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A Framework to Support Management Teams in Determining the Quality of their Information Systems.

22 Feb

Introduction
This framework is designed to aid management teams in determining the quality of their Information Systems services and outputs. The purpose of a framework is to give a description of a complex entity or process. In this case our framework in figure 1 takes the form of a step by step process or checklist, which will allow the user to methodologically assess the quality of either a new or existing Information System. The framework consists of five main phases, each with their own individual attributes. The five phases are organisation, planning, evaluation/testing, implementation and review.
Methodology
We developed this framework by posting blogs on the topic of IS Quality. We then brought our ideas together and discussed and analysed them in order to develop a comprehensive framework to measure IS Quality. We developed a blueprint of our potential framework by reviewing the issues we raised in our blog posts and is roughly based it on the PIRI model described by pm1083. This blueprint formed the basis of our final framework which is located below.
Framework
This framework is made up of five steps. It begins with organisation which is followed by planning, evaluate/testing. After this it then splits into two depending on the situation of the organisation whether the system is being newly implemented or if it is an existing system that the quality is being determined. We decided to follow method due to its clear structure and as we felt it fitted in well with what we were trying to achieve.

Figure 1

framework1

Explanation of the Framework

Organisation
Culture – The organisational culture will be determined by the external environment, and this will include the language, the way of life of the people, and their work ethic. All of these factors must be compatible with the Information System. There are other problems that can arise due to differing cultures, such as the different formats in which the date can be displayed.
Alignment – The system must align with the business goals of the subjects. Even if the system is fully functional if it does not align with the business goals then the system may be deemed low quality as it will not provide what is required.
Organisational Context – It must take into account the organisational context for example some sectors may require some special characteristics of an information system or may require that certain things be left out of a system depending on an organisation individual situations
Cost Vs. Benefit – The overall possible benefits of the system must outweigh the possible costs of the system. While this is often very difficult to do before a system has been implemented it must be estimated to have an initial overall idea.
Inputs – Technical capability and technical hardware to be able to cope with the system must be present in the organisation. These have to be of a certain standard in order to be able to deal with the requirements of an IS. The data going into the system must be quality data. The inputs of the system will determine the quality of the outputs, and so, the overall information system. The quality of the overall system will be determined by its inputs and so it must be established that these are of high quality to ensure the resulting system will be of high quality.

Planning
Needed from system – This is what is required from the system for the organisation that is implementing the system. This again goes back to the central issue of what are the user requirements. This is what the output the system will have for the organisation and the overall goal they will have from implementing the system.
User requirements – These are the requirements that the user of the system needs in order to maximise the potential output of the system. All aspects of the system being implemented must be user friendly and also allow the user to realise the potential the system can offer. User requirements may differ as a range of variety of users may be using the system and have different or even conflicting requirements. These requirements must be established and balanced in this planning phase in order to ensure the system will be able to successfully deliver these requirements.
User expectations– This is what the user expects the system to be able to do. This relates to what a user wishes to gain from working with the system being designed. It relates to the work that they wish to achieve from the system and what they can achieve for the organisation. The user requirements must match the user expectations otherwise they may deem the system to be of a low quality.
Ease of use – When a system is being developed, the easier it is to use the better it is for the user of the system. The ease of use would allow a user get familiar with the system much faster and this in turn would prove more beneficial for the company and the output from the new system as fewer errors will occur when the users find the system easier to use.
Measurements-Measurements from the system must be established here. You cannot control something unless you can measure it and so the management team must decide how they are going to measure the system- what will they determine the system must output or how. They can then use these in the review stage to determine if these have been achieved. If these measurements have been achieved it will be easier for the organisation to determine the quality of the IS.

Evaluation/ Testing
Potential users – In order to ensure that the system is meeting the users’ requirements and expectation, it must be established who the users are.
Conduct tests- Select a sample of the current staff to evaluate the existing or new system. They should rate this in order to give the management team an idea of how it is currently being used and received.
Ease of use – The system must be usable for the users. If the users find the system too difficult to use then it is most likely they will not use the system to its full potential and so the quality of the system will not be realised resulting in a system which seems of lower quality.
Usefulness – The system must be useful to the organisation. If it is not useful then this again will impact on the user requirements. It will not be able to fulfil these requirements and so the management team would determine this as low quality.
Test system capabilities – The system should be tested for its capabilities to ensure it is up to the level to what is required by the organisation.

Implementation
Ensure users are trained – Ensure that all users of the system have sufficient knowledge and training on the new system before it is fully implemented. This will reduce the number of errors made and ensure they are able to solve issues that come up themselves and so reduce the number of issues brought to management.
Implement in stages – It is important to implement the new system in stages to allow for the resolution of any unforeseen problems or errors that may occur during the implementation process. This will ensure a smooth transition from the old to the new system. It will also allow for the resolving of issues as they occur rather than have them build up.

Review
Alignment – The system must align with the business requirements of the organisation. If it does not align it may not be providing the required information and if it does not provide the required information then most likely it will be determined as poor quality as mentioned that the users will often determine the quality of the system and will determine this by seeing if it matches their requirements as mentioned “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Alignment of user expectations & requirements – As mentioned above the user requirements will determine if the system is a success and so it is important to ensure that the users’ expectations and requirements align. Otherwise the user may view the system as not being of high quality if it cannot meet their expectations even if it is technically sound. This is important to consider in the review stage as it may be necessary to address this if these do not match.

Measurements – There must be clear measurable goals set out so that the management team will be able to assess the quality level of the IS. It is important to have established measurements in the planning phase so as to have something to be able to compare whether the aim of the system has been achieved. However as was mentioned measuring the quality of a system is very difficult and there is no one universal method.

Does it fulfil its function– This is one of the most important questions to ask when determining the quality of an IS. Often it will come down to whether the IS fulfils its function will be the deciding factor in determining the quality of an IS.

An Alternative Framework
This alternative framework is different in its inclusion of environment, its splitting up into the organisation and information system, the user then evaluating the system and the system then being reviewed by the organisation and the results then being feed back into the organisation and the information system. How it affects the organisation and the information system to produce an output of information is then to be evaluated by the users. This is then reviewed in such a way that the findings will feed back into the organisation, the information system.

Figure 2.

framework2

Conclusion
It is very important for a management team to be able to determine the quality of an information system as it is hugely important because of its effects on the organisation as a whole. This is because decision making is based on the information that will be produced from the Information System. This decision making can have massive and wide reaching effects on the organisation and its future success or failures.
We felt the above proposed frameworks in figure 1 and figure 2 will allow a management team to successfully determine the quality of an Information System in any organisation.  By providing an alternative framework this will allow a management team to choose which they feel will be most suitable to their own specific circumstances and allow them to feel that they have more control in the matter and so they may be more willing to use one of the proposed frameworks.
It is important to note that often these frameworks may seem incomplete on their own however once a company attempts to actually use the framework and they can input their own circumstances the framework will become much more usable and seem more complete.

Group 8

Deirdre O Leary
Patrick Meehan
Christopher Moloney
Rowland Njoku
Lawrence Ogboani

Andersson & Eriksson’s Framework for IS Quality Models

8 Feb

As the end objective for this blog is to build an IS Quality Framework I thought it would be interesting to observe how it was previously attempted. For this I am using the 1996 paper by Andersson and Eriksson “Measuring the Quality Needs of an Organisations Software”.

They developed a framework from the SOLE IS Quality model and added in software metrics while also using the input-process-output (IPO) method. Their aim was that this quality model could be used in any organisation by combing the SOLE model with software metrics. They used this method as the SOLE model aspect allows it to cover all the interest of the stakeholders in the organisation and this can help to lessen conflicting requirements from the different user groups of the system.

An interesting point to note in the paper is that Andersson and Eriksson state thatthe utility of information systems thus becomes the ultimate quality requirement from the organisations point of view.” This is a similar view to the importance of the user requirements as it is the outcomes of the system are the deciding factor as to the quality of the system. However Andersson and Eriksson note that different users will have different requirements and state that “it is probably impossible to define a static generally acceptable quality model for information systems”. This is in line with a previous blog  where I state different users of the final IS will have different requirements for the IS and thus will have different IS quality requirements.

An additional interesting point made is “the measurement of quality is a means of controlling quality.” This tells us that the quality levels of a system must be measurable in order for one to know whether it is of high quality. They pointed out that information systems quality is in the interest of both the business manager and the information systems manager and both of these should work together in order to achieve high IS quality by means of the combination of the IS staff and the users. While in this paper it is pointed out that the quality needs to be measured in order for an organisation to control the IS quality they however also concede that measuring IS quality is no easy feat and that there is no one method an organisation can use to measure IS quality. The authors suggestion for the measurement of the quality of  an IS is the deliverables of that system. In this case deliverables may be things such as documents or software. For the measurement of these deliverables they specify the context of  time and cost.

Within their model at the top level is “business quality, use quality and IS Work quality”. The business quality is the typical business side of the benefits vs. costs, the use quality is the user aspect- what can the IS do for the user, IS work quality then refers to performance of the information system including final products such as documents or software. One of the main benefits for these authors of the SOLE model is the fact that it has an organizational hierarchy and so can help to avoid the conflicting requirements of the different users as mentioned above.

Their aim is not to complete a fully constructed model but to “offer a framework consisting of a basic IS quality model, the SOLE model, and a method of defining organization-specific quality models, the IPO method” with the intention that any organisation can fill into their own situation and be able to create their own IS quality model.

In my opinion this should possibly also be true with the framework developed for IS Quality here so that it may be applicable to any organisation’s IS. Importantly in relation to this Andersson and Eriksson also point out that while it may be difficult to identify quality model requirements in a white space they say that once it is done in an organisational context it becomes much more “natural”. This is important as any framework by itself may seem lacking however when it is implemented into an organisation it is only then the full use and benefits may be observed.

While a IS quality framework may create many benefits for a business these authors state that one drawback of creating a IS quality model (or framework) in an organisation is the cost overhead that it creates. They state that these costs must be covered by the benefits that are created by the IS quality model.

Source:

Andersson & Eriksson 1996 “Measuring the Quality Needs of an Organisations Software” available at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=495321

Braa’s Framework on IS Quality and Design.

4 Feb

In this post I will mainly focus on the paper “Beyond Formal Quality in Information Systems Design” by Kristin Braa.

A framework developed by Braa is seen below. Within this framework it is split into two of an IS quality framework and an IS Design framework. The quality framework was proposed as a way to analyze IS in organizations and the IS design framework is used to understand, assess and design an IS.

Technical Quality, Use Quality and Organizational Quality are the three perspectives of the IS quality framework while Software Engineering, Software Use and Organizational Implementation are the three perspectives of the IS design framework. According to Braa being able to understand IS Quality is dependent on “being able to think of IS as a product in one way or another”[1]. This can make the idea of IS quality easier to understand and to be thought of in a manner similar to any other product. The quality of an IS is influenced and determined by the design while quality is experienced during the use of the system.

The frameworks presented by Braa are triangle to show the interdependencies of the three perspectives. The lines within the frameworks aim to show the aim of each individual perspective.

This IS quality framework was then used to develop the IS design framework. Each corner of the IS design framework is related to a corner in the IS quality framework for example software engineering and technical, software use and use quality and organizational implementation and organizational quality. As mentioned the three perspectives in the IS design framework are Software Engineering, Software Use and Organizational Implementation.

The framework has so far been presented as two separate frameworks. Braa joined these together to give a complete view of IS quality. Braa placed the IS design framework inside of the IS quality (product) framework. Braa did this in an attempt to show that the information system is a result of the design process. This was done to show how both the design process and the IS quality (product) frameworks should be used together. Braa, however, also argued that there should be a visible difference between the two frameworks so as to be able to tell the difference between the “differences in product concerns and design concerns, although these are closely interrelated”[2].

Braa also stated “Quality is about people; people communicate what they need and it is people design what other people need. Thus communication and understanding of quality is critical” [3]. I thought this was a very important consideration in this topic and reflected in a way how the user may determine the quality as mentioned in my last post but it may also be an area that I will explore further in this blog.

Source:

[1] [2] [3] Beyond Formal Quality in Information Systems Design by Kristin Braa available at http://heim.ifi.uio.no/~kbraa/docdis.html

IS Quality as Determined by the User

4 Feb

As mentioned in my last post quality is often determined by whether it matches the user requirements and so in this post I will go further into the area from the perspective of a user of an IS. The user is a vital part of any IS [2] as the IS is there to fulfil the information needs of its users [2]. The needs of the users will outline the requirements of the IS.

A user is described as a person who seeks information and then uses that information that they sought [2].

While a successful IS may not necessarily always be of good quality most good quality IS will be a success one as the high quality of the system will often be determined by meeting the user’s expectations. As stated by Braa that if there is high correspondence between expectations and IS (or product in Braa’s case) while when there is low correspondence this will usually be an indication of low quality [1]. Depending on the variety of expectations the actual experience of quality will differ between the users. Often if the users are involved in the design of the IS then the user expectations will be easier to meet and so the quality of the IS may be higher even if technically it is not very sophisticated however as user requirements change if the IS stays static this can diminish the quality of the IS from the users perspective even if it technically it is still the exact same [1].

In Braa’s paper it is pointed out that Juran (79) uses a “fitness for purpose” definition for quality and Kitchenham (89) defined quality as a “fitness for needs” [1]. It is from these definitions we see it as a very subjective issue and that quality comes from the perspective of the end users of their expected and actual experiences of using the information system [1]. It is also important to bear in mind that each user will have different information needs depending on their roles and functions [2].

Whether an information system is of high quality may be dependent upon whose point of view is being used to measure it[1]. Braa suggested three perspectives that it may be possible to view IS quality from including technical quality, use quality and organizational quality[1]. Braa also points out that Vidgen et al (93) while emphasized use in an organizational context they didn’t use the organizational perspective for IS quality [1].

While Vidgen didn’t use the organization perspective it is an alternative user where quality is assess from the point of view of the organization. According to Baa it will be of high quality from an organisational perspective when it is well “adapted to the organisation” [1].

According to Prasad needs and users should become the focus of an IS in order to provide better information as according to him “one man’s information is another man’s noise”[2].

References:

[1] Beyond Formal Quality in Information Systems Design by Kirstin Braa available at http://heim.ifi.uio.no/~kbraa/docdis.html

[2] Information needs and users by DR H N Prasad available at http://lemi.uc3m.es/est/forinf@/index.php/Forinfa/article/viewFile/33/34

IS Quality- Some Components and Impacts on Organisations.

30 Jan

In this post I will mainly focus on the paper “Organizational impact of system quality, information quality, and service quality” by Narasimhaiah Gorla, Toni M. Somers, Betty Wong (2010) while also including and building upon previous posts by my group members.

Organizations are increasingly dependant on information systems and thus the quality of IS is becoming an important issue for CIO’s especially as information systems are a relatively new concept for organisations as mentioned by pm1083 .

Quality for IS in this paper is defined as adhering to industry standards, or similarly to my last post, as  “commitment to certain standards that achieve uniformity” [1] and conforming to end users information requirements or meeting “the needs of its users”[2] as was laid out by uccisp1990. It is suggested that an offer of user friendly interfaces, appealing and entertaining user requests for changes will help to meet customer expectations for information systems quality.

In this paper it is stated that according to Strong et al (1997)  incorrect information, data errors or irrelevant information can result due to changed user requirements and can create significant information quality challenges which shows the importance of matching the user requirements. Again showing the importance of the need for the IS to be in line with the requirements of the users this paper repeatedly tells us that if information that is provided does not match the users needs this will cost  the organisation as a result of maintence and disruption costs Swanson (1997).

It also described how Anderson and Zeithaml (1984) stated that the quality of services and products has been found to be the most important factor in considering long-term business success and this paper states that it applies to IS quality due to its organizational aspects that occur with information improvement.

An IS is built upon the data that is input and so the data quality is a critical issue in the assessment of IS quality. If the data is of poor quality then the resulting information and any decision made from that data will also be poor.

As a separate yet integral part of an IS the system itself. It was brought to my attention in this paper was that often IS managers may ignore quality improvement methods in order to be able to produce the software at a quicker rate Slaughter et al (1998). This was also touched upon by pm1038 in his blog “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. In this the issue of ignoring quality issues in a system until a problem arises was discussed with the example of Apples new map service and the problems that were encountered. It is clear to see the importance of the quality of the system for the overall quality of an IS. In a similar line this paper suggests systems quality as having a different set of measurable attributes including reliability, functionality, flexibility, data quality, ease of use and integration DeLone and McLean (2003).

This paper also showed the importance and the impact that IS quality can have throughout the organisation and how organizational efficiency can be gained from complete, relevant and accurate information. The examples provided included employee and customer dissatisfaction due to errors in information or from a lack of necessary data. Once again it is stated how decision making and the quality of the resulting decisions are impacted by the level of the information quality which is also effected by the quality of the information system.

In this post I stuck  quite closely to the 2010 paper by Gorla, Somers and Wong as I felt it tied in well with previous posts by my group but also it showed the impact IS quality may have on an organisation in a simple to understand way. I felt that it also divided up an IS into its different component parts such as data, the system, the information and showed how these may effect the overall IS quality.

 Sources:

Majority of information for this post was from “Organizational Impact of System Quality, Information Quality, and Service Quality” Narasimhaiah Gorla, Toni M. Somers, Betty Wong avialble at http://0-www.sciencedirect.com.library.ucc.ie/science/article/pii/S0963868710000181 accessed 30/1/2013

[1]http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/quality.html#ixzz2HzUZ0Wp

[2]http://www.ehow.com/facts_7152314_information-system-quality_.html

Introducing IS Quality

15 Jan

To begin I will outline my understanding of what an information system, quality and a framework are.  An information system is defined as a “combination of hardware, software, infrastructure and trained personnel organised to facilitate, planning, control, coordination, and decision making in an organization” [1].

A framework is defined by Businesdicitionary.com as a “broad overview, outline, or skeleton of interlinked items which supports a particular approach to a specific objective, and serves as a guide that can be modified as required by adding or deleting items” [2].

Quality can be defined as “a measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations” and “is brought about by strict and consistent commitment to certain standards that achieve uniformity” [3].

Information systems themselves do not themselves give the competitive advantage to an organization. It is the data and information these systems provide that can give a competitive advantage [4].

Dedeke states that to define a framework for developing quality measures for information systems that you need to start with the needs that the systems attempts to serve such as the production, management and processing of data and information.[4]

Knight and Burn [5] produced a paper in which they made the following points about information quality:

  • “Data quality” is data that is “fit-for-use” (Wang & Strong, 1996) and so it is relative to a use.
  • Common elements between the different information quality frameworks include traditional dimensions such as consistency, accuracy, completeness, timeliness, objectiveness, accessibility and relevancy.
  • Data quality attributes can differ depending on the context in which the data is used (Shankar & Watts, 2003) such as acting as a producer of information, storage and maintenance systems or for searchers and end users of the information.
  • Strong and Wang (1997) suggested that data quality cannot be assessed independent of the users and so data must be understood from the user’s point of view. This can make quality dimensions including usefulness and relevancy hugely important while also making it very difficult to measure.
  • Naumann and Rolker’s (2000) used a three-fold method which uses the objects, subjects and processes used in information retrieval to measure the quality of an information source. Their method is influenced by three things including the perception of the end user, the information and the process of accessing the information.
  • Attempting to define information quality is a complex issue which is made even more complicated due to gathering information from the growing non-validated sources such as the World Wide Web.

Do you have any thoughts on this?

 

References

[1] http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/information-system.html#ixzz2HzTCUfg9

[2] http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/framework.html#ixzz2HzVbtlfs

[3]http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/quality.html#ixzz2HzUZ0WpE

[4] A Conceptual Framework for Developing Quality Measures for Information Systems by Adenekan Dedeke Tennessee State University http://ssm-vm030.mit.edu/ICIQ/Documents/IQ%20Conference%202000/Papers/AConceptualFramework4DevelopQualityMeasure.pdf

[5] Developing a Framework for Assessing  Information Quality on the World Wide Web  by Shirlee-ann Knight and Janice Burn Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia  http://inform.nu/Articles/Vol8/v8p159-172Knig.pdf

Recap on the Business IS Strategic Alignment.

26 Nov

In my previous blog posts I have outlined a simple definition of strategic alignment , I then showed the importance of having both good technology and good business strategy to make it the alignment successful. I then posted about how this issue is still relevant to organisations today including the ever discussed current economic climate. I then discussed how the strategic alignment issue is affected by the traditional strategies of cost leadership, differentiation and niche . As I felt it was still a relevant issue I then laid out possible ways to achieve this strategic alignment. I then proposed the possible arguments for and against the business IS strategic alignment. As a closing post I will quickly recap on the definition and use of business IS strategic alignment.

Strategic alignment is the degree to which the business strategy is enabled, supported and simulated by information strategies according to Broadbent and Will (1993). The effect of IT on performance will be dependant on the extent to which IT strategy and the business strategy fit and are harmonious (Palmer and Markus, 2000, and Croteau and Raymond, 2004). Webster defines strategic alignment as “bringing parts or components into proper coordination; to bring into agreement and close cooperation”.  An additional definition is “the degree to which the IT mission, objectives and plans support and are supported by the business mission, objectives and plans” according to Reich and Benbasat (1996).

It is important to keep in mind the impact that IT can have depends on how and why that IT is used (Galliers and Leidner, 2003). Often firms are now suffering from IT underutilization and IT shortfall (Shin, 2002). IT underutilization occurs when the business strategy does not utilize it to its full potential. IT shortfall occurs when the IT fails to support the business strategy. This shows the importance the business IS strategic alignment can have. It can promote the strategic and efficient use of IT in order to achieve and sustain a competitive advantage for an organization.

Sources: The Case for Strategic Alignment, White Paper by The Knowledge Compass Inc. 2006 http://www.knowledgecompanyinc.com/images/The_Case_for_Strategic_Alignment_-_vC010106.pdf

Strategic Alignment between IT and Business Strategy by Mohamad Arafat, University of Nottingham 2007 (http://edissertations.nottingham.ac.uk/958/1/07MScLixmaa.pdf)

Strategic Alignment Benefits

25 Nov

I am going to outline the benefits associated with strategic alignment in this post as mentioned in my last post where I outlined possible arguments against strategic alignment (https://sopinion8ed.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/possible-arguments-against-strategic-alignment/ ) .

Much of the early motivation for strategic alignment came from the fact that planning of IT, such as the decisions on software and hardware, had long-term implications that trying to tie them in with the business plan was necessary. There are many reasons why many companies strive for strategic alignment including the reduction of such things as redundancy, conflicting work and that it helps to achieve specific goals and improve the company’s competitive advantage by defining such things as capabilities and competencies.

Another benefit is that the strategy will be clearer to the stakeholders and what roles they should play. This will help to eliminate the need to correct problems as projects are less likely to be conflicting and projects that do not support the strategy will not be initiated. This also helps the realization of strategy plans by helping to reduce redundant project activity. It helps to avoid conflicting outcomes and helps to remove barriers that may obstruct the path to success. It helps with the overall business success as it focuses resources on the activities that will have the greatest impact for the business. Strategic alignment also supports flexibility and the ability to change and evaluate the impact of changing strategic plans. It can also aid in making non-strategic changes quickly within the strategic framework. This can be a vital resource in reacting to increased competition. It is also very useful against competition in that it brings every employee toward a common goal increasing its likelihood of success.

In short as according to Chan and Reich in the Article It Alignment: What have we learned? the “organizations that successfully align their business strategy with their IT strategy will outperform those that do not”.

 

What do you think? Do the disadvantages previously mentioned outweigh the benefits I have mentioned here? Or is the case for strategic alignment still the stronger side? And comments or feed back welcomed!

 

Sources:

IT alignment: what have we learned?By Yolande E Chan & Blaize Horner Reich 2007 http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jit/journal/v22/n4/full/2000109a.html

 

The Case for Strategic Alignment , White Paper by The Knowledge Compass Inc 2006 http://www.knowledgecompanyinc.com/images/The_Case_for_Strategic_Alignment_-_vC010106.pdf

Possible Arguments against Strategic Alignment.

23 Nov

Some scholars while acknowledging the benefits of strategy also warn of its drawbacks. One of these is that technology may turn from a competitive advantage to a necessity. Carr (2003) infact suggested that IT had become ubiquitous and as a result not strategic. This is due to its wide availability. Porter (1985) also suggested that IT had the potential to have a negative impact on organizations.

Some more arguments presented in the case against the strategic alignment of IT are:

(1) Alignment research is mechanistic and fails to capture real life,

(2) Alignment is not possible if the business strategy is unknown or in process,

(3) Alignment is not desirable as an end in itself since the business must always change, and

(4) IT should often challenge the business, not follow it. ( Chan and Reich, 2007)

In reference to the first of these arguments Ciborra (1997) suggested that literature about alignment is too theoretical. Instead he recommended a “Mintzberg-like approach”, in this approach researchers would go out into the field to find the insights (Mintzberg, 1973).

Another drawback as mentioned is that it is not easy to implement as strategy is not a clear concept and may change due to environmental unpredicted changes (Ciborra, 1997). Another Also, Sabherwal et al. (2001) and Vitaleet al. (1986) suggested that alignment may constrict organisational ability to quickly react to changes in the external environment. It is necessary to keep in mind that working towards a predetermined or fixed outcomes can be unrealistic due to these continuous changes. Sabherwal et al. (2001) also suggested that a company may suffer from complacency after an initial short term success.  (Arafat, 2007) This idea was previously mentioned by 04ac (https://sopinion8ed.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/challenges-of-strategic-alignment-is-it-linked-with-a-payoff-from-i-t-investment/).

While businesses must always change and this should be reflected in the strategy and thus the alignment however often this is very difficult for companies. For companies in the music industry the external environment has hugely changed however this is often not being reflected by changes in how an organisation is run internally. This competitive environment is changing so quickly it is getting harder to manage. While most strategies are relatively easy to change it has always been very difficult to change an organization, its processes and its culture and people quickly. (Sangira, 2010)

Kearns and Lederer (2000) suggest that alignment of the business plan with the IT strategy could result in possible losses. It is the IT plan that should be aligned with the business plan and which may create a competitive advantage. This shows the dangers of putting IT first. Levy (2000) warned that IT, even if it is aligned, is not strategic. To be strategic the IT must be unique, value creating and difficult for others to copy.

It is interesting to note that Palmer and Markus (2000) produced evidence that rejects a “one-size fits all strategic alignment theory”. They found in their research of the retail sector a relationship between quick responses to technology and performance but no relationship between alignment and performance. In fact they suggested that strategic alignment “may be institutionalized in certain industries” and as a result it would no longer be a “differentiating factor” or competitive advantage.  (Chan and Reich, 2007)

In my next blog I hope to discuss the advantages of strategic alignment.

Sources: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jit/journal/v22/n4/full/2000109a.html (Chan and Reich, 2007)

http://sangira.com/the-problem-of-strategic-alignment/  (Sangira, 2010)

http://edissertations.nottingham.ac.uk/958/1/07MScLixmaa.pdf  (Arafat, 2007)

Achieving Strategic Alignment.

21 Nov

The main goal of strategic alignment is that every person in the organisation is making choices that re-enforce each others decisions and that everyone is pursuing a common value proposition- “a common way of gaining competitive advantage”.  Maintaining this common view for each strategic scenario can be very challenging to present in traditional formats such as Word documents, PowerPoint or Excel worksheets. Strategy trees, strategy maps and scorecards can assist with this challenge by presenting large amounts of data at once by using visuals.

One way of achieving strategic alignment is though feedback mechanisms such as strategy trees, strategy maps, scorecards and dashboards. These can be useful as they can quickly identify areas that are under performing.

A strategy tree lays out what you are trying to achieve and how you are planning on achieving it. They show strategic objectives, critical success factors and the actions for each critical success factor. This allows everyone to see what the strategy actually is.

Strategy maps have also become popular. These are made up of a subset of objects from the strategy tree. They have become so popular as they only include objectives and the relationship between them.

Scorecards can be critical in successful strategic alignment as they “bind the users to the strategy itself.  They can be very useful as they give visuals of the key performance measures, their direction, key responsibilities and what actions may be necessary. Scorecards can show users how their actions or inactions can effect the alignment of strategy. However just using scorecards will not solve the alignment issue. Failures may occur if the wrong technology is rolled out or if it does not have the support from management. It needs to be as part of a “wider performance management platform” this is so the data will be relevant, consistent, accurate and available when needed. One of the biggest advantages of scorecards is that they can help to support change in an organisation another is ability for enquiry and analysis. This drill down should show the relationship between the performance indicators and measurements such as projects, objectives and goals. It should start to indicate how performance in one area of the business may be affecting performance in another. This can help to show users how their own goals and objectives can support the all over strategy.

The exact layout of the scorecard is usually user definable but as stated by pm1083 (https://sopinion8ed.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/strategy-maps-and-aligning-it-with-strategy/ ) scorecards are usually made up of the following headings: financial, customer, learning and growth and internal business processes.

A dashboard can be very beneficial to a company due to its ability “to instantly communicate performance” for a specified amount of measures in an attention grabbing way. A dashboard should be easy to understand so employees can see straight away the relevant performance measurements to their role to they can assess if the performance is at the necessary level.

A dashboard is often compared to a dashboard inside a car. On it you can see the important information necessary for driving the car e.g. speed, fuel and rpms etc. Similarly to scorecards the information shown is user defined. Usually the dashboard is frequently refreshed to allow for adjustment to the strategy as the external environment changes. Dashboards can be very useful for tactical decision makers and managers that are unused to the hard data such as spreadsheets that are used for most information systems. The ability to view current performance at a glance can be hugely beneficial to an organisation. Dashboards however do not indicate the importance of the mission (as a scorecard would).

In my previous posts I hoped to point out the importance of strategic alignment and here I hope to show different ways that this may be achieved.  I think thestrategicbloggers post on Outsourcing and Alignment (https://sopinion8ed.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/outsourcing-alignment-conundrum/ ) shows the additional difficulties that may be incurred. Some of the items (such as strategy maps, strategy trees, scorecards or dashboards) outlined in this blog may help to try and prevent or correct those difficulties.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Please leave any comments below!

 

Source: “The Challenge of Strategic Alignment” The role of Scorecards and Dashboards in Strategy Execution. A FSN & Oracle White Paper.

http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/business-intelligence/064027.pdf

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