Ais development strategies suggested answers to discussion questions

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21.1 What is the accountant’s role in the computer acquisition process? Should the accountant play an active role, or should all the work be left to computer experts? In what aspects of computer acquisition might an accountant provide a useful contribution?
The accountant is likely to be:

  • A major user of the computer output

  • Responsible for internal controls over data processing in the organization

  • An expert in cost estimation and analysis

  • A designer of many of the systems that the computer is intended to supplant.

With these responsibilities, the accountant must be actively involved in the computer acquisition process. The accountant's role is probably best carried out by participating on a team or committee together with computer experts, systems analysts, production personnel, engineers, managers, and others whose functions are closely related to the information systems activity.

21.2 In a Midwest city of 45,000, a computer was purchased and in-house programmers began developing programs. Four years later, only one incomplete and poorly functioning application had been developed, none of software met users’ minimum requirements, and the hardware and the software frequently failed. Why do you think the city was unable to produce quality, workable software? Would the city have been better off purchasing software? Could the city have found software that met its needs? Why or why not?
Certainly not all instances of use or failure to use packaged software are as dramatic or as clear-cut as this. Nor in all cases will packaged software meet the functional requirements at a reasonable cost in an acceptable time frame. A careful evaluation of packaged software, however, can result in a system that performs admirably and cost effectively for data processing users.

a. Some possible reasons why the city was unable to produce a quality, workable system are:

  • Poor management.

  • Inexperienced systems analysts and programmers.

  • Inadequate needs analysis and requirements definition.

  • Management does not understand development well enough to direct and manage it.

  • Failure of users and development personnel to communicate.

  • Failure to establish checkpoints for monitoring the project.

  • Lack of continuity among the people working on the system.

  • Failure to plan the development project adequately.

b. The city would have been better off purchasing canned software for the following reasons:

  • They could have saved themselves a great deal of money.

  • They could have implemented the system much faster.

  • They would not have needed as many in-house programmers.

  • They could have avoided a lot of hassles, headaches, etc.

  • They could have "test-driven" the program to know exactly what they were getting.

  • They could also have talked to other users to measure satisfaction with the software.

  • Custom packages are much more likely to be bug free.

  • The developer can keep the package up-to-date easier and less expensively.

  • They probably would have gotten a much better system.

c. There are certainly enough cities, and hence a large enough market, for there to be quality software available. A city of 45,000 shouldn't have an overly complex system, such that none of the available canned packages would have been acceptable. The package might not have been able to meet all of the city's detailed needs and desires, but a package that came close to their needs certainly could have been found without all the problems mentioned above.
An adequate turnkey system was available and it would have saved the city nearly $500,000. In fact, the city’s annual data processing costs exceeded the annual costs of the new turnkey system.

21.3 You are a systems consultant for Ernst, Price, and Deloitte, CPAs. At your country club’s annual golf tournament, Frank Fender, an automobile dealer, describes a proposal from Turnkey Systems and asks for your opinion. The system will handle inventories, receivables, payroll, accounts payable, and general ledger accounting. Turnkey personnel would install the $40,000 system and train Fender’s employees. Identify the major themes you would touch on in responding to Fender. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of using a turnkey system to operate the organization’s accounting system.

Major themes that should be touched upon in responding to Fender's inquiry include:

  • The need for a feasibility study to determine whether a new system is technically, economically, and operationally feasible for Fender's dealership.

  • The need to identify the dealership’s needs and prepare specifications based on those needs.

  • The importance of requesting proposals from competing vendors and systematically comparing them.

  • The possibility of using EDP consultants to help and of outsourcing the system.

If students only suggest they obtain more information on this vendor and its hardware and software, then they are missing the point of the case. It is important to take a more general and systematic approach to the system acquisition decision, rather than making a "yes-no" decision on only this one system.
Advantages of a turnkey system

  • Less expensive than internally built systems and the total package may be better priced.

  • Takes less time and human resources to develop and run.

  • Experts are available for both the application software and hardware.

  • One-source support for the entire system. The vendor cannot pass the responsibility for a problem off on someone else. A single vendor may also facilitate system start-up and conversion as well as training on how to use the system.

  • Warranties are usually available.

  • Simplified selection process

  • Costs are reduced since it is not necessary to match software with hardware meaning that it is less likely that various items of hardware and software will be incompatible.

Disadvantages of a turnkey system:

  • Software or hardware may not be completely suited to company's needs.

  • Software modification may not be available or covered.

  • Increased vulnerability to continuity of the vendor's business.

  • Lack of control over design.

21.4 Sara Jones owns a rapidly growing retail store that faces stiff competition due to poor customer service, late and error-prone billing, and inefficient inventory control. To continue its growth, its AIS must be upgraded but Sara is not sure what it wants the AIS to accomplish. Sara has heard about prototyping, but does not know what it is or whether it would help. How would you explain prototyping to Sara? Include an explanation of its advantages and disadvantages as well as when its use is appropriate.

Prototyping is an approach to systems design in which a simplified working model of an information system is developed. In essence, a prototype is a scaled-down, experimental version of the system requested by the users.

The first step is to identify the basic requirements of the system. The emphasis is on what output should be produced rather than how it should be produced. A "first draft" model is quickly (days or weeks) and inexpensively built and given to users so they can experiment with it. This allows users to determine what they want the system to accomplish and what they like and don't like about it. Based upon their reactions and feedback, the developers modify the system and again present it to the users. This iterative process of trial usage and modification continues until the users are satisfied that the system adequately meets their needs.

The last step is making the system operational. The two choices are to use the already developed prototype or to use the prototype as a model for developing a new system.

Some of the advantages of prototyping include:

  • Better definition of user needs

  • Higher user involvement and satisfaction

  • Faster development time

  • Fewer errors in the implemented system

  • More opportunity to make changes

  • Less costly than other development alternatives

Some of the disadvantages of prototyping include:

  • Requires a significant amount of users’ time

  • Less efficient use of system resources

  • Incomplete systems development

  • Inadequately tested and documented systems

  • Cost of learning the different versions of the software

  • Never-ending development

Prototyping is appropriate when

  • there is a high level of uncertainty about what is needed

  • it is unclear what questions to ask

  • the final system cannot be clearly visualized because the decision process is still unclear

  • Speed is an issue

  • The system must meet just one or two major critical needs

  • There is a high likelihood of failure.

21.5 Clint Grace has been business over 30 years and has definite ideas about how his ten retail stores should be run. He is financially conservative and is reluctant to make expenditures that do not have a clear financial payoff. Store profitability has declined sharply and customer dissatisfaction is high. Store managers never know how much inventory is on hand and when purchases are needed until a shelf is empty. Clint asks you to determine why profitability has declined and to recommend a solution. You determine that the current AIS is inefficient and unreliable and that company processes and procedures are out of date.

You believe the solution is to redesign the systems and business processes using BPM. What are some challenges you might face in redesigning the system? How will you present your recommendations Clint?

Business process management (BPM) is a systematic approach to continuously improving and optimizing an organization's business processes. Grace may be resistant to BPM and its attendant changes and new technology because:

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