Many thanks to my Lecturer Mr. Andrew; who helped me a lot in completing this course work. Without his support I had not been able to complete these tasks. I would also like to thanks the Manchester International College and its staff who were very helpful in every step of my studies. I owe too much to my friend Mr. Mudasser who helped me a lot in getting most of the course books and gave me access to University’s electronic library. Here I would also like to mention the name of Mr. Raheel, who taught us Computer Network Management. Mr. Raheel explained me how to complete a course work and how to write and present it in a word document.
And finally I would like to thank my family and children who were very supportive and understanding during my studies.
In this assignment author is producing a report which evaluates how external events influence IS strategy and design within ASDA Wal-Mart a food retail supermarkets. In task one author evaluate different modes of enquiry and give an overview of selected Multi-National Corporation. In task two author focuses on the impact of online shopping technologies in ASDA Wal-Mart and finally author use some tools to analyze and reconcile external pressure and IS strategic planning and design. The rapid IT development has caused changes and impacts on a society. This report will evaluate how an organization use IT to remain competitive and how external events influence IS strategy and design within Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) from the food retail sector (e.g. ASDA, Sainsbury, Tesco).
Enquiry is an action taken by an observer to find out the true reasons behind a failure or a problem situation. Or it can also be defined as an action for collecting the knowledge and information required to solve a problem. There could be many modes of enquiries to choose from depending upon the situation and the industry involved, and the researcher could choose them depending on his own preference too, as there is no hard and fast rule that applies to these modes of enquiries. There are three basic modes of enquiry and each mode of enquiry is built on two basic parts, the information collection and the validation of that collected information as described below.
a) INDUCTIVE / CONSENSUAL.
Inductive enquiry technique is a simple technique in which solution to a problem is derived from a limited amount of observations. These observations which are directly related to the problem could be based on analogous, historical or multiple sourced data. Analogous data helps observers to specify a problem to be simpler than one but complex than the other. Historical data explains that what the solution of the problem or similar problems was in the past. And multiple sourced data is the average of advices from a group of experts regarding that particular problem.
b) ANALYTIC / DEDUCTIVE.
This technique shares many similarities to inductive technique discussed above and derives only one single solution or answer to a problem that could be a number or a truth. This technique breaks down the problem into its components, find a solution for each of those and extracts only one answer to the major problem.
a) MULTIPLE REALITIES.
In this mode of enquiry the observer places the observed data from the problem against his own theory which is unique to him and extracts multiple answers towards the solution of problem based on different theories. The result is many different aspects of the problem itself including many different solutions to those problems which can be implemented. But the person who is responsible for decision making is having difficult situation in front because of many options that are available and many routes of action that could be taken. Just because of this fact there is definitely a risk factor involved in this method of enquiry.
Dialectic is often referred as a practical decision making tool which depends on looking into the methods, assumptions and theories by which the problems are defined rather than looking into the data or observations to find out an answer. Two possible solutions are derived from the problem which then results in one single and accurate solution. This method of enquiry dugs deep into the problems and is used widely in practical world.
a) UNBOUNDED SYSTEMS THINKING.
The concept of understanding the problem situation in context of a mess or focussing on the problem as a whole keeping in mind that the sum of different individual sections of the problem is smaller than the problem itself is the basis of unbounded systems thinking (Anne and Tenzin, 2006). A problem is considered as a mess which demands a creative approach to the solution. Emergence attributes which are functions of the whole are the resultant because of these messes. According to Ian Mitroff, “the Unbounded Systems Thinking depends on adopting multiple perspectives when making an enquiry”?. This means that the Unbounded Systems Thinking utilises all previous modes of enquiries and it creates dependencies between all modes of enquiries (Ian and Harold, 1993). This mode of enquiry considers the technical, organisational and human aspects of the problem situation and merges them all to create a solution. In other words the Unbounded Systems Thinking is a way to reveal real world pressures on information systems design and implementations as these problems demand a creative solution and this solution always involves human activity as humans are the ones to be directly affected by such information systems implementation.
As described earlier, there could be many modes of enquiries that could be suitable for a problem situation or a research, a lot depends on personal preference too, but the mode of enquiry which will be used to carry out the research is the Unbounded Systems Thinking. This mode of enquiry uses the TOP (Technical, Organisational and personnel ) perspective which is a way of looking at complex or messy problem situations. ASDA Plc, is choosen for this purpose, which is a part of American retail multinational conmpany Wal-Mart. Author have decided to investigate how online shopping has affected ASDA Plc by collecting data from different websites which will define the “ T ”? in “ TOP ”? and what impact the technology had in the organisational IS strategic planning and IS development as a whole, which should complete the “ O “ and finally the personnel aspect is analysed by discussing the ethical issues in terms of IS strategic design and the professional code of conduct. The choosen mode of enquiry will be helpful in a better understanding of the organisation as it combines all the modes of enquiries. Technological issues will be analysed in the organisation and problems will be discussed. Cultural issues will be raised in the organisation as a whole and this will help the author to investigate what could be the best strategy to fit the organisational requirements. Personnel aspects are very important as every single technology or strategic planning directly relates to humans and this mode of enquiry will evaluate how a firm’s strategic planning and technology implimentations has affected its employees.
Unbounded systems thinking is the sum of almost all the modes of enquiries. In other words it will be true to describe this mode of enquiry as the best solution where all other modes of enquiries fail and the problem is complex and messy. Complex problems are the ones where large MNCs are considering the injection of new technology in the organisation or when a large acquisition is being considered (Arnold, 2007). Any such problem where the consequences of taking wrong decision could be disastrus, such mode of enquiry brings forward all the aspects of action being taken and brings the factor of human interaction into consideration. Some modes of enquiries considers only the technical aspect and brings forward one possible solution and does not take into account the organisational or human factor, which results into the failure of the project or the actions taken on behalf of such enquiries. The only drawback of such a mode of enquiry is that it provides a three dimensional view of the real world and it does not provide a way in which methods and methodologies could be combined together to find a solution to the problem (Davies, 2006 ).
Online shopping is simply when a customer buys products from the internet. Online shopping has grown more popular with customers as people are finding shopping online more efficient and as most will be using the internet in their homes it allows them to shop in a comfortable environment. Many companies now have online websites where you are able to buy the same products from the internet as in the actual stores in the high street.
The online shopping facilities offered by the supermarkets, ASDA and Tesco. Both sites have been designed using similar layouts, frames to separate hyperlinks etc, this ensures the users of one site will be comfortable using the other i.e. they will know what to expect. The registration processes in both sites are simple and straightforward with only a limited amount of information required from the user. It is important to note that neither site uses H1, H2 elements as recommended by W3C, therefore there is no hierarchy of heading levels which may cause confusion to users of aural browsers.
The shopping experience itself was simplified with Tesco due to the ‘express shopper’ search facility which enables the user to type an entire shopping list onto a ‘notepad’ and then conduct a search; it looks for the first product on the list and transfers the whole list onto the left hand bar allowing the user to then click on the links in the list to search for their items one by one. Asda provides individual searches using a product search box, which does not highlight data within it when clicked; this can result in errors when searching due to the previous search not being deleted properly.
Search results provided very different results; Tesco searches were very succinct with only a few relevant items offered as options whereas the Asda searches resulted in a multitude of choices within different departments, many of which were often inappropriate, resulting in subsequent searches having to be carried out. Both sites use tables in order that the user can choose a time and date for delivery, the Asda site is very self-explanatory and easy to understand whereas Tesco is confusing with different prices for various time and day slots with no explanation as to why. Tesco do offer an alternative website designed for users with impairments and accessibility
As more and more customers are shopping online that results in far more money being spent online. Businesses earn a vast majority of their profits in the run up to Christmas. According to the leading e-commerce trade body IMRG, shoppers spent A£4.98bn in 2005 during this Christmas period and for 2005 as a whole it calculated shoppers spent A£19.2bn. Here is a graph from the IMRG to show the growth in UK online shopping from April 2000- Dec 2008.
This chart shows UK online shopping sales April 2000 to December 2008 – Source, IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index
Tesco is an example of a very successful company online. According to the research company comScore, Tesco has a huge 66% of the UK’s online shopping market. In 2006 Tesco took an average of 30,000 orders per day which amounts to A£2.5m. Other successful online companies include Asda and Sainsbury’s.
There are many advantages of shopping online rather than physically going out and buying the product, here are few that author believe are the most important to people when buying online:
• Shopping online can be very convenient as it can be a quick and easy process. It also has the convenience of being able to shop in a comfortable environment (your own home). Another benefit is the ease to find products when doing online shopping as you are able to search for products as soon as you enter the website using a search box or other links, this is a big difference from actually going to the store as you spend time looking for the product (Warren, 2000).
• Online shopping also allows people to compare prices on the product in a quick and easy way. This cannot be done in a very effective way if you physically go to the store as it would take a long time to compare prices from one store to the next. Once you have found a product you want to purchase you simply can do so with a click of a button rather than waiting in queues.
• At times some online stores give special online deals which can’t be found on the high street.
There are also some disadvantages of online shopping. I have chosen a few which might give people reasons as not to shop online:
• Online fraud is probably the biggest reason as to why people are cautious of online shopping. Some people find it hard to trust websites with their personal information and their payment details. Identity theft is still a big concern as hackers can break into websites and steal personal information such as name, address and credit card numbers. To protect their networks e-commerce websites can install anti-virus software, firewalls etc. General advices given to consumers on this matter include using websites that they are familiar with and trust.
• Another big problem with online shopping is that you don’t have the opportunity to physically encounter the goods as websites only provide images. This means people may purchase items from the internet which is quite different in real-life. This can also be a tool for fraudsters on unreliable websites as they can describe a product which on the internet may satisfy however once delivered it won’t be what was expected.
• Another disadvantage of online shopping is the waiting that you will have to do for the product to arrive. In a store you can purchase the goods and take it home straight away however with online shopping you must wait for you product to be delivered.
Author produces a Pest analysis which describes the impact of online shopping in ASDA Wal-Mart Ltd.
The political element of the external environment remains the same for the local and national levels because the ASDA Superstores are only in Britain.
At present the changing trend of globalised business could be a challenge as well as an opportunity for the ASDA Plc’s because they would have to compete against new forces from all over the world to maintain best quality of the products and services they offer. For example online shopping play an important role in today’s competitive retail make environment and have become a main element of business success.
ASDA offers Britain’s best value weekly shop with prices 10 – 15% lower than their main competitors (The Economist, 2007) and an unmatchable mix of fresh food, grocery, clothing, home, leisure and entertainment goods. ASDA continues to widen the gap between their competitors and is 11.2% cheaper than their competitors, especially in online shopping. In home shopping ASDA give their customers lots of promotional offers.
ASDA Plc introduces lots of varieties of products and services online, for their local and national level customers. For example ASDA’s new recipes of ready meals, fresh vegetables, fresh meat and milk are very well popular in its customers. So, for customer satisfaction and to make its social values stronger, ASDA Plc delivers online shopped products or services on time and with cheaper price to match the ongoing trend.
It is predicted that by 2011 the online retail sales in Europe will hit approximately 263 Billion Euro because of the rapid increase of online shopping in which the shoppers in UK may be accounting for more than a third of all revenue. ASDA Plc’s can take the advantage of utilizing internet as an advertising media as 8% of the global advertising is spent on the internet and the percentage is increasing day by day. It will be very cost effective and help the company to globalize very easily.
Overall author feels that online shopping can be a very useful tool, especially for people who may not have enough time to shop in stores. This can also be useful to the elderly as they do not need to leave the house to purchase goods that they would like. There are some issues that still need to be resolved such as online fraud and security. ASDA is a well-established organization and offering brilliant online products and services to its customers and in future have a plan to make a lot of improvements in their online shopping sector.
Information system is a rapidly changing field and emergence of new technologies influences every single person on the face of the earth. Almost every single business is tied to information technology one way or the other and new technologies are bound to affect these businesses as they race to gain competitive advantage over their rivals. Injection of these new technologies affects each and every aspect of large multinational companies and this also includes the strategic planning and development of information systems.
Soft System Methodology has had a significant impact on the understanding and development of methods. It is a qualitative methodology and was developed by Professor Peter Check land and his colleagues at Lancaster University (Hawkes, 2008). To allow a better understanding of the complexities of the situation, the method allows the problem situation to be suited from many points of view. The methodology consists of a seven stage process that provide the means of progressing through these levels which are system thinking, finding out about the situation and then taking the necessary actions. In other words, SSM is a process used by managers to find out the solution of complex problems which could be related to policy making, organisational structure or even the problems faced by management. These seven stages of SSM are as follows.
Few early stages of Soft System Methodology will be used to assess the impact of technology on Information Systems strategic planning and development.
The first stage would be to find out the problem. Online shopping had a drawback that seller is not in direct contact with the customer even though the internet is a communication media. The problem was identified by few MNCs and search was started to find more relevant content about this problem. Then few scenarios came out to overcome the problem such as live customer support, customer feedback, online contact forms and email support. Nowadays almost every single MNC had a customer feedback and e-mail contact system so that the shopping experience could be as smooth as possible for every customer.
Through e-commerce, firms will have to move much of the customer service and after-sales service online so that customers can access databases or “smart”? manuals directly. This builds better quality customer relationships. E-commerce reduces production cost by providing self-service online and making automated transactions, payment, and order fulfilment possible. Many firms save money on staff and paperwork via electronic order processing, billing and e-mail services.
As technology grows, newer & newer appliances are available. One of the latest & popular communications innovations is the Video Conferencing (VC) which is the computer telephony Integration (CTI).VC changes the ways of human communication. In the past, written letters and telephone calls were the main communication channels.VC has a dramatic effect on the way people do business and the increase of productivities. It can share any type of info such as pictures, graphs, slides and software, etc. Decisions are made faster; bringing products or services to market quicker; and enabling firms to stay ahead of their competitors.
People do not need to travel long distance for business by using VC. It helps to save travel time. The hiring cycles for key employees is shortening. It also reduces travel cost. The postal services and letter/documents delivery service is affected due to the needs of written document are lower. However, the standard and quality of VC depends on telecommunication connectivity and bandwidth, country infrastructure & resources.
Indeed the data security problem is a threat not only to the firms but also to customers. Online payment, transactions, money transfer, etc. all require personal information and password to access. If the online security is low, it may cause a great loss (money) to customers and even cause the firm to bankrupt.
To protect safety of the customers, and the business of themselves, the firms must develop high security system and up-date the system from time to time. In order to maintain competitiveness, the firms must provide more additional services (e.g. storage volume, security) to their customers. This greatly increases their production costs. However, the costs can’t be transferred to customers. To fix the problem, IT professional should take sensible precautions in general and using up-to-date software.
These were the few factors affecting the IS strategic planning and development for MNCs. Much depends on the organisational structure and the requirements of the business and whenever a decision is made, it should be in accordance with these seven factors of SSM, so that a situation is completely analysed to get the maximum possible results.
Consequences analysis technique is a process which helps managers or decision makers to work out the possible outcome of certain decisions or new technology implementations on the organizational level. It is a way of measuring the impact of a particular decision on everyone who is going to be affected by that decision. While measuring this impact, there are some hard and soft issues to be considered so as to know how the decision is going to affect the organization in the long term, that is in respect of budget constraints (which is the hard issue) and how is it going to affect the humans in terms of their attitude and mindset towards the new system (which is the soft issue). The brief overview of hard and soft systems thinking is as follows.
‘Hard’ systems thinking are goal-directed as the particular study begins with the definition of the desirable goal to be achieved. It is essentially concerned with the question of ‘how’ to achieve a predetermined aim. ‘Soft’ is concerned with defining the options for improvement thus addressing the ‘what to do’ question. It is also committed to the examination of human activity, which is the other soft part of the equation. Whereas hard systems thinking is concerned with the ‘how ‘ of the problem, in soft systems thinking, the objectives of the systems are assumed to be more complex than a simple goal that can be achieved and measured (Pun et al, 1998). Every system can be said to have a set of purposes or missions rather than goals. Understanding of soft systems can be achieved through debate with the actors in the systems. Emphasis is placed on the ‘what’ as well as the ‘how’ of the system. Some of the hard and soft problems faced by MNCs during IS strategic planning and development are discussed below.
The first hard problem faced by organizations is the financial or budget constraint. Information systems are constantly changing and to keep up with this ever growing field, managers face a difficult time in terms of finances available to update the systems and to stay ahead in the field of the technology. Stake holders are never going to realise the long term benefits of new technologies and managers have to develop a plan to fight the drawbacks of old technology and where appropriate keep some financial space to overcome this hurdle. While considering the drawbacks of the old technology, managers must also consider the compatibility of the old technology with the new one existing in the market. If we consider the e-commerce technology only, there have been many developments regarding the online transactions during the past few years and managers must consider the benefits of adapting these advancements as the new systems produce much better results and online shopping experience for the customers (Ledere et al, 1996).
Another hard issue faced by managers is the need for highly trained personnel who are equipped with the understanding of these new technologies. Once the decision is made and the new systems are in place, the need for keeping these systems updated is felt and search for qualified personnel is started who can do the job for the organization but this task becomes difficult as there are not enough qualified personnel in this short span of time when there are too many organizations searching for the same people. Furthermore the implementation of new systems also requires the training of the staff who will be going to operate or work on those systems. Along with this training, staff must also be familiarized with the benefits and usefulness of the new system so that they could be as comfortable with the new system as they used to be in the past.
Along with some hard issues discussed previously, managers have to face some complex problems in the form of soft issues while planning the IS strategy and development. These soft issues do not have any clear solution and managers always have to use their managerial instinct to find a way around these problems. One of them is the history and culture of the organization. IS planning always have direct impact on the cultural issues and to change the culture of the organization is not always the easy thing to do. Furthermore if in any case the implementation of the new system fails in its early stages, the mindset of the staff would be more towards the old systems and this will affect their motivation and willingness to work with the new technologies. One more soft problem to be discussed here is the affect of chain of command on IS strategy planning. Organizational groups are affected by bureaucracy and this tends to mould the IS strategy for their benefits.
Currently, ASDA Plc, utilizes IT to achieve its IS strategic planning and is committed to maintaining leadership through use of IT. The future is very dynamic. Innovation and creativity is the key for further utilizing information systems in the future, which improve its service and innovation as a means of achieving differentiation thereby maintaining its position as market leader. ASDA Plc, has actively managed and used IT in the past to acquire its position as the leader. Currently, ASDA has been paying full attention to thrash out the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ problems on IS strategic planning by adopting new technologies in time and keeping in mind the trends of customers in different parts of the country. At the same time the company has trained its staff to work online so that they feel more comfortable while managing online transactions and they should be more comfortable when receiving customer’s feedbacks to apply those suggestions in the e-commerce world.
Information technology is basic and core part of approximately all multinational organizations to do every task in the day to day life. In MNCs the management has to organize the systems and personnel relating to IT. Managing people and IT systems at the same time is a difficult task in itself. Managers have to consider many issues relating to client privacy and the use of systems in a proper and ethical manner.
There are many ethical issues while considering the IS strategic planning and few of them will be discussed here. The professional code of conduct for IT professionals is our guide in explaining different ethical issues that could be encountered in an information systems environment. The first one is the privacy issue. People are in danger of losing their private data as Information Systems grow day by day and more data is being written electronically. Furthermore the privacy of customers or the employees is at risk when project developers require this information for planning a task. This approach will greatly damage the personal privacy and is definitely not ethical in any way. Organizational privacy is also at risk when manager’s access electronic information and this information become more and more common among personnel. Systems should be in place so that IS strategies include these privacy issues and avoid wide spread of organizational data.
Business ethics is the art and discipline of applying ethical principles to examine and solve complex moral dilemmas. Business ethics asks, “What is right and wrong? good and bad?”? in business transactions (Bream, 2008) Although no one “best”? definition of business ethics exists, the consensus is that business ethics requires reasoning and judgment based on both principles and beliefs for making choices that balance economic self-interests against social and welfare claims.
It could be argued that the development of technology has become the cornerstone of business communication. (Bream, 2008) confirmed that through E-Commerce, business transactions can be done effectively and instantaneously through the use of security code called Cryptography. (Dickinson, 2008) In which the funds transaction is processed and confirmed electronically by converting information into algorithm to prevent unauthorized viewing or alteration of information. This form of transaction provides integrity, efficiency, reliability and credibility to parties involved in the transaction and the communication is in line with the ethical code of conduct (Doyle, 2002).
From this report author can see the future direction of information technology. Author tried his best to do this report after a lot of readings and consultation. Nowadays, IT is a major source for Education, Health, and retail and in any kind of business. The rapid growth of the Internet eclipses all other forms of mass-communication in the developed world. Some experts believe that one billion people may be connected to the Internet by 2010. This expansion is driving dramatic increases in investments in computers, software, services, and communications, and has acted as a catalyst for the wide range of business and social changes. All this investment in bigger and better computers and networks ensures that the information technology provide higher services at lower cost even as the volume of consumers increases dramatically. Author’s selected Multinational Company was analysed as to how well the organization has been in information systems technology. First of all the impact of new information systems on the organization’s strategic planning was assessed as to how online shopping has affected the company’s overall planning and performance. Then the potential hard and soft problems were discussed in planning the information system strategic planning. And finally few of the ethical issues were discussed in terms of information systems strategic planning.
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Pest Analysis: – https://www.marketingteacher.com/IMAGES/pest_logo.gif
UK online shopping sales April 2000 to December 2008: – https://www.imrg.org
[Attiq Ur Rahman] [Strategic Business Analysis]. PGD In SBIT Sept 2009
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