One has to plan the information which the management information system will churn out for the different levels of management. The report structures, information flow, storage, information capture and its strategy, network, applications and security are all planned and designed before the system is created.
Normally, the stages of MIS development conform to a stage-wise development approach, with planning of the system being the first activity followed by analysis and design which in turn is followed by coding, testing and implementation. However, even though the broad stages may be used for most MIS development, the order is sometimes tweaked. Each of the activities given above for development of MIS is a difficult and intellectually stimulating set of tasks requiring technical and managerial skills. In some of the activities, the users are actively involved in arriving at the design of the system.
Normally, the system analyst and his team will be responsible for the majority of the stages in developing the management information system. This is required as the development process requires knowledge of both management and technology which most line manager’s lack.
Planning for MIS is probably the most important task in the entire development process. It is the activity which if done wrongly may lead to huge cost and time overruns in the development process. The planning process involves amongst other things the aligning of objectives of an organization with the objectives of the MIS. This activity requires strategic management orientation and a macro view of the needs and growth aspirations of the organization among other skills as the system will have to be relevant to the organization in the near future. If the organization outgrows the MIS, then the MIS will have to be redeveloped. This being costly, in both time and financial dimensions is to be avoided.
However, before we embark on planning, we must have an understanding of what we are getting in to. For this, it is very important to understand that IS development for which the planning is being done can be difficult or easy depending on a few factors. If the IS development according to the assessment of the factors is easy, planning will be done accordingly and if the assessment of the factors is such that the IS development is likely to be difficult then planning has to be detailed and management has to be involved more in the planning process. The factors also must be explained to the top management and the possible difficult areas must be clearly identified and monitored in the entire development process. The planning for all this then becomes a part of the IS planning process.
Information systems development becomes easy if there is:
- A supportive management with a positive attitude
- The existing IS is adequate
- The objectives for the new IS is good and clear
In such a scenario, the IS development becomes easy and the IS that is developed delivers value and becomes acceptable to employees easily. However, if any or all of the above factors are not in favor, i.e., management is not supportive or has a negative attitude towards IS or if the objectives of the new IS are bad or if the existing IS is inadequate or all of the factors are together not in favor, then the IS development becomes very difficult. One must factor in these issues before commencing with the information systems planning process.
The Process of Development of Information System: A Typical Software Development Life Cycle
The process of development of information systems in an organization may vary from case to case but ideally the stages of development can be clearly demarcated. The process of development of information system involves the following stages:
- Planning-planning is required as without planning the outcome will be below expectations. Planning sets the objectives of the system in clear and unambiguous terms so that the developer may conform to a well laid set of deliverables rather than a high-sounding statement that may mean little to him. Planning also enables the development process to be structured so that logical methodology is used rather than working in fits and starts. It ensures user participation and helps in greater acceptability and a better outcome from the development process. It leads to a system that is well balanced in both the managerial and technical aspects.
- Analysis-is an activity of technical representation of a system. Over the years many methods have been developed of which the structured analysis and object oriented analysis are most widely used. This step or activity is the first technical representation in abstract terms of the system.
- Design-is the stage where the model or representation of an entity or a system is done (in detail). It is based on the idea that the developer will be able to develop a working system conforming to all the specifications of the design document which would satisfy the user. ·It is a concept which has been borrowed from other branches in engineering where the blueprint of a system or entity to be built later is first created on a piece of paper or digitally to help developers in conceptualization of the system and to understand the specifications of the system.
- Coding-is the actual stage of writing codes to develop the application software according to the specifications as set by the design document. The programming done at this stage to build the system is dictated by the needs of the design specifications. The programmer cannot go beyond the design document.
- Testing-is the testing of the system to check if the application is as per the set specification and to check whether the system will be able to function under actual load of data. The testing is also done to remove any bugs or errors in the code.
- Implementation-is the stage when the system is deployed in the organization. This is a process which often is a difficult one as it involves some customization of the code to fit context specific information in the system.
Before commencing IS planning, one must also identify the need for new information system. The above figure gives a flow chart to find out if the existing IS is fulfilling the objectives of the organization with respect to IS. Sometimes, an existing IS can be tweaked or redesigned to align it with the changing objectives and business needs of the organization but sometimes, that become too costly or technically infeasible, in which case, one has to start the process for a new IS. The above flowchart also gives us a tool to use to understand whether our existing IS is relevant for our business operations.