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What is ERP? A guide to enterprise resource planning systems (via CIO)

ERP, upgrade system, business, strategy

A very interesting and in-depth article about ERP and why you should consider using it.  A very good read that gives a lot of good information.

The Article

ERP combines software systems from departments like finance, human resources and warehouse management.  It combines it into a single, integrated software program running off a single database.  This way the various departments can more easily share information and collaborate. It’s a tall order, but that integrated approach can have a tremendous payback if companies install the software correctly.

Source: CIO

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3 Roles for Information Systems in Business

business, business information systems, data, upgrade, competitive advantage

Purpose of Information Systems

Information Systems (IS) are to help you and your company to find new strategies in order to gain competitive advantage in your industry. One way to do this is through adapting IS in your business. IS helps the organization to use its data, reduce workload and assist compliance with mandatory regulations.

3 Roles for IS

Information Storage and Analysis

Companies now use more advanced databases that contain all types of data about what they do. IS can store, update and analyze the information. From all the information that the agency has, they can figure out new solutions to both current and future problems. Information can also be integrated from different sources both in and outside of your company. This allows you to keep the company up to date with both internal performances and external opportunities or threats.

Assist with Making Decisions

Information Systems are all about helping you to make strategic plans for your business. The management team uses the information gathered to create plans and decisions for longevity and making more money. You use IS to measure and test all the information gathered from all sources. The analysis and comparison of market trends helps you to decide if your strategic decisions made are both adequate and are good quality.

Assist with Business Processes

IS helps businesses to create more value based systems for your company. Information Systems are integrated anywhere to measure out where tasks will make that department run better and for less money. Or it can make sure that everyone follows whatever regulations each department needs to follow to stay in compliance with government laws. It both simplifies business processes and gets rid of unneeded activities. They also add controls to employee processes. This in turn makes sure that only the ones who need to know have access to certain tasks. IS gets rid of repetitive tasks, increases accuracy and leads to better project planning and implementation.

Some Considerations

Implementing new systems costs a lot of money. It includes not just the installation but also employee training sessions. Some employees might even resist the changes being brought on. This in turn can hinder your operations and employee turnover could increase. Just make sure to have strong leadership in place when doing this. It will help guide employees and managers through the transition while weighing cost against benefits to see if you would really like to do this.

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The Evolution of The Computer

evolution, computer, technology

I just love learning how things began.  It’s so interesting to see how computers came to being, isn’t it?  Hard to believe that in the early 1600’s the word computer was first used.

Even though there’s proof of the ancient Greeks having a form of computer which is awesome.  It’s fun to see how far technology has progressed.  Computer technology will always change.  It’s the nature of the beast.  What are you going to do to keep up to date with all the updates?

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3 V’s of Big Data

Big Data, business, upgrade, business intelligence

Big Data. What is It?

Businesses get almost an overflow of big data every day. It’s information gathered through structured and unstructured means. Companies can use the results to make better decisions and plan strategic moves.

3 V’s of Big Data

  1. Volume – Information comes from many sources. Everything including business transactions to social media to machine-to-machine data.
  2. Velocity – Data comes in a super fast speed. So your business has to handle the speed in near-real time to act quickly.
  3. Variety – It comes in various formats. Anything from structured, numeric results to unstructured documents like email, video, or audio files to name a few.

The Potential

Big Data is growing every day worldwide. It offers huge amounts of help to businesses that use it, but even with all the evidence, most companies are still not using it to its full potential. There’s nothing to do with how much data you have, but everything to do with what you want to do with it. Big Data can help with cost and time reductions, new product development, and smart decision-making. Combining big data with analytics can help you with tasks like finding root causes of failures in near-real time, make coupons based on customer’s buying habits, recalculate risk portfolios and sensing out fraudulent behavior before it can affect you and your company.

Who Uses Big Data

Industries carry out Big Data findings when they decide to use them. Banks use it to better understand their customers and lower risk and fraud. Education uses it to find at-risk students, make sure that students are making progress and create better systems evaluating teachers and principals. Retail uses it to market better to customers, better handle transactions, and revive struggling businesses.

Consider This

Make sure to research companies that can handle your data for you. Look for cheap and huge amounts of storage, quick processors and affordable open source, distributed platforms. Look for parallel processing, large grid environments, high connectivity and virtualization. Also look for cloud computing capabilities for resource allocation arrangements.

Do your research. Don’t rush into choosing a company as you want to stay with them for years, not months. Big Data is a huge help for your company. Just make sure that you can get access to it quickly and easily, while having good security options in place to make sure others cannot.

 

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3 Challenges to Business Intelligence and Analytics Adoption

big data, challenges, business intelligence, BI, analytics

Business Intelligence and Analytics

What is the biggest challenge today for upgrading your business? You’ll find the answer through using tools enabling business intelligence (BI) and analytics strategies. It seems that businesses are looking to adopt BI and more advanced analytics to achieve bigger gains. Upper management needs to explore more information to gather key areas that they feel need improvement.

The Biggest Challenges:

  • Data Preparation – The ability to complete data management in putting together and cleaning data before compiling reports and analytics.
  • Skills and Leadership – Is there a structure focused on needs of both BI and analytics along with more complex methods?
  • Ease of Use – Can those who are less technically inclined be able to use the system?

Preparing Data

The biggest gaps are in data prep. It is more difficult and more complex than it seems. The size of the company and how they are using BI and analytics doesn’t matter. They all see big gaps in how they filter, transform and prepare their data. Good data gathering and compiling is completed. It helps find both relationships and potential outcomes quickly. The information found here will help improve your company’s productivity and build competitive advantages. Consider automation and self-service also for those in the agency who are less technically inclined. Analytics are behind BI. Improvements are needed to be able to prepare, augment and explore the data gathered. This will help your agency to find root causes and trends. You can then build and update predictive models through using machine learning.

Skills and Leadership

Skills and leadership are key too. Agencies strong in these areas still say that there are many challenges in innovation, creativity, and leadership. Shown executive support enforces the need for upgrades or change just will not happen. If there’s no strong vision and support at this level, the initiatives will fail or underperform. A leader needs to make sure that they openly show the value of success from the new initiatives.

Ease of Use

Overworked data scientists or analysts already in your company because of changes being implemented need help. In this case, it’s better to create self-service and interactive tools where everyone can find them. Nontechnical users will need the guidance, and instead of overworking your data scientists and analysts, this can help. There’s software built to aid building systems that can detect relationships, correlations, segments, and outliers. It could use natural language to create queries. It could present context-based narratives of important findings. All sorts of things could be created with the new software to help the organization.

Increasing adoption of BI and Analytics

  • Invest in data and data prep
  • Nurture culture, skills, and leadership
  • Keep self-service and Ease of Use in the Forefront

Conclusion

If the challenges of gathering and preparing data are not addressed, it will become more difficult to find a use for BI and analytics. If strong leadership isn’t used to make the employees excited to use the new technologies, the initiative will be a failure. And if ease of use with smart/automated capabilities isn’t used, it’ll hinder adoption of BI and more advanced analytics. Consider these things before upgrading your systems.

 

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What is Unit Oriented Architecture?

system architecture, computer architecture, system, UOA, unit oriented architecture, systems,

Definition of UOA

UOA is an business method of performing tasks based on the hierarchical composition of different units of software. These units give support to both operational and actions completed in technological systems. UOA creates groups of software fully supporting purpose, function, behavior, and structure of these systems. It helps clarify and strengthen architectures through finding right places and owners for assets. Included are web applications, mobile apps, web services and business processes to name a few. The unit then becomes both a construct and micro-platform that allows other components plugin.

Key Points of UOA

  • Creates digital constructs for actions completed and operational support
  • Views companies as a Composite (control) or Leaf (functional)
  • Unit software has to be comfortable and work in the unit assigned
  • Every unit has to have formal software boundaries. They represent contracts between assemblies both in and out of the agency.
  • All units have to run operations implemented as business processes that are executable. Every process is owned by one section only.
  • There is particular emphasis on control units. It causes a weakness in the company as only a few personnel will know how to run it.

What Does UOA Do?

UOA uses Systems Thinking to define problems. It uses Organization Design to configure enterprise and composite units. SOA uses constructing unit boundaries, and Business Rules to govern the system to name a few.

UOA allows practical and natural approaches to satisfy the needs of users. It completes this through unit orientation and clarity of what the system is supposed to do. Hierarchical unit structure helps define roles and spreads responsibilities between all the units. It creates a stable system where it can adapt, develop and grow fast. Process-centric (inside) and event-driven integration (outside) is where processes pass through the units to complete work.

Differentiation between functional and control units is defined here. Functional (leaf) units don’t contain other groups. They provide services and products, all digital. Control units have more entities in them. Actions are directed, coordinated, measured and controlled to ensure best means to get the bottom line. There’s a clear understanding of what everyone is to do in the company and delegates decision making to the right people.

Supported are operations interactions. The direction of vision focuses towards products and services instead of the process is itself. The quality of communication between system parts is considered more important than the quality of parts. The character of interfaces measures effectiveness.

The Possibilities

If a company’s units support strongly built digital constructs that entirely concentrate on the customer, everything will grow. Effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy will improve. New capabilities initiate with further development. Growth through cloned abilities will occur, while agility will increase speed. There are numerous opportunities abound.

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10 ERP Upgrade Mistakes to Avoid

ERP, strategic planning, business, upgrade, IT, information technology, information systems, competitive advantage

What Is ERP?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has to be considered part of the plan when upgrading your system. In this information technology (IT) has to be combined with the business process to help bring a competitive advantage to others in the same industry. It is anything from reading an e-mail to updating records of procedures. An ERP is an application that uses a centralized database to run the entire company. This medium allows data from one department for viewing in other branches of the same company. It can be bought either as modules for different parts of the agency, or a subset. ERP systems are there to enforce processes that your business will adopt.

Upgrade Mistakes

  1. Not explaining what new systems means to users before starting the project – If the users of the upgrades don’t know why it’s happening and are in agreement, the update will fail.
  2. Not load testing systems with scripts and end users – How do you know if your file loads are typical? Load testing with scripts and users will complete real tests in this area to make sure that the process will work or not.
  3. Not performing tests of the new process to see if it works or not – Will everything work as planned?
  4. Not taking change management or testing sincerely – Know everything you need to know about the change and regression tests beforehand, so you aren’t surprised by “new opportunities.”
  5. Assigning internal personnel as project managers – Get a consultant project manager as they will focus on the upgrade only. They’ll catch the mistakes made and keep things on schedule and budget.
  6. Not telling others of changes before they happen – End users don’t like change so make sure to communicate before so they aren’t caught off guard.
  7. Giving classroom training only – Allow for video training that the users can find and use if they come across a problem they can’t fix. Create a Knowledge area that they can access to see before elevating.
  8. Not moving components to open business standards – This speeds up future upgrades that will happen. Try to change reports and interfaces to open business standards. It will help a lot in the future, and possibly save money with more completed upgrades.
  9. Not archiving before upgrading and keeping up security during – Archiving before upgrading will save you time and money. It speeds up queries on large tables, and table conversions as they are will run quicker. Security wise, upgrades are to be need-to-know only. There’s no use in upgrading if spies find a way to get the information out to your competitors.
  10. Assuming internal tech personnel will pick up years of experience in weeks – Keep the consultants around for a while after the upgrade is complete. Enhancements aren’t easy to learn, and someone has to be there who knows how to run the system. Or at least until the first workers understand the system as well.

Impact of IT on Business

IT has a significant impact on how companies design, build and support their business processes. Information systems have a considerable effect on how these methods work. Agencies improve effectiveness and quality of products and services through empowering their employees. Something to consider.

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8 Competitive Advantages

strategic information planning, systems planning, strategic planning, business planning

Strategic Information Systems

Strategic information systems (SIS) are used to support and shape business competitive advantages. SIS is defined by its way to be able to change how business is conducted. It is not classified by structure, functionality of areas, or support systems. Anything that is used to change goals or processes of companies add competitive advantage, therefore becoming strategic information systems.

Competitive Strategy

The competitive strategy is how the company is going to compete in the future. What the goals will be, and new plans and/or policies needed to implement everything. The advantage is being able to measure cost, quality and speed over competition. SIS assists businesses gain the advantage through adding to strategic goals of organizations. It is also measured through the increase in performance and productivity, therefore making them more powerful than the competition.

The digital economy is affected all the time as changes in technology occur. This causes change in business models in order to keep up. The core business isn’t changed to keep up with the digital economy even though it feels like it has. For the most part, businesses use the tools offered by the Internet, but nothing else.  There are two questions to ask here…

Where does my competitive advantage come from in my business and industry?
How can information technology and the Internet help?

How is SIS Looked at Now?

Most companies consider SIS more of an outwardly focused tool. It aims at increasing direct competition and is visible to all. Now it is more used internally. It focuses on employees’ productivity, smoothing business processes, and helping to make strategic decisions and isn’t visible to all.

Role of IT in Strategic Management

  1. Innovative Applications
  2. Competitive Weapons
  3. Changes in Processes
  4. Links with Business Partners
  5. Cost Reductions
  6. Relationships with Suppliers and Customers
  7. New Products
  8. Competitive Intelligence

How To Use The Internet As a Tool

The Internet is the most important tool in competitive intelligence.  It is so easy to look up information on the competition. The information that is gathered then can be analyzed further by what is called intelligent agents and data mining.  Both deal with software products to help them do their job. Here are some ways to do research on the competition:

  • Review Competitor’s Web Sites
  • Analyze Related Electronic Discussion Groups
  • Examine Publicly Held Financial Documents
  • Market Research on Your Own Web Site
  • Use Information Delivery Services like My Yahoo
  • Use Corporate Research Companies

Conclusion

There are numerous other ways to gain competitive advantages over your competitors. The key is to gain and maintain a sustainable strategic advantage that can be held for years to come. It is suggested that people, technology and shared risk and responsibility will help keep the advantage now. It is so difficult to otherwise as there is so much innovation occurring now.

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4 Dimensions of Strategic Information Systems Planning

strategic information systems planning, SISP, IT, Improvements, upgrades, business intelligence

Strategic information systems planning (SISP) is a very important issue that has to be considered when upgrading. Information technology (IT) use along with proper planning can help increase business success. SISP is used as it’s considered a great tool to support the company. It makes sure that IT activities go along with what the company does and needs.

What is Strategic Information Systems Planning?

SISP improves organization performance however upper management wants to focus. The aim is to achieve maximum benefits from resources while reducing risks at the same time. All resources work efficiently, effectively and competitively together to make the company stronger and more adapt. Especially now as IT is an important part of any company. Strategic Information Systems Planning is intended for technology that’s used at the company level. It needs to mesh with what the needs and strategies are of said agency.

Objectives include:

  • Align IT with business
  • Gain competitive advantage,
  • ID new and higher payback applications
  • Increase top management commitment
  • Improve communication with users
  • Forecast IT resource requirements
  • Allocating IT resources
  • Develop information architecture
  • Increase visibility of IT

4 Dimensions of SISP

SISP helps the above mentioned by addressing future needs for IT/IS resources with business plans. There are four dimensions included to make sure everything is included.

  1. Alignment
  2. Analysis
  3. Cooperation
  4. Capability

The first three are considered goals while the fourth is considered improvement over time.
SISP methodologies include gathering information and making plans comprised of one or more techniques. The techniques can be viewed as abstract systems.  They change organization input into a strategic plan for output. Some of the more popular planning techniques are:

  • Looking at Stages of Growth and Critical Success Factors – Here flexibility of needs can be used as a measurement tool. This methodology needs support of others.  CSF alone makes information requirements difficult to reach.
  • Competitive Forces Model and Value Chain Analysis – Michael Porter’s model analyzing threats of new entrants and bargaining power of buyers and suppliers. Also reviewed are threats of substitutes and rivalry of competitors. It’s used to get products and services to buyers and servicing.  It also finds primary and support activities that can add value to the product or service.
  • Scenario Planning and SWOT Analysis – What will the future bring? Actions to take if future is going in a direction not wanted.

Criteria of Choosing

The criteria of choosing methodologies include availability of resources, internal policies and preferred suppliers to name a few. It would be the company’s choice as to what is more important to them.  Which they would want to improve the most?

SISP leads to good planning. This in turn helps companies stay ahead in competitive environments. You have to make sure that top management stays aware of best processes for SISP. They need to stay committed and involved in order for it to be considered a success.

There is no best way to implement SISP. It’s up to the companies which way they want to focus what they want to improve. The success would be applied to how well they used methodologies in their planning process. Were success and failure factors applied while planning and implementing the changes? These are the questions that need to be answered in order for Strategic Information Systems Planning to be considered a success.