2.1 Decision-making Processes
2.2 Integrating Multiple Data Sources and Platforms
2.3 IT Backlog
2.4 End User Data Access
2.5 User Friendly Data Design
Management processes at Avondale College have tended not to rely to a major extent on input from computer-based information systems. There are a number of reasons for this.
One of the major difficulties faced by decision makers and knowledge workers is that the corporate data resides in many different systems. Data is held in many different formats and on a variety of platforms.
The major information system components are as follows:
|Student Administration||VAX||indexed flat files|
|General Ledger||VAX||Databus emulation|
|Budgeting, Financial Planning||PC||spreadsheets|
indexed flat files
|Accounts Receivable||VAX||Databus emulation|
|Asset Management||VAX||Databus emulation|
|Recruiting, Marketing & Promotion||PC||Microsoft Access|
|Ad hoc enquiry/analysis||none||none|
The same data item sometimes has different names or different attributes in each system. A simple example is the different ways that student ID can be treated in different systems.
STUDENT_ID PIC 9(10). STUDENT_NUMBER PIC 9(5). NAME_NUMBER PIC X(6). (NAME_NUMBER replaces STUDENT_NUMBER plus CHECK_DIGIT)
Because the data is not in a form suitable for user-generated analysis, enquiry and reporting, each request for decision support information requires special routines to be written by programmers. The IT department has a large backlog of projects and requests typical of the industry. These include requests for modifications, bug fixes, additional functionality and enhancements to existing systems, as well as new projects for replacing legacy systems and adding new systems, either through evaluating and implementing packaged software or in-house development.
The demands for accurate and timely management information to support ad hoc enquiries and reports, graphical and what-if analysis are increasing, and the IT backlog continues to grow larger. The answers to the questions are held in the data, but it is too difficult and time consuming to extract the information needed to find the answers. This results in questions not being asked, and in duplication of personal information systems, with inadequate controls over data integrity and accuracy.
One solution to the problems caused by the IT backlog is to put user-oriented reporting and analysis tools in the hands of the users. This will assist the decision making process and it will help to realize more of the potential benefit of information systems in meeting the corporate goals.
The problem is that in its current format, corporate data is not accessible via end-user tools.
The long-term objective for Information Systems (known as the Administrative Software Project) is to develop and maintain a central corporate database in a form conducive to analysis via EIS tools. However, the problem here is that the timescale for completion is 5 to 8 years, so this does not address the urgent need for improved management information.
There is a need to:
In order to provide end user access to data, users need to find it easy to navigate and use the database. Rather than wait until a fully integrated package can be purchased or developed in-house, a database can be designed to satisfy the requirements for ease-of-use by end users, with routines to populate it from existing data sources. This is essentially the concept of the Data Warehouse. Since this database will not be supporting operational data processing, its design can be optimized to support the needs of decision makers and knowledge workers.
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