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House of Quality: An IS Quality Tool (Extension from Quality Assurance Model)

25 Feb

The House of Quality Matrix (HOQ) is a tool that can be adapted to systematic planning of improvements in IS Quality process. The HOQ tool translates customer requirements, based on a customer questionnaire and benchmarking data, into an appropriate number of engineering targets to be met by the IS system. The HOQ matrix is a high level view of how the IS system meets the needs of the IS system customers. It becomes the nerve centre and the engine that drives the entire IS Quality system process. Looking specifically at the security of the IS system and adapting it to the HOQ.

Image

The “Voice of the Customers” (Section1)
The initial steps in forming the House of Quality include determining, clarifying, and specifying the
Customer Requirements (Security Column). These steps lay the foundation for a clearly defined means of comparing the fit between customers’ needs and IS system specifications. The Voice of the customer is captured by listing the ranked customer needs from 1-10 (Importance Column):

 Security Table.jpg

The customer needs are then copied by the tool into SECTION_1 of the HOQ matrix (shown in blue box outline).

Security Table.jpg

Rating the IS Functional Requirements (Section 2)
Customers buy benefits and the IS offers features. How well the customers’ needs are met by the IS specifications are captured by listing the features in SECTION_2 of the HOQ matrix which is done by scoring each customer requirement against each Functional Requirement. So the customer requirement “No intruders in any building” has a strong correlation (●) with the functional requirement “Biometric Access” and “Offices with badge access” but has a weak correlation ( ▽) with “Single network” functional requirement. This process is repeated for each customer requirement and each IS requirement. (○) denotes a medium relationship between customer and system requirements.

Section 2

Customer Competitive Assessment (Section 3)
The next step in the HOQ process is comparing the in-house quality system with competitive products. This comparison is completed in SECTION_3 by scoring how well each competitor meets the customer requirements. Four different competitors were added for comparison:

Section 3Direction of Improvement 

This section is used to indicate in which way a product feature can be improved, example increasing the bandwidth might improve a product or reducing the number of failures might improve a product.

Direction

Correlations

This section allows us to observe the effect of making a change on all other Functional Requirements, for example decreasing the number of failures may improve one aspect of the  product but decrease negatively other aspects of the product such as “Cost”. In the HOQ matrix this is depicted by the pyramid like structure at the top.

Technical Competitive Assessment (Section 4)

 This section allows us to see the relative fit of the current IS Quality system compared to the customer requirements.
Any score = 1 (shown in RED) is an area of mandatory improvement. A score of 3 means satisfactory and 9 means the Functional Requirements are meeting the customer requirements. The assessment of the IS Quality system and its systematic improvement can be managed by the HOQ Matrix.

Section 4Step-by-Step Process

In the example shown above for IS security we proceed as follows.

1. For each of the IS functional Blocks (in our example the SECURITY block) we use a questionnaire to list all the ranked customer requirements.
2. We then list the product features in the Functional Requirements.
3. We then set the direction of improvement in the Direction of Improvement.
4. For each customer requirement a score is made against each functional requirement.
5. A competitive comparison with a selected number of customers is made, allowing us to see how well the IS QUALITY system is performing.
6. The scores are noted in the Technical Competitive Assessment, any score 1 or 3 are areas where the product needs to improved.
7. A target score is set for each of the technical requirements, priority being given to those areas with a low score.
8. Finally the score of the overall fit of the technical requirements against the customer needs are noted in the TOP LEVEL table. Overall score rating for security was calculated by dividing the sum of  your product points (Product row) over the total sum. This can be done for other quality sections:

Top level

A HOQ matrix can be done not only for security but also for; Database, System Design, Usability and User Interface following the same process. Customer and functional requirements will vary for each.

***Look at the excel file which provides you with template tables and HOQ matrix used for determining the Quality of your current IS***

The balanced Scorecard for IS Quality Frameworks: Cross-Pollinating Qualities.

8 Feb

Taking a look at a ‘two-by-two’ matrix that consists of two rows and two columns integrated with values may provide further insight when developing a framework that determines the information quality of a service or product. This model is known as the product and service performance model for information quality (PSP/IQ). The columns of the ‘2-by-2’ matrix contains two dimensions that capture quality ‘Conformance to specifications of the system’ and ‘exceeding consumer expectations’ and the two rows capture quality from its product and service aspects.  IS specialists prefer to measure quality from the ‘Conformance to specifications’ aspect as it is a quality that can be defined and measured. The hybrid of both qualities lets us come up with dimensions that could be used in the development of the framework. The 2-by-2 model matrix can act like a canvas in filling out the dimensions produced by the cross-pollination of the qualities given:

Matrix 1

The above 2-by-2 matrix is my own take of the PSP/IQ model from Beverly k. Kahn et al 2004 paper “Information Quality Benchmarks: Product and Service Performance” which can prove useful when assessing what dimensions are associated with a given quality. I change the word ‘Consumer’ to ‘End – user’ from the original heading ‘Meets or exceeds consumer expectations’  due the fact the end user of the IS service is not only limited to the customer but also could apply to user internally such as employees. Upon observing the matrix, cross-pollination of ‘Product Quality’ and ‘IS system conforming to specifications’ will have a different set of dimensions than let’s say the cross-pollination of ‘Product Quality’ with ‘Meets end user expectations ’which will have dimensions that are more orientated toward the End user satisfaction side of the IS system. The next question is what dimensions to insert into this bare, skeletal like matrix, well lets look at some generic dimensions(organs) that most Information systems can relate too:

Dimension Table

The table shows only a few of many dimensions that come to mind when filling out the matrix. This table was taken from Beverly k. Kahn’s Paper but I changed some dimensions to suit ‘information systems quality’ not ‘information quality’ which has considerable differences. Filling in the matrix we can see where the list of dimensions fit in:

 Matrix 2

The qualities on the left hand side of the matrix are not limited to product and service quality but can extend to other qualities of an IS service or output. Can extend to; information quality, system quality, data quality etc. resulting in the cross-pollinating of a vast variety of dimensions which can be included into the quality framework.

Sources:

Beverly K. Kahn et al (2002). Information Quality Benchmarks: Product and Service Performance. Communications of the ACM vol. 45.

 

 

Who’s the End User? A Question that must be addressed.

8 Feb

It is of uppermost importance that we establish who the end user of the information system is before developing the necessary framework. The end user of the IS system being the customer can possess very different system qualities than if the end user of the system were employees.

“Quality has been defined as fitness for use or the extent to which a product successfully serves the purposes of consumers” (Beverly K. Khan et al 2002)

A framework which is orientated toward an IS system with the customer as its end user possess qualities that tend to lean toward user satisfaction qualities. The addition of “Service Quality” in Delone & McLeans updated success model due to demand of customers for support by the service provider is a prime example of IS systems adapting to its changing external environment (Alarming nature of the changing world).

“This dimension (Service Quality) is more important in an ecommerce environment than ever before, because the users are now customers rather than employees, and therefore, poor user support will translate into lost customers and lost sales.” (H. Delone & R. Mclean 2004)

If the end users of an IS system are primarily customer based as opposed to employee based the framework in question must integrate qualities that a directed toward customer satisfaction. Cause-effect of an IS system whose end users are customers gives rise to a framework adapting qualities such as:

Quality listThe above qualities and associated subcategory dimensions (In bullet points) may be used as a good starting point in developing a framework that determines the quality of an IS system service. Where the end user of the IS system is a solely the customers.

Sources:

Beverly K. Kahn et al (2002). Information Quality Benchmarks: Product and Service Performance. Communications of the ACM vol. 45.

William H. DeLone & Ephraim R. Mclean (2004). Measuring e-Commerce Success: Applying the D&M IS Success  Model. International Journal of Electronic Commerce / Fall 2004, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 31–47.

Quality derived from IS System Components

7 Feb

“An information system would be of high quality the more it yields relevant data, in the most accessible form to its customers with minimal effort.”(Dedeke, A. 2000)

Defining a framework for assessing quality involves recognising what information system quality means to the organisation and then identifying these qualities. The qualities of the system are identified by initially establishing the components of the IS system. I briefly outlined in my previous blog “A Guide to developing a Framework”, the main challenges in developing a framework. Basic steps need to be put in place when constructing the framework:

Framework Steps

The components of an IS system are not set but depend on generic resources which include; people,  data, interface, soft-/hardware and networks.

People Component: Include end user and IS specialists. The end users are the people who use the IS. An IS specialist on the other hand are the people who develop and operate the information system.

Data Component: Database that holds processed organised data and knowledge bases that hold knowledge in a variety of forms. Data resources are transformed by information processing activities into a variety of information products for end users. Information processing consists of inputs, processing, output, storage and control activities. The data is stored in a data warehouse which can be readily accessible to potential new end users.

Interface Component: Includes the design aspect of the IS system coming from the end users perspective. May include the graphical user interface (GUI).

Hardware/Software Component: Hardware of an information system includes all physical devices and materials used in information processing. Not only does this include computer systems and computer peripherals but also data media that consists of all tangible objects on which data is recorded. Software resources includes all sets of information processing instructions (programs) that directly controls computer hardware and sets of information instructions needed by people(Programmes). Software components can be broken down into System software, Application Software and Procedures assisting the end user of the system.

Network Component: Includes communications media and network support. Used to connect network computer systems and transmit information via wired or wireless media.

Quality categories are derived from the associations between each component forming the architecture. Once the different quality categories of the proposed IS system have been identified a hierarchical framework for IS quality can be proposed. Each quality category gives rise to its own subcategory dimensions. The dimensions are specific to the umbrella quality category to which it correlates. A basic hierarchical framework that represents the quality categories with its correlating dimensions can be depicted as the following:

Quality hierarchy

Adapted from (Dedeke, A. 2000) and (Lau, F. 1999). A hierarchical framework with a top-down view of the qualities that are derived from the associations between the components of the IS system.

Sources:

Dedeke, A (2000). A Conceptual Framework for Developing Quality Measure for Information Systems.

Lau, F. (1999). Towards a Framework for Action Research in Information Systems Studies. Information, Technology, & People, 12(2), 148-172.

Components of an Information System. MBA Knowledge Base, www.mbaknol.com.

Components of Information Systems. Britannica Academic Edition, www.britannica.com.

Fox or Hedgehog? A Guide to Developing a Framework for Decision Makers.

6 Feb

The core objective of the blogs in relation to “IS Quality” is to construct a conceptual framework that can be used as a support in the decision making process for top level executives in determining the quality of their information system services and outputs.  The framework will allow management teams to cognitively steer them into making a successful decision.  It may be used as a road-map or guide when collaborating between groups abstaining from affective decision making. (Nichols, Aidan 2003) Eventually a final choice will be made when determining the quality of the IS outputs but it cannot solely be based on a conceptual framework that’s not to say it doesn’t have a contributing factor. Developing a conceptual framework to assist in a choice or decision may be a complex task. It is vital not to be narrow minded adapting the framework through the lens of a single principle but rather be open-minded and develop a frame work from a variety of sources increasing your knowledge bank. This goes back to the idea of two very different ways of thinking; one can be categorised as ‘hedgehog’ the narrow minded person who channels and knows one single organising principle or the alternative the ‘fox’ who knows many things and who pursues various unrelated, even contradictory ends. (Isaiah Berlin 1953) I think one must adapt a mind frame more closely related to the ‘fox’ when developing a framework.

In order to construct a beneficial conceptual framework it must be understood how it has to be developed.  To understand the “how” we have to define what a frame work is and does. So what do we utilise the framework for;

  • Makes it easier for top level management to work with complex technologies, in this case determining the quality of an organisations information services and outputs.
  • It ties together a group of discrete objects/components into something more useful. These components need to identified and correlated when constructing the framework.

Having a general idea of what a framework does we need to understand the specific classifications that defines a framework. A framework can be classified as three terms; a wrapper which is a way of repackaging a function to achieve a goal (determining quality of IS systems and outputs).

 

Wrapper

Figure 1 Wrapper Provides Added Value

 

An architecture which is the design the framework incorporates. It is separate from the collection of wrappers and methodology it implements. It can be seen as the association between the objects. The beauty about the architecture is that it may be re-usable early on the project but once it is implemented it may be hard to change.

architecture

Figure 2 The architecture forming an association between a collection of objects

 

A methodology defines the interaction between architectures, components and objects. Unlike the architecture which deals with the associations between objects, the methodology deals with the interaction between objects. (Marc Clifton,2003)

methodology

Figure 3 Methodology defines the interaction between architectures, Components and Objects.

But a framework is not all “black and white” but will need all a three classifications in order for the framework to be implemented. Taking this on the board, the real challenge lies in identifying the appropriate methodology which targets our goal and also in creating an architecture that associates with a correct set of components or objects.

External factors must not be neglected when developing a framework, such as the alarming nature of the changing world. Continual advancement of IT has a direct effect on IS systems which may leave some frameworks outdated and miss aligned with the IS output. Hence determining the quality of the IS outputs when using a miss aligned framework may be prove inaccurate as a result. It is vital that the rapid advancement of Information Systems is taken into consideration when conducting the necessary research. It can be said that a framework that is inaccurate, not aligned with its information system outputs and is taken only at face value may contribute to direct consequences down the line. Relating it to Per Bak’s sand pile hypothesis which shows that a small event can have a momentous consequence and that seemingly stable systems can behave in highly unpredictable ways. The framework that determines the quality of its’ IS outputs correlating to the ‘small event’ and overall implementation of the IS system being the ‘stable system that can behave in unpredictable ways’.

Sand Pile

Figure 3 Per Bak’s sand pile hypothesis: if grains of sand were dropped on a pile one at a time, the pile, at some point, would enter a critical state in which another grain of sand could cause a large avalanche — or nothing at all.

 

Sources:

Nichols, Aidan (2003). Discovering Aquinas: An Introduction to His Life, Work, and Influence. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Joshua Cooper Ramo (2010). The Age of the Unthinkable. Little, Brown & Company.

Isaiah Berlin (1953). The Hedgehog and The Fox. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Mark Clifton (2003). What is a Framework?. http://www.codeproject.com.

 

The Biggest Decision CIOs have to make today: Reshoring vs Offshoring outsourcing.

29 Nov

Offshoring may not be the most beneficial option for CIOs when it comes to outsourcing. As I mentioned in my previous blog “Welcome to the age of Reshoring” outsourcing is becoming another vital decision that CIOs can be faced with.  William Floyd CTO, MB Trading has had mixed outcomes when it comes to outsourcing.  Over the last 20 years MB trading has been outsourcing to India-based companies but due to the long distance of India and its cultural differences has led to communication problems between teams effecting overall performance. As a result jobs that were once outsourced offshore are being reincorporated in-house.

“We are confident we can do much better than the outsourcing company, we also feel we can do this in-house at similar costs, due to the recession.” William Floyd CTO, MB Trading

Similarly for Richard Broome, CIO of Host Analytics location & distance played a major part in his decision whether to strategically outsource offshore or inshore. Initially Host Analytics a cloud based company outsourced its customer support to India. But it became apparent that there was a communication gap between offshore customer support and its customers, there was a lack of expertise. Broome came to realise that customers’ needs were not be met by outsourcing IT operations. A strategic decision to keep outsourcing in-house was a right decision for host analytics as it a skilled and experience workforce were able to understand the customer’s needs. (Techtarget.com)

Location was the difference between a nightmare and a dream-come-true outsourcing strategy.” Richard Broome CIO, Host Analytics

More recently Randy Mott CIO of general motors is withdrawing form it reliance on offshore outsourcing, but is reversing GM’s outsourcing strategy to an onshore one. It plans to double the in-house experts in the next 3 years but the big issue is maintaining efficiency without increasing costs. Will others follow suit at a detriment of IT service leaders like (HP, Dell, IBM) or is this just an unnecessary move that will be too costly to maintain?

“If you’re more efficient and you can go through the process more quickly, you have more time and more resources to be looking at innovations that provide a competitive advantage for the company,” Huston-Rough.

Employees at the Fiat and Guangzhou Automobile Group manufacturing plant in Changsha work on the production of Viaggio vehicles (BloomBerg Business Week)

The swing of the pendulum: Welcome to the age of “Reshoring”

29 Nov

A hot topic of “offshoring” in the 2nd  US  presidential debate 2012 between Mitt Romney and current president Barrack Obama has made us aware of the fact that today’s economic climate is rapidly changing, causing an overall shift in the way companies outsource abroad. Barrack Obama announced a plan to remove outsourcing benefits in an effort to stimulate the US economy; consequently SMEs are reshoring their production and IT workers. Cliftonmoore gave a good insight into the outsourcing offshore (O&O) markets; India and China being the two leaders in the outsourcing market today. Due to the growing demand of companies needing to outsource offshore has significantly increased the labour cost of India and china’s workforce. This has turned firms looking to outsource to alternative countries with cheaper labour costs possible options like Eastern Europe or South America. But by no means is labour cost the only factor that is taken into consideration, India still remains the top of the O&O market today due to India’s unique benefits that other’s in the offshore business just haven’t been able to keep up. India boosts it is ideal in the offshore market due to its abundance of engineers, large English-speaking population and historical ties to Western countries, as well as it’s relatively low labour costs and has been doing it so before anyone else, China hot on their heels.

BDO USA LLP survey 2012

 

Although outsourcing is very much evident with 62% of outsourcing being offshored to India, outsourcing in the U.S technology industry has declined for the third straight year in a row. There has been a notable shift from 2009 when nearly twice as companies were outsourcing services and manufacturing offshore this has dramatically reduced.

““Bringing services and manufacturing back to the U.S. is also a smart move for tech companies looking to improve the quality of service and reduce exposure to international risks and major supply chain disruptions.” Paul Heiselmann BDO USA LLP

But it’s not a case that outsourcing has taken a 180 degree turn from offshore to onshore. The majority of outsourcing is still done offshore but a recent shift in firms reshoring has emerged due to different factors be it to for competitive gain or standardisation. Factors that have led to reshoring outsourcing:

  • Time and cost of training out-house employees offshore
  • Technical capabilities lost due to outsourcing offshore
  • When quality and performance outweighs cost of labour
  • Miscommunications leading to incorrect deliveries

Taking for example GE who has been offshoring it’s IT outsourcing to India for the last 15 years. More than half of its IT work was taken out by non-GE employee, but in 2009 GE made the strategic move to regain some of its technical capabilities lost as a result of outsourcing offshore. (CIO.com)  Has quality and performance qualities that results from inshore outsourcing outweighed the added value that traditional offshore outsourcing offers to firms. Leading up to the recession and the troubled economy it created offshore outsourcing was the common strategy put in place which ultimately cut costs and maximise ROI. Is the tide slowly turning and how will this affect the western economy; possible deflation in wages, increased blue collar jobs, a lower cost of living? All things we have to think about in the future.

Amazon Web Services the Coca-Cola of Cloud, Is there a Pepsi?

22 Nov

 

Has the cloud service market de-centralized from the core cloud service providers, hence increasing competition and toppling the cloud provider hierarchy into an increasing level playing field. Today Amazon web services (AWS) is the “Coca-Cola” of the cloud service industry! AWS maybe the mainstream cloud provider for the majority of marketplace technology. Approx. 85% of cloud services are dominated by AWS and some 15% by Windows Azure, Google, Verizon and EMC with the rest being ‘openstack’ based cloud providers such as Rackspace, Go Grid, and Elastic Hosts etc. according to ComputerWeekly.com. But the small fish must not be underestimated as a continual rise in SMEs prefer using cloud based services integrated with openstack software. This shift in power and increased competition is advantageous to enterprise as it lowers overall cost of using the cloud. Yes CTOs have progressively moved to the cloud but they want to see improvements that will make using the cloud more federated, automated and interoperable for the user. If cloud services become more federated and easier to work with, end users will be able to know what applications to deploy on the right platforms.

The shift of monolithic cloud computing cause’s beneficial consequences:

  • Increased competition in the market leads to the decrease in cost of cloud services.
  • Having more players in the cloud market leads to standardisation and cloud federation which can be beneficial for investing in cloud.

So why has the cloud market expanded from the core mainstream cloud providers such as AWS? Question is simple, the modern organisation today with a tighter budget has to find new innovative ways to gain competitive advantage, cloud computing is evolving to be the norm in the business world today. Companies will have to adapt to cloud computing not just to gain a competitive advantage but to stay in the competition, “stay in the game” in other words.

Question: Cloud is moving at a rapid pace and eventually all organisations that need IT will eventually be moving to “the cloud”, so why are companies so slow today in adapting this IT investment in order to “stay in the game”?

BYOD Security: The Race to a secure tablet.

8 Nov

Timh88  provided a good insight on the security Issues surrounding the use of BYOD initiatives. He mentioned that an organisation needs to agree on a homogeneous device to increase efficiency in security but also on technical support. I came across a white paper from searhsecurity.com which might be of interest, with the new Microsoft surface tablet integrated in with windows 8 OS being introduced into the enterprise market, it outlines how it meets BYOD challenges as a “homogeneous device” and why it’s more reliable than your alternative pads and slates. With it’s main competitor being the I-Pad the main challenge it faces is too first win over consumers who have already grown attached to current BYOD options.

So will the introduction of the new tablet from Microsoft make a big impact into the mobile enterprise as a homogeneous device for BYOD initiatives?

We are Generation “C”

7 Nov

Yes we can talk about what IT trends are at the top of the  CIOs agenda list for 2013, trends like Big Data, Cloud Computing and Enterprise Mobile technology as mentioned by previous bloggers. But lets not exclude how IT trends surfaced into the emerging markets in the first place. It may simply be due to people’s way of adopting too new technology on a global scale and hence leading to an IT trend by which a new technology niche is introduced. A prime example by which people have adopted to the ongoing advance of the digital world is the concept of “Digitization”. Booze & Company predict by 2020 there will be a  rise to a new generation of people, what is known as generation “C” (Connected). This generation have grown up and are familiar with the digital world. When I say digital world, I’m talking about generation C’s familiarity with mobile communications, technology, social networking. With generation C’s reliance in mobile communication and their desire to  remain in contact with large networks of friends and business contacts this will transform how we work and how we consume. Booze & Co. outline the three main contributors to the Digitization phenomenon:

  1.  Consumer Pull:  This relates to the generation C consumers who are fully adapted to the digital environment.  Expect to be always connected and willing to share personal data.  
  2. Technology Push: Technology advances in backbone infrastructure have provided affordable broadband to millions of users. Increases the mass of people using the internet, making more consumers being connected. Does who were not able to have access to the internet are now being able to do so due to affordable broadband. In parallel low cost devices such as smart phones and tabs being deployed into industry with addition of the cloud is quickly advancing. 
  3. Economic Benefits: Vast amounts of capital have poured into the digitization market with a high demand for digitization technologies.

Video on the Digitization Megatrend

Due to the “Digitization revolution”, generation C have now become more familiar with technology having greater access in particular to mobile devices which has allowed them to connect to the world. With a highly connected generation using more and more mobile devices, businesses and technical consultancy firms alike have come up with a trend as mentioned before called “Mobile Enterprise”. Taking advantage of so many people now having a mobile device (Smartphones,tabs) be it for personal use on the consumer front or for work on the business front, can open up so many doors of possibilities for the modern organisation. On the consumer front the use of mobile devices  can allow companies to interact with their potential customers, whereas in-house on the business front, tabs can be used on a BYOD basis for on-the-go collaboration between the workforce. Although issues still remain with using BYOD tabs and smartphones within organisations today due to security as referred to in depth by both corcoranchris and timh88, BYOD initiatives are  starting to be implemented as new developments in security for mobile enterprise technology evolves.

 

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