Explain how a business user could be involved in the core activities of building an information system.
Analyze how software development methodologies (such as agile development) can work in tandem with project management for the benefit of both information systems development projects and organizations.
Evaluate how project managers and/or IT managers can ensure that information system development projects are in alignment with business strategies and goals.
Information Systems Development and Project Management
Stiff competition among multinational corporations and other small businesses characterizes the global marketplace. In order to gain a competitive edge over competing businesses, it is imperative that organizations appreciate the role of project management and information systems development in increasing the competitiveness of organizations. Due to the rising nature of competitiveness, organizations must deliver projects within specified budgets and timeframes. Additionally, they must meet all the specifications of the project and manage risks. This paper examines how project managers can be involved in building an information system, the relation between agile development and project management, and finally the ways in which project managers can ensure that information systems development projects align with business strategies and goals.
It is imperative that business users become involved in the core activities of building an information system. Involvement of business users in building information systems is particularly a critical aspect during the initial stages of the process (He & King, 2008). One role of business users in building an information system is to provide vital details relating the entire project. Business users act as ancillaries in the development process. Their main role is to define the system requirements that the system developers should take into consideration. Business users should provide statement of requirements that have clarity in order to ensure that the entire project succeeds. User requirements act as a crucial guide to system developers in building an information system.
Business users are important in the early stages of system design. Business users can be involved in building an information system by providing critical information about existing problems in the old system (He & King, 2008). Business users interact with the current system on a daily basis. As such, they harbor a wealth of information regarding how the current business systems performs, its weaknesses, and areas that need improvement. Business users can therefore help system developers to understand better how the current system works. Business users can help system developers to apply easy methodologies in a quick manner. This is because system developers can be able to obtain and certify data from a variety of secondary sources, which can assist in applying the right methodologies (He & King, 2008). Business users can also enable system developers to identify and utilize easier methods for validating and designing the system functionalities.
Business users often communicate their working habits to system developers. This enables system developers to take into consideration the working habits of users when building the information system. This helps increase users’ acceptability of the new system through ensuring that the information system is easy from the perspective of the business user. Business users are involved in the core activities of building an information system through testing of the new system. Although the developers put the entire system through rigorous tests, some problems may still go undetected (He & King, 2008). Additionally, users hold the final say with regard to determining whether the new system meets their needs. Business users provide feedback to system developers, which enable the developers to make the necessary adjustments. Business users are responsible for reporting any bugs or problems in the new system to the developers. This can enable the developers to fix issues early enough.
Software development methodologies such as agile development can work in tandem with project management to enhance the success rate of information systems development projects and organizations. Traditional project management approaches have inherent limitations that lead to increased costs the business as well as time delays. Agile development can work in tandem with project management to drive costs down (Spundak, 2014). New project management initiatives closely relate with new software development approaches. One of the key characteristics of agile development is the capability to adapt to changes in relation to different projects or different stages of the lifecycle. Adaptability is considered more important to predictability, the latter being the basis for traditional project management approaches. In project management, change is bound to occur (Spundak, 2014). Software development approaches such as agile development anticipate these changes, bearing in mind that it is almost impossible to develop a perfect project plan in the initial stage of the project.
The traditional approach emphasize on exhaustive planning in contrast to the new approaches such as agile development that emphasize on project execution. Agile development can work in tandem with project management by emphasizing on strong relations between the project team members (Spundak, 2014). Agile development emphasizes about collaboration and open communication between the project team members. All the project team members contribute to decision making. The project team members maintain the aspects of formal and informal communication. All these ensure the success of information systems development projects and organizations. The above often leads to development of new ways of thinking within the organization through trying to embrace the new approaches. It is possible to see that agile development helps in addressing the weaknesses inherent in traditional approaches, which mainly relied on plans (Spundak, 2014). Agile development promises great results to organization and minimal costs.
The Agile Manifesto, established in 2001, outlines four critical values relating the agile approach. The four include “individuals and their interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan” (Spundak, 2014, p. 942). Despite the fact that the Agile Manifesto was primarily written with regard to software development, its four critical values still apply to the agile project management environment. Agile development seeks to inculcate certain basic principles such as shortening project delivery periods, product adaptation, reliable results, and achieving balance between employees and processes. The application of agile development follows a set of phases, similar to traditional project lifecycle phases. One of the commonly established phases in agile development involves envisioning, speculating, exploring, adapting and lastly closing.
It is important for project managers and/or IT managers to ensure that information systems development projects reflect the business strategies and goals. Aligning information systems development projects with the business strategies can help an organization in reducing costs, improve communication and workflow, standardizes processes, introduce new business strategies, gain competitive advantage, and among other benefits. The alignment process requires that project managers and/or IT managers establish an alignment process that entails keenly analyzing the dynamics surrounding an organization. The first step in ensuring that information systems development projects are in alignment with strategies and goals is to develop a deeper understanding of the business (Beveridge, n.d). Project managers and/or IT managers can develop this understanding by documenting both formal and informal business processes. Information systems development basically entails enhancing the processing, distribution, and storing of data or information. As such, understanding the business processes can be pivotal in achieving the alignment.
Project managers and/or IT managers should learn to acknowledge the culture of the organization. The structure and nature of the organization are critical in enhancing the alignment process. It is necessary for project managers and/or IT managers to learn the way things are in the organization. Disregarding the culture of the organization is one of the major reasons why application of new information systems project fails. According to Beveridge (n.d), it is important to match the nature of information systems with the nature of the organization, failure to which may result to dire consequences. The next step is study the nature of the information technology systems already in place. Project managers and/or IT managers should acquit themselves with knowledge regarding the nature of IT assets and applications in place. For instance, there is need to establish the number of information technology assets in place, their technical attributes, their life expectancy, cost of their installation, and other important aspects as well.
Project managers and/or IT managers can ensure alignment of the processes by understanding the value chain. Organizations comprise of a string of value chains, which entail converting inputs into outputs or the finished products (Beveridge, n.d). Aligning the value chain with the information systems development project is critical because it ensures that there is smooth integration between the information technology estate and the business functions. For instance, in a customer order process, there are a number of steps such as order entry, picking, dispatch, and among others, which follow a certain procedure. Project managers and/or IT managers can ensure alignment by gathering information about the internal and the external factors that may influence the process (Beveridge, n.d). Common internal influences include business unit plans, corporate plans, routine maintenance programs, renewal programs, and among other factors. The external influences include but not limited to economic trends, skills availability, legislation, customer trends, and professional regulation guidelines.
To conclude, Information systems development within the organization is relevant owing to the support it accords managers in data processing, communication, and decision-making. As such, the application of information systems development in project planning can be critical in assisting managers to plan, organize, and control projects.
Beveridge, C. (n.d). Aligning IT with Business Strategy. National Computing Centre. Retrieved from http://connectingcare.org.uk/files/Align_IT_with_strategy.pdf
He, J., & King, W. R. (2008). The role of user participation in information systems development: implications from a meta-analysis. Journal of Management Information Systems, 25(1): 301-331.
Spundak, M. (2014). Mixed agile/traditional project management methodology – reality or illusion? Social and Behavioral Sciences, 119(10): 939 -948.