We live in a data driven world in terms of business, almost all organizations need to take advantage of the value and benefits that come with an information system. In the late 1990s, companies started implementing information systems to integrate and standardize business processes for effective planning and control (Bradford, 2015). In other cases, information systems must take data from legacy systems which were outdated and didn’t support new business processes (Bradford, 2015).
In order to answer the question, “what is the purpose, value, challenges and / or practice of Information Systems consultancy or specialist IT/IS advice?”, This article will focus on the role of consultants and knowledge they need to implement and design IT business strategies. Section 2 will provide a literature review of information systems. Section 3 will focus on the inter-relationships between businesses and information systems. Section 4 Will provide a brief overview IT consultants types and characteristics. Section 5 will provide a conclusion from the literature and findings.
2. Information Systems
“A system can be defined as a collection of interrelated components that work together towards a collective goal” (Bocij, 2015). Business processes can be improved and done can be achieved much faster by implementing an information system.” An information system is a software system to capture, transmit, store, retrieve, manipulate, or display information, thereby supporting people, organizations, or other software systems.” (Bocij, 2015), From the business view, information system is a piece of software that stores, processes and outputs data in a way that helps in decision making, improving quality and achieving goals.
2.1 Types of Information Systems
Information Systems are created to deal with specific tasks and problems. Therefore, Information Systems can be classified into 5 different types which can all be connected to work together as an Enterprise Resource Planning System.
1- Organizations Information Systems:
Stores and manipulates data in order to provide the organization with secure data storage and making use of the data in the future. This type can include departments like human resources, business development, Clients Management.
2- Transaction Processing Systems:
Collects, stores and processes transactions data which can be used in producing electronic spread sheets, billings, inventory and manufacturing. For example, data can be shown in a report based on sales in the past year or comparing profits in different years. This can help in decision making.
3- Decision Support Systems:
Analyses data to produce it in a statistical report that helps in decision making. These reports can be shown in different formats like in a pie chart, bar chart or a comparison sheet.
4- Management Information Systems:
Uses data that is collected by Transaction Processing Systems to show reports for managers to help in decision making in response to problems (Bocij, 2015).
5- Expert Systems and Neutral Networks:
Also known as a Knowledge Based System, designed to analyze data and produce recommendations for users (Bocij, 2015). This type uses a form of Artificial Intelligence that monitors user’s behavior and thinking in order to make recommendations based on usage.
Consultants need to have a brief understanding if information systems and to differentiate between each type in order to provide the solution that fits the business needs.
2.2 Theory and Practice
Information systems include five main components, which are input, output, process, feedback and control.
The system starts with accepting input in order to process. Examples of input can be data, machinery or promises. Input are then converted into outputs by a transformation process as shown below.
Data is shown to the user different forms as required like Reports, bar charts and pie charts. There are different types of data Transformation/Processing that data goes threw when its stored inside the information system like the following:
1- Selection: Involves a selection criterion for the user. For example, an insurance company which wants to see a list of A class client’s policies and their statement of account.
2- Sorting: Involves organizing data in a particular order. For example, sorting employee’s records based on salary or surname.
3- Calculations: Involves calculations. For example, displaying employee’s salary gross rate by multiplying hours of work by hours of pay.
The output is the processes data from the system. It can take many forms like analytical reports and its usually useful for management. Feedback is a measurement mechanism for systems performance and user’s comments. It depends on the user’s requirements. Control is for adjusting the systems behavior like a settings page. Users can update back account for finance department and specify roles for each user.
3. Business Organizations
3.1 How Information Systems are used in Modern Businesses
Businesses can’t survive without data about its market, financial status and its customers. It is more importantly used to make decisions. Managers need management information systems to harness that data and make use of it.
Management information help in achieving business processes. Examples of departments that use management information systems are sales, marketing, finance and human resources. A process that is carried out by the system for example is sales order processing. It involves taking the order, fulfilling the order, making the product, manufacturing, shipping, invoicing the customer. All these processes are tracked, saved by the system.
Information systems can be divided into categories based on where they are used on the hierarchy of an organization (Bocij, 2015). For example, a bookstore everyday receives new books and they get organized on shelfs and sold. Transaction processing systems is used in that case by the store clerk.
The purpose of an information systems is to organize and turn row data into useful information to help the organization in decision making.
3.2 Supporting Business Processes
There are a set of activities performed within organizations technical environment which are called business processes. These processes are performed in a particular order. For example, a doctor examines a patient first then makes his diagnosis (Magal and Word, 2009).
Information systems are a critical component for process execution (Magal and Word, 2009). They allow easy communication and access to data. The first role of the information system is process execution, it helps in executing processes efficiently and effectively. They both depend on each other (Magal and Word, 2009). For example, if the system stopped executing processes then the business will not be able to function properly. Amazon for example, takes the customers order then processes payment then it gets order ready for shipment then notifies the customer with the shipment status. Without the information system all of these processes will not be completed. For example, if the system is not functioning how will the customer get notified about his order status. All the system functions are interrelated so any failure on one of them will affect the other. The second role of information systems is to collect and store information data, each process has certain data that is created by the system by default (Magal and Word, 2009). Like data of execution, time and which user saved the data. Other data is collected from the user. Like price, order details, address and email. The third and last role of the information system is monitoring process performance, it means indicating how the process is executing (Magal and Word, 2009). For example, the business wants to check the status of the order from the shipment department and wither the customer received the order or not. Another example, is calculating last years sales profits and comparing. The data will be shown on a form of electronic report. Managers can use this data to detect any problems and find the symptoms. For example, management might find that there are messing important data from reports and realize the need for training the employees on the system.
A statement of proposal is written by the consultant to show exactly what work will be done. It will show what the IT information systems provider needs to do to provide an acceptable service. It also shows the needs of the customer in a detailed manner and whats the expected requirements (Taylor, 2004).
4. IT Systems Consultancy
IT Consultants are considered service providers, business doctors and information suppliers. Hired to provide solutions for struggling chief executive officers (Dawson, Watson and Boudreau, 2010). IT consultant are aware of different types and understand how the business can benefit from these technologies.
In terms of information systems. there are two types of IT consulting:
1) Implementation Consulting:
Businesses need to improve their processes with the help of the latest technologies. Implementation consultancy is defined as “the set of services involved in developing and
implementing IT solutions, assets and processes,” (Dawson, Watson and Boudreau, 2010). In order for managers to understand what, why and how, an implementation consultant provides a clear and concise implementation roadmap.
2) Strategy Consulting
It is a set of advisory that business use to achieve its objectives and improve profitability on the short or long term (Dawson, Watson and Boudreau, 2010). For example, the business needs to Enhance operational sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness. By improving their IT capabilities.
4.1 Types of Knowledge
A knowledge based framework is used to specify consultant’s capabilities.
There are two types of knowledge which are tacit and explicit. Explicit knowledge is easily accessible for anyone to learn it. It is like knowing the rules of chess but that doesn’t make you an experienced player. It requires experience to have Tacit knowledge and become an experienced chess player (Dawson, Watson and Boudreau, 2010). An explicit consultant is aware of the latest and emerging technologies, competitors use of technologies, development methodologies, project management practices and information systems planning. But lacks the experience and cognition that a tacit consultant has, Like experiences in personal use of computers, management of information systems and project management experience. In order for a consultant to be competent he/she must have both explicit and tacit knowledge because a tacit consultant knows how to apply explicit knowledge to a competent manner and creatively solve problems (Dawson, Watson and Boudreau, 2010).
4.2 Risk Management and Avoiding causes of failure
A wide research has been done on failure of information systems, multiple causes were identified. The key player that manages and held accountable for the end-results of the success is the project manager. According to a study Recently “3234 project management professionals, 200 senior executives, and 510 PMO directors from many industries, 19% of all projects fail, and not