The task of any IT manager working in a company is to select and propose the most efficient information system solution to address organizational needs. The problem is that, despite an important role of information systems in business operations, it is rather difficult to choose a cost-efficient technology. When developing an information system to address certain business needs, the IT manager is expected to analyze a company’s activities, daily operations, employees’ tasks, the number of workers and customers, the nature of data they exchange, and security issues (Brown, DeHayes, Slater, Martin, & Perkins, 2011).
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As a result of such analysis, it is possible to develop the most appropriate solution to influence the work flow, improve productivity, and increase customer satisfaction. ABC Corp is a small software company employing fewer than 50 individuals and providing services to many clients. The currently used customer relationship management (CRM) system and additional applications are not appropriate to meet the business goals and increase productivity. The purpose of this proposal is to present the analysis of ABC Corp’s information system and recommend a solution to overcome identified challenges and satisfy business needs.
Analysis of ABC Corp’s Information System and Determined Challenges
Currently, the information system applied at ABC Corp consists of the following programs and elements: an in-house proprietary CRM system, a web portal, and a product enhancement database. The problem that can be faced by the IT manager and employees is that these components are not selected, arranged, and used appropriately to meet business needs, creating the redundancy of data and silos. The first challenge to address is the inappropriateness of the CRM system to include the increasing client base as it currently operates to its maximum capacity. As a result, client-related data are not managed effectively, which leads to poor customer experiences.
The second challenge is the use of a web portal for a sales team to enter existing contracts. This practice means that the company uses the intranet to organize sales and provide access to contracts to customers, but this technology also creates security issues as important private data can be compromised.
The use of a product enhancement database as an additional tool means that information on product defects and enhancements requested by clients is entered to a separate database, but these data can be repeated in other parts of the system. This situation creates redundancy and silos; furthermore, employees can have limited access to data when they need to change between programs to operate in their daily activities (Brown et al., 2011).
The involvement of several separate systems results in making work-flow processes for users rather inefficient. In addition, the application of several systems is time- and cost-consuming. Centralization of customer and other data is required to avoid redundancy, many silos, and lost sales opportunities because of storing data in many bases. Currently, the main challenge is that all employees cannot access client data in one place, some data can be missed, and repeated data contribute to worsening productivity.
Security issues are typical not only for the practice of working with web portals but also with different databases, and they can be provoked by the lack of centralization in the work of the company’s information system. From this perspective, a single system for organizing ABC Corp’s operations should be proposed. In this case, the system should contain a large customer base, information on sales and contracts, as well as data on product enhancement requests and procedures. In the case the current system is not changed, it is possible to expect missing information and disclosing private client data, risks of unauthorized access to data, and other security problems (“Data: Ethical use and storage,” n.d.).
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The currently used system does not contribute to optimizing and organizing operations and processes, which is one of the key tasks of information systems in organizations. If one system is implemented, it is possible to reduce costs, make operations effective and productive, and improve customer relations and satisfaction.
The Information System for Implementation at ABC Corp
The information system solution that can be implemented at ABC Corp to address its challenges is an advanced CRM system. A new system should include customer-related data, have the expanded capacity to increase the customer base, and include information on sales and customers’ requests and feedback regarding products. In this section, it is necessary to explain how a new information system solution will be used to cope with the identified problems, evaluate its effectiveness, and explain data quality and security issues.
Role of a New CRM System in Solving the Problems
Currently, ABC Corp uses an in-house proprietary CRM system that does not address the needs associated with its large client base that can potentially increase. Furthermore, the use of the CRM system is not efficient since other operations like the work of a sales team with contracts and product enhancement requests is not integrated in this system to avoid redundancy and enable easy access to data (Brown et al., 2011).
ABC Corp should choose a CRM collaboration system to guarantee different units of the company can use and share data about customers and sales (Chen, Wu, Chu, Lin, & Chuang, 2018). In this case, it is necessary to change an in-house proprietary CRM system with the limited capacity and integration options to another cloud-based CRM application that will provide resources for expanding a client database, using software and hardware in a cost-efficient manner, and organize the work of data exchange between several units of the company.
Salesforce is a cloud-based CRM system with a wide range of tools and options to integrate the operations related to several departments into one database. This CRM system is appropriate for small businesses, and it allows for organizing customer relations to improve performance while collecting all data related to sales, contracts, interactions, communication, requests, information on product defects, customers’ feedback, and the company’s response.
As a result, using this customer-oriented solution, it will be possible to eliminate redundant customer data and make it centralized and accessible for employees (Bansal & Rao, 2018). Thus, all customer data will be placed in one database, and the company will avoid the absence of responses to customer requests and missing sales opportunities.
Evaluation of the Information Systems Solution
The implementation of a cloud-based CRM system, Salesforce, can be discussed as a successful solution to the problems and challenges observed at ABC Corp. In comparison to an inefficient in-house proprietary CRM system that was used in the company, the proposed system is highly integrated and more scalable (Bansal & Rao, 2018). The problem is that the previously used system did not address the need for a large database for customers and did not integrate a variety of functions in one centralized system. The selected solution is more efficient in relation to these criteria. A new system will provide employees with opportunities to manage all available data on customers, sales, contracts, complaints, requests, and feedback simultaneously and efficiently, without redundancy in operations and information (Garg & Kumari, 2017).
In addition to high scalability, the requirement for the streamlining of operations will also be addressed. Using collaborative and integrated CRM systems, employees improve their productivity because of reducing time and resources required for managing disorganized data. Thus, a collaborative CRM system is more appropriate than an analytical or operational one to ensure all units use and manage the same customer data.
It is also important to note that the proposed centralized information systems solution is also cost-efficient. The reason is that cloud-based CRM systems are less costly than in-house proprietary systems and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. For a small company, a cloud-based CRM system provides a lot of tools and options without the necessity to invest many resources in its implementation, maintenance, and training (Brown et al., 2011).
An advanced CRM application allows for making a work-flow process efficient to its maximum extent as all required data are available to all employees, secured but easily accessible and exchangeable (Haislip & Richardson, 2017). Referring to the case of ABC Corp, it is possible to assume that customers become dissatisfied when their requests are not responded to, and they cannot receive adequate support. If the current CRM system does not integrate all customer data, decreased sales and customer loyalty can be expected. A new CRM system is an effective solution to organize the information related to customers to contribute to the interaction of departments and customer satisfaction.
The Proposed Information System Solution and Data Quality and Security
The proposed CRM system is cloud-based that means that all data entering the software should be of a high quality and secured. Several years ago, cloud-based systems were discussed as controversial in terms of security. However, today cloud-based CRM systems are reported to be more secure than on-site systems. Only authorized users can access data in these databases, and only registered devices can be utilized (Preece, Chong, Golizadeh, & Rogers, 2015).
When such a CRM system is selected for a company, its data quality and security are ensured because this system cannot work appropriately in an unprotected environment with a poorly organized data (Brown et al., 2011). Therefore, it is possible to speak about potential advantages of using a cloud-based collective CRM system (Salesforce) for improving data quality and security at ABC Corp.
In order to be effectively entered into the integrated information system, data should be of a high quality, properly checked, and categorized. The use of such information by all employees at ABC Corp guarantees that the overall approach to regarding data quality in the company will change significantly. It will be possible to ensure the selection of accurate information, the speed of operations, and productivity (Sehgal, Bhatt, & Acken, 2019).
However, in order to guarantee that the data quality principle is addressed, ABC Corp also needs to implement the data quality policy to determine requirements for data to use and procedures for checking errors (“Data: Ethical use and storage,” n.d.). Additionally, the CRM system will contribute to security because modern encryption systems applied by CRM vendors are effective. Furthermore, the company will pay attention to improving the authorization procedure, changing passwords regularly, registering devices to use for work, and creating backup copies.
Major Elements of the Information System Solution
The implementation of a new CRM system at ABC Corp should be realized in the context of the integration of this cloud-based application into the overall IT system of the company. The major IT components of the information system in this context are hardware, software, data resources, networking, and telecommunications (Brown et al., 2011). Figure 1 presents these IT blocks in detail in the form of a high-level diagram to help understand how the integration of the CRM system solution will influence the work of the information system in the company. At ABC Corp, data resources include a server and a large database for all operations, not only those related to customers and sales. The use of external secure servers is important for any company, regardless of its size in order to store and protect data efficiently.
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The second component to discuss is software with reference to the cloud-based collaborative CRM system proposed for the application at ABC Corp. This CRM system will allow for collecting, storing, and exchanging data on customers, their requests, product defects, feedback, responses, contacts, sales, and contracts when utilizing only one secure application. In addition to this software component, employees also use web browsers, email, applications and programs to organize the work of the accounting and marketing departments (Chen, Wu, Chuang, Wang, & Lin, 2018).
Furthermore, much attention should be used to applying effective firewall to protect the company’s activities and relevant programming languages, like JavaScrypt, PHP, and HTML. All these programs are used with the help of the company’s hardware that includes computers, tablets, laptops, printers, and other devices to ensure completing tasks and making operations quick and efficient. In this category, it is also necessary to mention routers, as well as switches and hubs, which guarantee the effective work of all computers and devices as a one system.
The other component of the company’s IT infrastructure is networking that includes tools for uniting devices of all employees. At ABC Corp, computers and other devices should be connected using the principle of the star topology to ensure other devices can be easily added, and centralized data are easily accessible and shared (Mitchell, 2019). The next component is telecommunications realized with the help of the wireless connection and smartphones, as well as messengers when it is necessary to contact customers. If a new CRM system is added to these IT blocks, it is possible to achieve the more efficient flow of data and its management to address customers’ needs as well as the improved workflow process.
The implementation of a new CRM system at ABC Corp should be realized with the help of the systems development life cycle (SDLC) process. This process usually includes three stages, which are Definition, Construction, and Implementation (Figure 2). In order to realize the selected information system solution (a CRM system), it is necessary to conduct feasibility analysis at the Definition stage (Brown et al., 2011).
The task of the IT manager is to assess ABC Corp’s current needs and challenges, as well as the applied IT solutions. The used CRM system supported by a web portal and an additional database for product-related data is not appropriate enough to meet the company’s goals and contribute to productivity. Requirements that are identified at this stage include the necessity of increasing the capacity of the used CRM system, integrated customer-related data into one system, avoid data redundancy, thus, streamlining operations. The solution that is selected as a result of these steps is an advanced cloud-based and collaborative CRM system.
The second stage in the SDLC process is Construction associated with designing, developing, creating, and testing the solution. Thus, at this stage, the decision regarding choosing a CRM system produced by Salesforce should be made depending on selecting configurations, options, and tools to include. The next steps are the establishment of a new system and its primary testing to determine drawbacks (Haislip & Richardson, 2017). The third stage is the implementation of the application to use in all departments and its final installation. It is also necessary to provide employees of ABC Corp with training and continue controlling performance of the tool to make important updates.
ABC Corp faces the necessity of changing its current information system to the more advanced tool to address such problems as the limited capacity of a CRM system, redundancy of data, missed opportunities to contact clients, poor customer satisfaction, and affected productivity. A scalable solution in this context to streamline operations in the company is the application of a cloud-based collaborative CRM system produced by Salesforce. The proposal has presented the information on the IT blocks to pay attention to during the implementation process and the SDLC process model to effectively integrate the new CRM system. This solution is appropriate as it is cost-efficient, secure, and allows for addressing the company’s needs.
Bansal, S., & Rao, P. (2018). Extremely effective CRM solution using Salesforce. International Journal of Innovative Research in Engineering & Multidisciplinary Physical Sciences, 6(2), 1-12.
Brown, C. V., DeHayes, D. W., Slater, J., Martin, W. E., & Perkins, W. C. (2011). Managing information technology (7th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Chen, Y. S., Wu, C. H., Chuang, H. M., Wang, L. C., & Lin, C. K. (2018). The benefits of information technology strategy and management for cloud-based CRM systems using the interactive qualitative analysis approach. International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management, 18(1), 25-46.
Chen, Y. S., Wu, C., Chu, H. H., Lin, C. K., & Chuang, H. M. (2018). Analysis of performance measures in cloud-based ubiquitous SaaS CRM project systems. The Journal of Supercomputing, 74(3), 1132-1156.
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Garg, H., & Kumari, U. (2017). An introduction to world leading CRM: SalesForce.com. I-Manager’s Journal on Cloud Computing, 4(2), 9-12.
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Preece, C., Chong, H. Y., Golizadeh, H., & Rogers, J. (2015). A review of customer relationship (CRM) implications: Benefits and challenges in construction organizations. International Journal of Civil Engineering, 13(3), 362-371.
Sehgal, N. K., Bhatt, P. C. P., & Acken, J. M. (2019). Cloud computing with security: Concepts and practices (2nd ed.). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.