Manufacturing Systems 



Life Cycle of an Information System

What necessitated these subsystems? It was a change in the business conditions faced by the organization. The business environment got more complex. The evolution of subsystems is an organization's natural systemic response to increasing business complexity. Figure 1 illustrates this process. It is the increasing complexity of business conditions that makes business systems subject to life cycles.

Information systems go through five stages:

1. New implementation

2. System modification, expansion

3. Process failure, subsystem creation

4. Subsystem predominance

5. System replacement

Figure 1 illustrates how a growing business faces increasing degrees of complexity. It also indicates how the corporate system becomes ineffective as a result of increased complexity. During stage 1, new system implementation, the organization enjoys a system that is adequate or superior to its needs. Required infor­mation is received on time and accurately. If there is difficulty in using the system, it is because users are learning how the system meets their needs.

In stage 2, changes in business conditions prompt managers to explore the full potential of the corporate system. They search for unused tools and software features that might be used to address new business problems. A need grows for reporting that is not a normal part of the system. Computer equipment is tuned and adjusted to achieve faster processing of increasing quantities of data. Changes may be made to software to accommodate new types of transactions.

At stage 3, the corporate system fails to provide critical types of information or control. A new processing requirement—a new company location, the initiation of international trade, the require­ment for serial number tracing—cannot be accommodated by the corporate system. The first persons to spot the deficiency are often the operations-level system users. It is up to these people to do their jobs with or without aid from the corporate system. A common response to realization that the system doesn't work is to create a new subsystem that will work. The worker photocopies a transaction document and creates a follow-up file to remind herself to check on process at a later date. Perhaps she designs a database for matching a control number with a job number. (The corporate system cannot store the control numbers.) Whatever the problem, it is the worker who often spots it first and devises some means to handle it.

When stage 4 arrives, subsystems pervade the organization. These subsystems have become institutionalized and are recognized throughout the organization as the required means of processing information. Furthermore, the subsystems frequently duplicate some parts of other subsystems. The information flow has become unwieldy, inaccurate and obscure. Information flow has become so complex that few if anyone really know how systems work. Managers contemplating the system can only grasp the general nature of the information flow. Many start to think of it in terms of the way the stage 1 system used to work. As managers lose their understanding of the systems, the users become isolated within their own operations. Little communication occurs between functional groups regarding systems, so fewer and fewer people understand how subsystems work in departments other than their own.

When stage 5 arrives, major business operations are damaged by the information systems. Middle managers recognize that they can't do their jobs for lack of an effective system. This is the time where top managers consider replacing the corporate system and all the subsystems.

To be Continued


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