July 2008. Time Allowed: 3 hours.
Answer any FIVE questions. ALL questions carry equal marks.
New information systems quite often play a major role in the support of planning objectives of an organisation. Management participation is required for better evaluation and control of new systems.
(a) Identify and explain three forms of competitive strategies which information technology would address. (9 marks)
(b) Name three tangible and intangible benefits associated with new information systems. (6 marks)
(c) List five ethical and societal dimensions to the development and use of information technology. (5 marks)
(Total: 20 marks)
SUGGESTED ANSWERS TO QUESTION ONE:
a) Competitive strategy
This refers to a strategy, which enables an organization to gain a competitive advantage.
Competitive strategies that would be addressed by information technology:
1) Differentiation strategy
This strategy aims at producing goods and services, which distinguish an organization from its competitors in terms of quality. Design software could be used to produce unique products that distinguish and organization.
2) Cost leadership/low cost production
This strategy aims at minimizing production costs so as to maximize profit. Low cost production could be achieved through sound managerial decisions, which are supported by software systems such as decision support systems or expert systems.
Alliances are aimed at making an organization stronger amongst its competitors.
Information technology could sustain and alliance through fostering effective communication via communication hardware and software.
2) Growth strategy/ Globalisation
This strategy aims at tapping foreign markets. Information technology has enabled globalisation via the Internet. Companies can now offer their products and services to a distant clientele via e-commerce sites.
3) Lock-in strategy
This strategy aims at having a firm grasp of the customers of an organization thus making it difficult for them to switch to competitors. IT applications could be used to ‗lock-in‘ customers by introducing switching costs (e.g. costs of changing telecommunication links, cost of changing hardware and software)
b) Tangible benefits can be quantified. These include:
1) Increased productivity.
2) Lower operational costs.
3) Reduced workforce.
4) Lower computer expenses.
5) Lower outside vendor costs.
6) Lower clerical and professional costs.
7) Reduced rate of growth in expenses.
8) Reduced facility costs.
Intangible benefits are difficult to quantify. These include:
1) Improved asset utilization.
2) Improved resource control.
3) Improved organizational planning.
4) Improved organizational flexibility.
5) More timely information.
6) Increased organizational learning.
7) Legal requirements attained.
8) Enhances employee goodwill.
9) Increased job satisfaction.
10) Improved decision making.
11) Improved operations.
12) Higher client satisfaction.
13) Better corporate image.
14) More information.
c) Ethical and societal dimensions to the development and use of information technology:
1) Information rights and obligations: What information rights do individuals and organizations possess with respect to information about themselves? What can they protect?
2) Property rights: How will traditional intellectual property rights be protected in a digital society in which tracing and accounting for ownership is difficult, and ignoring such property rights is so easy?
3) Accountability and control: Who can and will be held accountable and liable for the harm done to individual and collective information and property rights?
4) System quality: What standards of data and system quality should we demand to protect individual rights and the safety of society?
5) Quality of life: What values should be preserved in an information system and knowledge-based society? What institutions should we protect from violation? What cultural values and practices are supported by the new information technology?
Tactical management level may require the use of Decision Support Systems (DSS) for semi -structured decisions and data modelling.
(a)Describe four functional characteristics of Decision Support Systems (DSS). (8 marks)
(b)Name four types of accounting information systems which DSS may address. (4 marks)
(c) Explain the term “prototype” and describe the main steps involved in its development. (8 marks)
(Total: 20 marks)
ANSWERS TO QUESTION TWO
a) Decision Support System (DSS)
This refers to an information system that supports managers in day-to-day decision-making, particularly in semi-structured problem solving. DSSs emphasize on small simple models, which can easily be understood and used by managers, rather than complex integrated systems that need information specialists to operate.
1. They provide analytical capabilities. DSSs are built explicitly with a variety of models to analyse data, or they can condense large amounts of data into a form, which can be analysed by decision makers.
2. They present information in simple graphical form and they may also include tabular representation.
3. They combine both internal and external information to support decision-making.
External information for a DSS such as a voyage estimating system could include port rates, fuel costs, and port distances. Internal information could include freight rates for various types of cargo, labour costs, fuel and water consumption, etc
4. The DSS only provides support to decision making by providing timely information. It doesn‘t, however, perform decision-making.
5. They are suited for semi-structured problems e.g. a voyage estimating system could answer the question: Given a customer delivery schedule and an offered freight rate, which vessel would be assigned and at what rate in order to maximize profits?
6. They are developed with the participation and often, by individual managers or a group of managers to support a range of decisions of concern to them.
7. They‘re common where effective problem solving is enhanced by interaction between computer and manager.
b) Types of accounting information systems which DSS may address:
1) Budgeting systems.
2) Cash management systems.
3) Capital budgeting systems.
4) Investment management systems.
5) Financial condition analysis systems.
This refers to a preliminary working version of an information system for demonstration and evaluation purposes. Steps in prototype development:
1)Identification of user requirements
The system designer (Usually an information systems specialist) works with the user only long enough to capture his or her basic information needs.
2) Development of an initial prototype
The systems designer creates a working prototype quickly, using fort-generation software, interactive multimedia or computer aided software engineering (CASE).
3) Use of the prototype
The user is encouraged to work with the system in order to determine how well the prototype meets his or her needs and to make suggestions for improving the prototype.
4) Revise and enhance the prototype
The system builder notes all the changes the user requests and refines the prototype accordingly. After the prototype has been revised, the cycle returns to (3). (3) And (4) are repeated until the user is satisfied.
When no more iterations are required, the approved prototype then becomes an operational prototype for the application. Sometimes the prototype itself is adopted as the production version of the system.
The rapid technological revolutions in both computer and management systems have brought in new dimensions in business process engineering and re-engineering.
(a) Explain the two terms “process engineering and re-engineering”. (5 marks)
(b) Explain the use and application of the following:
(i) Telecommuting. (5 marks)
(ii) Electric data interchange. (5 marks)
(iii) Computer conferencing. (5 marks)
(Total: 20 marks)
ANSWERS TO QUESTION THREE
a) Business process re-engineering
This refers to the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes so as to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance such as cost, quality, service and speed.
Business process engineering
This refers to the creation of business processes aimed at achieving an organization‘s strategic , tactical and operational goals.
It‘s basically home-working. Telecommuting is an application of information technology whereby employees can be able to undertake their activities without having to go to the office. For this tohappen, the employees will have to be connected to the organization‘s systems. This is facilitated through the use of communication networks.
o Programmers developing a system could use it. A programmer could work on his/her module from home.
o It could also be used by other office workers who for some reason or the other cannot be able to make it to the office e.g. due to sickness, leave, or when the office is closed after working hours (during a weekend or public holiday).
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
This refers to the direct computer-to-computer exchange between two organizations of standard business transaction documents.
EDI could be used to exchange documents such as invoices, bills of lading, or purchase orders as shown in the following diagram:…
EDI enables speedy and more efficient transactions since it facilitates the quick exchange of business documents.
This facility is similar to e-mail but more expensive in that there is a huge mailbox system where all persons connected to the system can be able to deposit messages for people to see what other people have left on the system.
Computer conferencing is appropriate for people undertaking a project so that they can be able to leave progress reports for each other. Computer conferencing also provides an organizational wide bulletin board where members can leave messages of general importance.
The recent desire for closer user participation in new systems development and distribution systems in operations have created more impetus for end user computing technologies.
a) Define the term “end user computing’. (2 marks)
b) Identity six risks associated with end user computing. (6 marks)
c) Explain the role of the following in promoting end user computing
(i) Information resource centres. (6 marks)
(ii) Object oriented programming. (6 marks)
(Total: 20 marks)
ANSWERS TO QUESTION FOUR
a) End user computing
This refers to the development of information systems by end users with little or no formal assistance from technical specialists. End users utilize fourth-generation languages, graphics languages and PC software tools to develop information systems.
b) Risks associated with end user computing:
1)Risks in problem analysis.
Users may proceed to solving problems without adequate problem specifications.
2) Development risks.
Persons who do not have systems development training and experience are more susceptible to modelling errors. They may fail to apply documentation standards and test their system adequately.
3) Redundancy End users may spend time and effort developing applications that have already been developed by commercial software firms.
4) Unprofitable expenditure of time and effort.
It‘s questionable whether people with professional skills other than systems development should spend time developing applications rather than concentrate on their areas of expertise.
5) Waste of computing resources
Without proper budgetary restraints, the use of end user computing resources may be uneconomical.
6) Threats on privacy and security
Physical access, custodianship controls, backup and recovery issues are seldom addressed by end users.
7) Lack of computing efficiency and effectiveness
Few end users establish procedures for evaluation of their systems or subject them to audits.
8) Incompatibility of end users tools and devices with the rest of the organization’s systems. Standards are required to overcome this.
c) (i) Information resource centers
These are special facilities housing hardware, software and technical specialists to supply end users with tools, training and expert advice so they can create information system applications on their own to increase their productivity. Specific services include:
o Problem resolution especially where the information center has a help desk.
o Training of end users on the use of hardware and software.
o Consultation especially hardware and software consultation.
o Technical support relating to hardware and software installation.
o Product support where they have software within their department, which people (end users) can access.
o Hardware access e.g. Printers. Information centers make them shared at a central physical location and also over the computer network.
o Staffing: They can provide staff to user departments so that work can be carried out.
o Computer resource planning and justification.
o New service evaluation – The center‘s staff assess new user needs and provide for them through products/services.
(ii) Object oriented programming
This refers to an approach to software development that combines data and procedures into a single object. The object combines data and program code. Instead of passing data to procedures, programs send a message for an object to perform a procedure that is already embedded in it. A message may be sent to many objects, but each will implement that message differently. Object oriented programming produces reusable program code or software chips that can be used in other related systems.
The reusability facility provided by OOP promotes end user computing. End users could conveniently use objects stored in reusable software libraries explicitly designed for reuse instead of going through the long process of coding which most end users are not capable of.
Reusability comes in handy when end users are dealing with visual objects (command buttons, menu boxes, list boxes, etc). OOP enables end users to easily create programs with graphical features.
The process of developing new programs involves a series of stages which are collectively referred to as program development life cycle.
(a) In a sequential narrative. name and describe the main stages in the program development life cycle. (10 marks)
(b) Explain how the use of Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) improves programming productivity. (4 marks)
(c) Structured walkthrough addresses some areas of interest in a new program under programming productivity (6 marks)
(Total: 20 marks)
ANSWERS TO QUESTION FIVE
a) Program development life cycle
This refers to the steps that have to be followed in coming up with an application program.
These steps are followed irrespective of whether the program is developed in-house or not.
The program development life cycle consists of the following stages:
- Problem analysis.
- Program design.
- Program coding.
- Program testing.
- Program documentation.
- Program maintenance.
The first stage of the program development cycle i.e. the problem analysis phase is primarily concerned with establishing why the program is being developed. The objectives of the program are documented. The process of establishing program objectives involves gathering information from end users. The end product of this stage is the program definition document.
Once the requirements of the program to be developed have been understood, the second phase is to design a program that meets those requirements as documented in the first stage.
Tools that may be utilized in program design include program flowcharts and structured English statements. The end product of the design phase is the program design specification.
Program coding is concerned with turning the program design into program code (in a high level language). The systems analyst and the programmers work together to decide on the programming language to use. The end product of the coding phase is program code.
Program testing is concerned with locating errors in the program so that the errors can be fixed to reduce future program maintenance costs, to create customer confidence, to improve system reliability and to improve program quality. The end product of the testing phase is an improved program in terms of reliability.
Program documentation involves producing documents that describe the delivered program.
Program documentation also involves producing documents that contain the outcomes of the other phases of program development i.e. problem analysis, program design, program coding, and program testing. Documents that are produced include program user guides, program specification and program documentation (Contains a technical description of the developed system for use by programmers for purposes such as maintenance). The program documentation phase is thus an on-going phase featuring from the start to the end of the program development life cycle.
Program maintenance includes the correction of faults that existed in the program before its delivery as well as changes to improve performance or to adapt the program to a changing environment (hardware and software environment). The end product of the program maintenance phase is an improved system.
b) How CASE tools improve programming productivity:
1. They automate code generation, testing and control rollout thus enabling programmers to accomplish their tasks within a short period of time.
2. They automate tedious and error-prone portions of analysis and design thus freeing programmers to more creative problem-solving tasks.
3. They organize and correlate design components and provide rapid access to them via a design repository thus facilitating group collaboration.
4. They improve communication between users and technical specialists thus resulting in quality systems being developed.
c) Areas of interest addressed by a structured walkthrough:
1) Program requirements
The structured walkthrough uncovers any inconsistencies between requirements stated by the users and those that the analyst is proposing.
2) Program designs
Structured walkthroughs determine whether the proposed design will meet requirements of the system and user. If the review team finds any discrepancies between the design and the requirements, they should provide solutions to the discrepancies.
The structured walkthrough is conducted to examine the program development along with its documentation. The programs are compared with their specific design specifications to determine whether the specifications are being satisfied. Any programming errors are dealt with.
The structured walkthrough assists in development of test data that can be used to detect system design errors.
Project management is usually an important activity during the development of news information systems. Project resources such as time. cost and personnel would be identified and their uses properly controlled.
(a) Explain the term ‘critical path as used in project management. (4 marks)
(b) Describe the role of project management. (6 marks)
(c) Develop a network diagram and determine the critical path from the following project
Activity Activity Duration
A – 2
B – 3
C – 2
D C 4
E A 3
F B 4
G B 6
H B 4
I D and H 6
J E and F 5
(Total: 20 marks)
ANSWERS TO QUESTION SIX
a) Critical path
This is a term used in project scheduling in relation to network analysis diagrams (a general term that includes techniques such as critical path analysis/critical path method (CPM), and Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) charts). In a network analysis diagram, the critical path is defined as one with the following characteristics:
1.The earliest starting times (ESTs) and the latest starting times (LSTs) of all events along the path are equal.
2.The sum of the activity durations of all activities along the path is greater than all other parts.
3.All activities along the path have no float (amount of slack time associated with a non- critical activity).
All activities along the critical path are critical since we cannot afford to take longer than the time allocated without affecting the project completion time.
An activity is an undertaking that consumes time. An event is a point in time that signifies the end of a series of activities or the start of a series of activities.
b) Role of project management:
This involves laying down the framework for the development of a project or part of it. It includes specific tasks, which include forecasting, establishing objectives, devising strategies, developing policies and setting goals.
2.Monitoring and Control
It aims an ensuring actual results are consistent with planned results. Monitoring involves assessing the progress of the project to determine if there are any differences between actual and planned results. The control function on the other hand ensures that the project is progressing as planned and the project team is performing better than planned.
This ensures that the various elements involved in a project i.e. staff, management, and infrastructure are working together in harmony and that proper infrastructure is in place to ensure the same.
This function is centered on Human Resource Management (HRM), which involves looking into wages, hiring and firing procedures, training of staff, provision of a right environment, etc
This involves the process of motivation, leading, guiding, etc, which positively influence subordinates.
a) Network diagram🌲🌲🌲
Critical path: B-H-I
(a) During the design stage of a new information system, the following issues are addressed:
- User interface.
Discuss the composition of design document under the above three elements. (12 marks)
(b) Briefly describe any four computer related crimes that an organisation which is considering computerising its operations should be aware of. (8 marks)
(Total: 20 marks)
ANSWERS TO QUESTION SEVEN
a) User interface
o Screen designs- the design document contains presentation features such as text, colour, highlighting, graphics and animations.
o Dialogs- a dialog is a set of procedures for exchange of information between users andthe computer. The design document contains the types of dialogs in the information system under development e.g. menu based, form filling, command language, and natural language dialogs.
It specifies whether the data is stored in conventional files or databases. It also specifies the types of files in the information system i.e. whether there are master files (contain records or information of long-term value to the organization), transaction files (contains temporary records which represent the operation of the organization for a particular period of time), archive files (keeps offline storage), and audit files (shows all the operations performed on the system). The design document also specifies the media that is used to store the systems data e.g. tape, magnetic disk, optical disk, etc. Finally the design document specifies how records are organized in the file i.e. whether serial, sequential, random, inverted files or index-sequential organization is used.
The design document contains a detailed breakdown of the systems processes showing the steps that constitute the each process. The design document also specifies the input, processing and output involved for each process. Error conditions and the recovery procedures are also specified for each process.
b) Computer related crimes that an organization should be aware of:
1. Theft of computer resources (hardware and CDs containing software).
2. Introduction of viruses.
3. Disruption of computer systems.
4. Theft of services.
6. Spamming – usually targets organizations connected to the Internet. Marketers send outunsolicited mass e-mail to recipients who have not requested the information.
7. Jamming –Targets organizations connected to the Internet. Jammers use software routines to tie up the computer hosting a website so that legitimatemusers can‘t access the site.
8. Malicious software –Targets organizations connected to the Internet.
Cyber vandals use data flowing through the Internet to transmit computer viruses, which disable the computers they ―infect‖.
9. Spoofing –targets organizations linked to the Internet. Spoofers fraudulentlymisrepresent themselves as other organizations, setting up false websites
where they can collect confidential information from unsuspecting visitors to the site.
10. Sniffing –targets organizations linked to the Internet. Sniffing, a form of eavesdropping, involves placing a piece of software to interpret information passing from a user to the computers hosting a website. This information can include credit card
numbers and other confidential data.
(a) Explain meaning of the term Electronic Commerce (E-Commerce). (2 marks)
(b) The following are some of the elements which constitute an E-Commerce application: – Automated Teller Machine (ATM ) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Internet.
Illustrate the contributions of each of the above technologies in E-Commerce application. (6 marks)
(c) Explain the meaning of the following terms:
I. Website. (4 marks)
II. Cvber-cafe. (4 marks)
III. Network browser. (4 marks)
(Total: 20 marks)
ANSWERS TO QUESTION 8
a) Electronic commerce
It refers to the process of buying and selling goods and services electronically involving transactions using the Internet, networks, and other digital technologies.
b) (i) Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)
They have made it possible for individuals to pay for their utilities (e.g. electricity, telephone services, water) electronically.
(ii) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI has facilitated the quick and convenient exchange of documents and payments in e- commerce. Such documents include purchase orders, shipping invoices, and shipping notices.
This is an international network of networks that is a collection of hundreds of thousands of private and public data networks.
The Internet provides the link between the seller and buyer that is required in e-commerce.
The Internet has bridged geographical barriers.
c) (i) Website
This refers to all the World Wide Web pages maintained by an organization. The World Wide Web is a system with universally accepted standards for storing, retrieving, formatting and displaying information in a networked environment.
Websites could be maintained to aid other Internet users to search information, for purposes of e-commerce, for purposes of advertising an organization‘s products and services, to enable Internet users access e-mail facilities, etc. Websites usually contain stylish topography, colourful graphics, push-button interactivity and sound and video to lure Internet users to browse (view) their content. Examples of common websites include: www.yahoo.com (for e- mail), www.google.com (for searching information), www.amazon.com (for e-commerce) and www.skynews.com (for news).
(ii) Cyber café
This refers to a facility that enables individuals to access and use the Internet at a cost. Cyber cafés are usually in the form of a small building or a small room with several computers linked to the Internet. Individuals usually access the Internet for short periods ranging from a few minutes to one or two hours. The cost varies with the total time of access. Other services provided by cyber cafés include:
o CD writing
o Typing of documents
(iii) Network Browser
This refers to an application program that enables a user to access and view contents of a website. Examples of web browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.