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Information Systems Strategic Planning

Introduction

Strategic planning is not a concept that is uniquely applied to the field of information technology. In modern times, every segment of life and every undertaking that is successful must utilize the advantages availed by strategic planning. To state simply, strategic planning is about the careful organization of the resources that are available for a given chore in such a way that maximum gain is reaped while minimum losses are incurred. This level of organization is applicable not only in the entire organization but also in the small scale projects that take place within the organization. The people who carry out the strategic planning tasks are normally those with vast experience in the concerned area. The reason for this is that they are in a better position to identify areas of weakness and seal then. On the same note, they are also in a better position to establish the strong points of a project and amplify them so as to raise the returns. It is important to note that whereas a small number of experienced members are involved in strategic planning, all the elements of the involved organization must be taken into account as they have a long lasting impact on the strategic plan. How does this apply to the field of information technology?

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Information systems is a field that has its own characteristics that call for a unique set of abilities in the people who are involved in its handling. But one of the major reasons as to why strategic planning is necessary in the field of information technology is the dynamism of the field. Information technology changes in a speedy manner to the extent that software that was hot in the market a week ago can easily be rendered obsolete by the end of next week. Therefore the people who draw the strategic plans for information technology are called upon to recognize this crucial factor.

Literature Review

In the strategic planning of information systems, nothing is as important as standards. As it has already been mentioned in the introduction, the information technology field is so dynamic that products get out of value as fast as they are produced. In such an atmosphere, settling for less in terms of standards simply means that the strategy is doomed. While stressing the significant role played by standards, Lori Goetsch amplifies the importance of infrastructure that can support a variety of technology elements in terms of data (Goetsch 1999, pp.13-15). The message is that if the information systems materials that are being planned for in the strategic planning are not of the right standards, then it is possible that the strategic plan will fail. This is because in the event that heavy data flows into the system either directly or remotely, then the system will break down. Therefore the way to go during information technology strategic planning is to envision the utilization of high standard materials. This is in terms of both software and hardware.

Far from standards, Katz and Rudy, in their seminal work that details what information systems planners need to take into account when drawing technology strategic plans have emphasized the role of assessing the needs of the involved institutions. The numbers of the people in an organization such as a college, a business organization or a university is important as it will show the pressure that the system will be under as it serves the community or institution (Katz & Rudy 1999, pp.23-26).Who has the responsibility of assessing the information technology needs of an institution other than the strategic planners? The answer is simple in that there is absolutely no other party that will find this information as useful as the strategic planners will find it important. It is the only way that will tell them what to cater for as dictated by the needs of the institution or organization. This concept of need determination as far as information systems strategic planning is concerned is also closely related to the idea that an organization must be given the window for transformation in accordance with the new strategic plan. This has to be taken into account in the process of coming up with the strategic plan. In the Kitsap County information technology Strategic plan prepared by Tami Brazell, the significance of ensuring that the organization makes changes so as to reflect new information technology realities is made clear (Brazell 2001,pp.107-108). If the changes are not foreseen and catered for in the strategic plan, system rigidity can hinder unanticipated adjustments. There is also the danger of total system disruption if changes are made in an unplanned manner. This is the product of not minding future needs for change in the process of drawing the strategic plan.

The other crucial factor to cater for while planning strategically for information technology is the network that will be formed and utilized by the information systems framework envisioned in the strategic plan. A strategic plan for information technology must be properly framed so as to allow for access by all the sectors, departments and offices within the organization. This is especially true if rapid communication is what is needed to make the organization in question achieve more success. The Department of Homeland Security of the United States government has emphasized the need to allow for information sharing among the various agencies and departments so as to achieve the objectives of the federal government’s information technology objectives (Department of Homeland Security 2009,pp.3-6).

What will happen if the organization’s information technology infrastructure breaks down? The first idea that comes to the minds of many is the presence of a backup system. Backup systems are important. Think about a home that has a generator that is always on standby such that when power the mains electricity goes off, the generator gets to work immediately. This is what backup systems do. But Robert Lowson has brought in a new paradigm in strategic operations. This paradigm can also be applied in information systems strategic planning due to its relevance and appropriateness. Lowson points out that the needs for quick response can never be replaced by backup systems (Lowson 2002,pp.103-104).This make perfect sense in that the backup system can also fail and if there is no additional backup, the system organization will grind to a halt. This will not be the case if there is a quick response team that has been provided for in the strategic planning such that incase of system problems, the team is available to attend to the issue even if there are backups. What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the information technology industry?

SWOT Analysis if the Information Systems Industry

The field of information systems is highly dynamic has it has already been pointed out in this paper. This has come with unique strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that need to be carefully analyzed by anyone trying to venture into the field. This SWOT analysis is based on practical experience with technology issues as well as what has been written by scholars.

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Strengths

Growth capacity

The field of information systems has immense potential for growth. This is beneficial to both organizations that utilize information technology in their operations as well as organizations whose specialization is technology. For those that use technology in their day to day operations, the window for growth means that the prices of deliverables will be competitive meaning that they will not have to spend too much on their information technology procurements. The organizations that specialize in delivering software, hardware and other information technology items to the market also have an advantage from this strength of the capacity for growth because expansion is assured which technically translates to more business and more profits (Goetsch 1999, pp.33-36). Is there evidence for this strength in the field of information technology? The recent past has witnessed the accomplishment of giant undertakings in the field of information technology. From the heavy desk top computers to the current palm tops and laptops, it is not easy to escape the giant leaps that have been made. This is evidence that this industry is growing.

The ability to create employment

This is closely linked to the capacity for growth. In most cases, when a business expands, more jobs are created. This is a strength because of the implication it has for not only the organizations that utilize information technology deliverables but also the information systems companies as well as the governments. But it is not always the case that new technologies will lead to job creation. In fact, new technologies can make millions of people lose their jobs as what they used to do becomes the work of machines.

Weakness

The major weaknesses that are observable in the industry are: the rapid displacement of technological inventions and the possibility of leading to job losses. In rapid displacement of inventions, technological items that are invented or innovated today stand a high chance of becoming obsolete in the next few days. This is a good thing to some degree but when the cost of producing the displaced inventions is considered, the impact is prohibitive. The losses to the business people who invest huge sums of money in coming up with new technologies that are rendered useless as soon as they are availed to the market are sometimes too high to bear.

On the issue of job losses, it is not always definite that new technologies will lead to new jobs as it has already been pointed out under strengths. There are numerous examples of new technologies that have led to the disappearance of millions of jobs. To use a simple example, long before the emergence of telephones, information used to be delivered by people who walked used cars. In this case so many people had to be employed to deliver mail to different places, especially where cars would not access. But all this changed with the invention of the telephone. Most of the people who depended on mail delivery for their livelihood had to look elsewhere for their daily bread. This illustrates how information technology can be potentially disastrous in the area of job creation (Goetsch 1999, pp.70-74). This can affect a small organization that uses information technology products as well as giant corporations that manufacture information technology products.

Opportunities

The opportunities in the information technology industry exist around the area of flexibility and backup. Information technology makes it possible for workers to do away with the traditional tedious and rigid office day. This is because work can be done from homes and other places by use of portable information technology gadgets. This is an opportunity for firms and individuals to manage as many issues as possible. The backup element is as a result of numerous options that can be used in the event that one area fails. This is true for both commercial and non commercial application of information technology deliverables. For example if Microsoft Windows fails to get the job done, Linux can be used. Also if Linux fails to sell, the dealer can shift to Microsoft.

Threats

The threats facing the information technology strategic planners is the danger of putting resources in new information technologies that end up becoming obsolete. The cost may be too much for the organization leading to a financial crisis. The rationality in any investment is that the losses are kept at minimum levels while benefits or profits are raised as high as possible. This does not get reflected in the case of spending too much in terms of resources and making nothing or too little in the long run.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is evident that strategic planning must be done carefully done by considering such issues as standards. The SWOT analysis for information systems shows growth capacity as a strength and the possibility of job losses as a weakness. This is important information for the people involved in information systems strategic planning.

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References

Brazell, T., 2001. ‘Information Technology Strategic Plan Planning: Information Technology for 2002 and beyond.’ Web.

Department Of Homeland Security: ‘Information Technology Strategic Plan 2009-2013.’ Web.

Goetsch, L (ed).,1999.Information Technology Planning. New York: The Hayworth Press Inc.

Katz,R & Rudy,J.,1999.Information Technology In Higher Education: Assessing Its Impact And Planning For The Future.New York: Jossey-Bass.

Lowson,R., 2002.Strategic Operations Management: The New Competitive Advantage.London: Routledge.

Appendix 1

Business Process Flow Chart

Business Process Flow Chart

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