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
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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