Strategies For Scaling Up Business Processes Of Study In Queensland Using Information Systems
Expansion Challenges for Businesses
1. In order to help SIQ management, define what information systems are and briefly explainhow information systems are important to future operations at SIQ. While answering this question, explore the different kinds of information systems that could be beneficial to any small business.
2. Identify and discuss the problems faced by SIQ and list these problems in order of priority.
3. What are the business requirements of SIQ? Which business processes should SIQ computerise and what benefits would that bring about for SIQ?
4. Which types of information system/s can help SIQ manage its business issues and fulfil business requirements? Explain in detail, how each information system that you propose will assist SIQ’s efficiency and contribute to the firm’s competitive advantage.
5. How can business decision making be improved as a result of the information systems /technologies that you are proposing?
6. How can the proposed new locations for SIQ connect effectively to each other? Explain how SIQ may utilise technologies such as the intranet, extranet, internet and mobile applications to communicate with SIQ’s key stakeholders.
7. What are the possible security, ethical and privacy issues that all stakeholders of SIQ need to be aware of? What systems could be implemented to address these issues?
8. What change related issues is SIQ likely to encounter? How should SIQ manage this change process?
Expansion for any business organization irrespective of is size is always a key factor to growth. However, it is also important to understand that focusing on expansion of business has its own share of challenges and issues which an expanding organization might have to deal with. Over a period of time, it has been observed that due to rapid evolution of information technology and various aspects related to it, many organisations have found it difficult to cope up to integrate its existing business processes with the information technology and leverage benefit from it. In fact, organisations have failed at times to establish a uniform platform where their business processes can be mapped with the information technology, and can be improved further in terms of productivity and efficiency (Lapointe & Rivard, 2007, pp.89-107). That is why, scaling up the business to a level, where existing business structure and processes are able to exist in harmony with implemented IT infrastructure and systems. Organisations whether small or big, face issue related to IT solution implementation especially when they are into transformational mode, which means they are adopting from manual process of functioning towards are digital/automated way of functioning. That is why; organisations if not prepared well, find implementation of information systems to improve its business process tedious at times.
Similar is the case of organization mentioned in the case study. “Study in Queensland” (SIQ) is a boutique education recruitment firm, which is owned by Ms. Hui Chia, and is located in Brisbane’s CBD (Central Business District). Case study highlights the growth of SIQ over a period of time. Initially, SIQ started as a small firm based in Windsor. Over a period of time, SIQ has witnessed gradual growth in its business. Despite of growth in business in terms of volume of students and revenue, SIQ has been depending mainly on its manual process of operation only, and if observed, it can be clearly seen that SIQ has hardly any dependency on information systems, which means, that there is tremendous scope of improvement in the productivity of SIQ operational processes. Hence, it is important to understand that what can be the potential strategy which should be adopted by SIQ, so that it can successfully scale up its business with use of information systems. Hence, analyzing the situation of SIQ in its current context, and finding an appropriate solution to it, is the core objective of this report.
Introduction of SIQ and Its Business Processes
SIQ was established as an organization with objective of recruiting international students for admission into various Australian universities, private colleges and TAFEs located in Queensland. After few months of operations, it was clear to founder of SIQ, that it is important to implement and effectively use information systems, and IT to further improve the efficiency of the business. Based on the case study it can be said that currently majority of the processes in SIQ are highly unstructured in nature, which at times might lead to loss of information such as student information, payment information etc. Loss of such nature can prove costly to business, as there are several other competitors as well who are much more productive than SIQ, hence SIQ might lose business due to its unprofessional appearing operational conduct. This unstructured way of managing information can be understood by the example of student record maintenance, which is filed in paper filed. Even payment processing methods are manual in nature (Laudon & Laudon, 2011).
This situation would have been idle for a business when number of student approaching it would have been only handful. In case of SIQ, increase in volume of international students, there has been growth in terms of revenue as well. Growth in business of SIQ has also ensured increased flow of information within organization which has to be maintained through manual process as well. Increase in information can lead to overwhelming situation if not managed and stored in a structured manner, and often leads to loss of information due to manual approach of management. Another, critical business strategy which SIQ is focusing on is its expansion in other cities. Core thought process behind expansion plan is to cover more universities and potential students. However, it is essential to understand that if SIQ continues with its current approach of management then scaling up the business will be extremely challenging, as it will further increase the information flow in the organization, even if SIQ plans to implement information systems to stream line its business processes, then it is important that any such implementation has to be done through a structured approach, so that there is seamless integration of business processes with information systems and accordingly business can extract a uniform view of all the processes and operations (Lees & Lees, 1987, pp.6-13). In order to address problem of SIQ and suggest a potential approach which it can follow, it is necessary to setup a strategy through which information system can be implemented across all the locations of SIQ, and integrate it closely. However, it is important to understand that this report will also focus on critical aspects such as system integrations, and all potential issues which might arise due to implementation of the information systems.
It is a well-accepted fact that, in a highly globalized and digitized world, no organization can ignore the important of information systems in the business. Irrespective of the size of the business, information systems and applications are playing critical role in enabling business processes to an efficient and productive level. In case of SIQ, it can leverage upon through use of various enterprise level applications suites to streamline its existing business process, remove any gaps and make it more efficient in nature. However, one important aspect related to small business organisations is availability of funds to scale up. In such scenario, organisations like SIQ need to ensure that they opt for information systems which are capable of addressing its requirement, rather than offering something which is not required by SIQ. For SIQ it is also critical to setup a project plan which can establish a time and budget guidelines within which it should focus on the implementation of the information system.
Unstructured Nature of SIQ Business Processes
At times, it has been observed that organisations embark on the journey of implementing information system, without having significant amount of understanding about the concept of information system and its classification itself, which at times can lead to wrong expectations level among the stakeholders who are expected to be benefited from the solution. That is why, it is necessary to understand the concept of information system before a strategy related to information system implementations can be suggested for SIQ.
One might confuse the term information systems as just hardware and software applications in context of information technology. However this is partially true, because information is not just computer software and hardware. In fact it can be defined as a system or environment where people and technology in form of software and hardware interact with each other; this interaction is focused on interpreting various types of data, and extracting/storing/accessing relevant result from it. In present business environment, information systems are not just limited to private sector or public sector business only, today information system has its presence in almost every type of organization across the globe. Information systems are supporting variety of business processes of an organization such as decision-making, operations, supply chain, human resource management, and operations etc. It has been observed that often, business organisations confuse information communication technology with information systems, which is incorrect. Organisations need to understand that ICT is just an enabler which helps in implementing the concepts of IS, whereas information systems are focused more on identifying the business processes, and how various entities interact in that process. Based on this analysis information systems are designed and implemented to support the business processes.
In information systems, there are several critical elements such as hardware, software applications, business procedures, and people involved in it. If the same concept is replicated on SIQ, then it can be clearly observed that all the above mentioned elements of IS are present in SIQ’s day to day operations, however, there is no structured approach towards managing these applications, which is one major issue with SIQ. With proposed scaling up of the business, there is requirement for founder of SIQ and all her staff to channelize their efforts towards understanding the importance of information systems, and how it can be implemented, so that redundancy present in the information and other data security related issues can be sorted out.
Another important aspect with SIQ is its proposed expansion across different locations. In a situation of expansions, SIQ needs to focus on integration strategy of the information systems as well. Integration is important to be achieved because firstly it will allow founder of the company to have better control on the business. Secondly, seamless integration will allow real time update of information across business, which will reduce data redundancy.
After analysis of case study of SIQ, it can be said that following are identified business processes and operations:
- One critical requirement for SIQ is related to upgrade of existing technology infrastructure, it can be understood by the fact which is mentioned in the case study, which clearly mentions that how founder of the company Hui still relies on her college day’s laptop along with one multi-functional device. Upgrade in IT hardware and technology has to be in alignment with increase in the business of SIQ. Since. SIQ has been gradually expanding, and its business operations increasing, it has become important for SIQ to accordingly upgrade the infrastructure to support its business requirement.
- Student information is one of the highest critical data for SIQ, as its entire business is dependent on student and information related to them. Hence, SIQ has major issue with the way it manages student information. There are numerous activities which takes place during the process of student information management. For example storing student details, offer letter for student, their tracking letters of offer, confirmation related details etc. all these processes and information are integration part of student information management framework. That is why it is important for SIQ to focus on development of system like SIM (Student information management) through which it can get a consolidated view of information related to a particular student.
- Marketing and promotion is also an important business activity which needs to be taken care by SIQ. There are lot of promotional material and other marketing related data which currently might be unstructured in nature. In order to scale further, it is important for SIQ to ensure that it successfully manages this information through use of information systems.
- With rapid emergence of internet every business has an online presence which allows its customers to stay updated. In case of SIQ also, it can focus on launching its website or a web portal through which all the students enrolled with can file for their application, and track it accordingly.
- Lastly, employee information management is one of the critical requirements which SIQ’s information system needs to address. Leave applications, pay roll processing, attendance records etc. are critical information for the business, especially in a scenario where SIQ is planning to expand; it becomes important to have a system in place which can allow the business to get a consolidated view of its employee information working across different locations.
Business decision-making is always an area of concern for an organization. Its ability to take correct and timely decision identifies its capability to succeed. However, in case of SIQ, decision making ability is relatively unstructured, because decisions are based on the information, and for effective decision making having access to structured and managed information is must (Leon, 1991). For example, in a situation where SIQ owner has to identify poor performers in her organization, then there is no system thorough which she can get a consolidated view her employee’s performance. Similarly, there is no way through which SIQ can analyze its past students and their data or current student’s data that must have used services of SIQ. Such kind of situation is mainly due to unstructured form of information present in the organization, which ultimately leads to delay in decision making on critical aspects or clients, this can be harmful for future growth of the business, as many of the SIQ’s competitors are already well adapted towards the use of information system, and using it effectively. That is why; it has become important for SIQ to implement an information system which can help it to integrate the enterprise level information such as related to students, universities, and employees in a way where it can take decisions quickly based on the structured form of information in a proactive manner.
Scaling Up Strategy of SIQ
If we analyze the case study of SIQ carefully, then one important point which comes out is the random/unstructured/ad-hoc approach of SIQ to manage its business processes. Even though SIQ started as a small company by its founder, however over a period of time its operations have grown up significantly. But despite of growth in business, management of the business is still unstructured in nature which is more like a startup organization. Hence, in order to gain competitive advantage, SIQ should first focus on scaling up its business process like a full-fledged company. It should streamline its business processes to match its competitors.
Secondly, having a presence on internet is a must in present scenario, especially in a situation where SIQ is dealing with international students, it becomes important for the organization to setup its website which not only provides information but allows its potential customers and existing students to record or extract information related to their application or admission process. If SIQ can manage to scale up its business through online channel as well, then it can boost its competitiveness, and can also help it cut significant amount of operational cost.
Lastly, in order to gain competitive advantage in presence business scenario, it is extremely important for business to create awareness about its brand or organization. In order to do this, it is important that SIQ should engage in dedicated and sustained marketing and promotional campaign through both online as well as offline channels. By adopting this approach SIQ will be able to its brand value, and visibility in the industry it is functioning.
Key information requirements which can be identified on the basis of case study provided for SIQ are as follows:
- Requirement related to implementation of enterprise level information system to enable complete integration of the business functions present across SIQ.
- Structuring of student related information such as admission data, applications, fees etc. Currently this process is manual in nature, which at times might lead to loss of information delaying into business related decision (Vance & Siponen, 2012). Hence there is requirement to streamline this process, where rather than using excel sheets or papers to manage this information, there should be proper student information management system which should be capable of storing all the student related data, and allow to retrieve the data as and when required.
- Another critical requirement is related to employee information management. Information like employee attendance, salary processing etc. should be managed in an automated manner rather than manually handling it.
- Considering the fact that SIQ is planning to expand its business across various locations, hence it becomes important for it have an integration strategy for all the information systems across different locations.
- With proposed implementation of information system, all the data and information related to students and employees will be exposed on internal as well external communication network. Hence, last major requirement for SIQ is to secure its information. Hence, it needs to setup a system where it can monitor any type of information breach, and can safeguard its information from any unauthorized accesses.
Transaction processing systems (TPS) can be defined as system of computing where work is divided into indivisible operations known as transactions. Hence, a TPS can be defined as an information system which is integration of different types of software applications and hardware, which enables it to process numerous types of transaction to generate a relevant result. In case of SIQ, it requires implementation of TPS which is capable of real time processing. Real time means, that transaction’s processing takes place the moment they are being entered into the system. This can be achieved by implementation of web based application present on both internal network (Intranet) and external network (extranet), and will allow employees and customers to input data and generate result as per the data inserted into the system (Longenecker et al, 2013). Hence, a student can fill up his application form, and TPS should be capable of generating an online receipt, or an admission confirmation form. However one important aspect related to this system will be its accessibility. Accessibility to this system should be decided on the basis of the grants and rights provided to the employees and customers Data from this TPS will be managed in a central database which will store all the mentioned data.
Reason behind implementation of TPS is to ensure that data which is getting updated should be viewed in same form to all the users who might be trying to access it from different locations of SIQ, which will ensure that there is no communication gap to redundancy in a data.
Implementation of Information Systems by SIQ
In a globalized world, organisations are working different locations. Hence in such conditions it becomes important for organisations to have proper and smooth collaboration among its employees and stakeholders, which can be achieved through enterprise collaboration systems. Today there are different types of ECS based on the size of organization. However, SIQ should opt for an ECS which is not proprietary, and has open source license associated with it. This will ensure that SIQ need not to invest huge amount of capital to procure such system. Such system can be implemented on the organizational network (Intranet) with various business functions such as HR, finance, marketing, sales etc. part of it. Hence people with relevant authorization can access the system and perform tasks such as insertion, editing, or deletion of data. Considering the fact that this data will be linked to central data repository, hence unique view of any data will be provided to the end user reducing any type of data conflict. Hence, each business function can be allocated their dedicated virtual space, where they can discuss their function level policies and take decisions on it.
MIS are also type of information systems which are focused towards analysis and facilitation of various operational and strategic activities which takes place within an organizational boundary. In case of SIQ, MIS system will enable SIQ management to improve its decision making capability. MIS will help SIQ in generation various types of reports such as student enrollment report, or number of admission in a particular session etc. Based on these reports management of SIQ can take timely decisions. MIS reports will also help Hui to sales and marketing related decisions on the basis of quarterly, monthly and annual reports of business.
Based on the case study of SIQ, it can be clearly said that collaboration and communication is one of the key requirement it has. Considering the fact that SIQ plans to expand its business in different locations in Australia, it becomes important for it to ensure that employees working at these locations are able to collaborate and communicate seamlessly (Malhotra & Temponi, 2010, pp.28-37). For example for communication across locations SIQ can implement communication system supported by VoIP (Voice over internet protocol). This will not only allow SIQ to establish a superior communication network within organization, but will also allow it save operational cost on communication due to low cost of communication through VoIP supported network. It can implement collaborative software such as Microsoft SharePoint which enables teams across different locations to collaborate with each other, share important documents in a controlled environment and share their views on any specific business problem. Hence, SIQ should focus on collaboration and communication aspect if it wants to achieve successful transformation.
For any transformation process in an organization, its implementation strategy and the way change is managed is a critical aspect. Change management ensures that organization is prepared well for handling the changes in advance, and is capable of aligning its processes to the changed business environment. Change management further improves the process of implementation of an information system as it brings a formal layer into entire process in which before implementation of every module or function, it potential risk or impact on the organization is analyzed. In a situation where there might be adverse impact then accordingly actions are taken to minimize the risk (Shapiro & Varian, 2013).
Enterprise Level Application Suites for Streamlining Business
For SIQ it is important to understand that what all changes will take place in its organizational environment as part of information system changes. Based on its analysis, SIQ should develop necessary plans to handle a potential impact of the change. Lastly, as part of change management SIQ should ensure that its employees are trained well in order to handle the new information systems which are being implemented.
Hence, once the above mentioned factors are properly addressed by management of SIQ, then only it should proceed with the proposed implementation of the information system.
In order to support the business decision making, MIS will play a major role. Compared to current situation where business decision making is relatively unstructured in nature, it is expected to be streamlined once the MIS is implemented. With proposed plan, management of SIQ will give a consolidated view of the business and various types of information flowing through it. MIS will further help in extracting the relevant information and enabling the management to take impactful decisions for the benefit of the business. MIS systems will also enable the founder of SIQ to analyze the overall performance of the business, and take steps to improve the shortcomings.
One of the major issues which can come up with proposed change is related to security and ethical issues. With proposed changes there will be number of transactions which will take place in the organization. However, it will also expose the information to potential threat from outside world. Hence, it is important for SIQ to develop a comprehensive information security policy for the organization. This information policy will first identify all the potential risk points in the organization post implementation of information systems (Stair & Reynolds, 2011). Once risks are identified, it will further guide the organization to setup control points through which flow of information can be monitored, hence as a potential security measure implementation team can focus on implementing a firewall which will filter the incoming and outgoing information traffic in the information systems of the organization.
Based on the case study, and above analysis it can be said that SIQ is mainly a small business organization which is gradually moving towards becoming a medium level organization. That is why it is important for SIQ management to identify only that level of information system which can be implemented in the budget or funding available with the organization. It is important for organization to ensure that information system to be implemented should be such, that it should be scalable in nature in future, especially considering the gradual growth of SIQ, and expansion of the organization (Swanson, 1988). Before, focusing on system implementation SIQ should also focus on analyzing its current process, and identifying the gaps present, so that to be processes can be designed and mapped with the information system to be implemented.
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