9th Module: Course Unit Review and Practical Applications: Oracle, SAP and Medical Information Systems Structure: Information Systems Management: increased importance = increased responsibilities. The Information Systems Function – a business in microcosm? The Future – change and more change Practical applications (will be updated weekly as the lecture progresses)
Information Systems Management: increased importance = increased responsibilities Responsibilities for those who provide Information Systems services have increased in terms of business, organisational and management responsibilities. The responsibilities are therefore no longer just technical, but predominantly organisational.
Consequently, it is important to know about business applications. IT managers need to see their organisation from a service perspective. They need to be able to demonstrate that their services support organisational objectives investments are justified and effective the systems are protected, secure, robust and reliable user needs are satisfied the information systems function is cost effective and well managed.
Being effective requires new skills, processes and procedures that are based on business- rather than on technical considerations only. Each of the 8 previous modules has tried to show how business/organisational considerations influence important areas of Information Systems and how IT managers can respond to these demands. For the Information Systems function, it is not only enough to be effective in business terms, but it is also essential that its managers are open to scrutiny by the rest of the organisation or by external auditors.
This also involves conforming to documented standards of practice that help to ensure quality and reliability. The re-thinking in these terms often represents a major change for many IT professionals, as they only used to be involved in technical decisions in the past.
The Information Systems Function – a business in microcosm In many ways the Information Systems function is becoming like a small business on its own. It has to formulate strategies and plans, deliver products and services, manage its assets, and demonstrate effectiveness/efficiency in its area (Duncan, 1997).
In modules 1, 2 and 8, aspects of organisational environment were discussed in which the Information Systems function operates. Moreover, a picture of its market/customer was given. In module 3, strategy and planning processes were described which are needed to provide effective Information Systems support for an organisation. Modules 4 and 6 addressed approaches to delivering products and services.
Modules 5 and 7 (and partly module 3) addressed ways of evaluating, managing and protecting Information Systems assets. In addition, throughout the entire lecture the need for effectiveness and efficiency was stressed. This range of Information Systems activities has tried to clarify that Information Systems services can no longer be seen from a purely technical perspective. Information Systems managers are increasingly asked to demonstrate the full range of business skills.
In addition, it is expected from Information Systems managers that they are able to manage the Information Systems function under the same constraints and pressures as any other part of a business (Duncan, 1997).
The Future – change and more change As discussed in Modules 2 and 8, changes in IT enable changes to the structure of organisations. The difficulty faced by many Information Systems managers is how to assimilate these new technologies within organisational practices and a business-driven management framework.
A major study of the impact of new IT solutions, the MIT Management in the 1990s research program (Morton, 1991), came to the conclusion that this trend of change will continue in the future. This MIT research program produced a model for the use of IT in organisations, based on the assumption that organisations work in a rapidly changing environment.
Although the Information Systems function as well as its managers will become more business-like under the pressures discussed in this lecture and the study guide, uncertainties and risks arising from technological and organisational change will continue to have an impact on organisations and their Information Systems professionals.
Case Study 1 (based on a real case): A large mobile phone provider in Britain has several shops in each city. The company tries to win new customers by offering free phones on any contract (e.g. Nokia’s 7650). A customer, who is employed on a full-time contract, has never overdrawn any account and lives in the UK for 5 years. He comes into the store and is approached by one of the shop’s employees.
The employee tries to convince the customer to choose one of their contracts, and the customer is finally convinced that the deal is good and accepts. In the next step, the employee tries to put information about the customer in the provider’s information system. The employee faces a number of problems which delay the input of the customer’s details by 45 minutes.
The employee struggles with the following things: The employee does not know how to activate the system by getting to the site where customer information can be entered. The employee does not really know about email and has difficulties to enter the email address of the customer into the system, e.g. the employee does not know that email addresses contain the @ sign, and s/he is confused by the ending ac.uk and instead enters ecuk into the field provided.
3. The employee enters wrong information, e.g. date of birth 2003 and does not know how to jump between fields that were constructed with php. 4. The employee cannot explain to the customer what the individual fields mean, e.g. when the system prompts about the number of credit cards, the employee thinks it is the total number of credit cards (from any country) rather than the number of credit cards offered by UK institutions.
The provider’s system asks the following questions: The home address and the number of years he lived at the home address (without leaving the possibility to enter if someone has moved within the UK, e.g. the customer lived in college accommodation for 5 years and lives in London for 1 month, which is now his home address). All the system allows to enter is that the customer has lived at his home address for 1 month, without the chance to enter that he lived in the UK before.
The system does not ask for the type of profession, whether it is full-time, whether there is regular income, whether the person went to university before accepting his job etc. All the system allows to enter is employed/unemployed with the option to say how long the person was employed. After entering the customer details, which took the employee 45 minutes, the system gives the answer “contract denied”. Asking what the problem is, the employee says s/he does not know.
The employee’s boss comes along and says that the employee should try again, but before sending the information off, the employee should call the company’s headquarter to explain things, because otherwise the contract would be rejected automatically again. The employee struggles again to insert the data and the customer fears he faces another 45 minutes of waiting. The customer sees that there is auto-fill-in of his data, which the employee does not know how to deal with.
The customer offers to take over the job of the employee and to enter his data. The employee is very happy about this offer and hands over the keyboard to the customer, who enters all the data within 1 minute by using the auto-fill-in option, and he also corrects the wrongly entered information. The customer then reminds the employee that s/he needs to call the company’ headquarters to explain things. The employee refuses to do (s/he did not seem to understand the boss’s instructions in the first place and s/he sends the online form off)
The contract is denied again and the employee starts to speculate about whether the customer has a bad credit file. In addition, the employee informs the customer that he must never apply for a contract again, because his records are stored and so is the fact that his application repeatedly got denied. The employee asks the customer to leave the store. The customer feels discriminated. The customer, who was always patient and knows that he cannot have a bad credit file, asks where he can find out his credit data.
The employee tells the customer that there is no way to find out and that there is no way to get a mobile phone contract. The employee does not know that every customer has a right to see his/her credit file. S/he also tells the customer that his details cannot be revealed due to security reasons. The employee apologises for having taken so much of the customer’s time and asks him to leave the store.
Imagine the customer, the anonymous Dr. Rainer S., writes a letter to the company’s headquarter, explaining the situation. Imagine you are working in a team that deals with the company’s information systems, with training employees to use the information systems, and with creating aptitude tests to select suitable employees. The letter of complaint is forwarded to you from the senior management. What actions would you take to make sure that cases like this are unlikely to happen in the future?
You should work in groups of 5 to 7 people and discuss possible actions for the next 2 hours. Within these 2 hours, I will go from group to group and give advice. Please do not hesitate to ask me about usual business practices of similar cases in companies.
It is worth to consider the following issues: It would be necessary to check whether the employee really has those difficulties when dealing with customers. Therefore, it would be necessary to contact the store where s/he works. The information provided by the customer gives a range of information, e.g. that employees do not interact competently with the information systems, that there are problems in terms of communication between individual stores and the headquarters, and in terms of service and security management.
Necessary actions by the information systems division would be to ensure that employees understand the organisation’s information systems (either by training the employees or by making the systems more self-explanatory/user friendly, e.g. instead of writing No. of credit cards the display could say No. of credit cards in the UK). The information systems division could create a computerised aptitude test that checks the general IT knowledge of potential employees before employing them, e.g. whether they can write emails, fill in electronic forms, etc.).
All employees would need to be informed on how to communicate with the headquarters when an application is denied. Employees need to be told that it is discriminating to speculate about customers’ credit history in case an application is denied. The mobile phone provider might get a bad reputation if its employees treat customers like that. Employees also need to be informed how customers can find out about their credit file.
Employees need to be informed that it is a major security risk if they let customers use the company’s information systems, e.g. the employee was logged in and handed the keyboard over to the customer to let him enter all the details. A customer with bad intentions could have taken advantage of being logged into the mobile phone provider’s system.
Practical Applications: Oracle, SAP and Medical Information Systems The following lectures will deal with practical applications and professional systems. The Module 9 files will be updated weekly as the lecture progresses.
Oracle and SAP Both Oracle and SAP store information in databases. Historically, they are both known for their strength as relational database systems. You might wonder what relational database systems are.
As you all know, databases store information in tables and each of these tables have unique names. In the business context, it is certainly not enough to have only one table, as so many different things need to be stored. Just imagine a basic company that needs to store information about its employees (their salary, their address, their length of contract, etc.), its customers (their delivery address, their billing details, etc.), the company’s products, its accounting division, etc.
It would certainly not be very sensible to store all these data in the same table. Therefore, all these data are stored in different tables. However, the information in these tables somehow needs to be combined or linked with each other. One could also say these tables need to be related to each other. Relating the information in these tables with each other is the basic idea of a relational database. More information with some examples can be found at http://www.islandnet.com/~tmc/html/articles/orareln.htm
But Oracle and SAP are more than that. In fact, both of them are real software giants. The following slides will refer to both company’s business “philosophy.” Oracle SAP
Oracle Oracle’s 5 principles are: Globalisation Simplification Standardisation Automation Innovation Source: http://www.oracle.com/products/index.html
Along with these 5 principles, Oracle developed 5 product lines: Database Application Server Collaboration Suite Developer Suite E-Business Suite In addition, Oracle provides many services, including customer support/consulting, education, financing, etc.
Database: Oracle’s current database is 9i and is often chosen by customers because of its performance, reliability and security. Oracle’s next generation database is already waiting (10g), which is the first database designed for grid computing. You may wonder what grid computing means: Grid computing clusters servers together to act as a single large machine that automatically shifts server resources between applications according to demand. Due to the dynamic allocation of resources it dramatically reduces IT costs. CERN in Geneva played a major role in its development (this is the same place where Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web back in 1989).
More information about grid computing can be found at: http://www.linuxuser.co.uk/articles/issue21/lu21-All_you_need_to_know_about-Grid_computing.pdf
Application Server: Oracle’s application Server is used by more than 16,000 customers and acts as the application server for Oracle’s database. Its current version 9i will soon be replaced by the 10g Application Server, which is the first database server designed for grid computing. 10g offers automated management capabilities to increase the flexibility of businesses to respond quickly to changing business requirements.
This works by offering reusable web services that can be adapted to business needs. By applying grid computing technology, systems will have better availability at lower hardware and administration costs.
Collaboration Suite: The idea behind this is to enhance communication with the freedom to use several devices, e.g. email, voicemail, web conferencing applications, electronic calendar and file management applications all work together. This happens with the help of an underlying, secure database.
Developer Suite: The developer suite is a set of tools to create business applications that are optimised to run on the Oracle infrastructure. The developer suite typically includes a package supporting: Any development approach (declarative, modelling, etc.) Any language (Java, XML, HTML, SQL) Any platform (LINUX, UNIX, Windows) Different development life cycles (designing, testing, debugging, maintenance, etc.)
E-Business Suite: The Oracle E-Business Suite consists of several modules (e.g. ordering/selling products, logistics, service, finance, etc.). Oracle aims to help companies make more informed decisions and improve their business operations whilst decreasing their expenses.
What follows is a practical exercise on a Medical Information System running Oracle’s 9i Lite. I will show you a video about an information system in healthcare. It is about the hospitalist company IPC that tries to keep physicians connected with wireless devices and the help of Oracle 9i Lite. More information about this approach can be found at http://oracle.com/customers/profiles/PROFILE4529.HTML
The video can be found at http://oracle.com/customers/index.html?healthcare.html Please try to extract the following information from the video: What is the purpose of this company? What advantages does the wireless solution offer to IPC healthcare? How does this model succeed to cut costs in healthcare and improve care? Are there other advantages by storing the data in the database?
Please make notes during the video and discuss the answers to these questions after the video. You should work in groups of 5 to 7 people. I will go from group to group to assist should there be any questions.
Answers to the questions: What is the purpose of the company: To cut costs through reducing administrative work of support staff, hardware such as desktop computers, office space for doctors, etc. (as all data are stored in a secure database that can be accessed through a wireless network). To give doctors more time to deal with patients, as their administrative duties are less.
What advantages provides the wireless solution to IPC healthcare? The wireless solution allows to enter and access data immediately and without delay due to paperwork. The wireless solution is cheaper than desktop computers. Patient files do not get lost this way and doctors have no difficulties reading their colleagues writing.
How does this model succeed to cut costs in healthcare and improve care? The answer to this question is somewhat redundant to previous answers. The wireless solution cuts cost because less time needs to be spent on administrative matters, e.g. the patients records, the doctors bills, the recommended medication, etc. is no longer stored on paper and no longer needs to be processed by support staff. It all happens automatically. Specialist doctors no longer need offices, which saves space, electricity, computers,…
3. Doctors have more time to dedicate to treatment and can coordinate care in a better way by direct data transmission.
Are there other advantages by storing the data in the database? Audits work more efficiently, because the database allows to study whether doctors administer the correct medication/dose for specific illnesses and provide the right advice. The system can also give warning messages if a completely wrong treatment approach is chosen for a particular illness. The system could be extended to allow doctors communicate over a long distance.