Hugh McCauley, the Chief Operations Officer of Riordan Manufacturing, has placed a service request, SR-rm-022 to integrate all existing Human Resources tools into a single integrated application across all plant locations. The business would like to take advantage of a more sophisticated, state-of-the-art, information systems technology to replace their current Human Resources Information System or HRIS (Riordan Manufacturing, 2006.) In response to this request, this document will outline the following items. The information-gathering techniques and systems analysis tools proposed for this project. Critical factors to ensure the sucessful gathering of information required for the project. Description of the project scope and the areas of project feasibility, and key stakeholders of which requirements will be collected are also discussed.
INFORMATION GATHERINT TECHNIQUES AND SYSTEMS ANALYSIS TOOLS
To ensure project success, it is important to gather your key stakeholders together to discuss the system. Key Stakeholders for this project would be key management personnel, IT staff, and users of both the legacy system, and the new system. Your key stakeholders will also be the first level of intelligence gathering performed. Key management personnel such as Hugh McCauley, the COO, who can give the corporate view of the legacy and the new system. HR Director Yvonne McMillian and Payroll/Tax Clerk Anan Richlich can give an exact use case on the HRIS system, and will be the two primary sources of legacy information. Director Yvonne can determine training requirements with the help of the IT department. The IT department can provide information about the legacy system and the capabilities of the current infrastructure of the business. IT can also judge and approve new requirements, privacy structures, and future support needed to maintain the system.
Face-to-face interviews will allow information gathering from these key individuals. Questions, an outline of topics, and a primary agenda will be provided beforehand to maximize the use of available time in hectic schedules. We will also be occasionally meeting to discuss the direction the system is heading, timelines, priorities, and key players’ lists to ensure success of the project. There is another primary source of information which needs addressing, and this is the group of people who handle information we will be adding which did not exist in the legacy system. This group can submit examples of their files, which will determine another part of the scope of the system, and use cases of how that information is gathered. After this information has been collected, documented and studied, the system development process can begin.
The system will be designed using the Joint Application Development (JAD) method. JAD is a prototyping method which gathers our key players listed above, along with other designated individuals to collectively refine business requirements while in conference with the design team of the software and the support team from IT. “The JAD process also includes approaches for enhancing user participation, expediting the development, and improving the quality of specifications. It consists of a workshop where knowledge workers and IT specialists meet, sometimes for several days, to define and review the business requirements for the system.” (Joint Application Design – Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, n.d.) Using this prototyping method ensures that each key factors such as project support and misdirection will not be an issue. This also ensures that the project gets the continued support it will need in the future to succeed.
SCOPE AND FEASIBILITY
During the Analysis phase of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC), several areas of project feasibility come into play. As discussed above, determining fully the system requirements ensures that you are filling the need of the system. “A preliminary study is then conducted to confirm and evaluate the need. A proposal of how the need may be satisfied is then made.” (Scope of Feasibility Analysis | Bicara Property, n.d.) The necessity of the system, as well as the improvements and requirements of the new system, will all be handled within the JAD process, allowing final project scope and requirements development. These developments can be realized financially to allow final budgetary requirements determination. All of these determinations hinge upon the proper system scope being defined. During this process, the unique considerations are also shared. In this project, the request was to “Create a detailed system design and a project implementation plan required to complete the project.
The project should be completed in approximately six months allowing new system utilization in the second quarter of next year.” (Riordan Manufacturing, 2006.) This design process includes checks and balances, giving the project the fullest chance of success. During the entire process, oversight will be maintained by corporate leadership. Final approval before entering the next phase of the SLDC allowing equipment purchasing approval from the COO, Hugh McCauley. By following this process, we can ensure this project produces a system which fulfills the requirements, bringing a “sophisticated, state-of-the-art, information system” to Riordan Manufacturing’s Human Resources Department. (Riordan Manufacturing, 2006.)
During the JAD process, two methods were determined to fit the requirements, building a system in-house using programmers’ already on staff or using off the shelf software from a major corporation. To fulfill user testing requirements, a trial version of the BambooHR software was tested by staff and management. The BambooHR software fulfills all the requirements with less downtime for the company, saving valuable resources and eliminating the need for more support staff to be hired.
The design process for this system began by gathering relevant data for the current system and by building both requirements for the new system and use cases of the current processes in the Human Resources department. After gathering and sorting the new system requirements using the Joint Application Design process, it is now possible to continue to design both the application architecture and apply the tools of system analysis to describe the information systems.
The client/server architecture is one of the most prevalent system architectures used in corporations. With Riordan’s requirements to allow multiple sites access to data and to ensure that data remains secure, the data will be stored on the server, and access routed through a secondary application server. The application server hosts the applications which access the data, allowing a lower cost local machine, and can allow both intranet access and outside access using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection to create a secure encrypted link between the client and the server. This style of client/server architecture is referred to as a three-tiered architecture due to the three tiers involved in accessing the data.
Although this method may seem bulky at first, this will allow many different benefits for data security and lower overall cost of the system as requirements are lower for the client computers. The determined requirements for multiple locations to share and modify data leaving with Riordan only required to supply the client systems with no additional support necessary for a data server or application server. Eliminating the current architecture on hand will save maintenance, upgrade and support costs, both in monetary and staff requirements. The chosen software, Bamboo Human Information Resource System (HRIS) follows the same requirements recommended in terms of hardware as those designed using system analysis.
Security is the ability to protect the information system from disruption and data loss, whether caused by an international act (e.g., a hacker or a terrorist attack) or a random event (e.g., disk failure, tornado.) according to SYSTEMS TEXTBOOK. In modern corporations, internal threats can become much more dangerous than external threats. To combat both types of threats implementation of the following security protocols will be included in the system:
Data must be kept secure and confidential, protected from both internal and external threats at all times. Data encryption and passwords will be used in addition to other security features to protect employees. Data stored externally to the server, such as the outsourced benefits data will be reviewed for security procedures and evaluated annually. Currently the data is decentralized, being stored in different offices and by various methods, creating a security problem that the new system can correct. The first step to addressing this will be to ensure secure storage of all data. Consolidating data allows secure controls on the access each person has to the secured data by both the application used to access the server, and the access controls given them when they log in. This will also allow multiple applications to access the same data, while leaving greater flexibility to find the best software to fit multiple needs. Each user can add, remove, and manipulate only the data they are given access to, no matter the platform the data is being accessed form.
Some legacy processes consolidation will occur as the data is consolidated, and certain processes would benefit from using third party software thereby gaining security certificates and minimizing the amount of knowledge and training required for our Information Technologies department. Many of the software suppliers will assist with training, modification and installation making the transition from the legacy system easier on staff.
System interfaces describe how the system shares information with outside sources such as outsourced data, user requests, and internal data sharing. As Intrusion Detection and Identity Management systems will protect the internal data interfaces, as discussed above, the user interface design process needs to be addressed. As many of the users currently only have forms built for their information and no system to store them in, Riordan Manufacturing can evaluate different third party solutions for a web-based system.
Using a web-based system, such as Bamboo HRIS allows applications to be placed on a remote server, lowering the cost of the clients used and saving valuable money and resources. Employees accessing the application server via the intranet will use username/password combinations to decrypt data on their local machine, while access from external sources, including employees at a remote site will use a private key encryption system to decrypt their data. This process minimizes the amount of data stored on the individual clients in case of theft or destruction of client resources.
The network consists of the backbone, data server, application server, firewall, and clients. There are four processes that will be used to protect the network from unauthorized access:
Implementation of Intrusion Detection System – This system conducts real-time monitoring of the network, database, traffic, and user access and activity to find possible intrusion or security risks.
Log Management Program – Almost all software produces logs which store information on user access, file management, and data modification to name a few examples. Consolidating these logs into easier to read and understand can help identify potential security risks.
Identity Management Systems – Control access to resources and data based on the users identification within the system, i.e. the user’s login credentials. Training for Security Measures – The best security system will not function to its highest potential unless staff are trained in the use of the system. This training includes proper in-processing and out-processing procedures to protect from unauthorized access. Although the Systems Development Life Cycle is a continuous cycle, the final step for this Human Resources Information System project is the Implementation and Operations phase. This is the most expensive and time-consuming phase due to the amount of personnel, resources, and time involved.
According to Valacich, George, and Hoffer (2012), there are seven major activities, coding, testing, installation, documentation, training, support, and maintenance. This document will explore the first six activities, giving a brief description and the plan for implementation at Riordan Manufacturing of the Bamboo Human Resources Information System. It is important to ensure that each of these activities are adequately defined, as many of them are conducted multiple times during the life of the system, and some are carried out on a daily basis. Building proper procedures for staff and support personnel to follow ensures that all upgrade or modification testing is accomplished to the same standards as the original system.
Coding is the process by which designs are transferred into the physical form that is computer software. As the selected system requires no coding, this aspect will not be planned for
Testing is an involved process which begins with the first section of code and continues throughout the life of the system. There are several different methods of testing in use today, some in which the code is run to verify operation and output, and some in which a code error review is conducted without operation. The Inspection method involves a physical inspection of the code, checking for syntax, grammar, or other fundamental errors before running the code while ignoring the purpose of the code. The inspection method usually removes the majority of errors found in the program. A Walkthrough allows testing of the code for functionality and to determine if the code fulfills the design requirements identified by the design team. Desk Checking, another form of checking and verifying code involves running the code with paper and pen to determine the logical validity of the code without running any lines of code.
The previous methods of testing are focused on catching issues when writing code and may not apply to the code purchased off the shelf, or in modular form to work within an existing system. With the cost of development for code, especially in smaller companies this may not be a viable option, however even if purchasing prepackaged code, there are tests which should be run to ensure no problems will be found during installation. After the code has been validated by manual means, or for purchased code, it can be processed by a program, such as a compiler, to verify that there are no significant errors by Syntax Checking. Syntax Checking can also be run automatically each time the program saves a file to identify issues which arise causing the system to need maintenance.
Code is generally written in modular form in today’s environments, and there are methods of testing which lend themselves well to this. Unit testing is designed to test each individual module or unit to verify operation before the modules are combined together into a system. Testing individual modules may seem to be difficult as many modules share data and information, the way to fix any call errors is by using Stub Testing. During Stub testing, lines of instructions are inserted in the code to emulate a response from an outside source allowing the program to complete without errors.
After testing the modules, they are combined and tested again during Integration testing, using a top-down approach to verifying communications and data sharing logic is sound. The final method to discuss is System Testing, the act of testing the finalized system, using the same top-down approach from the Integration phase. The software chosen for Riordan Manufacturing to satisfy the needs listed is off-the-shelf giving limited testing requirements. Alpha Testing was accomplished during the final steps of the JAD, or Joint Application Design, process and beta testing will commence using key stakeholders in the project once final project approval has been given.
The installation process involves transitioning from the legacy system to the new system and can occur in several different approaches, direct, parallel, single location, and phased. “Each installation strategy involves converting not only software but also data and (potentially) hardware, documentation, work methods, job descriptions, offices and other facilities, training materials, business forms, and other aspects of the systems” (Dennis, Wixom, & Roth, 2012, ). Each of these different installation methods has their positive and negative aspects, and can be combined to fit the needs of the business requirements. The Direct Approach is a cold turkey shut down of the legacy system with no transition time, which can be dangerous if there are issues with the new system, or if support or training are lacking, however, this can drive the new system as there is no choice but success.
In the Parallel installation method, the legacy system is left running allowing a safety net; however, this requires support for both systems causing increased cost to the business. A Single Location approach can allow for adjustments before all sites are brought online, however while the other locations continue to use the legacy system, data must be bridged between the two systems and the same additional costs of the Parallel system are incurred. Finally the Phased approach gradually transitions between the two systems, making transitions easier for the staff, yet limits the newer system to the constraints of the older system as they must share data. For Riordan’s new HRIS, the direct approach will be combined with the phased approach. Currently only the corporate site is using the legacy system, and phasing the other locations onto the system will allow training in phases by location.
Documentation of a system comes in several different forms each of utmost importance. To ensure that the system can be adequately supported and repaired, System documentation is required. To ensure that users properly understand the system, User documentation such as a user’s guide, release description, system administrator’s guide, reference documentation and user acceptance are required. Systems documentation, user’s guide and reference documentation for this system is provided by Bamboo HR after purchase of the system is completed, and acceptance sign-off will be completed as the final step of the installation.
As systems can only function to the level at which users can operate the system, user training is tantamount to success of an installation. User training can occur in many different forms, classroom led training, literary resources, and online training, all of which are educational tools to heighten productivity and ensure system success. Support staff will also be trained to understand not only how the user accomplishes tasks within the system, but also the how the system performs these tasks if repair or maintenance is to be conducted. Training on the HRIS will be carried out by BambooHR using several different methods for different topics. As the system will be maintained by an outside company, the focus for Riordan will be user training.
All staff will be trained using online methods with documentation support for using the new system as all pertinent employee information will be handled through the online system to include benefits, vacation time, and training. Specialist training will be available for the following procedures; benefit tracking, recruitment, employee and management training, employee tracking, login management, payroll activities, report management, change requests and performance reviews by BambooHR. In addition, IT support staff will receive refresher training in application program interface to allow for interactivity and continued development of the system as business needs change.
Support of a system is conducted not only on the system itself, in terms of upgrades for the hardware and software, and backups of the data, but also support for the users. With any system, issues occur during use, and an avenue for users to report these quickly and accurately, and receive assistance for problems is required. Tracking these reported problems can help system analysts and support staff determine if there is a fix for the software or hardware, or if more user training can solve the issues.
Purchasing the Bamboo HRIS program has both tangible and intangible benefits for Riordan Manufacturing. The financial aspect, $16,512 a year ($8 per employee for 172 regular employees) dwarfs the price of purchasing and installing the required hardware to run an on-site system, while removing the current outsourcing which exists for benefits management. Provided training, customer support, security support, data migration, business report design and security upgrades add to the overall corporate value and dispensing of the legacy system releases it support personnel while lowering utility and maintenance bills. Determinations of the proper level of support staffing needed to continue business operations after the legacy system retirement will be conducted to eliminate nonessential personnel.
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