IT definitions, discussions and more
Category Archives: Information Systems
Productivity decreased as team sizes increase.
- LAW 1 – Smaller teams are more efficient: The smaller the team the higher the productivity of each individual person.
- LAW 2 – SOME schedule compression can be bought: Adding people to a project, to a point, decreases the time and increases the cost.
- LAW 3 – Every project has a minimum time: There is an incremental person that consumes more energy than he/she produces. Team size beyond this point decreases productivity and increases time. (”Adding staff to a late software project makes it later.”)
- LAW 4 – Productivity is scalable: Projects of larger software size can use larger teams without violating LAW 3.
- LAW 5 – Complexity limits staffing: As complexity increases, the number of people that can effectively work on the project and the rate at which they can be added decreases.
- LAW 6 – Staffing can be optimized: There exists an optimal staffing function that is effectively modeled by the Rayleigh function. Flat (level load) staffing is rarely optimal.
- LAW 7 – Projects that get behind, stay behind: It is extremely difficult to bring a project that is behind schedule back on plan.
- LAW 8 – Work expands to fill the available volume: It is possible to allow too much time to complete a project.
- LAW 9 – Better technology yields higher productivity: More capable teams, better tools, and advanced, stable processes yield higher productivity.
- LAW 10 – No “silver bullets”: There is no methodology, tool, or process improvement strategy out there that yields revolutionary improvements in project efficiency.
Original Post by: Dan Galorath — 10 Laws of Software Productivity
I used to receive HTML messages with embedded pictures but suddenly my outlook 2010 stopped displaying the messages and displays a blank box instead. That was annoying because I missed many offers and information.
After a long search in forums I found a solution for this (Outlook 2010 case):
1. Click the New Email button or press Ctrl+N while viewing the Inbox.
2. Go to the new message’s File, Options dialog (in the new mail window).
3. Click Mail, then Editor Options
4. Select Advanced and look near the bottom of the dialog for the option to Show Picture Placeholders.
5. Close Outlook and re-open.
You can also try the following:
1. In main outlook window > File > Options > Trust Center
2. In the right pane click on Trust Center Settings
3. In the new window opens, click on Automatic Download from the left menu.
4. Un-check the “Do not download pictures automatically”
5. Close and re-open outlook
I hope this helps.
Many Times when I create a report with MS Word I get that annoying Extra Blank page at the end of the document, and it annoying especially when you convert a document to a PDF file and send it to someone. I tried every thing and still ouldn’t delete that extra blank page till I found that vedio which explains how easily you can remove that page:
Project quality management includes the processes and activities that determine quality policies, objectives, and responsibilities so that the project will satisfy the needs for which it was undertaken.
Project Quality Management Processes include the following:
- Plan Quality: Identifying quality requirements or standards for the project and the product
- Perform quality assurance: Auditing the quality requirements and the results from quality control measurements
- Perform quality control: Monitoring and recording results of executing quality activities to assess performance and recommend changes
These processes interact with processes in other knowledge areas and each process can involve efforts from one or more person or groups based on project requirements. Each process occurs at least once in every project and occurs in one or more of the project phases.
Project Quality Management addresses the management of the project and its product. Product quality measurements are specific to the product and failure to meet product or project quality requirements can have serious negative consequences for the stakeholders.
Quality vs. Grade
Quality: is the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements.
Grade: is a category assigned to products having the same functional use but different technical characteristics.
A product can be of high quality (no obvious defects) and low grade (a limited number of features), or of low quality (many defects) and high grade (numerous features). The project manager and the project management team are responsible of the tradeoffs involved to deliver the required levels of quality and grade.
Precision vs. Accuracy
Precision means the values of repeated measurements are clustered and have little scatter (show the same results under the same conditions).
Accuracy means that the measured values are very close to the true value (degree of closeness to true value).
Precise measurements are not necessarily accurate. A very accurate measurement is not necessarily precise. The project management team must determine the levels of accuracy and precision.
Project Management and Quality management recognize the importance of:
- Customer satisfaction: Understanding and managing expectations do that customer requirements are met.
- Prevention over inspection: Quality is planned, designed, and built in – not inspected in. The cost of preventing mistakes is much less than of correcting them when inspected.
- Continuous improvement: The plan-do-check-act is the basis for quality improvement. Other initiatives such as TQM and Six Sigma, should improve the quality of the project and the product.
- Management responsibility: Success requires participation of all team members, but remains the responsibility of the management to provide the resources needed to succeed.
Cost of Quality (COQ)
Refers to the total cost of all efforts related to quality through the product life cycle. Project decisions can impact operational costs of quality.
The Quality Management Processes:
1. Plan Quality
Is the process of identifying quality requirements and standards for the project and its product, and documenting how the project will demonstrate compliance and should be performed in parallel with the other project planning processes. For example, proposed changes in product to meet a quality standard may require cost or schedule adjustments and a risk analysis of the impacts.
1.1 Plan Quality: Inputs
a. Scope base Line:
- Scope statement: Project description, deliverables, acceptance criteria.
- WBS: The work packages and the control accounts to measure performance.
- WBS Dictionary: technical information for WBS elements
b. Stakeholder Register: Identifies the stakeholders with particular interests in, or impact on quality.
c. Cost Performance Baseline: Documents the accepted time phase used measure cost performance
d. Schedule Baseline: Documents the accepted schedule performance measures.
e. Risk Register: Contains information on threats and opportunities impact quality requirements.
f. Enterprise Environmental Factors: Factors that influence the Plan Quality Process such as Governmental regulations, rules, standards, working conditions.
g. Organizational Process Assets: Assets that influence the Plan Quality Process such as, quality polices/procedures, lessons learned from previous projects, quality policy as endorsed by senior management. If there is no quality policy, the project management team needs to develop a quality policy for the project and to ensure that the project stakeholders are fully aware of the policy used.
1.2 Plan Quality: Tools and Techniques
- Cost – Benefit Analysis: A business case for each quality activity compares the cost of the quality step to the expected benefit.
- Cost of Quality (COQ): Costs incurred over the life of the product by investment in preventing non-conformance to requirements, appraising the product for conformance to requirements and rework. Failure costs (cost of poor quality) categorized into internal (by the project) and external (by the customer).
- Control Charts: Charts used to determine whether or not a process is stable or has predictable performance. Control limits are set by the project management and appropriate stakeholders to reflect points of corrective actions.
- Benchmarking: Comparing actual or planned practices to other projects to identify best practices, generate ideas for improvements, and provide basis for measuring performance.
- Design of Experiments: DOE is a statistical method for identifying which factors may influence variables of a product. DOE should be used to determine the number and type of tests and their impact on costs and quality.
- Statistical Sampling: Involves choosing part of a population of interest for inspection
- Flowcharting: A graphical presentation of a process showing the relationship among processes. Flowcharting can help anticipate quality problems that might occur.
- Quality Management Methodologies: Six Sigma, CMMI, etc…
- Additional Quality Planning Tools: Such as Brainstorming, Affinity Diagrams, Force field analysis, Matrix Diagrams, Prioritization Matrices.
1.3 Plan Quality: Outputs
a. Quality Management Plan: Describes how the project management team will implement the quality policy. The plan should be reviewed early in the project to ensure that decisions are based on accurate information to reduce cost of rework.
b. Quality Metrics: Operational definitions that describe a project or product attribute and how quality control will measure it. Example metrics: on-time performance, budget control, defect frequency, failure rate, availability, reliability.
c. Quality Checklists: Structured tools used to verify that a set of required steps has been performed. Quality checklists are used in the quality control process.
d. Process Improvement Plan: Details the steps for analyzing processes to identify activities which enhance their value, the following areas are considered:
- Process boundaries: Purpose of processes, start and end, inputs and outputs, data required owner and stakeholders.
- Process Configuration: Graphic depiction of processes with interfaces to facilitate analysis.
- Process metrics: With control limits allows analysis of process efficiency.
- Targets for improved performance: Guides to improvement activities.
e. Project Document Updates: Stakeholder register and responsibility assignment Matrix.
2. Perform Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance is the process of auditing the quality requirements and the results from quality control measurements to ensure appropriate quality standards and operational definitions are used. Quality Assurance may be provided by the project team, the management, the customer, or sponsor as well stakeholders.
Quality Assurance also provides process improvement to reduce waste and eliminate activities do not add value which results increased level of efficiency and effectiveness.
2.1 Perform Quality Assurance: Inputs
a. Project Management Plan: which also include the following:
- Quality management plan: Describes how quality assurance will be performed.
- Process improvement plan: Steps for analyzing processes to identify activities which enhance their value.
b. Quality Metrics: As described in 1.3.b
c. Work Performance Information: Performance information collected from the activities to support auditing. It includes:
- Technical performance measures
- Project deliverables status
- Schedule progress
- Costs incurred
c. Quality Control Measurements: They are the results of quality control activities and used to analyze and evaluate the quality standards and processes.
2.2 Perform Quality Assurance: Tools and Techniques
- Plan Quality Tools: as described in 1.2 can also be used for quality assurance
- Quality Audits: A structured, independent review to determine whether project activities comply with policies processes, and procedures. They may be scheduled or random and may be conducted by internal or external auditors to confirm the implementation of approved change requests, corrective actions and preventive actions.
- Process Analysis: Which follows the steps in the process improvement plan to identify needed improvements. This analysis examines problems, constrains and non-value-added activities identified. This analysis also includes problem identification to discover causes and develop preventive actions.
2.3 Perform Quality Assurance: Outputs
- Process Assets Updates: Elements of the organizational process assets that may be updated.
- Change Requests: Created and used as input into the Perform Integrated Change Control to allow full consideration of the recommended improvements. Change requests can be used to take corrective action or preventive action.
- Project Management Plan Updates: May update Quality, Schedule or Cost Management Plans.
- Project Document Updates: Updates quality audit reports, training plans and process documentation.
3. Perform Quality Control:
The process of monitoring and recording results of executing the quality activities to assess performance and recommend necessary changes. Quality standards include project processes and product goals. Project results include deliverables and project management results. Quality control activities identify causes of poor process or product quality and recommend/take action to eliminate them. The project team must know the difference between:
- Prevention (keep errors out of the process) and inspection (keep errors out of the customer’s hands)
- Attribute Sampling (the result conforms or does not conform) and Variables Sampling (the result measures the degree of conformity)
- Tolerance (range of accepted results) and Control Limits (thresholds)
3.1 Perform Quality Control: Inputs
a. Project Management Plan: This includes the quality management plan which is used to describe how quality control will be performed.
b. Quality Metrics: As described in 1.3.b
c. Quality Checklists as described in 1.3.c
d. Work Performance measurements: Produce metrics to evaluate planned vs. actual for:
- Technical performance
- Schedule performance
- Cost performance
e. Approved Change Requests: The timely implementation of approved changes needs to be verified.
f. Process Assets: Assets that can influence the Perform Quality Control Process which includes:
- Quality standards and policies
- Standard work guidelines
- Issue and defect reporting procedures and polices
3.2 Perform Quality Control: Tools and Techniques
- Cause and Effect Diagrams: illustrate how factors linked to problems or effects. A possible root cause can be uncovered by asking “why” or “how” along one of the lines.
- Control Charts: As described in 1.2.c. Control Charts illustrate how a process behaves over time. They answer the question “Is the process variance within acceptable limits?” and help assess whether the application of process changes resulted in desired improvements.
- Flowcharting: As described in 1.2.g. Used to determine a falling process steps and identify improvement opportunities.
- Histogram: Vertical bar chart showing how often a variable state occurred. Each column represents an attribute or characteristic. Helps illustrates the cause of problem by a number and heights of the bars.
- Pareto Chart: Shows how many defects were generated by type or category of causes.
- Run chart: A line graph shows data points plotted in the order in which they occur and shows the history and pattern of variation. Trend analysis is performed using run charts to monitor Technical performance and Cost and Schedule Performance.
- Scatter Diagram: Shows the relationship between two variables and allows the quality team to study and identify the possible relationship between changes in two variables.
- Statistical Sampling: Samples are selected and tested as defined in the quality plan.
- Inspection: The examination of a work product to determine whether it conforms to documented standards.
- j. Approved Change Requests Review
3.3 Perform Quality Control: Outputs
- Quality Control Measurements: Documented results of quality control activities.
- Validated Changes: Changed or repaired items are inspected and accepted or rejected. Rejected items may require rework.
- Validated Deliverables: This is the goal of quality control.
- Process Assets Updates: Such as Completed checklists and lessons learned.
- Change Requests: If a corrective or preventive action requires a change in the project management plan, a change request should be initiated.
- Project Management Plan Updates including the quality management and process improvement plans.
- Project document Updates including the quality standards.
“In 1880, about nine out of 10 workers made and moved things; today, that is down to one out of five. The other four are knowledge people or service workers.”
At the start, in businesses and other organizations, internal reporting was made manually and only periodically, as a by-product of the accounting system and with some additional statistics, and gave limited and delayed information on management performances.
In their beginnings, business computers were used for the practical business of computing the payroll and keeping track of accounts payable and accounts receivable. As applications were developed that provided managers with information about sales, inventories, and other data that would help in managing the enterprise, the term “MIS” arose to describe these kinds of applications. Today, the term is used broadly in a number of contexts and includes (but is not limited to): decision support systems, resource and people management applications and database retrieval application.
In this paper I will try to explain what Information Systems are, with a brief history of computers. This paper will not discuss the technologies, but will explain why organizations need information systems.
1 Brief History
Early computers – mainframes – were too large and expensive to have broad application in business and in the 1960s; they became cost-effective and widely adopted. Initially, the mainframe had a purely supporting role, mostly in the accounting department. This was the era of Electronic Data Processing (EDP).
In the beginning of the 1980s IBM introduced the first Personal Computer (PC). Individuals used these machines in their home environment but soon they found their places in the offices and on the production floors. At first, the EDP professionals did not know how to cope with this event. Some simply ignored it and some began a war against these intruders. After a while, it became clear that the PC was there to stay. It took its place in the organization; first as a stand-alone workstation, but rapidly the need to act as a terminal for the mainframe arose.
A few years later, departmental computers and Local Area Networks (LANs) technologies allowed people to share information and work together in small workgroups or companywide. The old EDP department only had one “client” within the organization but the newly born IT department suddenly had to cope with the whole organization. The users of traditional EDP were specialists in their branch and were therefore well trained to work with these systems; the newcomers only had a limited knowledge of computers. So, specialized services like training classes and help desks had to be organized by the IT department. Information Technology supported almost every part of the business and the dependency of it increased dramatically. As IT covered more areas of the business, it was more used to get a better insight in the business and became part daily activities in many organizations.
Meanwhile, the communications technological evolution took place. People and their computers started to communicate and share information over networks and as few as three to four users – or as many as thousands – can access the same database or use the same computing resources concurrently within the organization or even between contents.
2 The role of IT / IS
Importance of Information for organizations
Today’s organizations are confronted with rapidly changing market conditions, indicated by strong competitors. Under these conditions, traditional management approaches that focus on financial figures and on centralized planning methods are considered to be insufficient for steering the organization in a dynamical environment.
Organizations all around the globe have to take the aid of information technology (IT) in some way or the other to keep themselves in sync with the market and the world. Different departments within organizations utilize IT to carry out their respective operations in a productive manner and efficient manner.
Organizations need to buy software packages that would cater to their specific management, operational, and functional needs. For this purpose, they need to approach IT firms who deal in such software applications.
Larger organizations on the other hand have their own operational and functional employees (IT staff) who develop software applications and work on several IT needs of the businesses. They usually purchase ERP software to coordinate different processes and functions into a single application, which is actually more convenient.
How IT is utilized for this purpose?
IT is used for storing, protecting, processing, securing, transmitting, receiving and retrieving information. In business establishments, information technology is used for solving mathematical and logical problems. Firstly, planning is done, data is collected, sorted and processed and finally, results are generated.
An Information System is an organized combination of People, information technologies and associated procedures that store, retrieves, transform and distribute information in an organization to support operations, management, and decision-making. It is not the technology only but also to the way in which people interact with this technology in support of business processes.
Information Systems are not necessarily computerized systems. Your book bag, the card catalog in library and the cash register in the restaurant are all example types of information systems.
How Information Systems can help Business?
1) Information Systems help to identify problems
Information systems often help business people determine that a problem exists and some action needs to be taken. For example, the inventory system at an organization flags items that need to be recorded, signaling to department managers that action is needed.
2) Information System provide current facts
Information systems show exactly what is currently happening and where we stand at this moment. Typical system output is composed of a variety of reports that meet the needs of various employees for information about the company’s performance. For example, sales people can determine whether the company has a certain product in stock, or they can receive a report at any time during the day to see exactly how much of their quota has been completed to that point.
3) Information Systems communicate Goals and Standards
Information Systems communicate company standards about what is supposed to be happening. Built into company reports is information about company standards. For example, indicators to flag performance that is outside the standard.
4) Information Systems facilitate interpersonal communication
Information systems facilitate communication among groups of business people who share responsibility for decision making. Information systems frequently provide such groups with a common body of information to be considered. Information systems reduce the amount of time that busy people must spend in face-to-face meetings.
As we explained earlier, Information Systems are not necessarily computerized systems. But now the information systems are computerized systems (computers are used to enhance systems) for the following reasons:
Computers can Calculate: Large amount of calculations and mathematical operations in a fraction of time.
Computers can Store and Retrieve Data: Huge data (Text, numbers, images …) stored and retrieved from media in a very high speed.
Computers can Communicate: Computers share data between each other and gives ability to people to share knowledge as well.
3 Information Systems for Business success
Today’s organizations rely on computerized Information Systems for planning and controlling the performance of business processes and give managers the ability to utilize the collected data from daily and routine transactions to be analyzed and processed into useful understandable information which is then communicated to the various departments in an organization.
Information Systems are found in three vital roles:
There are two major types of the information systems; Operations Support and Management Support Systems.
Support for business processes and operations:
First, we need to understand some definitions:
A business model is the method of doing business and represents core aspects of a business, including purpose, offerings, strategies, infrastructure, organizational structures, trading practices, and operational processes and policies.
A business process is a collection of related, structured activities that produce a specific service or product for a customer or customers. There are three main types of business processes:
Management processes, the processes that govern the operation of a system.
Operational processes, the processes that constitute the core business and create the primary value stream.
Supporting processes, which support the core processes.
A workflow is a description of a sequence of operations. Workflow may be seen as abstraction of real work, segregated for control purposes.
With the business growth to be multi-functional / multi-location, organizations had to promote business effectiveness and efficiency with control while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology. That is what is called Business Process Management (BPM).
BPM enables business to respond to changing consumer, market, and regulatory demands faster than competitors – creating competitive advantage. Some people view BPM as “the bridge between Information Technology (IT) and Business.
The following Chart describes the major components of an information system supports a Business Process Management.
There are four major components of an information system supporting business processes:
Process Engine – a platform for modeling and executing process-based applications according to a workflow definition, including business rules.
End user applications – which enable employees and operational staff to execute the process governed by the workflow rules.
Business Analytics — enable managers to identify business issues, trends, and opportunities with reports and dashboards and react accordingly. Executed on the application servers and client PC’s
Content Management — provides a system for storing and securing electronic documents, images, and other files.
Collaboration Tools — remove intra- and interdepartmental communication barriers through discussion forums, dynamic workspaces, and message boards.
Business operations are recurring activities or day-to-day tasks involved in the running of a business for the purpose of producing value for the stakeholders. They consist of business processes.
All businesses deal with production, inventory management, billing, etc. Each of these operations is a Business Process and is integrated and impacts one another. For example, if products are not produced and delivered, then billing cannot happen. An operations manager overall responsibility is to see that all operations run smoothly and he uses information systems to achieve this goal (to manage business processes and to integrate them).
Routine Business Operations are managed by several types of information Systems such as the Transaction Processing Systems (TPS) which record and process the data resulting from business transactions, Process Control Systems (PCS) which monitor and control physical processes in manufacturing, and Collaboration Systems which enhance team and workgroup productivity.
Support for decision making by manager
Decision making is an outcome of processes leading to the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a final choice. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.
Four steps in rational decision making process:
Intelligence: identify problems & opportunities, define objectives, criteria for success.
Design: develop and evaluate alternatives
Choice: prioritize, and select one or more alternatives
Implement and evaluate: implement the choice and monitor success
There are two types of decisions:
Unstructured or Semi-structured decisions:
Straightforward problems, requiring known facts and relationships
Relationships among data are not always clear, the data may be in a variety of formats and sometimes from external sources (outside the organization)
The type of information required by decision makers is directly related to the level of management and the amount of structure in the decision situations.
Tools are needed to facilitate decision making processes. These tools can be classified as Decision Support Systems (DSS) which serve the management level of the organization and help to take decisions, which may be rapidly changing and not easily specified in advance.
A DSS is an interactive software-based system intended to help decision makers compile useful information from a combination of raw data, documents, personal knowledge, or business models to identify and solve problems and make decisions. It helps avoiding a situation where you say ‘ if I knew that before I would have decide it differently ‘. DSS are integrated with other information systems through a common database.
DSS characteristics include: Handling large amounts of data from different sources, providing report and presentation flexibility, offering both textual and graphical orientation and supporting drill down analysis. DSS also performs “What-if” analysis and simulation.
Development of a Decision Support Systemfor John Day Reservoir This set of tools is being used to estimate the effects of reservoir level and water discharge fluctuations on aquatic and terrestrial habitats in John Day Reservoir. Different scenarios being studied now range from typical reservoir levels at high and low discharges to a simulation of what things might be like if the river were to return to natural conditions http://wfrc.usgs.gov/research/geospatial%20studies/STGeospat4.htm
Architecture of DSS:Four fundamental components of DSS architecture are:
The users themselves are also important components of the DSS architecture.
Examples of DSSs include a bank loan officer verifying the credit of a loan applicant or an engineering firm that has bids on several projects and wants to know if they can be competitive with their costs. The Spreadsheet on your PC is also a Desktop DSS.
DSS is extensively used in business and management. Executive dashboard and other business performance software allow faster decision making, identification of negative trends, and better allocation of business resources. A good DSS include high-level summary reports or charts and allow the user to drill down for more detailed information.
Support of strategies for competitive advantage
A competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices. There are some business strategies that could be adopted in order to gain competitive advantage and relate to the business activities and to which a business seeks to differentiate its products.
To achieve the goal of competitive advantage and revenue increase, basic strategies are developed and supported by information systems:
Cost Leadership Strategy:
Becoming a low-cost producer and services in the industry and finding ways to help suppliers or customers reduce their costs or increase the cost of competitors.
Differentiate the company’s products and services from its competitors by developing new IT features and use them to reduce the differentiation advantages of competitors.
Expand the company’s capacity to produce goods and providing services, Expanding into global markets, and integrating into related products. Use IT to manage regional and global business expansion.
Create new products and services that include IT components. Make changes to business processes with IT that dramatically cut costs. Improve quality, efficiency of customer service using automated IT solutions.
Use IT to create virtual organizations of business partners. Develop inter-enterprise information systems linked by Internet and extranet that support strategic relationships with customers, suppliers and others.
In business, information systems are used through the Value Chain of activities which in turn enable the organization to optimize and control function of operations. They create a linkage between these activities through a value chain and help in lowering cost of value activities or by product’s differentiation.
The Value Chain of activities (Michael Porter) showed here are either primary processes or supporting processes with examples. Primary processes directly related to manufacturing or delivering products where Support processes help support the day-to-day running of the firm and indirectly contribute to products or services.
4 Conclusion Executives are making critical business decisions every day based on the information available to them. This information can come from a variety of sources: opinions from peers and colleagues; a personal sense of intuition or business judgment; or data derived internally or externally to the organization.
Companies need to utilize information for:
Alignment of business activities with corporate strategy
Resource allocation and utilization
Standards, compliance, and risk reduction.
This can be achieved using Information Systems and Technology by:
Providing analysis and reporting tools to create a centralized view necessary to ensure that departmental activities are in line with the overall corporate strategy.
Providing real-time information, allowing management to track performance and make adjustments more rapidly.
Combining value chain data it is possible for management to make better-informed decisions in deploying the right people, investments, equipment, and assets for the right activities at the right time.
Although IT & IS has become more of a commodity, when coupled with
complementary changes in organization and management, it can provide the
foundation for new products, services, and ways of conducting business that
provide firms with a strategic advantage.
Introduction to Information Systems,
O’Brien / Marakas, Fourteenth Edition
Business Information Systems – An introduction,
David Kroenke / Richard Hatch, Fifth Edition.
The Power of IT,
Jan De Sutter, Second Edition
http://www.keele.ac.uk Keele University