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Topic 1—System fundamentals (20 hours)

1.1 Systems in organizations (10 hours)

--- Planning and system installation ---


Identify the context for which a new system is planned.

Teaching Note:

The extent and limitations of a new system should be appreciated. Organizational issues related to the installation of new systems such as user roles, underlying technologies.


Sample Question:


JSR Notes:


Topic 1 Context: IT Systems

This assessment statement is about context, and actually, with all of these assessment statements it is most important to first put them into their own context. The overall context of Topic 1 is "Systems". It is also important to get straight, at this point, what we mean by systems in this case. We are not just talking about software systems, like the one you develop through your IA project, rather full IT systems. We are talking about the hardware, software, and people that work together to manage a discrete, but associated group of IT services.

Reasons for New Systems

There can be many reasons for implementing a new IT system. The system may be for a purpose which is entirely new for an organization. Often though, the new system is replacing a current system for reasons that include the current system is inefficient, or no longer suitable for its original purpose, or redundant or out-dated, or for an entirely new purpose. The new system can reduce errors or flaws of the existing one, and/or increase productivity or quality of the output along with minimizing costs. The development of most large systems involves a huge amount of time and effort and contains a lot of different stages.

1.1.1 to 1.1.7 deal with the planning of a new system, and 1.1.1 focuses in on the context of the system, i.e., where is it, and what the issues are, which you will have to consider in planning a particular IT system. You need to think, in particular, about the problems that may be encountered due to the specifics of the context.

Aspects of Context

A. Description of the Organization & Proposed System

In general, context means context, so at the very least the answer to "identify the context" ought to include a description of the organization etc. into which this system will be installed. This is similar to one of the very first tasks at the beginning of your IA process in which you described the situation - you included things like, for example, the school, the number of students, the job of the person who is your client etc. You have to fully understand the context of the problem you are addressing before you can properly address it.

B. Scope/Extent

In terms of the scope, or extent of an IT "system", there is a range of what it can attempt to work with. Included in scope are things like how powerful, how many users, how much hardware, how powerful the hardware is etc.

Part of the understanding of scope is the hierarchical nature of the system. An IT System is often actually a group of sub systems within a larger IT system. Take the example of an airport: you could say there is one global IT system, but within that system there are hardware, software and IT personnel who work as "sub-systems", such as security systems (CCTV etc.), database systems, networks, baggage systems, immigration systems, and so on. Each one could be considered an IT system on its own, and all together we could talk of the full airport IT system.


C. Limitations

There are always going to be things that limit how big the scope can ever be, or the extent to which the system can be implemented, within that scope, or indeed limit any other qualitative or quantitative measurement of the system. It is important to identify and appreciate the realities of such limitations. Doing so will help with realistic planning. Limitations include things such as:
- costs
- training and capabilities of employees
- current hardware and infrastructure


D. Organizational Issues

Rather than limitations, which to one extent or another cannot be controlled, by "organizational issues", we mean things which potentially may be issues, but which can be managed.


E. "Context for Success"

Along with all of the above descriptions of the situation and potential problems, even at an early stage there should be an appreciation of what will be seen as success for the IT system implementation. Understanding what will be seen as success goes a bit further than simple context, into what will be described (and discussed in later assessment statements) as "success criteria". Never-the-less, generally, preliminary thought about the "context of success" should include things such as:

- ability of new system to be used by those involved via effective training/re-training

- successful change management, recognizing and addressing any resistance to change

- clear benefits to the company/organization

 - an appreciation of the benefits implementation by the various stakeholders (employees, clients etc.)

So: "Did we make it through the change, with the new system working, having it benefit our organization, with people appreciative of those benefits?" Hopefully yes, yes, yes, and yes.


Specific Examples of Context

Specific Example: implementation of a new region-wide (i.e. multiple institution) hospital patient database system:

A. Description of the Organization & System: Every person in a US State, for example, would have all of their medical records stored in a central database, and through identity cards, that information could be readily accessed in the case of an emergency, or other medical situation.

B. Scope/Extent: This would be a grand scope, including many subsystems, for example, hospital by hospital, county by county.

C. Limitations: In terms of limitations a couple of things that would have to be taken into account are security and distance.

D. Organizational issues: Issues to be addressed would include compatibility between the different hospital databases, identity conflicts (same name issues, make sure that everybody has a unique ID number), network infrastructure and capacity improvements, transferring of certain data from all hospitals into one database and then organizing the data, and privacy issues: who is allowed to see what (Doctors can see everything?? Nurses can see only partial information??)

E. "Context for Success": It will be important to both make it work, and persuade all involved that it is worth the time and effort, and privacy concerns.



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