Implementing a new technology is a complicated task. Beyond the technical implementation details, there is a myriad of organizational issues and challenges that must be addressed. Four areas of primary concern including selection of the new technology, implementing it, the human resources implications, and ongoing maintenance. Information systems managers must be aware of how these issues interact and prepare the appropriate personnel before the implementation begins.
IS Planning Techniques
The complexity of information systems planning has resulted in a number of different techniques being developed. Two popular techniques are Stages of Growth and Critical Success Factors. The Stages of Growth theory describes four stages that all organizations transition through when adopting new technology. These stages are early successes, contagion, control, and integration. These stages describe how the technology is used and spreads throughout the organization. This theory helps system planners understand where in the adoption process they are, and what steps need to be taken to further the implementation. Critical Success Factors, on the other hand, focus on providing key performance data to managers and developing systems to provide that information. The key to this method is developing each manager’s critical success factors and then improving the systems that effect those metrics (McNurlin & Sprague, 2006).
Build vs Buy
When choosing a technology, an organization has the option of creating a custom application or buying off-the-shelf software. A custom application has the benefit of being tightly integrated into the organization. This tight integration may be a burden if business processes change as the application will have to be changed to fit the new look of the organization. Additionally, custom applications incur ongoing maintenance cost as the application is adapted to fit the organization’s needs. Off-the-shelf software is programmed for a general audience and usually includes more features than custom software. This means the application is more flexible, but only if the organization changes in a way the software can handle. Fortunately, many applications include updates which lessen the cost of maintenance (McKay & Bath, 2008).
The key to a successful implementation is the successful integration of the new technology with existing systems. There are three main approaches to integrating disparate technologies. The database method stores different data in a single database. This allows applications to share data by using a common storage technology. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) method uses a single monolithic application to keep all data together. ERP systems are designed to function in every aspect of the organization and all modules can communicate with each other. Finally, the middleware method creates a separate system, known as middleware, to facilitate the interaction of different systems (McNurlin & Sprague, 2006).
Putting the new technology into production is not the end of the line. The sixth stage of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is evaluation and continuing evolution. Once the new technology is in production, it should be frequently evaluated to determine what strengths and weaknesses it has developed. Strengths and weaknesses may change over time as the organization changes. Therefore, throughout its life, technology must be adapted to meet the changing needs of the organization. This continuing evolution is necessary to keep the technology relevant to the state of the organization. Eventually, the technology will become too outdated to maintain and the process of choosing a new technology will begin again (Senn, 2004).
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McNurlin, B. C. & Sprague, Jr., R. H. (2006). Information systems management in practice (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Senn, J. A. (2004). Information technology: Principles, practices, opportunities (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.