(a) It is claimed that data required to support strategic planning differs from data required to support operational decisions in terms of the time period referred to and the source or origin of the data
Briefly describe how data required to support strategic planning differs from that required to support operational decisions in terms of:
(i) Time period referred to.
(ii) The source or origin of the data.
(b) The organisation you work for has hired a software engineer to develop a suite of software to manage your payroll application system. As the financial manager, you are working closely with the software engineer to ensure that the software quality assurance standards are attained.
(i) List any four data validation checks that the software engineer should incorporate into the program.
(ii) Why is it important to test the software before implementing it?
(iii) Suggest two measures that the software engineer must take in order to simplify user training and support that is fundamental to the success of the information systems project.
a) Strategic planning:
This refers to planning that covers a long period of time, usually 5 to 7 years. The planning determines the long-term objectives, resources and policies of an organization.
They are concerned with daily or routine operations of the organization relating mainly to its primary activities. Examples include decisions to reorder stock when the stock is almost sold out and decisions to suspend a client from purchasing goods and services on credit due to an outstanding balance.
How data required to support strategic planning differs from that required to support operational decisions in terms of:
(I) Time Period Referred To
Data required for operational decisions usually covers a short time period usually in days or months. For example, data relating to the outstanding balance of a customer that determines whether or not the customer should be allowed to purchase more goods and services on credit usually spans a few days or utmost a month.
Data required for strategic planning usually covers a longer time period, usually in years. From this data, forecasts can be made concerning market trends e.g. a plan to start another branch needs forecasts into the future say, in terms of sales, expenses, etc
(II) The Source or Origin of the Data
Data required for operational decisions usually originates from within the organization. For example, stock level data and clients outstanding balances can only be sourced from within the organization in order to influence operational decisions.
Data required for strategic planning usually has a greater external orientation. For instance, data about global markets that can influence an organization to globalize is external to the organization.
b) (i) Validation
This refers to the process which a computer system identifies and reports incorrect data items. Validation occurs during data processing.
Validation checks that should be incorporated into the program:
1. Sequence checks e.g. checking whether employee numbers are in sequence
2. Limit checks. For instance, salaries of employees should be checked within a certain limit e.g. not more than Ksh 2,000,000
3. Range checks- could be used to check the correctness of processed salaries.
4. Validity checks for coded data. For instance, marital status of employees could be checked for M (i.e. married) or S (i.e. single) and anything else should be rejected.
5. Reasonableness check. For instance, a processed pay slip, which indicates a negative salary, should be investigated for error.
6. Existence check to ensure that all fields of a file contain an entry after data entry is complete.
7. Check digits- to detect transcription and transposition errors.
(ii) Testing enables errors in the software to be identified and corrected before the software is implemented. This testing ensures that the implemented system is highly reliable and free from error.
(iii) Measures that must be taken to simplify user training and support:
1. Use of an online training and support system
Online training and support would be easily available to users at any time. The training and support could be provided at a specific site in the intranet (Organization‘s computer network) with multimedia (Text, sound and graphics) used to enhance understanding.
1. Training schedules could be supplied to system users so that they know in advance how long the training is supposed to take and what is expected of them during the training. This would improve user cooperation and thus simplify the training.
2. Training should be carried out in phases so that users are gradually familiarized with the information system. A general timing approach to be used could be as follows:
o Before the feasibility study wherethe users are given a general explanation ofcomputer systems and their relevance in function application and reason for the desire to introduce a computer in the specific functions on the organization.
o Before investigation where users are explained about the impact of the new systemand the importance of their involvement in development.
o During fact finding so that they can cooperate and provide useful information toguide the system developer during the analysis phase of SDLC.
o Before programming so that they can prepare themselves for specific roles at the implementation stage. These may include testing activities or roles.
o Before implementation to enable users cooperate and play their roles as assigned to them.
o After implementation in order to assist in evaluation of system performance.