Analysis of an Information System
The organization that is supported by current system is the Lincoln National Corporation. The organization manages a number of insurance and investment management dealings via subordinate companies. The organization has been operating on the legacy system, with each subsidiary having own system. The systems perform similar functions. However, the desire to consolidate all the policies from its subsidiary companies necessitated the use of the enhanced Commercial IQ® platform (eCLIQ). Thus, in order to meet its business needs, the organization decided on the development of a system. The system developed is called the conversion web tool system (CWT). The purpose of the Conversion program is to plan and execute migration of approximately 1.3 million policies from the legacy systems to the enhanced Commercial IQ® platform.
The overall program will develop and deploy the capabilities to renew and convert policies from legacy systems to enhanced Commercial IQ® across all Regional Company Groups, it will include (but not limited to):
- Training content
- Playbook (e.g., coverage comparisons, policyholder notices, release schedule)
- Manual processing procedures
- Automated process procedures
- Data migration through its extraction from source system and data population into target system
- Analytical environment for testing pre-conversion activity
- Data augmentation required to prepare information from legacy system for population into target system
- Storage of data during renewal conversion activity
Benefits and Disadvantages of the System
The organization gains from the system due to the benefits it has. Some of the benefits that the new system will offer to the organization will include the following:
- It will aid in conversion of the organization’s policies from the legacy system to the enhanced Commercial IQ® platform.
- It will assist in the quick embracement of the enhanced Commercial IQ® platform, and the early retirement of the legacy system.
- The money that would be spent on the maintenance of the legacy system is saved and directed to other beneficial use in the organization.
- The system is fast in the conversion of policies to eCLIQ. Hence, much time will be saved.
- The system facilitates the grouping of all policies into one system. Thus, it will promote easy information access and efficiency in business.
- The structure can be repeatedly employed. Hence, it will save the costs of developing other systems as it is reusable and can be used again in the future.
However, the system is not perfect. The organization will be disadvantaged due to the following:
- The process of entering policies into the system is manual; hence, making it is problematic. Many people would prefer an automated system. However, the fact that the system will be manual will not make it attractive.
- The implementation of the novel system will necessitate new skills and knowledge. Thus, it will require employment of new employees with the necessary skills and knowledge of operating the system. As a result, it will make the organization incur additional expenses.
- It will require production and user manual by various lines of business production teams, so that to guide users on coverage.
Holism vs. Reductionism
Discovering the real cause of the difficulty has always been of utmost importance in any organization. Business managers at present days need to develop the best skills to manage issues and problems and help in giving direction to their employees. It is very critical for them to have great analytical and managerial skills in order to achieve the business goals and vision. Every individual has a tendency to divide things into smaller pieces to understand its functionality or importance. People tend to look at things at a smaller component level to understand their behavior. There are various methodologies and approaches that managers use as a tool to run their organizations effectively.
One of such tools is Reductionist Thinking. As per Vul (2011), Reductionism is “finding the right variables at each level of abstraction” (p. 137). In other words, every organism or system can be divided into smaller elements to understand the behavior and importance of each component. Taking human beings as an example, it is seen that people are made of organ systems such as brain, cardiovascular system, etc. Each part has its characteristic and importance. The same way every organization is formed of many departments, and it is critical for each department to run effectively for the organization to reach success. One thing to remember is that people at times try to study deep every detail not paying necessary attention to the big picture. Bierema (2003) describes Reductionist Thinking as mechanical thinking. She talks about the importance to shift towards thinking on the whole and acting accordingly. Even though it is important to understand details of the issue at every level, one should not concentrate too much into it and overlook the overall picture. Looking at the system as a whole is another tool that leaders utilize in managing any issues and problems they face. Bierema (2003) defines system as, “A system is a whole consisting of two or more parts whose elements continually affect each other over time as they operate toward a common purpose” (p. S28). According to Fei and Li (2006), “Creative Holism aims at managing both the complex problem situations facing organizations, and the knowledge about how to manage organizations” (p. 389). Such way of thinking has not evolved recently in the twentieth century; it was formed long time ago. Lezanski (2005) talks about how systems’ thinking has always been a part of the human society, such as the “ancient Phoenicians with their cuneiforms, the Egyptians with their pyramids, Greek philosophers and Mayan Indians as systems thinkers” (p. 290).
Systems thinking has various advantages; it can be used as a tool to resolve issues and problems in any given industry or environment. Such approach is being rigorously used in the field of medicine, technology, religion, society, law, etc. The approach has proved very beneficial in resolving issues and problems by taking a different approach in thinking and reasoning, as well. Asking the right questions and thinking on a holistic basis have helped the organizations and professionals in delivering the best product. One should never ignore the fact that not all issues should be handled by systems thinking methodology and one should assess the problem before making a decision on which approach would best fit the situation.
System Development Life Cycle
System development life cycle is mainly used in describing the procedure for planning, constructing, testing and installing an information system. Additionally, it is significant in the provision of methodologies used in the creation of computer software. The SDLC model is the base for various different methodologies utilized by organizations in the current market. Each of the methodologies has its advantages and disadvantages. The most widely used methodology currently is the Agile Methodology.
According to Nerur, Mahapatra and Mangalaraj (2005), Agile Methodologies deal with irregularity by depending on people’s inventiveness rather than on procedures. They are illustrated by diminutive iterative series of development motivated by product characters, periods of manifestation and introspection, incorporation of rapid feedback and change, joint decision making and continuous integration of code changes into the system under development.
The traditional Waterfall Methodology is based on each phase of the SDLC that is performed sequentially in the order (Baltzan & Phillips, 2010). Both methodologies use the SDLC model for defining each phase that would be utilized under them. McHugh, Conboy and Lang, (2012) found that “agile methods improved trust by raising transparency, accountability, communication, and knowledge sharing and feedback” (P. 76).
The methodologies define the process that the project would follow based on the SDLC phases. The SDLC defines the task that needs to be performed and assigns the roles to the individuals performing such tasks. Phases of SDLC include the steps or stages that a project undergoes for the achievement of a result. “In the life cycle, every phase is important since the achievements in every stage depend on the deliverables in the other stage” (?zt?rk, 2013, p. 801). Thus, it is important that all that is required of a stage in the life cycle is performed to avoid any errors or to prevent the project from collapsing. The stages comprise planning, analysis, design, development, testing and implementation.
Implementation Method Employed by Organization
The transfer of policies from the liberty system to eCLIQ saw the need of having a conversion program. The conversion program was CWT. It led the management and the heads of the organization to making decision on the type of SDLC methodology to utilize in the development and implementation of the program. The management and heads decided on the Waterfall SDLC Methodology. According to Baltzan & Phillips (2010), the Waterfall is used when a project is treated as a whole and is used when the project’s time frame is short. Hence, the methodology was chosen because the project was being treated as a whole. Additionally, given that the time frame to accomplish the project was short, the methodology suited it the best (Benediktsson, Dalcher, & Thorbergsson, 2006).
It is the first stage in the system development life cycle. It is the most important stage where the focus of the project is drawn. It is at present stage that a project’s goal is established. In the first stage, the business requisites are determined. The management organizes meetings between the stakeholders, users and the management itself. Current stage requires putting and answering the questions involving the project, as well. Additionally, the management develops a list containing the provision of the system’s functionality (Luthe, K?gi & Reger, 2013).
Planning regarding CWT
It was the stage that marked the start of the project. Meetings between stakeholders, sponsors and individuals from specialized fields, such as system analysts, system tester, developer leads, system architect and project manager, were held. In the meetings, the project’s objectives, project’s scope, constraints, risks and resource availability were discussed and documented in the business case (Luthe, K?gi & Reger, 2013). Upon the documentation of the above information, the management team suggested that a separate book should be identified for the documentation of risks and mitigation measures against such risks. A time frame was set on the project, and the date of implementation of the project was decided. An acceptance sheet was laid down, and requirements of the project to be implemented were documented in the acceptance sheet. The manpower and resources that would facilitate the development and implementation of the project were also stated.
It is the second stage of SDLC. It involves the examination of the requirements set out in the planning phase. It also includes the refinery of objectives of the project such that it fits the budget. The organization revises the scope of the project with the aim of discovering the company’s capability of meeting the requirements of the project. After the approval of all the above analyzes, the organization members finally start working on the project. Additionally, it is at this stage that requirements gathering take place. The organization hires a group of business analysts who aid in the analysis and interpretation of the business requirements. Analysts do analysis towards identifying gaps in the TO-BE implanted system, thus, reduce any risks associated with the gaps (Luthe, K?gi & Reger, 2013).
Analysis regarding CWT
In the analysis of the system, the organization focused on identifying the gaps that the legacy system did not cover. The conversion of the policies from legacy to eCLIQ necessitated the identification of data mapping paths. A group of system analysts, consisting of four experts, facilitated the mapping. A team comprising business analysts was identified and given the responsibility of identifying business requisite documents and functional specification documents, modified to the needs of the business. The artifacts delivered at the end of current phase were the Systems mapping document, Functional use case and user interface specification documents that would be utilized by the development team to develop the CWT system.
It is the third stage of SDLC. All the deliverables from the first stage are used in current stage. It is under system design that management develops a software system design, using the outcomes of the requirements’ phase. Furthermore, it is at present stage that details of the system working are produced. All necessary information is collected at this stage. After the development of a sample structure, the process proceeds to development, which is the third phase of SDLC. Processes, screen logic, workflow and business rules are defined thoroughly during the phase. The initial design of the code to be written is formalized and documented by the lead developers (Symons & Horner, 2014).
Design regarding CWT
The required policies from the source, legacy system, were identified and mapped. Here, the design on which the system would be based on was constructed. Screen flow and logic was designed based on the system requirements and the XML schemas were developed. All the environments were structured and designed and the same way, and a prototype was designed using iRise for review and demonstration. System login and authentications were set up for the users. Once the user successfully logs into the system, he/she is presented with the Locate Policy screen. It facilitates the user to type in the renewal policy number and displays the policy data in the Conversion Web tool (Symons & Horner, 2014, pp.463-467). So that to summarize the flow of information from the legacy system to the eCLIQ platform, the figure below was drawn to illustrate the flow of policies. The figure enabled the users understand the system better.
Upon successful user log in, the following page showed. Then user has to enter the policies to be transferred, after which the system searches.
Once the user enters the policy number the system search’s the policy in the legacy system for one that matches it. Upon finding a match the system navigates to the next screen, which is Copy Policy. Symons & Horner state that “The Copy Policy Information screen displays the renewal policy data from the source system organized by the eCLIQ screen & field order. That enables the user to copy easily and paste data from the Conversion Web tool to the eCLIQ platform”, (p.468).
It is the fourth phase of SDLC. It is known to be the longest stage of all stages of SDLC. Management develops codes at this stage using the system design results. The stage is thought to be the focus of SDLC because the development of codes occurs here. As stated above, every stage is essential for another phase to take place. Thus, the development of codes will only be a success if appropriate design is carried out in the second phase. Moreover, development of programming language takes place at current stage. “The programming language developed depends on the application’s requirements” (Firth, 2014, pp. 38-41).
Development regarding CWT
At current phase, codes that had to be used in the conversion of policies were developed using the information from the design stage. Screen flow and all details required to give directions on the conversion of the policies were also developed at current stage. When all the developments were complete, the system analysts checked the developments to ensure that nothing was missed and that the system functioned accordingly.
The implementation is tested at current stage. According to Luthe et al. (2013), “The management tests the implementation process against user requirements to ensure that the product satisfies needs put across and collected in the requirements phase” (p. 609). All modules are tested here. Tests are done on all the systems to ensure that they are free of any defects. Additionally, the system developers integrate together all the modules and select the right testing tools to check for any errors. There are two major tests at this stage, which are the unit tests and the system tests. Unit tests are the tests used on particular system’s components, whereas system tests check the whole system (Luthe et al., 2013).
Testing regarding CWT
At this stage, the new system and CWT were subjected to a series of tests. The two tests carried out included unit test and system test. The unit tests were carried out on the single component of the system. On the other hand, the whole eCLIQ and CWT was subjected to system tests to ensure their efficiency. The codes developed in the development phase were also tested to ensure that they were powerful and could not be breached by anyone. The availability of test data facilitated the tests that had been documented by the text team. The team identified the minor defects, which made the project development team work on them as soon as possible. The project could only progress to the implementation phase, unless the system was free of all defects.
It is the sixth stage of the system development life cycle. At current stage the developed at the early phase codes, were transferred to production and the system was ready for the users to utilize. At this phase, users did a final test on the system to find out whether it was working and if it was capable of satisfying their needs (Firth, 2014, pp. 38-41).
Implementation regarding CWT
The system was subjected to another test before providing the codes to the users for operating in the system. Having done a perfect work in deploying and testing the system in the early phases of the project, the users found no defects in the system. The project was implemented in the presence of stakeholders, managers and sponsors of the project. Hence, with the perfect pass of the system, the stakeholders approved the deployment of codes to production. The codes were then shifted to production and CWT system for the organization to commence converting policies from the legacy system to eCLIQ.
It is the last stage in the system development life cycle. Once the system is given to the user, changes are bound to occur. Thus, it is vital that the project developer builds the project ensuring that it is adaptable to the anticipated changes. Maintenance is also imperative for the prevention of obsoleteness of the system (Luthe et al., 2013). Thus, regular upgrades of the system are required to ensure that the system will accomplish the set objectives of the organization. Maintenance also involves monitoring of the system to ensure that no defects arise with it.
Maintenance regarding CWT
Maintenance phase is the last and the longest phase of the system development life cycle. Current phase does not stop, since it involves regular checks on CWT. The organization appointed a team of developers and system analysts with the responsibility of performing regular checks on CWT. It was meant to ensure the discovery and removal of any defects that might make the system ineffective. Additionally, maintenance was carried out to ensure that the system met the objectives of converting the millions of policies from the legacy system to the new system, eCLIQ. The organization also “checked on regular performance of the system so as to ensure that it was consistent with the user requirements” (Luthe et al., 2013, p. 610). Furthermore, the organization also appointed a team to implement necessary changes on the program and the system regularly, to prevent it from becoming obsolete.
Data Management – Data-back-up/Disaster Recover
“Data backup is the process of creating coverage for electronic data in a computer system”, (Howard, 2006, p. 36). Electronic data is prone to adversities that can lead to data loss. Hence, it is important that data is backed up all the time to avoid information loss. Data could be backed up into disk or tape devices. Additionally, backup hard drives and cloud backup could also be used to prevent the company from losing data completely in case of any adversity. There are four major types of data backups. One of them is a full backup type. The full data backup entails the storage of all data chosen from the folders, which have to be protected. It is the best type of data backup, since it is the fastest in data return, compared to the other types. However, due to its slow nature in backing up data, it is not used by many organizations. Additionally, its storage space is large and it requires many disks and tapes (Fleishman, 2009).
The other data backup type is the incremental data backup. Such type of data backup “focuses only on new data since the previous backup. It is the fastest data backup type that was invented to lessen the time taken for 1 backup” (Crandall, 2013, pp. 47-48). Additionally, the incremental data backup type has a moderate data retrieval time and its storage space is the lowest of all as it focuses only on backing up the new data. The third type of backup is the differential data backup. The differential data backup entails the protecting of data, since the last full backup. It has the shortest restoration time in comparison with both full backup and incremental backup. Its storage space is moderate (Fleishman, 2009).
The last one is the mirror backup. Such type of backup is alike with a full backup. However, the only difference is that mirror backup files are not condensed into zip files, implying that there are no passwords to guard data. Only fresh information is backed up, and the process of backing up is the fastest for all data. Moreover, the mirror data backup has the advantage of accessing data using tools, such as the Explorer (Mah, 2013).
Data recovery is the process of trying to retrieve and refurbish lost data. However, the invention of software for recovery does not guarantee that the recovery of any lost data is possible. Sometimes, information can be lost forever. Hence, it calls for the implementation of serious measures to protect information from complete loss. There are several techniques of data recovery (Lee, & Shon, 2014). However, the process of recovering lost data is dependent on certain considerations. They include the situation that led to data loss, the data revival software used in generating the backup and the backup target device. All these considerations influence the choice of the data recovery method. One could use a single technique or try different for such purpose (Bang et al., 2013; Eddy, 2013).
One of the methods of data recovery is hardware replacement. It is a procedure where a part of the computer might have been destroyed, hence leading to data loss. Thus, the mere replacement of a destroyed part is enough to recover lost data. For example, a fan has stopped working, thus exposing the hard drive to excess heat, causing it to break down. The hardware replacement technique is cheap, simple and fast in data recovery. The other procedure for obtaining lost data is disk imaging. It is a technique that is applicable when a hard drive has suffered from physical damage. It involves elevating information from a damaged hard drive to a stable one. It circumvents the operating system (OS) directly into the hard drive. Such fact endangers the OS as it is not a reliable process (Fleishman, 2009).
File restoration is the other technique. Such process is used when a computer has suffered a logical break. It is applicable only when the operating system is still operational. With such method, data recovery “software programs are put into a new computer to check for lost data” (Bang et al., 2013, p. 878). However, such process can often result in complete loss of information. Lastly, the data carving process is applied for data recovery. It involves a thorough inspection of the damaged hard drive in order to obtain certain files. It is the most costly and time-consuming data recovery process (Bang et al., 2013; Mah, 2013).
Data Management – Data-Back-Up/Disaster Recover – regarding (CWT)
The organization gladly embraced the data backup and disaster recovery phenomenon. The conversion of policies from the legacy system to eCLIQ encouraged data backup. It is caused by the fact that with the grouping of all data into the new system, a great loss would be incurred if the system suffered any disaster. The two main data backups that the organization has chosen were the full data backup and differential data backup. At the start of the conversion of the policies into the new system, all policies and data were backed up using the full data backup. Full data backup was used due to the large storage space for the old policies (Eddy, Oct. 7th 2013). However, as the organization’s processes and activities were undertaken after the implementation of the new system, new data since the last full backup were copied using the differential data backup. The differential was used to backup new data due to the small capacity of the data and the speed of restoring the backed up data (Howard, 2006).
Impact of Implementation
The implementation of the system aided in the conversion of the millions of policies from the legacy system to the new system, eCLIQ. The conversion was efficient and was completed with much accuracy. Additionally, through the conversion of the policies into the new system, new skills and knowledge were introduced into the organization. Furthermore, the grouping of policies in one system facilitated ease of access to the required information, thus saving time and costs.
Administrative Procedures – Human and Process Changes
Replacement of systems in an organization always brings about changes in an organization. The changes are mainly on the human resource and processes of handling activities. Therefore, the implementation of the new system implied that new knowledge and skills on operating the system would be required. Hence, the implementation of the system led to the hiring of new employees with skills on operating the system. Additionally, training was provided to the existent employees so that to impart knowledge in the operation of the system. Once the policies had been converted to eCLIQ from the legacy system via CWT, the select conversion team would then be required to enter policies and quotes into the novel system.
Changes in Organization Policies
With the implementation of CWT and eCLIQ systems, it is definite that changes in organization policies were paramount. First, the employees of the organization were not used to operating the newly introduced system. Hence, that implied that the organization had to hire a new group of employees with the necessary skills and knowledge of operating the system. Additionally, a separate conversion team was selected to perform the conversion of the policies from the legacy system to eCLIQ system. The team was solely charged with the conversion responsibility. Furthermore, a new manager was appointed to oversee the conversion process by all the employees.
Training workshops and forums were set up for the newly hired and existent employees in order to impart knowledge and skills to them. The training programs were also instituted to enable the employees gain experience in running the CWT and eCLIQ systems. The organization also worked on providing a manual on the operation of CWT and eCLIQ systems. The manual was provided to the employees for the sole reason of making them well conversant with the changes. The manual consisted of all procedures and practice sessions that were used to determine the employees were coping with the changes.
Enhanced Commercial IQ® platform (eCLIQ) is the current commercial line of business insurance quoting system. Many businesses are implementing such platform and refusing to use the old legacy system. However, to ensure complete conversion of policies into the new platform, a system called Conversion Web Tool was developed. Such new system developed facilitates users to convert policies into the eCLIQ platform. However, to develop the system, SDLC was used. It is imperative that all phases of system development life cycle are followed for successful project development. Additionally, organizations need to embrace the initiative of backing up data to avoid complete loss of data in case of any unfortunate circumstance. Additionally, one needs to guard information against corruption. Given various data backup options to choose from, one should choose the option that suits the particular needs to the best extent.