Acquiring an Information System

Some Considerations And Why They Are Relevant

In this context, "acquire" can mean to purchase a package, have in-house information systems personnel develop it, hire a consultant, or develop it yourself. HOW the system is actually acquired is really of little importance to the overall process.

First, you must determine your information requirements. This is best done by analyzing the decisions you make and the information required to make them. (Why?) By focusing on your decisions you ensure that you are identifying pertinent information requirements rather than taking a "shotgun" approach to the analysis process. Next, you want to develop a preliminary system design in terms of proposed system outputs, inputs, procedures, and data bases. (Why?) By identifying these elements, you (very) specifically identify what information you want, what data are required to be able to produce the information, what processes are accomplished to convert the data into information, and what data must be stored for future analysis. (More Why?) By developing a preliminary design you ensure two things: 1) YOU understand what the system is to accomplish and how it is to accomplish it, and 2) you have a very specific system requirements document that can be used when "shopping" for a system. Your design can form the basis for a system developed by in-house information systems personnel, a consultant, or yourself. Or it can be a "specification sheet" for a packaged system that you can use when comparing packages. (Why do all of this?) By first performing an analysis and design, you ensure that you understand your information requirements, you organize your ideas about what you want the system to do, and you specify in writing your understanding and requirements. (Ultimate Why?) This process lets you TAKE CONTROL of the information systems acquisition process. You get what you want, not what someone else thinks you want. You can focus upon what is important to you - information for decision support.

Second, you search for software to accomplish your system requirements. (Why?) How the software is developed is not as important as what the software does. By having specific software requirements you can better work with analysts, consultants, or salespersons. You ensure that the system reflects YOUR information requirements rather than the analysts', consultants', or salespersons' concept of your information requirements. (Why?) You want information to support your decisions. You really don't care how the analysts, consultants, or salespeople feel about the system or about you. The fact that you are guided by YOUR information requirements greatly increases the probability of acquiring a system that meets your requirements.

Third, you search for hardware to run the selected software. Here we only care about hardware capabilities. Such questions as anticipated response time to an inventory item query, length of time to print an invoice, time to print statements and reports at the end of the month, and number of inventory items that can be stored on the disk are answered. (Why?) If you can provide some estimates on the number of inventory items, number of customers, etc., number of statements printed, number of reports printed, etc., you can be very specific about your hardware needs and purchase only what you really need in the next five years or so. Again, you are in control when dealing with hardware salespersons.

To summarize, the three steps to complete when acquiring an information system are:

What is most important is that you complete these steps in this order. The ultimate answer to the "WHY" question is one of control. By following these steps you greatly increase the probability of successfully acquiring a good information system. By understanding why these three steps must be completed, and why they must be completed in this order you are much better able to successfully complete the three steps.

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