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Home i303: Schedule i303: Policy Assignments

Term Paper: During the class you will be required to produce one paper. Details on mechanics for this assignment, and a set of handy hints on things like choosing a thesis and citing sources, are now posted here. Guidelines on how the papers will be evaluated are here. Make sure you read these carefully.

Topic: Pick any one of the four paper topics posted below.

Q1: In most firms, information technology is not a key part of the products or services they sell and so does not directly generate revenue or profits. Instead, the successful application of IT means finding ways to let people elsewhere in the company do their jobs better. This task is often harder than you might expect, because it requires close collaboration between IT specialists and people in these "user departments." Discuss the reasons that this can be problematic, and the techniques available to overcome these problems. Among the factors you might want to consider are organization cultures, occupational subcultures, the role of the CIO as a bridge between technology and business, the concept of "strategic alignment", IS planning/governance/portfolio management, project management and analysis techniques to include users, and balancing of responsibilities between user and IS department.

Q2: Much of the course material has concerned the Information Systems department (formerly known as the DP or MIS department). Discuss the development, challenges and current structure of the IS department. Try to chose a related set of issues and use them as the basis for a discussion of why the work of this department is important but challenging. Among the issues you might want to consider are: historical evolution, IS planning/governance/portfolio management, centralization/decentralization, enterprise systems, the various responsibilities of the IS department, and different roles within the IS department.

Q3: The concepts of data, information and knowledge are fundamental to organizational informatics. Discuss the significance of these ideas, and the different kinds of technological systems developed to use them. Pay particular attention to at least two of the following: the evolution of the information concept, data base management systems, data mining, or knowledge management.

Q4: The most valuable applications of information technology are usually those that allow people to do their jobs more productively. This often requires the redesign of business processes and work systems. Discuss the ways in which IT can be used to improve the performance of work systems, and the challenges that must be overcome to achieve this. Among the topics you might want to consider are: business process reengineering, the work system concepts from the textbook, examples of the use of IT at Walmart and firms, Enterprise Resources Planning systems and groupware.


Midterm: The midterm will be given in class and last for 50 minutes. It will start promptly at 2:30, so make sure you are in the classroom and ready to start writing at that point. The midterm counts for 20% of the overall grade for this course. The midterm is closed book.

It consists of two sections:

Section A: Single part questions, similar to those given in quizzes. 20 questions, each addressing a specific point from a single lecture or reading. Answer all questions, each is worth two points. Each can be answered with a single phrase or one sentence. Five additional "extra credit" questions will be included in this section. These follow the same format but are a little harder.

Section B: Multiple-part questions. 5 questions, of which you should answer any three. Each question is worth 20 points. Each question is broken into several subsections. The number of points available in each subsection, and what you have to do to earn them, is clearly indicated.

All questions in section B can be answered using bullet points or short sentences. Each fully correct part of an answer will receive the specified number of points. e.g. a sub section might be described as "6 points, 2 for each correct answer". That tells you you should give at least three separate bullet points (or sentences if you prefer). Once you have made your point move on and make another one. Waffling will not get extra credit. Partial credit will be awarded for partially correct bullet points, or those that largely overlap with points you already made.

There will be more correct answers to each questions than you will need to give to receive full credit. Extra credit will be given for particularly good answers.

Here is an example question from section B, along with a model answer. The answer given would receive substantial extra credit.

Sample Question With Model Answer

This questions will not appear on the midterm. Other questions covering parts of the same material from a different perspective might. Answers are given in italics.

a) What were the key principles of the Business Process Reengineering movement? (8 points – two per item)

  • Redesign organizationss from scratch around improved processes

  • Don’t automate existing processes, redesign in ways made possible by new technology

  • Have an outside expert “engineer” (usually a consultant)  take power to redesign/eliminate work of existing managers

  • Eliminate inefficiencies by simplifying process and eliminating unnecessary work

  • Link related tasks and systems together, to avoid re-entry of data

  • Don’t be content with marginal improvement – look for huge gains

Hammer’s official list, which would also be accepted, was

  • Organize around outcomes, not tasks

  • Have those who use the output perform the process

  • Subsume information processing work into the real work that produces the information

  • Treat geographically dispersed resources as if they were centralized

  • Link parallel activities instead of integrating the results

  • Put the decision point where the work is performed and build control into the process

  • Capture information once, and at the source

b) According to the textbook, what is the relationship between a business process and a work system? (2 points) What other elements are included in a work system (give name and definition)? (8 points – one per item and one per definition)

Relationship: business processes are a part (the core) of a larger work system

Other parts of a work system:

  • Customers: the people who use the system or receive direct benefits from its output

  • Products & Services: the output of the work system

  • Participants: people performing the work steps in the business process

  • Information: computerized and non-computerized forms, needed to carry out work

  • Technology: computer hardware and software

  • Infrastructure: shared human and technical resources (e.g. network, data bases) shared beyond the individual system

(If this was a real question, we’d expect some kind of definition, but would need the general sense of the textbook rather than the exact wording. Also, you’d only have to hit 4 of these 7 things, so naming more could make up for a bad definition or get extra credit).

c) What will a firm have to change about its approach to business processes in order to effectively install an ERP package? (4 points – two per item)

  • Standardize them according the processes built into the software

  • Centralize control over them

  • Retrain everyone involved

  • Accept loss of flexibility and informal work-arounds that often improved customer service

  • In some cases, consolidate jobs and teams from different organizational areas

(These are coming primarily from Davenport article, and were mentioned in lecture)


Page copyright Thomas Haigh -- email thaigh@acm.org.    Home: www.tomandmaria.com/tom. Updated 08/31/2003.