Systems Analysis and Design
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Introductory note: The SCR case study provides a valuable real-world experience for students. The case involves an imaginary IT consulting firm that maintains a realistic Web site, complete with a company intranet that students can access. The student becomes an entry-level systems analyst reporting to a supervisor named Jesse Baker. In each session, the student receives e-mail messages, voice mail messages, and a list of tasks to perform. The voice mail all comes from Jesse Baker, and the e-mail messages come from Jesse Baker and other members of the firm. Each message contains guidance and direction that would be typical of a real-life situation. After reading the e-mail, listening to the voice messages, and consulting the task list, the rest is up to the student. He or she must go back to the chapter, review the terms, concepts, and skills, and then apply them in the context of the case study. Four main tasks occur in each session. A typical task might require the student to prepare an e-mail message, a memo, Internet research, or a graphic element such as a chart or diagram. The task list for Session 1 follows.
1. Investigate SCR’s Internet site and learn about the company’s history, purpose, and values. Send Jesse a brief memo with suggestions to expand or improve these sections. The SCR Web site includes realistic features, content, and links that allow students to learn about the company and its background. Encourage students to find examples of other IT consulting firms and compare them to the SCR site. This task could tie into Assignment 4, which requires Web research to find other firms. It would be helpful to get students interested in the SCR site’s design and navigation features before they start working on the case itself. Students with a background in Web design probably will have suggestions and comments to share with the class.
2. On the SCR intranet, visit the data, forms, and resource libraries and review a sample of the information in each library. This task provides an overview of the site and will give students a valuable introduction to the case study. If you have not done so already, this would be a good time to explain the main features of the case study, which include the SCR intranet, personalized e-mail messages, the reference libraries, and the task list for each session.
3. Using the SCR functions and organization listed in the data library, create an organization chart using Microsoft Word, Visio, or a drawing program. Students can use the list of SCR functions and organization (Document 1-2 from the data library) to create an organization chart. A sample chart follows:
4. Jesse says that SCR has plenty of competition in the IT consulting field. Get on the Internet and find three other IT consulting firms. She wants a brief description of each firm and the services it offers.
Students should have little difficulty locating IT consulting firms. This would be a good topic for student reports, and for actual visits to the online sites if computer resources are available in the classroom. You might ask students to critique each site on the basis of useful information content, organization, and aesthetics.
ANSWERS TO CHAPTER EXERCISES
1. What is information technology, and why is it important to a business? Information technology (IT) is a combination of hardware and software products and services that companies use to manage, access, communicate, and share information. More than ever, business success depends on information technology. According to a Department of Commerce report, the IT industry has created a new economy, where advances in hardware, software, and connectivity provide unprecedented benefits to businesses and individuals around the world. (Page 4)
2. Define business profiles, processes, and modeling..
A business profile is an overview that defines a company’s overall functions, processes, organization, products, services, customers, suppliers, competitors, constraints, and future direction. A business process describes specific events, tasks, and desired results. To understand a company’s operations, systems analysts first develop a business profile and then create a series of business models. A business model graphically represents business functions that consist of business processes such as sales, accounting, and purchasing that perform specific tasks. (Pages 10 -11)
3. Identify the main components of an information system, and describe the system’s stakeholders. An information system has five key components: hardware, software, data, processes, and people. People who have an interest in an information system are called stakeholders.
Stakeholder groups include the management group responsible for the system; the users, sometimes called end users, inside and outside the company who will interact with the system; and IT staff members, such as systems analysts, programmers, and network administrators who develop and support the system (Pages 8-10)
4. Explain the difference between vertical and horizontal systems packages. A horizontal system is a basic system, such as an inventory or payroll program, that can be adapted for use in many companies. A vertical system is designed to meet the unique requirements of a specific business or industry, such as a Web-based retailer or a video rental chain. (Page 8)
5. How do companies use EDI? What are some advantages of using XML? Online trading marketplaces initially were developed as company-to-company data-sharing arrangements called electronic data interchange (EDI). EDI enabled computer-to-computer transfer of data between companies, usually over private telecommunications networks. Firms used EDI to plan production, adjust inventory levels, or stock up on raw materials using data from another company’s information system.
As B2B volume soared, the development of extensible markup language (XML) enabled company-to-company traffic to migrate to the Internet, which offered standard protocols, universal availability, and low communication costs. XML is a data description language that allows Web-based communication between different hardware and software environments. XML is extremely flexible because it is concerned with the data itself rather than the output format. For example, a user could view XML customer data as a Web page on a notebook computer or as a contact list on a PDA.
The unique advantage of XML is that data description is not linked to output formatting. This is just the opposite of HTML (hypertext markup language), where the language controls the way the information is displayed on a Web browser. (Page 14)
6. Describe five types of information systems, and give an example of each. Information systems include enterprise computing systems, transaction processing systems, business support systems, knowledge management systems, and user productivity systems. Enterprise computing systems support company-wide data management requirements. Airline reservation and credit card billing systems are examples of enterprise computing systems.
Transaction processing (TP) systems process data generated by day-to-day business operations. Examples of TP systems include customer billing, accounts receivable, and warranty claim processing. Business support systems provide job-related information support to users at all levels. These systems can analyze transactional data, generate information needed to manage and control business processes, and provide information that leads to better decision making. A tracking system that analyzes sales trends and forecasts future volume is an example of a business support system.
Knowledge management systems simulate human reasoning by combining a knowledge base and inference rules that determine how the knowledge is applied. Online tech support systems are examples of knowledge management systems.
User productivity systems provide employees at all organizational levels with a wide array of tools that can improve quality, job performance, and productivity.
User productivity systems include networking, email, voice mail, fax, video conferencing, word processing, automated calendars, database management, spreadsheets, desktop publishing, presentation graphics, company intranets, and Internet access. (Pages 15 – 17)
7. Describe four organizational levels of a typical business and their information requirements. Four organizational levels are operational personnel, lower management, middle management, and top management.
Operational personnel need very detailed information directly related to the job functions they perform.
Members of lower management, such as supervisors and team leaders, need detailed operational information and some exception and summary information specific to their narrow areas of responsibility.
Middle managers need less detailed information, more exception and summary information, and broader information than lower management. Top managers need summary-level information; one-time, what-if information; and external information to support the strategic planning process. (Pages 18 – 19)
8. Describe the phases of the systems development life cycle, and compare the SDLC waterfall model to the spiral model. The systems development life cycle consists of five phases: systems planning, systems analysis, systems design, systems implementation, and systems operation and support.
During the systems planning phase, you identify the nature and scope of the problems discovered in the systems request and conduct a preliminary investigation.
The purpose of the systems analysis phase is to learn exactly what takes place in the current system, determine and fully document in detail what should take place, and make recommendations to management on the alternative solutions and their costs.
The purpose of the systems design phase is to determine how to construct the information system to best satisfy the documented requirements.
Systems implementation is the phase during which the information system actually is constructed.
During systems support and security, the end users take ownership of the constructed information system, the system is evaluated, and the IT department provides ongoing support through maintenance changes and enhancements. (Pages 22 – 24)
9. Explain the use of models, prototypes, and CASE tools in the systems development process. Also explain the pros and cons of agile development methods. Modeling produces a graphical representation of a concept or process that systems developers can analyze, test, and modify. A systems analyst can describe and simplify an information system by using a set of business, data, object, network, and process models.
Prototyping involves the creation of an early working version of an information system or its components. A prototype can serve as an initial model that is used as a benchmark to evaluate the completed system, or it can develop into the final version of the system. CASE tools help systems analysts develop and maintain information systems. CASE tools provide an overall framework for systems development, support a wide variety of design methodologies, boost IT productivity, and improve the quality of the finished product.
Agile development methods have attracted a wide following and an entire community of users. Agile methods typically use a spiral model, which represents a series of iterations, or revisions, which are based on user feedback. Proponents of the spiral model believe that this approach reduces risks and speeds up software development. Analysts should recognize that agile methods have advantages and disadvantages. By their nature, agile methods allow developers to be much more flexible and responsive, but can be riskier than more traditional methods. For example, without a detailed set of system requirements, certain features requested by some users might not be consistent with the company’s larger game plan. Other potential disadvantages of adaptive methods can include weak documentation, blurred lines of accountability, and too little emphasis on the larger business picture. Also, unless properly implemented, a long series of iterations might actually add to project cost and development time.
(Pages 19 – 21& 25 – 26)
10. What is objected-oriented analysis, and how does it differ from structured analysis? Whereas structured analysis regards processes and data as separate components, object-oriented (O-O) analysis combines data and the processes that act on the data into things called objects. O-O analysis uses object models to represent data, behavior, and the means objects affect other objects.
By describing the objects (data) and methods (processes) needed to support a business operation, a system developer can design reusable components for faster system implementation and decreased development cost. Many analysts believe that, compared with structured analysis, O-O methods are more flexible, efficient, and realistic in today’s dynamic business environment. (Pages 19 – 24 & 24 – 25)
1. Some experts believe that the growth in e-commerce will cause states and local governments to lose a significant amount of sales tax revenue, unless Internet transactions are subject to sales tax. Do you agree? Why or why not? This issue has sparked strong differences of opinion among national and state leaders, consumer advocacy groups, and trade associations whose members offer online sales and services. In some respects, the same question could apply to mail order firms who conduct no physical operations within a state or locality. Examples would include firms such as L. L. Bean and Lands End. Should the Internet be treated differently? You might want your students to do some preliminary research and then debate this issue. Also, you might follow this topic as news items occur during the course.
2. Present an argument for and against the following proposition: Because IT managers must understand all phases of the business, a company should fill top management vacancies by promoting IT managers.
Some possible arguments for the proposition follow:
a. Information technology (IT) management has a broad understanding of the information processing of the company instead of the narrower view held by managers from other areas of the company. b. IT management deals with all functional company areas so members of IT management know and interrelate with the people who lead and who work in these areas. Because they provide needed services to these areas, IT management personnel have the support of the key personnel from these areas. c. Information systems development and maintenance is complex and requires extraordinary management skills to operate successfully. These same skills are necessary in top-level management positions. d. Computer technology dominates many companies today. Today’s technology leaders should be tomorrow’s business leaders.
Some possible arguments against the proposition follow:
a. IT management is more comfortable dealing with computers and with procedures, and less comfortable dealing with people. Top-level management positions require a strong interest in people and strong skills in dealing with people. b. Whether a firm is product-oriented or service-oriented, it must make a profit to survive. Future company leaders should, therefore, come from the production, service, or financial areas, because these areas are the most important to a company. Possibly, in Internet-dependent firms, the best choice would be an IT manager — but only if he or she had extraordinary business skills apart from technical ability. c. It is unwise to restrict prospects for top-level management positions to one specific area of the company. Competent leaders are apt to rise from many different departments. d. People who have worked in several different functional areas are better rounded than those restricted to just one area. So, unless the IT manager has worked outside the IT department, he or she essentially is a specialist and is at a disadvantage compared to someone with more general knowledge and skills.
3. The head of the IT group in a company is often called the chief information officer (CIO) or chief technology officer (CTO). Should the CIO or CTO report to the company president, to the finance department, where many of the information systems are used, or to someone or somewhere else? Why would it matter?
Several possible advantages of having the IT director report to the chief financial officer of the company follow: e. The operation of the IT department represents a large expense for most companies. The chief financial officer is in the best position to monitor and control this expense. f. Financial information systems are among the first in a company to be computerized, and it is natural, therefore, to place the IT department under the chief financial officer. g. It would be difficult for a company to make a profit if it did not have excellent control over its data and information. The chief financial officer has responsibility for all centralized monetary functions. Therefore, this same person should have responsibility for all centralized data and information processing functions. h. Too many technical details are involved with the operation of the information technology department, and having the department report to the president would be unwise. Logically the finance area is the only lower-level area of the company that has the breadth of responsibility necessary to manage the IT department.
Several possible disadvantages of having the IT director report to the chief financial officer of the company follow: a. There is a danger that too much attention would be paid to the financial information systems and not enough to other information systems. b. The IT department should report to the president of the company because information technology is as important to the company as the company’s financial functions. They, therefore, deserve equal attention from the president. c. Information technology is too complicated to assign to someone whose expertise is finance and not computer technology.
4. Computers perform many jobs that previously were performed by people. Will computer-based transactions and expanded e-commerce eventually replace person-to-person contact? From a customer’s point of view, is this better? Why or why not? IT professionals agree that computer technology is changing the way companies do business. Many brick-and-mortar firms are launching large-scale B2B and B2C ventures that profoundly will affect traditional business practices and operations. Few observers think that IT will replace person-to-person contact totally, although many clerical and administrative functions will become automated. The real question is how these changes will affect people in an information-oriented society. Many observers feel that the implications of huge quantities of information and 24/7 access can cut in both directions.
Reasonable people differ on these issues, and you might want to propose a debate among your students. For additional background and viewpoints about the impact of computer technology on traditional person-to-person interaction, students can perform research on the Internet and compare the views of technology-based publications such as InfoWorld, to mainstream business publications such as Fortune, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review, among others.
1. Contact at least three people at your school or a nearby company who use information systems. List the systems, the position titles of the users, and the business functions that the systems support. Answers will vary. Students could perform this task as individuals or work in teams. It might be interesting to compare and discuss the various ways in which businesses manage information.
2. Research newspaper, business magazine articles, or the Web to find computer companies whose stock is traded publicly. Choose a company and pretend to buy $1,000 of its stock. What is the current price per share? Why did you choose that company? Report each week to your class on how your stock is doing. This project assumes that students have some basic understanding of the stock market. If they do, sites such as Yahoo! offer financial information and analysis links and resources. If students need fundamental information about investing in stocks, you might direct them to the material at www.free-financial-advice.net/stock-market.html. An industry leader like Vanguard also offers free online information about investing at its Web site www.vanguard.com. Also, many school and community libraries can assist students in learning about financial terms and concepts, including stock market investments.
3. Do a search on the Web to learn more about agile system development approaches and spiral models. Prepare a summary of the results and a list of the sites you visited. Answers will vary. Many sites describe and discuss agile methods. Students should have no trouble finding material on agile methods and spiral models and preparing a summary of the results. Several sites are shown in the text, and a simple search will produce a list of many more.
4. Is it really possible to measure thinking skills? Before you decide, visit Certiport’s Web site shown in Figure 1-36 and investigate the critical thinking certification. Also visit the Critical Thinking Community site shown in Figure 1-35. Prepare a brief memo with your conclusion and reasons. To succeed in the classroom or the workplace, students must be able to define, access, evaluate, manage, integrate, create, and communicate information. These skills are described in the following table, which is from the Certiport.com Web site.
Critical thinking is necessary to assess facts, organize data, make a judgment, or solve a problem. As instructors, we should encourage students to learn and practice these skills.
Most educators believe that it is possible to measure critical thinking skills, and data from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) supports this conclusion.