system solution but instead call for an adjustment in management, additional training, or refinement of existing organizational procedures. Some, however, do require modifications to the firm’s existing information systems or an entirely new information system.


The systems analysis includes a feasibility study to determine whether each proposed solution is feasible, or achievable, from a financial, technical, and organizational standpoint. The feasibility study establishes whether each alternative solution is a good investment, whether the technology needed for the system is available and can be handled by the firm’s information systems staff, and whether the organization is capable of accommodating the changes introduced by the system.

A written systems proposal report describes the costs and benefits, and advantages and disadvantages of each alternative solution. Which solution is best in a financial sense? Which works best for the organization? The systems analysis will detail the costs and benefits of each alternative and the changes that the organization will have to make to use the solution effectively. We provide a detailed discussion of how to determine the business value of systems and manage change in the following section. On the basis of this report, management will select what it believes is the best solution for the company.

The Patriots’ Trail Girl Scouts had three alternative solutions. One was to streamline existing processes, continuing to rely on manual procedures. However, given the large number of Girl Scouts and cookie orders, as well as relationships with manufacturers and shippers, redesigning and streamlining a manual ordering and delivery process would not have provided many benefits. The Girl Scouts needed an automated solution that accurately tracked thousands of order and delivery transactions, reduced paperwork, and created a central real-time source of sales data that could be accessed by council headquarters and individual volunteers.

A second alternative was to custom-build a cookie-ordering system using Microsoft Access. This alternative was considered too time-consuming, expensive, and technically challenging for the Girl Scouts. It required $25,000 in initial programming costs, plus the purchase of hardware and networking equipment to run the system and link it to the Internet, as well as trained staff to run and maintain the system.

The third alternative was to rapidly create a system using an application service provider. QuickBase provides templates and tools for creating simple database systems in very short periods, provides the hardware for running the application and Web site, and can be accessed by many different users over the Web. This solution did not require the Girl Scouts to purchase any hardware, software, or networking technology or to maintain any information system staff to support the system. This last alternative was the most feasible for the Girl Scouts.


The first step in implementing a system solution is to create detailed design specifica- tions. Systems design shows how the chosen solution should be realized. The system design is the model or blueprint for an information system solution and consists of all the specifications that will deliver the functions identified during systems analysis. These specifications should address all of the technical, organization, and people components of the system solution. Table 11.1 shows some of the design specifications for the Girl Scouts’ new system, which were based on information requirements for the solution that was selected.


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374 Part IV: Building and Managing Systems

Completing Implementation In the final steps of implementing a system solution, the following activities would be performed:

• Hardware selection and acquisition. System builders select appropriate hardware for the application. They would either purchase the necessary computers and networking hardware or lease them from a technology provider.

TABLE 11.1

Design Specifications for the Girl Scout Cookie System

Output Online reports

Hard-copy reports

Online queries

Order transactions for ABC Cookies

Delivery tickets for the trucking fi rm

Input Order data entry form

Troop data entry form

Girl Scout data entry form

Shipping/delivery data entry form

User interface Graphical Web interface

Database Database with cookie order fi le, delivery fi le,

troop contact fi le

Processing Calculate order totals by type of cookie and number of boxes

Track orders by troop and individual Girl Scout

Schedule pickups at the Cookie Cupboard

Update Girl Scout and troop data for address and member


Manual procedures Girl Scouts take orders with paper forms

Troop leaders collect order cards from Scouts and enter the order

data online

Security and controls Online passwords

Control totals

Conversion Input Girl Scout and troop data

Transfer factory and delivery data

Test system

Training and documentation System guide for users

Online practice demonstration

Online training sessions

Training for ABC Cookies and trucking companies to accept data

and instructions automatically from the Girl Scout system

Organizational changes Job design: Volunteers no longer have to tabulate orders

Process design: Take orders on manual cards but enter them

online into the system

Schedule order pickups from the Cookie Cupboard online


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• Software development and programming. Software is custom programmed in-house or purchased from an external source, such as an outsourcing vendor, an application software package vendor, or an application service provider.

The Girl Scouts did not have to purchase additional hardware or software. QuickBase offers templates for generating simple database applications. Dovetail consultants used the QuickBase tools to rapidly create the software for the system. The system runs on QuickBase servers.

• Testing. The system is thoroughly tested to ensure it produces the right results. The testing process requires detailed testing of individual computer programs, called unit testing, as well as system testing, which tests the performance of the information system as a whole. Acceptance testing provides the final certification that the system is ready to be used in a production setting. Information systems tests are evaluated by users and reviewed by management. When all parties are satisfied that the new system meets their standards, the system is formally accepted for installation.

The systems development team works with users to devise a systematic test plan. The test plan includes all of the preparations for the series of tests we have just described. Figure 11.2 shows a sample from a test plan that might have been used for the Girl Scout cookie system. The condition being tested is online access of an existing record for a specific Girl Scout troop.

• Training and documentation. End users and information system specialists require train- ing so that they will be able to use the new system. Detailed documentation showing how the system works from both a technical and end-user standpoint must be prepared.

The Girl Scout cookie system provides an online practice area for users to practice entering data into the system by following step-by-step instructions. Also available on the Web is a step-by-step instruction guide for the system that can be downloaded and printed as a hard-copy manual.

• Conversion is the process of changing from the old to the new system. There are three main conversion strategies: the parallel strategy, the direct cutover strategy, and the phased approach strategy.

In a parallel strategy, both the old system and its potential replacement are run together for a time until everyone is assured that the new one functions correctly. The old system remains available as a backup in case of problems. The direct cutover strategy replaces

Figure 11.2 A Sample Test Plan for the Girl Scout Cookie System When developing a test plan, it is imperative to include the various conditions to be tested, the requirements for each condition tested, and the expected results. Test plans require input from both end users and informa- tion systems specialists.


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the old system entirely with the new system on an appointed day, carrying the risk that there is no system to fall back on if problems arise. A phased approach introduces the system in stages (such as first introducing the modules for ordering Girl Scout cookies and then introducing the modules for transmitting orders and instructions to the cookie factory and shipper). • Production and maintenance. After the new system is installed and conversion is com-

plete, the system is said to be in production. During this stage, users and technical specialists review the solution to determine how well it has met its original objectives and to decide whether any revisions or modifications are in order. Changes in hardware, software, documentation, or procedures to a production system to correct errors, meet new requirements, or improve processing efficiency are termed maintenance.

The Girl Scouts continued to improve and refine their QuickBase cookie system. The system was made more efficient for users with slow Internet connections. Other recent enhancements include capabilities for paying for orders more rapidly, entering troop information and initial orders without waiting for a specified starting date, and receiving online confirmation for reservations to pick up orders from the Cookie Cupboard.

Managing the Change Developing a new information systems solution is not merely a matter of installing hardware and software. The business must also deal with the organizational changes that the new solution will bring about—new information, new business processes, and perhaps new reporting relationships and decision-making power. A very well-designed solution may not work unless it is introduced to the organization very carefully. The process of planning change in an organization so that it is implemented in an orderly and effective manner is so critical to the success or failure of information system solutions that we devote the next section to a detailed discussion of this topic.

To manage the transition from the old manual cookie-ordering processes to the new system, the Girl Scouts would have to inform troop leaders and volunteers about changes in cookie-ordering procedures, provide training, and provide resources for answering any questions that arose as parents and volunteers started using the system. They would need to work with ABC Cookies and their shippers on new procedures for transmitting and delivering orders.

The Interactive Session on People provides another real-world example of the problem-solving process at work as Honam Petrochemical Corporation in South Korea develops a new management reporting system. As you read this case, observe how Honam handled these problem-solving activities: defining the problem, establishing information requirements, developing a solution, selecting technology, testing the new system, and managing the change process.

11.2 Alternative Systems-Building Approaches

There are alternative methods for building systems using the basic problem-solving model we have just described. These alternative methods include the traditional systems lifecycle, prototyping, end-user development, application software packages, and outsourcing.


The systems development lifecycle (SDLC) is the oldest method for building information systems. The lifecycle methodology is a phased approach to building a system, dividing systems development into a series of formal stages, as illustrated in Figure 11.3. Although systems builders can go back and forth among stages in the lifecycle, the systems lifecycle is predominantly a “waterfall” approach in which tasks in one stage are completed before work for the next stage begins.

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This approach maintains a very formal division of labor between end users and informa- tion systems specialists. Technical specialists, such as system analysts and programmers, are responsible for much of the systems analysis, design, and implementation work; end users are limited to providing information requirements and reviewing the technical staff’s work. The lifecycle also emphasizes formal specifications and paperwork, so many documents are generated during the course of a systems project.

The systems lifecycle is still used for building large complex systems that require rigorous and formal requirements analysis, predefined specifications, and tight controls over the systems-building process. However, this approach is also time-consuming and expensive to use. Tasks in one stage are supposed to be completed before work for the next stage begins. Activities can be repeated, but volumes of new documents must be generated and steps retraced if requirements and specifications need to be revised. This encourages freezing of specifications relatively early in the development process. The lifecycle approach is also not suitable for many small desktop systems, which tend to be less structured and more individualized.


Prototyping consists of building an experimental system rapidly and inexpensively for end users to evaluate. The prototype is a working version of an information system or part of the system, but it is intended as only a preliminary model. Users interact with the prototype to get a better idea of their information requirements, refining the prototype multiple times. (The chapter-opening case describes how Dovetail Associates used QuickBase to create a prototype that helped the Patriots’ Trail Girl Scout Council refine the specifications for their cookie-ordering system.) When the design is finalized, the prototype will be converted to a polished production system. Figure 11.4 shows a four-step model of the prototyping process.

Step 1: Identify the user’s basic requirements. The system designer (usually an information systems specialist) works with the user only long enough to capture the user’s basic information needs.

Step 2: Develop an initial prototype. The system designer creates a working prototype quickly, using tools for rapidly generating software.

Step 3: Use the prototype. The user is encouraged to work with the system to determine if the prototype meets his or her needs and to suggest improvements for the prototype.

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Figure 11.3 The Traditional Systems Development Lifecycle The systems develop- ment lifecycle partitions systems development into formal stages, with each stage requiring completion before the next stage can begin.


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INTERACTIVE SESSION: PEOPLE Honam Petrochemical’s Quest for Better Management Reports

You may soon hear more about Honam Petrochemical Corporation. Headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, this company manufactures and sells petrochemical products, such as synthetic resins, synthetic industrial materials, such as ethylene glycol and ethylene oxide for making polyester, automobile antifreeze solutions, benzene, propylene, and ethylene. Honam has about 2,200 employees and its 2010 revenues exceeded U.S. $6.75 million.

Honam’s primary market is South Korea, but the company has set its sights on becoming a top-tier chemical company throughout Asia and achieving sales of U.S $10 billion. Honam plans to do this by strengthening its existing businesses, extending its overseas business and developing new businesses.

To manage far-flung operations in China, Hong Kong, Moscow, and New York City Honam needs reliable reports that are able to accurately measure management performance and provide useful, accurate information for increasing sales and reducing costs. Honam’s existing systems provided managers with reports to guide their business decisions, but in many cases the data in the reports were outdated and “sanitized.” Individual managers were processing and manipulating the data to make their departments “look better” to senior management. The report data were also somewhat outdated and presented periodically. Honam’s top management wanted “anytime access” to current daily data to obtain an accurate and unbiased view of what was occurring in the sales office or on the plant floor. It did not wanted to be overloaded with unnecessary data so it could focus on the “watch-up indicators” it considered crucial to the business.

Executive decision-makers did not want to work with last quarter’s numbers. They wanted up-to-the- minute reports that they could view quickly on their desktops. They also wanted access via the Web or their mobile devices. Finally, Honam executives wanted enterprise-wide data that could be accessed and shared easily across various business units and functions to support the company’s expansion geographically and by product line.

These three requirements drove the technology selection process. Honam’s information systems team reviewed a number of different software products and vendors and selected SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence. The company already had seven years’ experience running SAP’s ERP system, so this vendor seemed like an appropriate choice.

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards is a drag-and- drop visualization tool designed to create interactive

analytics for powerful, personalized dashboards based on SAP’s BusinessObjects business intelligence plat- form. BusinessObjects software tools can be used for performance management, planning, reporting, query and analysis, and enterprise information management, and provide self-service access to data from databases and Excel spreadsheets. SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence is an ad hoc query, reporting, and analy- sis tool that is used to create queries or use existing reports, format retrieved information, and perform analysis to understand trends and root causes.

Once Honam’s project team determined the business intelligence tools for the solution, its focus turned to determining which data and reports were required by the company’s 200 high-level users of the new system. The information systems team started by asking executives to list existing reports they were already receiving and to assess the usefulness of each. The list was cut to a more manageable size and the executives were asked if there were any additional reports or data from which their organizational groups could benefit. These findings were very useful in determining the right set of reports and dashboards for Honam executives.

Once these user requirements were clarified, the information systems team designed a system that could extract data from a SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and present them to executives using the SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards software and SAP Crystal Reports, an application for designing and gen- erating reports from a wide range of data sources. A highly intuitive Web-based user interface was created to make the system very accessible. This interface was so simple and well-designed that users required very little training on how to use the system or access data and reports.

To encourage users to start working with the system, members of the information systems department visited various manufacturing plants where the system was being rolled out and had in-depth discussions with executives about the systems’ benefits as well as how to use it.

Honam’s system went live in January 2011, and executives started immediately accessing reports and dashboards on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The system enables them to view key per- formance information such as manufacturing costs by plant, transportation costs, daily production and inventory rates, and global product price trends, and the information can be displayed visually in dash- boards and management cockpits. Thirty executives tested mobile devices providing “anytime, anywhere”

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access to the new system. Delivery of the information is personalized and differentiated for high-level execu- tives, middle managers, and front-line employees.

It is still too early to assess the long-term business impact of the system, but one benefit was immediate: Executives no longer are limited to “sanitized,” stale data in an outdated presentation format. Management discussions and decisions are based on timely, consis- tent, and accurate company-wide data. Because the

system reduces the time required to collect, process, and track the data, executive decision making takes place more rapidly. Honam’s information systems are now ready for global information-sharing as the company expands. Sources: David Hannon, “Searching Beyond Sanitized Data,” SAPInsider PROFILES, July 2011; David Steier, “Visualizing Success: Analytic User Interfaces that Drive Business,” Information Management, July/August, 2011; and “Honam Petrochemical Strategy and Financial Highlights from ICIS,” www.icis.com, accessed July 21, 2011.

1. List and describe the information requirements of Honam’s new management system. What problems was the new system designed to solve?

2. To what extent were “people” problems affecting management decision making at Honam? What were some of the people, organization, and technology issues that had to be addressed by the new system? How did the system’s designers make the system more “people-friendly?”

3. What role did end users play in developing Honam’s new system? How did the project team make sure users were involved? What would have happened to the project if they had not done this?

4. What were the benefits of the new system? How did it change the way Honam ran its business? How successful was this system solution?

Visit the Dashboard Insight Web site (dashboardin- sight.com) and review the section on “Getting Started with Dashboards.” Explain why digital dashboards are so useful to Honam’s management and what “best practices” for building dashboards Honam followed.


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Step 4: Revise and enhance the prototype. The system builder notes all changes the user requests and refines the prototype accordingly. After the prototype has been revised, the cycle returns to Step 3. Steps 3 and 4 are repeated until the user is satisfied.

Prototyping is especially useful in designing an information system’s user interface. Because prototyping encourages intense end-user involvement throughout the systems development process, it is more likely to produce systems that fulfill user requirements.

However, rapid prototyping may gloss over essential steps in systems development, such as thorough testing and documentation. If the completed prototype works reasonably well, management may not see the need to build a polished production system. Some hastily constructed systems do not easily accommodate large quantities of data or a large number of users in a production environment.


End-user development allows end users, with little or no formal assistance from technical specialists, to create simple information systems, reducing the time and steps required to produce a finished application. Using fourth-generation languages, graphics languages, and PC software tools, end users can access data, create reports, and develop entire IS


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information systems on their own, with little or no help from professional systems analysts or programmers.

For example, Travel and Transport, the sixth-largest travel management company in the United States, used Information Builders’ WebFOCUS to create an online self-service reporting system for monitoring and managing travel expenditures. More than 800 external clients are able to access information directly on their own to plan, track, analyze, and bud- get their travel expenses and benchmark them against similar companies, saving millions of dollars (Information Builders, 2011).

On the whole, end-user-developed systems are completed more rapidly than those developed with conventional programming tools. Allowing users to specify their own business needs improves requirements gathering and often leads to a higher level of user involvement and satisfaction with the system. However, fourth-generation tools still cannot replace conventional tools for some business applications because they cannot easily handle the processing of large numbers of transactions or applications with extensive procedural logic and updating requirements.

End-user development also poses organizational risks because systems are created rapidly, without a formal development methodology, testing, and documentation. To help organizations maximize the benefits of end-user applications development, management should require cost justification of end-user information system projects and establish hardware, software, and quality standards for user-developed applications.


Chapter 4 points out that the software for most systems today is not developed in-house but is purchased from external sources. Firms may choose to purchase a software package from a commercial vendor, rent the software from a service provider, or outsource the development work to another firm. Selection of the software or software service is often based on a Request for Proposal (RFP), which is a detailed list of questions submitted to external vendors to see how well they meet the requirements for the proposed system.

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Figure 11.4 The Prototyping Process The process of devel- oping a prototype consists of four steps. Because a prototype can be developed quickly and inexpensively, systems builders can go through several itera- tions, repeating steps 3 and 4, to refine and enhance the prototype before arriving at the final operational one.


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Application Software Packages Most new information systems today are built using an application software package or preprogrammed software components. Many applications are common to all business organizations—for example, payroll, accounts receivable, general ledger, or inventory control. For such universal functions with standard processes that do not change a great deal over time, a generalized system will fulfill the requirements of many organizations.

If a software package can fulfill most of an organization’s requirements, the company does not have to write its own software. The company saves time and money by using the prewritten, predesigned, pretested software programs from the package.

Many packages include capabilities for customization to meet unique requirements not addressed by the package software. Customization features allow a software pack- age to be modified to meet an organization’s unique requirements without destroying the integrity of the packaged software. However, if extensive customization is required, additional programming and customization work may become so expensive and time- consuming that it negates many of the advantages of software packages. If the package cannot be customized, the organization will have to adapt to the package and change its procedures.

Outsourcing If a firm does not want to use its internal resources to build or operate information systems, it can outsource the work to an external organization that specializes in provid- ing these services. Software service providers, which we describe in Chapter 4, are one form of outsourcing. An example is the Girl Scouts leasing the software and hardware from QuickBase to run their cookie-ordering system. Subscribing companies use the software and computer hardware of the service provider as the technical platform for their systems. In another form of outsourcing, a company hires an external vendor to design and create the software for its system, but that company operates the system on its own computers.

The outsourcing vendor might be domestic or in another country. Domestic outsourcing is driven primarily by the fact that outsourcing firms possess skills, resources, and assets that their clients do not have. Installing a new supply chain management system in a very large company might require hiring an additional 30 to 50 people with specific expertise in supply chain management software. Rather than hire permanent new employees, and then release them after the new system is built, it makes more sense, and is often less expensive, to outsource this work for a 12-month period.

In the case of offshore outsourcing, the decision tends to be driven by cost. A skilled programmer in India or Russia earns about U.S. $10,000 per year, compared to $70,000 per year for a comparable programmer in the United States. The Internet and low-cost com- munications technology have drastically reduced the expense and difficulty of coordinating the work of global teams in faraway locations. In addition to cost savings, many offshore outsourcing firms offer world-class technology assets and skills.

For example, Chaucer Syndicates, a specialist insurer for Lloyd’s, the world’s leading insurance market, contracted with Indian software and service provider Wipro Ltd. to develop a data warehouse and reporting system. Chaucer believed Wipro had the technical expertise, industry knowledge, and resources to quickly develop a solution that would meet its regulatory requirements and provide timely and improved analytics and management reports (Wipro, 2011).

There is a very strong chance that at some point in your career, you’ll be working with offshore outsourcers or global teams. Your firm is most likely to benefit from outsourc- ing if it takes the time to evaluate all the risks and to make sure outsourcing is appropri- ate for its particular needs. Any company that outsources its applications must thoroughly understand the project, including its requirements, method of implementation, source of expected benefits, cost components, and metrics for measuring performance.

Many firms underestimate costs for identifying and evaluating vendors of informa- tion technology services, for transitioning to a new vendor, for improving internal software development methods to match those of outsourcing vendors, and for monitoring vendors

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to make sure they are fulfilling their contractual obligations. Outsourcing offshore incurs additional costs for coping with cultural differences that drain productivity and dealing with human resources issues, such as terminating or relocating domestic employees. These hidden costs undercut some of the anticipated benefits from outsourcing. Firms should be especially cautious when using an outsourcer to develop or to operate applications that give it some type of competitive advantage.

Figure 11.5 shows best- and worst-case scenarios for the total cost of an offshore outsourcing project. It shows how much hidden costs affect the total project cost. The best case reflects the lowest estimates for additional costs, and the worst case reflects the highest estimates for these costs. As you can see, hidden costs increase the total cost of an offshore outsourcing project by an extra 15 to 57 percent. Even with these extra costs, many firms will benefit from offshore outsourcing if they manage the work well.


Developing applications for mobile platforms is quite different from development for PCs and larger computers. The reduced size of mobile devices makes using fingers and multi-touch gestures much easier than typing and using keyboards. Mobile apps need to be optimized for the specific tasks they are to perform, they should not try to carry out too many tasks, and they should be designed for usability. Saving resources—bandwidth, screen space, memory, processing, data entry, and user gestures—is a top priority.

There are three main platforms for mobile apps-iPhone/iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7. Each of the platforms for mobile applications has an integrated development environment, such as Apple’s iOS SDK (software development kit) for the iPhone/iPad, which provides tools for writing, testing, and deploying applications in the target platform environment. Larger companies or business owners with programming experience use these software development kits to create apps from scratch. App development can also be outsourced to specialized app development firms that charge as much as $20,000 to design and develop an app and additional fees to update the software.

A number of firms offer app templates for small businesses that require no programming knowledge. For example, Red Foundry lets owners use its templates to build and test an iOS app for free. Once the app is submitted to Apple, Red Foundry charges $9 to $599 per month and provides performance analytics for users paying $39 or more per month. The company is working on a platform for Android apps. The average time to create an app on this platform is 6 days, which includes editing images and other tasks. The actual time creating the app on Red Foundry’s platform is about 4 hours.

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Figure 11.5 Total Cost of Offshore Outsourcing If a firm spends $10 million on offshore outsourcing contracts, that company will actu- ally spend 15.2 percent in extra costs even under the best-case scenario. In the worst- case scenario, where there is a dramatic drop in productivity along with exceptionally high transi- tion and layoff costs, a firm can expect to pay up to 57 percent in extra costs on top of the $10 million outlay for an offshore contract.


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Technologies and business conditions are changing so rapidly that agility and scalability have become critical elements of system solutions. Companies are adopting shorter, more informal development processes for many of their e-commerce and e-business applications, processes that provide fast solutions that do not disrupt their core transaction processing sys- tems and organizational databases. In addition to using software packages, application ser- vice providers, and other outsourcing services, they are relying more heavily on fast-cycle techniques, such as joint application design (JAD), prototypes, and reusable standardized software components that can be assembled into a complete set of services for e-commerce and e-business.

The term rapid application development (RAD) refers to the process of creating workable systems in a very short period of time. RAD includes the use of visual programming and other tools for building graphical user interfaces, iterative prototyping of key system elements, the automation of program code generation, and close teamwork among end users and information systems specialists. Simple systems often can be assembled from prebuilt components (see Section 11.3). The process does not have to be sequential, and key parts of development can occur simultaneously.

Sometimes a technique called joint application design (JAD) will be used to accelerate the generation of information requirements and to develop the initial systems design. JAD brings end users and information systems specialists together in an interactive session to discuss the system’s design. Properly prepared and facilitated, JAD sessions can significantly speed up the design phase and involve users at an intense level.

The Interactive Session on Technology illustrates another approach for rapid development called Scrum. Software firm DST Systems needed a more agile and fast-paced method for developing its products in order to keep up with competitors. It adopted the Scrum methodology for software development. As you read this case, try to determine how Scrum provided a solution for DST.

11.3 Modeling and Designing Systems

We have just described alternative methods for building systems. There are also alternative methodologies for modeling and designing systems. The two most prominent are structured methodologies and object-oriented development.


Structured methodologies have been used to document, analyze, and design information systems since the 1970s. Structured refers to the fact that the techniques are step by step, with each step building on the previous one. Structured methodologies are top-down, progressing from the highest, most abstract level to the lowest level of detail—from the general to the specific.

Structured development methods are process-oriented, focusing primarily on modeling the processes, or actions, that capture, store, manipulate, and distribute data as the data flow through a system. These methods separate data from processes. A separate programming procedure must be written every time someone wants to take an action on a particular piece of data. The procedures act on data that the program passes to them.

The primary tool for representing a system’s component processes and the flow of data between them is the data flow diagram (DFD). The data flow diagram offers a logical graphic model of information flow, partitioning a system into modules that show manageable levels of detail. It rigorously specifies the processes or transformations that occur within each module and the interfaces that exist between them.

Figure 11.6 shows a simple data flow diagram for a mail-in university course registration system. The rounded boxes represent processes, which portray the transformation of data.

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INTERACTIVE SESSION: TECHNOLOGY DST Systems Scores with Scrum and Application Lifecycle Management

Companies like DST Systems have recognized the value in Scrum development to their bottom lines, but making the transition from traditional developmental methods to Scrum development can be challenging. DST Systems is a software development company whose flagship product, Automated Work Distributor, increases back-office efficiency and helps offices become paperless. DST was founded in 1969 and its headquarters are in Kansas City, Missouri. The company has approximately ten thousand employees, 1,200 of whom are software developers.

This development group had used a mixture of tools, processes, and source code control systems, with- out any unified repository for code or single developer tool set. Different groups within the organization used very different tools for software development, like Serena PVCS, Eclipse, or other source code software packages. Processes were often manual and time consuming. Managers were unable to easily determine how resources were being allocated, which of their employees were working on certain projects, and the status of specific assets.

All of this meant that DST struggled to update its most important product, AWD, in a timely fashion. Its typical development schedule was to release a new version once every two years, but competitors were releasing versions faster. DST knew that it needed a better method than the traditional “waterfall” method for designing, coding, testing, and integrating its products. In the waterfall model of software develop- ment, progression flows sequentially from one step to the next like a waterfall, with each step unable to start until the previous step has been completed. While DST had used this method with great success previ- ously, DST began searching for viable alternatives.

The development group started exploring Scrum, a framework for agile software development in which projects progress via a series of iterations called sprints. Scrum projects make progress in a series of sprints, which are timeboxed iterations no more than a month long. At the start of a sprint, team members commit to delivering some number of features that were listed on a project’s product backlog. These features are supposed to be completed by the end of the sprint — coded, tested, and integrated into the evolving prod- uct or system. At the end of the sprint, a sprint review allows the team to demonstrate the new functionality to the product owner and other interested stakeholders who provide feedback that could influence the next sprint.

Scrum relies on self-organizing, cross-functional teams supported by a ScrumMaster and a product

owner. The ScrumMaster acts as a coach for the team, while the product owner represents the business, customers or users in guiding the team toward building the right product.

DST tried Scrum with its existing software development tools and experienced strong results. The company accelerated its software development cycle from 24 to 6 months and developer productivity increased 20 percent, but Scrum didn’t work as well as DST had hoped with its existing tools. Processes broke down and the lack of standardization among the tools and processes used by DST prevented Scrum from providing its maximum benefit to the company. DST needed an application lifecycle management (ALM) product that would unify its software development environment.

DST set up a project evaluation team to identify the right development environment for them. Key factors included cost-effectiveness, ease of adoption, and feature-effectiveness. DST wanted the ability to use the new software without significant training and software they could quickly adopt without jeopardizing AWD’s development cycle. After considering several ALM products and running test projects with each one, DST settled on CollabNet’s offering, TeamForge, for its ALM platform.

CollabNet specializes in software designed to work well with agile software development methods such as Scrum. Its core product is TeamForge, an integrated suite of Web-based development and collaboration tools for agile software development that centralizes management of users, projects, processes, and assets. DST also adopted CollabNet’s Subversion product to help with the manage- ment and control of changes to project documents, programs, and other information stored as computer files. DST’s adoption of CollabNet’s products was fast, requiring only 10 weeks, and DST developers now do all of their work within this ALM platform. TeamForge was not forced on developers, but the ALM platform was so appealing compared to DST’s previous environment that developers adopted the product virally.

Jerry Tubbs, the systems development manager at DST systems, says that DST was successful in its attempts to revamp its software group because of a few factors. First, it looked for simplicity rather than complicated, do-everything offerings. Simpler wasn’t just better for DST, it was also much cheaper than some of the alternatives. DST also involved developers in the decision-making process to ensure that changes would be greeted enthusiastically. Lastly, by allowing

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1. What were some of the problems with DST Systems’ old software development environment?

2. How did Scrum development help solve some of those problems?

3. What other adjustments did DST make to use Scrum more effectively in its software projects? What people, organization, and technology issues had to be addressed?

Search the Internet for videos or Web sites explaining Scrum or agile development. Then answer the following questions:

1. Describe some of the benefits and drawbacks of Scrum development.

2. How does Scrum differ from other software development methodologies?

3. What are the potential benefits to companies using Scrum development?

developers to adopt ALM software on their own, DST avoided the resentment associated with mandating unwelcome change. DST’s move from waterfall devel- opment to Scrum development was a success because the company selected the right development frame-

work as well as the right software to make that change a reality and skillfully managed the change process.

Sources: Jerry Tubbs, “Team Building Goes Viral,” Information Week, February 22, 2010; www.collab.net, accessed August 2, 2011; Mountain Goat Software, “Introduction to Scrum — An Agile Process,” www.mountaingoatsoftware. com/topics/scrum, accessed August 2010.


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The square box represents an external entity, which is an originator or receiver of information located outside the boundaries of the system being modeled. The open rectangles represent data stores, which are either manual or automated inventories of data. The arrows represent data flows, which show the movement between processes, external entities, and data stores. They always contain packets of data with the name or content of each data flow listed beside the arrow.

This data flow diagram shows that students submit registration forms with their names, identification numbers, and the numbers of the courses they wish to take. In Process 1.0, the system verifies that each course selected is still open by referencing the university’s course file. The file distinguishes courses that are open from those that have been canceled or filled. Process 1.0 then determines which of the student’s selections can be accepted or rejected. Process 2.0 enrolls the student in the courses for which he or she has been accepted. It updates the university’s course file with the student’s name and identification number and recalculates the class size. If maximum enrollment has been reached, the course number is flagged as closed. Process 2.0 also updates the university’s student master file with informa- tion about new students or changes in address. Process 3.0 then sends each student applicant a confirmation-of-registration letter listing the courses for which he or she is registered and noting the course selections that could not be fulfilled.

Through leveled data flow diagrams, a complex process can be broken down into successive levels of detail. An entire system can be divided into subsystems with a high-level data flow diagram. Each subsystem, in turn, can be divided into additional subsystems with lower-level data flow diagrams, and the lower-level subsystems can be broken down again until the lowest level of detail has been reached. Process specifications describe the transformation occurring within the lowest level of the data flow diagrams, showing the logic for each process.

In structured methodology, software design is modeled using hierarchical structure charts. The structure chart is a top-down chart, showing each level of design, its relation- ship to other levels, and its place in the overall design structure. The design first considers the main function of a program or system, then breaks this function into subfunctions, and decomposes each subfunction until the lowest level of detail has been reached. Figure 11.7 IS


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shows a high-level structure chart for a payroll system. If a design has too many levels to fit onto one structure chart, it can be broken down further on more detailed structure charts. A structure chart may document one program, one system (a set of programs), or part of one program.


Structured methods treat data and processes as logically separate entities, whereas in the real world such separation seems unnatural. Different modeling conventions are used for analysis (the data flow diagram) and for design (the structure chart).

Object-oriented development addresses these issues. Object-oriented development uses the object, which we introduced in Chapter 4, as the basic unit of systems analysis and design. An object combines data and the specific processes that operate on those data. Data encapsulated in an object can be accessed and modified only by the operations, or methods, associated with that object. Instead of passing data to procedures, programs send a message for an object to perform an operation that is already embedded in it. The system is modeled

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Figure 11.6 Data Flow Diagram for Mail-in University Registration System The system has three processes: Verify avail- ability (1.0), enroll student (2.0), and confirm registration (3.0). The name and content of each of the data flows appear adjacent to each arrow. There is one external entity in this system: the student. There are two data stores: the student master file and the course file.

Figure 11.7 High-Level Structure Chart for a Payroll System This structure chart shows the highest or most abstract level of design for a payroll system, providing an overview of the entire system.


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as a collection of objects and the relationships among them. Because processing logic resides within objects rather that in separate software programs, objects must collaborate with each other to make the system work.

Object-oriented modeling is based on the concepts of class and inheritance. Objects belonging to a certain class, or general categories of similar objects, have the features of that class. Classes of objects in turn inherit all the structure and behaviors of a more general class and then add variables and behaviors unique to each object. New classes of objects are created by choosing an existing class and specifying how the new class differs from the existing class, instead of starting from scratch each time.

We can see how class and inheritance work in Figure 11.8, which illustrates the relationships among classes concerning employees and how they are paid. Employee is the common ancestor, or superclass, for the other three classes. Salaried, Hourly, and Temporary are subclasses of Employee. The class name is in the top compartment, the attributes for each class are in the middle portion of each box, and the list of operations is in the bottom portion of each box. The features that are shared by all employees (ID, name, address, date hired, position, and pay) are stored in the Employee superclass, whereas each subclass stores features that are specific to that particular type of employee. Specific to Hourly employees, for example, are their hourly rates and overtime rates. A solid line from the subclass to the superclass is a generalization path showing that the subclasses Salaried, Hourly, and Temporary have common features that can be generalized into the superclass Employee.

Object-oriented development is more iterative and incremental than traditional structured development. During systems analysis, systems builders document the func- tional requirements of the system, specifying its most important properties and what the proposed system must do. Interactions between the system and its users are analyzed to identify objects, which include both data and processes. The object-oriented design phase describes how the objects will behave and how they will interact with one other. Similar objects are grouped together to form a class, and classes are grouped into hierarchies in which a subclass inherits the attributes and methods from its superclass.

The information system is implemented by translating the design into program code, reusing classes that are already available in a library of reusable software objects and adding new ones created during the object-oriented design phase. Implementation may also involve the creation of an object-oriented database. The resulting system must be thoroughly tested and evaluated.

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Figure 11.8 Class and Inheritance This figure illustrates how classes inherit the common features of their superclass.


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Because objects are reusable, object-oriented development could potentially reduce the time and cost of writing software if organizations reuse software objects that have already been created as building blocks for other applications. New systems can be created by using some existing objects, changing others, and adding a few new objects.

Component-Based Development, Web Services, and Cloud-Based Development To further expedite software creation, groups of objects have been assembled into software components for common functions, such as a graphical user interface or online ordering capability, and these components can be combined to create large-scale business applica- tions. This approach to software development is called component-based development. Businesses are using component-based development to create their e-commerce applications by combining commercially available components for shopping carts, user authentication, search engines, and catalogs with pieces of software for their own unique business require- ments.

Chapter 4 introduced Web services as loosely coupled, reusable software components based on Extensible Markup Language (XML) and other open protocols and standards that enable one application to communicate with another with no custom programming required. In addition to supporting internal and external integration of systems, Web services provide nonproprietary tools for building new information system applications or enhancing existing systems.

Platform as a service (PaaS), introduced in the Chapter 4 discussion of cloud computing, also holds considerable potential for helping system developers quickly write and test customer- or employee-facing Web applications. These online development environments come from a range of vendors, including Oracle, IBM, Salesforce.com (Force.com), and Microsoft (Azure). These platforms automate tasks such as setting up a newly composed application as a Web service or linking to other applications and services. Some also offer a cloud infrastructure service, or links to cloud vendors such as Amazon, so that developers can launch what they build in a cloud infrastructure.


Computer-aided software engineering (CASE)—sometimes called computer-aided systems engineering—provides software tools to automate the methodologies we have just described to reduce the amount of repetitive work in systems development. CASE tools provide automated graphics facilities for producing charts and diagrams, screen and report generators, data dictionaries, extensive reporting facilities, analysis and checking tools, code generators, and documentation generators. CASE tools also contain features for validating design diagrams and specifications.

CASE tools facilitate clear documentation and coordination of team development efforts. Team members can share their work by accessing each other’s files to review or modify what has been done. Modest productivity benefits are achieved if the tools are used properly. Many CASE tools are PC based, with powerful graphical capabilities.

11.4 Project Management

Your company might have developed what appears to be an excellent system solution. Yet when the system is in use, it does not work properly or it doesn’t deliver the benefits that were promised. If this occurs, your firm is not alone. There is a very high failure rate among information systems projects because they have not been properly managed. The Standish Group consultancy, which monitors IT project success rates, found that only 32 percent of all technology investments were completed on time, on budget, and with all features and functions originally specified (McCafferty, 2010). Firms may have incorrectly assessed the business value of the new system or were unable to manage the organizational change

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required by the new technology. That’s why it’s essential to know how to manage informa- tion systems projects and the reasons why they succeed or fail.


A project is a planned series of related activities for achieving a specific business objective. Information systems projects include the development of new information systems, enhance- ment of existing systems, or projects for replacement or upgrading of the firm’s information technology (IT) infrastructure.

Project management refers to the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to achieve specific targets within specified budget and time constraints. Project management activities include planning the work, assessing risk, estimating resources required to accomplish the work, organizing the work, acquiring human and material resources, assigning tasks, directing activities, controlling project execution, reporting progress, and analyzing the results. As in other areas of business, project management for information systems must deal with five major variables: scope, time, cost, quality, and risk.

Scope defines what work is or is not included in a project. For example, the scope of a project for a new order processing system might include new modules for inputting orders and transmitting them to production and accounting but not any changes to related accounts receivable, manufacturing, distribution, or inventory control systems. Project management defines all the work required to complete a project successfully, and should ensure that the scope of a project does not expand beyond what was originally intended.

Time is the amount of time required to complete the project. Project management typically establishes the amount of time required to complete major components of a project. Each of these components is further broken down into activities and tasks. Project manage- ment tries to determine the time required to complete each task and establish a schedule for completing the work.

Cost is based on the time to complete a project multiplied by the daily cost of human resources required to complete the project. Information systems project costs also include the cost of hardware, software, and work space. Project management develops a budget for the project and monitors ongoing project expenses.

Quality is an indicator of how well the end result of a project satisfies the objectives specified by management. The quality of information systems projects usually boils down to improved organizational performance and decision making. Quality also considers the accuracy and timeliness of information produced by the new system and ease of use.

Risk refers to potential problems that would threaten the success of a project. These potential problems might prevent a project from achieving its objectives by increasing time and cost, lowering the quality of project outputs, or preventing the project from being completed altogether. We discuss the most important risk factors for information systems projects later in this section.


Companies typically are presented with many different projects for solving problems and improving performance. There are far more ideas for systems projects than there are resources. You will need to select the projects that promise the greatest benefit to the business.

Determining Project Costs and Benefits As we pointed out earlier, the systems analysis includes an assessment of the economic feasibility of each alternative solution—whether each solution represents a good investment for the company. In order to identify the information systems projects that will deliver the most business value, you’ll need to identify their costs and benefits and how they relate to the firm’s information systems plan.

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Table 11.2 lists some of the more common costs and benefits of systems. Tangible benefits can be quantified and assigned a monetary value. Intangible benefits, such as more efficient customer service or enhanced decision making, cannot be immediately quantified. Yet systems that produce mainly intangible benefits may still be good investments if they produce quantifiable gains in the long run.

To determine the benefits of a particular solution, you’ll need to calculate all of its costs and all of its benefits. Obviously, a solution where costs exceed benefits should be rejected. But even if the benefits outweigh the costs, some additional financial analysis is required to determine whether the investment represents a good return on the firm’s invested capital. Capital budgeting methods, such as net present value, internal rate of return (IRR), or accounting rate of return on investment (ROI), would typically be employed to evaluate the proposed information system solution as an investment. You can find out more about how these capital budgeting methods are used to justify information system investments in our Learning Tracks.

Some of the tangible benefits obtained by the Girl Scouts were increased productivity and lower operational costs resulting from automating the ordering process and from reducing errors. Intangible benefits included enhanced volunteer job satisfaction and improved operations.

The Information Systems Plan An information systems plan shows how specific information systems fit into a company’s overall business plan and business strategy. Table 11.3 lists the major compo- nents of such a plan. The plan contains a statement of corporate goals and specifies how information technology will help the business attain these goals. The report shows how general goals will be achieved by specific systems projects. It identifies specific target dates and milestones that can be used later to evaluate the plan’s progress in terms of how many objectives were actually attained in the time frame specified in the plan. The plan indicates the key management decisions concerning hardware acquisition; telecommu- nications; centralization/decentralization of authority, data, and hardware; and required organizational change.

The plan should describe organizational changes, including management and employee training requirements, changes in business processes, and changes in authority, structure, or management practice. When you are making the business case for a new information system project, you show how the proposed system fits into that plan.

Portfolio Analysis and Scoring Models Once you have determined the overall direction of systems development, portfolio analysis will help you evaluate alternative system projects. Portfolio analysis inventories all of the firm’s information systems projects and assets, including infrastructure, outsourcing contracts, and licenses. This portfolio of information systems investments can be described as having a certain profile of risk and benefit to the firm (see Figure 11.9), similar to a financial portfolio. Each information systems project carries its own set of risks and benefits. Firms try to improve the return on their information system portfolios by balancing the risk and return from their systems investments.

Obviously, you begin first by focusing on systems of high benefit and low risk. These promise early returns and low risks. Second, high-benefit, high-risk systems should be examined; low-benefit, high-risk systems should be totally avoided; and low-benefit, low-risk systems should be reexamined for the possibility of rebuilding and replacing them with more desirable systems having higher benefits. By using portfolio analysis, manage- ment can determine the optimal mix of investment risk and reward for their firms, balancing riskier, high-reward projects with safer, lower-reward ones.

Another method for evaluating alternative system solutions is a scoring model. Scoring models give alternative systems a single score based on the extent to which they meet selected objectives. Table 11.4 shows part of a simple scoring model that could have been used by the Girl Scouts in evaluating their alternative systems. The first column lists the


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Chapter 11: Building Information Systems and Managing Projects 391

criteria that decision makers use to evaluate the systems. Table 11.4 shows that the Girl Scouts attach the most importance to capabilities for sales order processing, ease of use, ability to support users in many different locations, and low cost. The second column in Table 11.4 lists the weights that decision makers attached to the decision criteria. Columns 3 and 5 show the percentage of requirements for each function that each alternative system meets. Each alternative’s score is calculated by multiplying the percentage of requirements met for each function by the weight attached to that function. The QuickBase solution has the highest total score.


Some systems development projects are more likely to run into problems or to suffer delays because they carry a much higher level of risk than others. The level of project risk is influenced by project size, project structure, and the level of technical expertise of the information systems staff and project team. The larger the project—as indicated by the dollars spent, project team size, and how many parts of the organization will be affected by the new system—the greater the risk. Very large-scale systems projects have a failure rate that is 50 to 75 percent higher than that for other projects because such projects are complex and difficult to control. Risks are also higher for systems where information requirements are not clear and straightforward or the project team must master new tech- nology.

Implementation and Change Management Dealing with these project risks requires an understanding of the implementation process and change management. A broader definition of implementation refers to all the organizational activities working toward the adoption and management of an innovation,

TABLE 11.2

Costs and Benefits of Information Systems





Personnel costs


Computer processing time


Operating staff

User time

Ongoing training costs

Facility costs


Increased productivity

Lower operational costs

Reduced workforce

Lower computer expenses

Lower outside vendor costs

Lower clerical and professional costs

Reduced rate of growth in expenses

Reduced facility costs

Increased sales


Improved asset utilization

Improved resource control

Improved organizational planning

Increased organizational fl exibility

More timely information

More information

Increased organizational learning

Legal requirements attained

Enhanced employee goodwill

Increased job satisfaction

Improved decision making

Improved operations

Higher client satisfaction

Better corporate image


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TABLE 11.3

Information Systems Plan

1. Purpose of the Plan

Overview of plan contents

Current business organization and future organization

Key business processes

Management strategy

2. Strategic Business Plan Rationale

Current situation

Current business organization

Changing environments

Major goals of the business plan

Firm’s strategic plan

3. Current Systems

Major systems supporting business functions and processes

Current infrastructure capabilities




Telecommunications and the Internet

Diffi culties meeting business requirements

Anticipated future demands

4. New Developments

New system projects

Project descriptions

Business rationale

Applications’ role in strategy

New infrastructure capabilities required




Telecommunications and the Internet

5. Management Strategy

Acquisition plans

Milestones and timing

Organizational realignment

Internal reorganization

Management controls

Major training initiatives

Personnel strategy

6. Implementation of the Plan

Anticipated diffi culties in implementation

Progress reports

7. Budget Requirements


Potential savings


Acquisition cycle

such as a new information system. Successful implementation requires a high level of user involvement in a project and management support.

If users are heavily involved in the development of a system, they have more opportunities to mold the system according to their priorities and business requirements, and more


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opportunities to control the outcome. They also are more likely to react positively to the completed system because they have been active participants in the change process.

The relationship between end users and information systems specialists has traditionally been a problem area for information systems implementation efforts because of differing backgrounds, interests, and priorities. These differences create a user-designer communications gap. Information systems specialists often have a highly technical orientation to problem solving, focusing on technical solutions in which hardware and software efficiency is optimized at the expense of ease of use or organizational effectiveness. End users prefer systems that are oriented toward solving business problems or facilitating organizational tasks. Often the orientations of both groups are so at odds that they appear to speak in different tongues. These differences are illustrated in Table 11.5.

If an information systems project has the backing and commitment of management at various levels, it is more likely to receive higher priority from both users and the technical information systems staff. Management backing also ensures that a systems project receives sufficient funding and resources to be successful. Furthermore, to be enforced effectively, all the changes in work habits and procedures and any organizational realignments associated with a new system depend on management backing.

Controlling Risk Factors There are strategies you can follow to deal with project risk and increase the chances of a successful system solution. If the new system involves challenging and complex technol- ogy, you can recruit project leaders with strong technical and administrative experience. Outsourcing or using external consultants are options if your firm does not have staff with the required technical skills or expertise.

Large projects benefit from appropriate use of formal planning and tools for document- ing and monitoring project plans. The two most commonly used methods for documenting project plans are Gantt charts and PERT charts. A Gantt chart lists project activities and their corresponding start and completion dates. The Gantt chart visually represents the tim- ing and duration of different tasks in a development project as well as their human resource requirements (see Figure 11.10). It shows each task as a horizontal bar whose length is pro- portional to the time required to complete it.

Although Gantt charts show when project activities begin and end, they don’t depict task dependencies, how one task is affected if another is behind schedule, or how tasks should be ordered. That is where PERT charts are useful. PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique, a methodology developed by the U.S. Navy during the 1950s to manage the Polaris submarine missile program. A PERT chart graphically depicts project tasks and their interrelationships. The PERT chart lists the specific activities that make up a project and the activities that must be completed before a specific activity can start, as illustrated in Figure 11.11.

Figure 11.9 A System Portfolio Companies should examine their portfolio of projects in terms of poten- tial benefits and likely risks. Certain kinds of proj- ects should be avoided altogether and others developed rapidly. There is no ideal mix. Companies in different industries have different information systems needs.


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394 Part IV: Building and Managing Systems

TABLE 11.4

Example of a Scoring Model for the Girl Scouts Cookie System

Criteria Weight Microsoft Access

System (%) Microsoft Access

System Score QuickBase System (%)

QuickBase System Score

1.1 Order processing

1.2 Online order entry 5 67 335 83 415

1.3 Order tracking by troop 5 81 405 87 435

1.4 Order tracking by

individual Girl Scout 5 72 360 80 400

1.5 Reserving warehouse

pickups 3 66 198 79 237

Total order processing 1,298 1,487

2.1 Ease of use

2.1 Web access from

multiple locations 5 55 275 92 460

2.1 Short training time 4 79 316 85 340

2.1 User-friendly screens

and data entry forms 4 65 260 87 348

Total ease of use 851 1,148

3.1 Costs

3.2 Software costs 3 51 153 65 195

3.3 Hardware (server) costs 4 57 228 90 360

3.4 Maintenance and

support costs 4 42 168 89 356

Total costs 549 911

Grand Total 2,698 3,546

The PERT chart portrays a project as a network diagram consisting of numbered nodes (either circles or rectangles) representing project tasks. Each node is numbered and shows the task, its duration, the starting date, and the completion date. The direction of the arrows on the lines indicates the sequence of tasks and shows which activities must be completed before the commencement of another activity. In Figure 11.11, the tasks in nodes 2, 3, and 4 are not dependent on each other and can be undertaken simultaneously, but each is depen- dent on completion of the first task.

Project Management Software Commercial software tools are available to automate the creation of Gantt and PERT charts and to facilitate the project management process. Project management software typically features capabilities for defining and ordering tasks, assigning resources to tasks, establishing starting and ending dates for tasks, tracking progress, and facilitating modifications to tasks and resources. The most widely used project management tool today is Microsoft Office Project.


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Chapter 11: Building Information Systems and Managing Projects 395

Overcoming User Resistance You can overcome user resistance by promoting user participation (to elicit commitment as well as to improve design), by making user education and training easily available, and by providing better incentives for users who cooperate. End users can become active members of the project team, take on leadership roles, and take charge of system installation and training.

You should pay special attention to areas where users interface with the system, with sensitivity to ergonomics issues. Ergonomics refers to the interaction of people and machines in the work environment. It considers the design of jobs, health issues, and the end-user interface of information systems. For instance, if a system has a series of compli- cated online data entry screens that are extremely difficult or time-consuming to work with, users will reject the system if it increases their work load or level of job stress.

Users will be more cooperative if organizational problems are solved prior to introduc- ing the new system. In addition to procedural changes, transformations in job functions, organizational structure, power relationships, and behavior should be identified during systems analysis using an organizational impact analysis.


As globalization proceeds, companies will be building many more new systems that are global in scale, spanning many different units in many different countries. The project man- agement challenges for global systems are similar to those for domestic systems, but they are complicated by the international environment. User information requirements, business processes, and work cultures differ from country to country. It is difficult to convince local managers anywhere in the world to change their business processes and ways of work- ing to align with units in other countries, especially if this might interfere with their local performance.

Involving people in change, and assuring them that change is in the best interests of the company and their local units, is a key tactic for convincing users to adopt global systems and standards. Information systems projects should involve users in the design process without giving up control over the project to parochial interests.

One tactic is to permit each country unit in a global corporation to develop one transna- tional application first in its home territory, and then throughout the world. In this manner, each major country systems group is given a piece of the action in developing a transna- tional system, and local units feel a sense of ownership in the transnational effort. On the downside, this assumes the ability to develop high-quality systems is widely distributed, and that, a German team, for example, can successfully implement systems in France and Italy. This will not always be the case.

TABLE 11.5

The User-Designer Communications Gap

User Concerns Designer Concerns

Will the system deliver the information I need for

my work?

What demands will this system put on our


Can we access the data on our iPhones,

Blackberrys, tablets, and PCs?

What kind of programming demands will this

place on our group?

What new procedures do we need to enter data

into the system?

Where will the data be stored? What’s the most

effi cient way to store them?

How will the operation of the system change

employees’ daily routines?

What technologies should we use to secure

the data?


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396 Part IV: Building and Managing Systems

Figure 11.10 A Gantt Chart The Gantt chart in this figure shows the task, person-days, and initials of each responsible person, as well as the start and finish dates for each task. The resource summary provides a good manager with the total person-days for each month and for each person working on the project to manage the project successfully. The project described here is a data administration project.


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A second tactic is to develop new transnational centers of excellence, or a single center of excellence. These centers draw heavily from local national units, are based on multina- tional teams, and must report to worldwide management. Centers of excellence perform the business and systems analysis and accomplish all design and testing. Implementation, however, and pilot testing are rolled out to other parts of the globe. Recruiting a wide range of local groups to transnational centers of excellence helps send the message that all significant groups are involved in the design and will have an influence.

Chapter 11: Building Information Systems and Managing Projects 397

Figure 11.11 A PERT Chart This is a simplified PERT chart for creating a small Web site. It shows the ordering of project tasks and the relationship of a task with preceding and succeeding tasks.


The following Learning Tracks provide content relevant to topics covered in this chapter:

1. Capital Budgeting Methods for Information System Investments

2. Enterprise Analysis (Business Systems Planning) and Critical Success Factors (CSFs)

3. Unified Modeling Language (UML)

4. IT Investments and Productivity


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398 Part IV: Building and Managing Systems

Review Summary

1 What are the core problem-solving steps for developing new information systems? The core problem-solving steps for developing new information systems are: (1) define and understand the problem, (2) develop alternative solutions, (3) evaluate and choose the solution, and (4) implement the solution. The third step includes an assessment of the technical, financial, and organizational feasibility of each alternative. The fourth step entails finalizing design specifications, acquiring hardware and software, testing, providing training and documentation, conversion, and evaluating the system solution once it is in production.

2 What are the alternative methods for building information systems? The systems lifecycle requires that information systems be developed in formal stages. The stages must proceed sequentially and have defined outputs; each requires formal approval before the next stage can commence. The system lifecycle is rigid and costly but nevertheless useful for large projects.

Prototyping consists of building an experimental system rapidly and inexpensively for end users to interact with and evaluate. The prototype is refined and enhanced until users are satisfied that it includes all of their requirements and can be used as a template to create the final system. End-user-developed systems can be created rapidly and informally using fourth-generation software tools. End-user development can improve requirements determination and reduce application backlog.

Application software packages eliminate the need for writing software programs when developing an information system. Application software packages are helpful if a firm does not have the internal information systems staff or financial resources to custom-develop a system.

Outsourcing consists of using an external vendor to build (or operate) a firm’s information systems. If it is properly managed, outsourcing can save application development costs or enable firms to develop applications without an internal information systems staff.

Rapid application design, joint application design (JAD), cloud-based platforms, and reusable software components (including Web services) can be used to speed up the systems development process.

3 What are the principal methodologies for modeling and designing systems? The two principal methodologies for modeling and designing information systems are structured methodologies and object-oriented development. Structured methodologies focus on modeling processes and data separately. The data flow diagram is the principal tool for structured analysis, and the structure chart is the principal tool for representing structured software design. Object-oriented development models a system as a collection of objects that combine processes and data.

4 How should information systems projects be selected and evaluated? To determine whether an information system project is a good investment, one must calculate its costs and benefits. Tangible benefits are quantifiable, and intangible benefits cannot be immediately quantified but may provide quantifiable benefits in the future. Benefits that exceed costs should then be analyzed using capital budgeting methods to make sure they represent a good return on the firm’s invested capital.

Organizations should develop information systems plans that describe how information technology supports the company’s overall business plan and strategy. Portfolio analysis and scoring models can be used to evaluate alternative information systems projects.


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Chapter 11: Building Information Systems and Managing Projects 399

5 How should information systems projects be managed? Information systems projects and the entire implementation process should be managed as planned organizational change using an organizational impact analysis. Management support and control of the implementation process are essential, as are mechanisms for dealing with the level of risk in each new systems project. Project risks are influenced by project size, project structure, and the level of technical expertise of the information systems staff and project team. Formal planning and control tools (including Gantt and PERT charts) track the resource allocations and specific project activities. Users can be encouraged to take active roles in systems development and become involved in installation and training. Global information systems projects should involve local units in the creation of the design without giving up control of the project to parochial interests.

Information systems plan, 400

Intangible benefits, 400 Joint application design

(JAD), 393 Maintenance, 386 Object-oriented

development, 395 Organizational impact

analysis, 405 Parallel strategy, 386 PERT charts, 405 Phased approach, 386 Portfolio analysis, 402 Process specifications, 394 Production, 386 Project, 397 Project management, 397 Prototyping, 388

Rapid application development (RAD), 392

Request for Proposal (RFP), 389

Scope, 397 Scoring model, 402 Structure chart, 394 Structured, 393 System testing, 384 Systems analysis, 382 Systems design, 383 Systems development

lifecycle (SDLC), 387 Tangible benefits, 400 Test plan, 384 Testing, 384 Unit testing, 384 User-designer communi-

cations gap, 404

Acceptance testing, 384 Component-based

development, 396 Computer-aided software

engineering (CASE), 397 Conversion, 386 Customization, 390 Data flow diagram

(DFD), 393 Direct cutover strategy, 386 Documentation, 384 End-user development, 389 Ergonomics, 405 Feasibility study, 383 Formal planning

and tools, 405 Gantt chart, 405 Implementation, 404 Information

requirements, 382

Key Terms

Review Questions

1. What are the core problem-solving steps for developing new information systems? • List and describe the problem-solving steps for building a new system. • Define information requirements and explain why they are important for developing a

system solution. • List the various types of design specifications required for a new information system. • Explain why the testing stage of systems development is so important. Name and

describe the three stages of testing for an information system. • Describe the roles of documentation, conversion, production, and maintenance in

systems development.

2. What are the alternative methods for building information systems? • Define the traditional systems lifecycle and describe its advantages and disadvantages

for systems building. • Define information system prototyping and describe its benefits and limitations. List

and describe the steps in the prototyping process. • Define end-user development and explain its advantages and disadvantages. • Describe the advantages and disadvantages of developing information systems based on

application software packages.


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Hands-on MIS Projects

The projects in this section give you hands-on experience evaluating information systems projects, designing a customer system for auto sales, and analyzing Web site information requirements.


1. The Warm and Toasty Heating Oil Company used to deliver heating oil by sending trucks that printed out a ticket with the number of gallons of oil delivered and that was placed on customers’ doorsteps. Customers received their oil delivery bills in the mail two weeks later. The company recently revised its oil delivery and billing system so that oil truck drivers can calculate and print out a complete bill for each delivery and leave customers with the bill and a return envelope at the time the delivery takes place. Evaluate the business impact of the new system and the people and organizational changes required to implement the new technology.

2. Caterpillar is the world’s leading maker of earth-moving machinery and supplier of agricultural equipment. The software for its Dealer Business System (DBS), which it licenses to its dealers to help them run their businesses, is becoming outdated. Senior management wants its dealers to use a hosted version of the software supported by Accenture Consultants so Caterpillar can concentrate on its core business. The system had become a de-facto standard for doing business with the company. The majority of the 50 Cat dealers in North America use some version of DBS, as do about half of the

400 Part IV: Building and Managing Systems

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the role of business end users and information system professionals in developing a system solution. How do both roles differ when the solution is developed using prototyping or end-user develop- ment?

2. It has been said that systems fail when systems builders ignore “people” problems. Why might this be so?

3. Why is building a system a form of organizational problem-solving?

• Define outsourcing. Describe the circumstances in which it should be used for building information systems. List and describe the hidden costs of offshore software outsourcing.

• Explain how businesses can rapidly develop e-business applications.

3. What are the principal methodologies for modeling and designing systems? • Compare object-oriented and traditional structured approaches for modeling and

designing systems.

4. How should information systems projects be selected and evaluated? • Explain the difference between tangible and intangible benefits. • List six tangible benefits and six intangible benefits. • List and describe the major components of an information systems plan. • Describe how portfolio analysis and scoring models can be used to establish the worth

of systems.

5. How should information systems projects be managed? • Explain the importance of implementation for managing the organizational change

surrounding a new information system. • Define the user-designer communications gap and explain the kinds of implementation

problems it creates. • List and describe the factors that influence project risk and describe strategies for

minimizing project risks. • Describe tactics for managing global projects.


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200 or so Cat dealers in the rest of the world. Before Caterpillar turns the product over to Accenture, what factors and issues should it consider? What questions should it ask? What questions should its dealers ask?


Software skills: Database design, querying, reporting, and forms Business skills: Sales lead and customer analysis

This project requires you to perform a systems analysis and then design a system solution using database software.

Ace Auto Dealers specializes in selling new vehicles from Subaru in Portland, Oregon. The company advertises in local newspapers and is also listed as an authorized dealer on the Subaru Web site and other major Web sites for auto buyers. The company benefits from a good local word-of-mouth reputation and name recognition.

Ace does not believe it has enough information about its customers. It cannot easily determine which prospects have made auto purchases, nor can it identify which customer touch points have produced the greatest number of sales leads or actual sales so it can focus advertising and marketing more on the channels that generate the most revenue. Are pur- chasers discovering Ace from newspaper ads, from word of mouth, or from the Web?

Prepare a systems analysis report detailing Ace’s problem and a system solution that can be implemented using PC database management software. Then use database software to develop a simple system solution. In MyMISLab, you will find more information about Ace and its information requirements to help you develop the solution.


Software skills: Web browser software Business skills: Information requirements analysis, Web site design

Visit the Web site of your choice and explore it thoroughly. Prepare a report analyzing the various functions provided by that Web site and its information requirements. Your report should answer these questions: What functions does the Web site perform? What data does it use? What are its inputs, outputs, and processes? What are some of its other design speci- fications? Does the Web site link to any internal systems or systems of other organizations? What value does this Web site provide the firm?

Video Cases

Video Cases and Instructional Videos illustrating some of the concepts in this chapter are available. Contact your instructor to access these videos.

Collaboration and Teamwork

Preparing Web Site Design Specifications With three or four of your classmates, select a system described in this text that uses the Web. Review the Web site for the system you select. Use what you have learned from the Web site and the description in this book to prepare a report describing some of the design specifications for the system you select. If possible, use Google Sites to post links to Web pages, team communication announcements, and work assignments; to brainstorm; and to work collaboratively on project documents. Try to use Google Docs to develop a presenta- tion of your findings for the class.


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JetBlue and WestJet: A Tale of Two IS Projects

In recent years, the airline industry has seen several low-cost, high-efficiency carriers rise to prominence using a recipe of extremely competitive fares and outstanding customer service. Two examples of this business model in action are JetBlue and WestJet. Both companies were founded within the past two decades and have quickly grown into industry powerhouses. But when these companies need to make sweeping IT upgrades, their relationships with customers and their brands can be tarnished if things go awry. In 2009, both airlines upgraded their airline reservation systems, and one of the two learned this lesson the hard way.

JetBlue was incorporated in 1998 and founded in 1999 by David Neeleman. The company is headquartered in Queens, New York and flies to 63 destinations in 21 states and eleven countries in the Caribbean, South America and Latin America. JetBlue’s goal has been to provide low-cost travel along with unique amenities like TV in every seat, and its heavy reliance on information technology throughout the business was a critical factor in achieving that goal. JetBlue met with early success and continued to grow at a rapid pace, consistently ranking at the top of customer satisfaction surveys for U.S. airlines.

Headquartered in Calgary, Canada, WestJet was founded by a group of airline industry veterans in 1996, including Neeleman, who left to start JetBlue shortly thereafter. The company began with approximately 40 employees and three aircraft. Today, the company has 7,800 employees and operates 420 flights per day to 71 destinations in Canada, the United States, the Carib- bean, and Mexico. Earlier in this decade, WestJet under- went rapid expansion spurred by its early success and began adding more Canadian destinations and then U.S. cities for its flights. By 2010, WestJet held nearly 40 percent of the Canadian airline market, with Air Canada dropping to 55 percent.

JetBlue is slightly bigger, with 167 aircraft in use compared to WestJet’s 88, but both have used the same low-cost, good-service formula that brought profitability in the notoriously treacherous airline marketplace. The rapid growth of each airline rendered their existing information systems obsolete, including their airline reservation systems.

Upgrading reservations systems carries special risks. From a customer perspective, only one of two things can happen: Either the airline successfully completes its overhaul and the customer notices no difference in the ability to book flights, or the implementation is botched, angering customers and damaging the airline’s brand.

The time had come for both JetBlue and WestJet to upgrade their reservation systems. Each carrier had started out using a system designed for smaller start-up airlines, and both needed more processing power to deal with a far greater volume of customers. They also needed features like the ability to link prices and seat inventories to other airlines with whom they cooperated.

Both JetBlue and WestJet contracted with Sabre Holdings, one of the most widely used airline IT providers, to upgrade their airline reservation systems, The difference between WestJet and JetBlue’s implementation of Sabre’s SabreSonic CSS reservation system illustrates the dangers inherent in any large-scale IT overhaul. It also serves as yet another reminder of how successfully planning for and implementing new technology is just as valuable as the technology itself.

Sabre’s newest system, SabreSonic CSS, performs a broad array of services for any airline. It sells seats, collects payments, allows customers to shop for flights on the airline’s Web site, and provides an interface for communication with reservation agents. Customers can use it to access airport kiosks, select specific seats, check their bags, board, rebook, and receive refunds for flight cancellations. All of the data generated by these transactions are stored centrally within the system. JetBlue selected SabreSonic CSS over its legacy system developed by Sabre rival Navitaire, and WestJet was upgrading from an older Sabre reservation system of its own.

The first of the two airlines to implement SabreSonic CSS was WestJet. When WestJet went live with the new system in October 2009, customers struggled to place reservations, and the WestJet Web site crashed repeatedly. WestJet’s call centers were also overwhelmed, and customers experienced slowdowns at airports. For a company that built its business on the strength of good customer service, this was a nightmare. How did WestJet allow this to happen?

The critical issue was the transfer of WestJet’s 840,000 files containing data on transactions for past WestJet customers who had already purchased flights, from WestJet’s old reservation system servers in Calgary to Sabre servers in Oklahoma. The migration required WestJet agents to go through complex steps to process the data. WestJet had not anticipated the transfer time required to move the files and failed to reduce its passenger loads on flights operating immediately after the changeover. Hundreds of thousands of bookings for future flights that were made before the changeover were


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inaccessible during the file transfer and for a period of time thereafter, because Sabre had to adjust the flights using the new system.

This delay provoked a deluge of customer dissatisfaction, a rarity for WestJet. In addition to the increase in customer complaint calls, customers also took to the Internet to express their displeasure. Angry flyers expressed outrage on Facebook and flooded WestJet’s site, causing the repeated crashes. WestJet quickly offered an apology to customers on its site once it came back up, explaining why the errors had occurred. WestJet employees had trained with the new system for a combined 150,000 hours prior to the upgrade, but WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer explained that the company “encounter(ed) some problems in the live environment that simply did not appear in the test environment,” foremost among them the issues surrounding the massive file transfer.

WestJet’s latest earnings reports show that the company weathered the storm successfully, remained profitable, and ranks just below JetBlue and Southwest in airline customer satisfaction. Neverthless, the inci- dent forced the airline to slow down its rollout of a frequent flyer program, as well as code-sharing plans with other airlines, such as American Airlines and Cathay Pacific. These plans allow one airline to sell flights under its own name on aircraft operated by other airlines.

In contrast, JetBlue learned from WestJet’s mistakes, and built a backup Web site to prepare for the worst case scenario. The company also hired 500 temporary call center workers to manage potential spikes in customer service calls. WestJet also ended up hiring temporary offshore call center workers, but only after the problem had gotten out of hand. JetBlue made sure to switch its files over to Sabre’s servers on a Friday night, because Saturday flight traffic is typically very low. JetBlue also sold smaller numbers of seats on the flights that did take off that day.

JetBlue experienced a few glitches—call wait times increased and not all airport kiosks and ticket printers came online right away. In addition, JetBlue needs to add some booking functions. But compared to what WestJet endured, the company was extremely well prepared to

handle these problems. JetBlue ended up using its backup site several times.

JetBlue had the advantage of seeing WestJet begin its implementation months before, so it was able to avoid many of the pitfalls that WestJet endured. But JetBlue had also experienced similar customer service debacles in the past. In February 2007, JetBlue tried to operate flights during a blizzard when all other major airlines had already canceled their flights. This turned out to be a poor decision, as the weather conditions prevented the flights from taking off and passengers were stranded for as long as ten hours. JetBlue had to continue canceling flights for days afterwards, reaching a total of 1,100 flights canceled and a loss of $30 million. JetBlue management realized in the wake of the crisis that the airline’s IT infrastructure, although sufficient to deal with normal day-to-day conditions, was not robust enough to handle a crisis of this magnitude. This experience, coupled with the observation of WestJet’s struggles when implementing its new system, motivated JetBlue’s cautious approach to its own IT implementation.

Sources: Terry Maxon, “JetBlue, Southwest Top Annual Passenger Satisfaction Study,” McClatch-Tribune News Service, June 20, 2011; Susan Carey, “Two Paths to Software Upgrade,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2010; www.westjet.com, accessed August 4, 2011; www.jetblue.com, accessed June 25, 2011; Aaron Karp, “WestJet Offers ‘Heartfelt Apologies’ on Res System Snafus; Posts C$31 Million Profit,” Air Transport World, Nov. 5, 2009; Ellen Roseman, “WestJet Reservation Change Frustrates,” thestar.com, December 2, 2009; “JetBlue selects SabreSonic CSS for revenue and operational systems,” Shepard.com, February 17, 2009; “Jilted by JetBlue for Sabre,” Tnooz.com, February 5, 2010.

Case Study Questions 1. How important is the reservation system at airlines

such as WestJet and JetBlue. How does it impact operational activities and decision making?

2. Evaluate the risks of the projects to upgrade the reservation systems of WestJet and JetBlue and key risk factors.

3. Classify and describe the problems each airline faced in implementing its new reservation system. What people, organization, and technology factors caused those problems?

4. Describe the steps you would have taken to control the risk in these projects?


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Essentials of Management Information Systems, Tenth Edition, by Kenneth C. Laudon and Jane P. Laudon. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2013 by Pearson Education, Inc.

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