Information Systems Overview Essay

Executive summary
This report aims at understanding the ever changing needs of Fenpark Corporation and subsequently designing and deploying such systems so as to facilitate their operations.

The report starts off with an introduction to the firm along with the current situation it is facing. Several solutions are then assessed. This way it is shown how an enterprise system is the best solution and how it will be helpful in solving problems relating to supply chain management, customer relationship management, etc.

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Lastly, the report concludes with recommendations and suggestions how to make this transition in the best way possible and with a look toward the future as to how this system will be beneficial in the long run.

Introduction

Fenpark Corporation, an $8 billion firm is headquartered in Perth, Australia. It is in the business of specialty and coated papers whilst employing about 25,000 in 22 countries. It owns and manages 3 million acres of forest that fuels its operations and helps in serving customers in around 75 countries.

This makes Fenpark’s operations huge, if not humungous and managing them on this big a scale is always bound to be problem ridden.
Purpose
The purpose of this report is to examine the current situation at Fenpark and isolate the key problem areas in its business operations. Once this is done, a viable solution that integrates its disjointed processes will be suggested along with contingencies that it might face in transitioning to a new system.

Background
As it has been mentioned, Fenpark has operations spanning across many countries. This means problems arise in the following key areas:

Human Resource Management
Supply Chain Management
Establishing Standards
As the case suggests, Fenpark has had a proactive approach in assessing and fulfilling the needs of its firm since a long time. It had been using IT as long back as the 1960’s and had shifted to mainframe based architecture by the 1980’s. In order to support this organization wide shift to a more end user oriented system, Fenpark setup a separate department called Computer Information Resources which served as a common point whereby users where introduced to new technology, technology in the organization was constantly updated and user support.

By the 1990’s, the focus shifted to building an infrastructure. Since Fenpark had the foundation to build one, a new architecture was needed which would standardize business procedures across all its operations. This included integration of all applications, standardization of data and various hardware and software packages such as spreadsheets, groupware etc.

A research conducted in 2000 however revealed some serious issues regarding the existent system. Customers were dissatisfied in terms of product and price information, employees were disgruntled due to lack of job information and suppliers were mostly unaware of what Fenpark needed in order to dispatch their supplies in time. All these issues pointed to one common problem area; Fenpark had serious issues in terms of storing and disseminating its information.

In order to overcome this, Fenpark decided it had to take some serious action keeping in mind that simply accelerating current processes would not do the job. The requirement of the current era was to establish better processes and use IT as an enabler on an enterprise wide scale, linking its customers, suppliers and employees.

This report will analyze the current requirement of Fenpark and what needs to be done in terms of an IT system in order to achieve its major objectives. It will serve as a starting point of reference for higher level executives and help in decision making. The report will include the current needs of Fnepark, how these needs relate to IT, what an Enterprise system does and how a Supply Chain Management System will help overcome its current problems.

Discussion
Information requirements of the business
The business has a far reach across the globe and subsequently, has and overwhelming flow of information. This information can be aptly divided into three categories; information for external sources (customers), tactical information for external sources (suppliers) and information for internal use (employees etc.). once all this information is integrated and summarized, it can then be used for key decision making purposes at the strategic level as well. Hence, the new system should be capable of not only handling huge amounts of data but should also be capable of collecting, sorting, ‘cleaning’ and disseminating it in the proper way to the proper recipients.

Since data is so important these days, the first idea that comes to mind is a data warehouse. This might not be the case for Fenpark however. The stage at which Fenpark is, a data warehouse is not needed per se since a simpler system will do the job in a more affordable way.

System types
Many system types exist that at first might seem to be capable of fulfilling Fenpark’s requirements. These include Management Information Systems, Executive Systems, and Decision Support Systems etc. What they lack however is the complete all round solution that Fenpark direly needs. Whatever system is chosen, they will have to be seamlessly integrated with another subsystem in order to achieve the results that Fenpark is currently expecting.

Enterprise systems
One of the key requirements of an Enterprise System is to have a central database structure to fuel the whole architecture. These type of systems function on an enterprise wide scale which means offering services to its users while dealing with large volumes of data. Furthermore, such systems are integrated at all levels both vertically (operational, tactical and strategic) and horizontally (departmental).

Such systems proved a common foundation that enables organizations to integrate and coordinate their business processes seamlessly. Hence, in short, it is essentially a single system that is central to the organization and ensures that information is shared across all functional levels and management hierarchies while solving the issue of disparity in data by using a standard data structure at its core. This way, all sub information systems report and are run from a common data source (Compinfo.ws 2002).

Such architecture further supports data warehousing and data mining techniques that are essential for not only standardizing data but also in order for such key strategic purposes such as Customer Relationship Management.

The software used for such system falls in the category of Enterprise Resource Planning. Such enterprise level software’s again aim at not just simply integrating business processes across the organization, the setup of such a system entails an extensive Business Process Reengineering activity. Since Fenpark is aiming at improving business processes in every manner possible, an extensive BPR before the implementation of the actual system will ensure it achieves this aim (Head 2005).

Such a system includes many modules that are specific to different functions of an organization. One such module is that of Supply Chain Management. Supply Chain Management addresses various problems such as Distribution Network Configuration, Distribution Strategy, Information flow, Inventory Management etc. Since SCM is essentially a process of planning, implementing, and controlling the operations of a supply chain, the purpose is to satisfy ‘customer requirements’ as efficiently as possible. Customers here refer to both suppliers and end customers. SCM encompasses inbound logistics, operations and outbound logistics along with marketing and sales and after sales services.

Apart from this, an effective SCM has support activities such as Human Resource Management, Technology etc. According to the survey conducted in 2000, Fenpark is facing problems in three areas of its supply chain namely Inbound Logistics (suppliers with not enough information), Employees (Human Resource Management) and Marketing and Sales (Customers receive information late). These issues are directly related to the Supply Chain and can be resolved by the help of an effective IT system that targets these three problem areas. Furthermore, this system is capable of supporting a Customer Relationship Management system as well and thus will enable in serving customers better as well.

Online support
Going online will not be an easy decision to make for Fenpark. By doing so, a lot of costs will be incurred since this way, the system is operational round the clock and is obviously more expensive to maintain and run. The advantages that Fenaprk will see are:

Easier time management due to various time changes in different locations around the globe.
Up to date information from all its centers situated internationally which wil help in better planning and decision making.
Better integration at all locations
Disadvantages however comprise of high costs, security issues pertaining to such information distribution and the control regarding the use of such information.

Security and ethical issues
Going online would be a tremendous task to handle for Fenpark and considerable challenge at the ethical and informational fronts. By going online, Fenpark will face major security issues coupled with the ethical and proper use of the information being shared. On the other hand however, Fenpark can gain considerable competitive advantage if information with suppliers is exchanged via an online system. Hence, for the time being, Fenpark should assess what steps are better in terms of costs and pros and cons. A good way to go  bout this would be to go online with a few system modules as opposed tot eh whole system. This would mean information only to suppliers should be online and links with the m be establishes in such a way as to ‘lock’ them in. security should be kept at maximum and shared on an as needed basis.

Change management issues
Managing change has always been a challenge for managers in the current era. Change is resisted by anyone and everyone due to many reasons. Change in terms of this system will be pertaining to the re-engineering of processes and how well current users will be accepting the new system that will be put into place. A proper change management strategy is what would be required with top executives dedicated to the project since the change to be brought has to be carefully managed else the project will fail (Hiatt 2006).

Recommendations
Hence, Fenpark should do the following in order to reap maximum benefits with minimal losses:

Design and implement an effective re-engineering plan.
Asses current needs on a larger scale and design a system accordingly.
Target problem areas and design specific solutions
Effective Supply Chain Management.
Aim to go online with some sub-systems as opposed to all.
Manage the transition through an effective change management plan.
Conclusion
Thus, Fenpark will hopefully step into a new era of technology. The opportunities for growth for such a system are tremendous and by doing the above mentioned, Fenpark will surely be on the right track to gain competitive advantage and become a leader in its industry.

References
Compinfo. ws 2002, Enterprise Information Systems – Outline, Available at: http://www.compinfo-center.com/tpeis-t.htm

CRM Today 2006,[Online], Available at, http://www.crm2day.com/erp/

Grant, David; Richard Hall, Nick Wailes, Christopher Wright (March 2006). “The false promise of technological determinism: the case of enterprise resource planning systems”. New Technology, Work & Employment 21 (1): 2–15.

Head, Simon (2005). The New Ruthless Economy. Work and Power in the Digital Age. Oxford UP. ISBN 0-19-517983-8.

Hiatt, J. 2006, ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and the Community, Learning Center Publications, Loveland, CO.

Kaushik K.D., & Cooper, M. (2000). Industrial Marketing Management. Volume29, Issue 1 , January 2000, Pages 65-83

Koch, C. 2007, CIO.com: An Introduciton to ERP [Online], Available at, http://www.cio.com/article/40323/The_ABCs_of_ERP

Strong, D. & Volkoff, o 2004, A Roadmap for Enterprise System Implementation, June 2004 (Vol. 37, No. 6)   pp. 22-29

Sun Java Enterprise System 2007, Available at http://www.sun.com/software/javaenterprisesystem/index.jsp

 

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