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Management Information Systems: Do You Really Need A Department? - Articles Surfing

Do you really need to set up a department called MIS?

For a large or global enterprise, this maybe an academic question but for a small enterprise, it has an impact on their investment strategy.

When ask this question, I normally counter by asking: Do you really need a purchasing department if most of your items are bought only once every three months or once a year? You're always using the phone in your office and almost all your sales are on the phone, would you want to organize a Communications Department for this purpose? Normally, you don't and you won't, simply because you can seamlessly integrate these activities into existing processes and tasks without disrupting existing workload. In the MIS perspective, it is becoming even true today simply because the technology allows simple integration of so many activities into existing processes or workload.

In the late 80's, organizations had some section or department they called Electronic Data Processing or EDP. This all powerful department decide who, what or how "data" is going to be accepted, "process" and delivered to important people or departments who will use them to decide what will be produced, what was produced, how much, who gets paid, how much and when. There was so much paper work to sort out and numbers to crunch that you had to have so many people just doing the sorting, the "keypunching" (There was not that many typing then!), classifying of "cards" and then the ultimate printing of summaries.

The sheer size of the computers at that time was enough to call the department monstrous. A large company with the computing needs for a workforce of more than 500 required an entire room to house its main computer and the air-conditioning system so proportionately huge nobody drinks cold softdrink in the office because most employees are wearing jackets to prevent hypothermia. It was also the time when nobody also gets paid if MIS is down. Almost everything that amounts to putting a name and a number on paper will ultimately pass through MIS.

Today, the emergence of computer systems with smaller foot print and a thousand times powerful than its predecessors with software equally powerful and easy to use, provide users with more independence in creating data and using it. Simple secretaries can now generate list of customers and specific sets of information about them from their own desktop PC.

Most servers or central computers can now be controlled remotely right down to the keyboard of the workstations and security systems connected to it. Applications can be installed or "diagnosed" by systems administrators from across the globe. With this connectivity and ease of communication, do you really need a whole department to run a system that can be managed from a desktop computer.

Most of the crises experienced in a network are no longer incidents related to hardware problems but software. Hardware make and design are so sturdy you can have several years passing by before the first incident of hardware problems is reported.

What is the alternative to rigid MIS structure then? The more cost-effective alternative is an IS/IT team derived from a matrix structure. The most immediate benefits from this structure are as follows:

-less need for highly specialized skills hence less manpower
-less cost in terms of salaries and wages
-multiple competencies from existing manpower
-management of technology deployment is based on existing processes
-systems design will be based on what the team knows rather than what the vendor says
-no slow down of work due to attrition
-effective IS/IT planning
-stronger commitment to long-term goals and project objectives
-faster technology diffusion from team to other levels
-effective process improvement
-convenience in coordinating project tasks.
-ease of competence acquisition from a Service Provider Team to your Team.
-minimize the cost of expanding capabilities and infrastructure to support growth.
-initial successes will be repeatable and portable to other key business areas with less intervention from the Service Provider Team.

The effectiveness of the IS/IT team is hinge on the following premises:

-The team has a clear mandate.
-Team objective or mission is clear to everyone.
-Top management must provide serious, strong and visible support.
-Team member is trained to assume role as participant of program or project.
-Team members are selected from key organic units or key process areas across the organization based on a set of criteria known to everyone.
-Team has a documented work process.
-Team has a plan.
-Team members and leader have time and place to meet.
-Strong leader.

The use of guerilla tactics in marketing makes the use of IS/IT teams even more viable. These teams are small but flexible enough to restructure IT resources for a volatile marketplace.

Submitted by:

Virgilio Paralisan

Virgilio Paralisan is a consultant developing customer service programs for small and medium enterprises. His career spanning 12 years is in information technology in the field of corporate planning, customer service development, and process design. For more customer service articles visit: http://customerservicetools.blogspot.com/



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