Information System (IS) is an essential component in the running and management of organizations in the modern world. The main issue discussed on this paper is how organizations incorporate IT into their IS plans to improve their productivity. The literature that was covered in this paper state that IT has become an essential component in the management of information within organizations.
However, for IT to achieve the management goals of an organization, it needs to be implemented in an effective and efficient manner. To determine this, this paper focused on the role played by IS in two organizations; The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence and Somerville Retail Services.
Despite the difference that these two organizations have in the nature of their operations, the implementation of IS plans, the manner in which they have integrated IT, and the means through which they manage IT and manage IT staff within their organization is relatively similar. It was thus concluded that IS and IT are essential in sustaining the operations of modern organizations.
Information Systems (IS) have become a critical aspect in the running and management of organizations in the modern era. Consequently, the incorporation of Information Technology (IT) to support IS plans has been increasing with the advancement in the field of Information Communication and Technology (ICT).
The literature covered in this paper show that that many organization in the world have adopted and implemented various policies and strategies in the field of IT to enhance their operations. T
he storage, retrieval and transmission of information within an organization in an effective and efficient manner has always ensured that the internal and external operations of a firm are efficient hence enabling them to achieve their short term and long term goals and objectives.
The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence (http://www.bsl.org.au/)
Located in Melbourne, Australia, The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence commenced its operations during the era of the great depression. It is during these trying times that the level of poverty, inequality and social injustice increased in Australia and the entire world in general. Based on the Christian ideologies of Father Gerald Tucker, the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence vision is to eradicate poverty and to end social injustices in Australia.
The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence is involved research and development activities all over Australia. The firm is also involved in the delivery of services and advocacy to the people of Australia. In the course of its operation, The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence focuses on the unmet needs of the society through innovate and efficient techniques from the results gathered from its studies.
This move ensures that the policies, programs and practices are developed and implemented within Australia that result in the respect of the rights and dignity of all individuals and inequality is eliminated.
This will ultimately lead to the growth and development of a sustainable society in Australia during the current and future generations. To collect relevant information for this study, Louse Segafredo, who is the Senior Manager, Knowledge Management and ICT at BSL was interviewed.
Somerville Retail Services (http://srsaust.com.au/)
From humble beginnings in 1998, Somerville Retail Services has become the leading manufacturer and distributor of case meat in South East Australia. The company has built a strong brand name as a result of the consistency that it has in its production processes and delivery of its goods and services.
With the use of up to date technologies, Somerville Retail Service has the fastest turnaround time, delivering the finished product within less than 48 hours after it was ordered. To ensure that the service that the firm offers are consistent, effective and efficient, Somerville Retail Service benchmarks its services.
The firm has also adopted new technologies and has maintained a dedicated workforce over time to meet up to the demands and pressures from its clients. This move ensures that the firm has a large market share standing at a competitive edge over its rivals within South East Australia and the entire globe at large. Somerville Retail Services has a series of quality assurance services.
This has guaranteed that the firm does not compromise on the quality of its brands and the service that it offers to its clients within Australia and the rest of the world. To maintain this, the firm produces over 165 beef and pork products that are released to the market every day. To collect data for this study, William Lee, the IT manager was interviewed.
Information Systems Planning
Information is an essential component to the success of an organization. It is with regards to this fact that many organizations have come up with systems and methods that ease the process of transmission, storage, and retrieval of information (Bechor, 2009).
As Pollack (2010) asserted, information is essential in the process of supporting processes and operations within an organization, implementing management practices and in the decision making process. It is as a result of this that since the second half of the 20th century organizations all around the world started to value information.
Organizations are usually made up of a number of individuals. These individuals possess different skills and expertise. Consequently, organizations usually have different departments. Despite all these differences, the operations of an organization are usually geared towards achieving its vision, mission, goals, and objectives.
Managers have always suggested that effective communication is the means through which the management of an organization can synchronize these differences to achieve the overall goals of an organization (Galliers, 1993). As a result, managers have always laid a lot of emphasis on effective information system planning and management (Allen, 2005).
Since the second half of the 20th century, managers have realised the importance of information in maintaining a desirable relationship among employees and in supporting their interactions (Piccoli, 2008). At the same time, managers also realised the essence of information in data management.
On these grounds, it became essential for the management of the organization to ensure that information is managed in an effective and efficient manner.
It is with regards to this that most organizations have incorporated the process of information system management with information communication and technology (Pearlson and Saunders, 2010). With the rapid growth and advancement in the field of ICT, several information management systems have been developed and advanced by scholars and managers alike (Callon, 1996).
However, these information systems do not entirely rely on ICT for their functionality. As Brown (2004) asserted, ICT is just but a component of Information Systems in modern organizations.
With regards to these words, Information Systems highly rely on the management practices of an organization, the type of employees that it has, its nature of operations, the goals and objectives that it wants to achieve and most importantly, the level at which an organization has incorporated IT in its operations (McLeod, 2007).
The improvement in production efficiency coupled with the availability of capital has increased the number of players in almost every field of the economy. This has provided customers with a variety of substitutes to choose from in order to satisfy their needs, tastes and preferences.
Therefore, for a firm to overcome this stiff competition and meet the needs of its customers, it needs to come up with strategic plans that will ensure that it stands at a competitive edge over its rivals. Developing a strategic Information System plan is one of the effective means through which a firm can achieve competitive advantage (Sprague, 2000).
An effective Information Systems plan acts as a leverage that aligns the technological resources of an organization with its strategies, goals and objectives (McLeod, 2007). This ensures that a firm operates in an effective and efficient manner hence being sustainable both in the short run and in the long run.
The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence Response
The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence (BSL) has different means through which it develops its IS plans. To ensure that BLS IS plans are in line with the business strategies of the organization, the firm has a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) that comprises of representatives from all the departments of the organization.
This group meets once a month to develop strategies and ensure that the IS plan that it developed conforms to the needs of the organization. The current IS plan is in line with the 2010-2013 ICT plan of the organization that aims at upgrading the overall process of the organization such as modernization of the help desk and improving telecommunication and up to date softwares within the organization.
However, the information system plan is under a close scrutiny of the management with its success being measured with the help of financial milestones and reports from the TAG.
Somerville Retail Services
With the directions and supervision from the IT department, the management of Somerville Retail Services (SRS) usually identifies the information systems needs of the organization. Once these needs have been identified, the management usually estimates the cost that might be involved in implementing this strategy.
However, the budget of this process highly relies on the Return on Investment (ROI) that the firm has from the previous financial year. Most IS plans that the organization has developed usually run for 6 months to 1 year. These plans are usually mapped out from IT projects to determine their budgets and timelines.
The management of the organization usually monitors the operation of the IS plan to ensure that its implementation is in accordance to the needs of the company. The success of the plan is usually determined by the reviews that are received from the involved parties and benefits that accrue from its implementation.
From the analysis of the literature review and the practices of BSL and SRS, it is evident that IS plans are usually developed to meet specific needs of an organization. Generally, organizations develop IS plans to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of their operations. This too was the case of BSL and SRS. Consequently, the IS plans of both organizations is in line with their overall IT strategies.
However, SRS did not have a specific team to monitor and control the implementation of the IS plan like BSL. This might have adverse effects on the success of the IS strategy within the organization. Despite this, both organizations seem to understand the essence of having an effective IS plan in sustaining and improving its operations.
IT organizations Structures
This topic focuses on the importance of IT in maintaining IS plans of organizations. This includes the adoption of computerised systems to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of operations within a firm. This section thus focused on the relationship that IS plans have with the overall IT plans of an organization and the importance of outsourcing IT services of an organization.
Organizations are currently under increased pressure to improve their performance to gain competitive advantage along with continually review of their operations with the aim of addressing threats emanating from changes in the external environment and harnessing the opportunities (Mani et al, 2010).
The incorporation of Information Technology (IT) in the operations of organizations has been one of the effective solutions that modern managers advocate for. The incorporation of IT in the running and management of firms has saved a lot of companies and organizations from running into bankruptcy (Berger, 2006).
For example, in the early 1990s, Continental Airline was facing a drastic financial crisis that almost led to its bankruptcy (Wejman, 2010). The company however incorporated the use of IT, a move that improved the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations leading them out of bankruptcy.
The incorporation of IT can only be successful if it is embraced and supported by the managers and senior staff of a company (Wejman, 2010). IT is thus effective as it ensures that running of operations within a company is smooth, communication among the staff and between the company and customers all over the world is efficient. This will make the operations within the organization to become much faster and easier.
According to Berger (2006), companies should therefore seek for outsourcing services that will concentrate fully on their field of core competence (p. 51). In this way, such companies will save a lot of time and money.
It is always advisable for companies to adopt IT systems that are flexible in nature to ensure that they are able to keep up with the changes in technology within the industries in which they operate in and with the customer tastes, preferences, and requirements that are always dynamic in the business world. Therefore, the IT system of a company has to be flexible to meet their present and future needs (Yeaple, 2006).
However, outsourcing of IT services due to lack of competent personnel to manage the systems or as a cost reduction factor has resulted into the increasing threat of homogeneous organizations that have equivalent core competencies which results into loss of business core competencies through exploitation of best practices in IT competitive advantage (Gibb and Buchanan, 2006).
IT has provided opportunities for equivalence of service level that result in loss of brand identity and brand community and decreased market share. Development in the IT sector and Information System (IS) sector has resulted in leveraged technologies and threats of organizational quality improvement systems and adoption of equivalent quality improvement tools.
IT has also been associated with security risks that are characterized by communication networks for instance non-encrypted networks, technical threats like unauthorized system access, lack of data security. There has been increasing threats that IT cannot be implemented across continents because of threat of data access by unintended users, threats of virus and lack of device interoperability.
Therefore, the incorporation of IT within organizations has been characterized loss of organizational independence that predisposes inability to manage operating costs (Bell, 2006).
The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence
Originally, BSL had a decentralized ICT plan. In this plan, the entire server infrastructure was managed and controlled within the internal environment. In this system, each department was virtually responsible for maintaining the IT systems within their departments.
On logical grounds, this was considered as an advantage since individual members of each department could upload, download, store, and retrieve data that pertain to their operations directly. This therefore ensured that each department was in full control of the information that affects their respective departments.
Additionally, since members from each department were involved in the process of storage and retrieval of information, no extra employees were required to run and manage the IT system. More so, the extra space that might have been required to store centralized data was saved.
However, this system proved not to be viable for BSL. Despite its advantages, there were always difficulties in the retrieval of information. This was mainly because there was no specific system or procedure of storing information. Therefore, each individual staff member would have his/her own system of storing and retrieving data within the system.
Additionally, space within the system was not utilized effectively mainly due to storage of the same information under different names by different employees. Thus, the system used to break down frequently due to these inconsistencies and malfunctions. It is only during the time when the system was down that repair and maintenance of the system was conducted.
Due to these problems, BSL adopted a centralized system of IT management 8 months ago. In this plan, BSL outsourced this role to an external organization that would control and manage the server infrastructure of the organization. With this new plan, the system is constantly updated and managed by the organization.
This therefore ensures that it runs effectively and efficiently unlike in the previous plan where the system was only repaired or upgraded when it broke down. Additionally, space within the system is utilized effectively as the chances of duplication are minimal. The system is also reliable since there is a specific manner in which data is stored and retrieved within the system.
To enhance on its operations, BSL has outsourced some of its IS functions. These include:
- Help desk services
- Infrastructure management and maintenance
- WAN delivery and maintenance
The main reason for outsourcing these services was to improve the overall efficiency in the operations of the firm. Due to the technical nature of these services, BSL saw that it was rather wise to outsource them and let its internal staff to concentrate on issues that directly relate to achieving its set goals and objectives. Thus, since the organization commenced its outsourcing services, the IS system has been managed in a consistent manner.
Due to regular upgrades and servicing, the system has not broken down. It is with regards to these factors that BSL believes that it will continue to outsourcing these services to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of its operations.
Somerville Retail Services
SRS also values the importance of IT infrastructure in its operations. It is on these grounds that the organizations strive as much as possible to ensure that the operation of all its IT components are as per the expected standards of the company.
To ensure that this is achieved, the organization usually assesses the operations of its IT architecture annually. The company views annual assessment as cost effective due to the nature of high costs that is involved in this process. However, the annual assessment and maintenance cost is always included in the financial budget of the organization.
To ensure that the IT system operates in an effective and efficient manner, SRS usually ensures that its operations is aligned with its IS plan. The IS plan usually depicts means that will allow the synchronization of individuals, departments, components and systems within the organization to achieve the set goals and objectives.
In the process, the IT system plays a critical role in the running and maintenance of the IS plan in SRS. The IT systems ensure that information within individuals and departments is conveyed in the most effective manner. Additionally, the system also supports the communication between the organization and its customers.
Therefore, the organization usually proposes amendments to the IT systems to meet its current and future operational needs and requirements. On these grounds therefore, SRS usually estimates the amount of IT hardware that it might require to manage the cumulative data that it has. However, this decision is also determined by the cost of maintaining the proposed system.
Thus, the system that the organization adopts and implements is expected to cater for the current and long term needs of the organization (a period of 3-5 years). This ensures that there is consistency and continuity in the management and maintenance of the IT system as well as the IS system.
With such a sophisticated and essential system, it is always essential to ensure that its operations are as per the expected standards of the firm. Thus, to determine the effectiveness of this system, SRS usually takes into consideration the feedback that has been received from end users.
This mainly includes staff from various departments. The organization also evaluates the effectiveness of its IT system by evaluating its everyday performance on issues such as backup and restore exercises, data processing, and overall network management.
In the modern world, information technology has played a critical role in the running and management of organizations. In essence, IT has become an essential component in the management of information systems within organizations. It is with regards to this fact that most organizations in the world have adopted and incorporated the use of IT and ICT in their day-to-day operations.
IT has always been accredited with increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of operations of an organization through sustainable use of available resources. Therefore, IT ensures that data, manpower, machinery, plants, and equipments are used in a sustainable manner to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization.
BSL and SRS both value the importance of IT in the running of their operations. Both firms have various IT systems that enhance their internal and external operations. To ensure that IT is effectively used, these organizations have aligned the IT plans with their IS plans. In SRS, for instance, IT systems are just but a component that it used to enhance the operation of the IS plan.
In BSL on the other hand, the IT system is used to store and retrieve data and facilitate communication among employees. Thus, to ensure that the IT system is properly maintained, both organizations carry out regular maintenance checks. SRS conducts these checks on an annual basis.
However, these checks are conducted much more often in BSL due to the fact that the organization has outsourced its IT services to an external body. With this centralized system in place, the system is checked and upgraded on a regular basis increasing its performance and ensuring that the system is at par with the latest technologies.
With such measures in place, an organization is guaranteed that its operations are effective and efficient. As a result, such an organization stands high chances of having a competitive edge over its rivals hence guaranteeing its profitability and sustainability in the short run and in the long run.
Managing the IT Human Resource
This topic focuses on the importance of human resource in the management of IT and infrastructure within an organization. There are several factors that organizations need to consider to ensure that they select and maintain a strong workforce to achieve goals and objectives.
Hence, this section will focus on the role of the IS and HR departments in recruiting new employees and training them. This section will also focus on the measures that facilitate the achievement of a conducive working environment to reduce employee turnover.
For an organization to operate in an effective and efficient manner, it needs to have qualified employees who are capable of performing work as per their job descriptions to meet the needs and desires of the organization.
To achieve this, an organization needs to have a rigorous training exercise that ensures that the selected employees have the desired skills, knowledge, and expertise to conduct their roles effectively and efficiently (Kujnish, 2006).
The first process that the Human Resource Department of most organizations conduct while recruiting employees is to short list candidates who have applied to the various posts that have been advertised. In most cases, the firm selects candidates from two broad bases. A firm can select candidates from its internal workforce (Zoltners, 2006).
Here, the firm identifies a number of employees who are capable of taking the job opening that is available and sustaining its needs and requirements. To achieve this, the HR department can select an individual from any departments to fill in the vacant position. In other instances, the HR department can decide to select an employee from the department where the vacancy is available.
In most cases, the individual who is selected to hold the vacant position is usually from a lower or the same level of employment. Thus, this form of selection is normally viewed as a promotional exercise and plays a critical role in the motivation of employees.
Alternatively, a firm can select candidates from external sources (Zoltners, 2006). Here, the company seeks to award the vacant position to an individual who is not part of their workforce. Here, the firm normally advertises through various forms of media. Occasionally, the firm links up with renowned educational institutions from which it selects the best students to fill in the vacant position.
The selection process usually commences after the candidates have been identified and shortlisted. The selection process should be rigorous to ensure that the skills of the candidate who is selected for the job conform to the skills that are required for the job at hand (Roberts, 2008).
Therefore, most organizations usually check the educational background of the candidates, their work experience, personality, goals and objectives to determine whether they are suitable for the job at hand. The candidates’ attitudes and personalities a critical role in the selection process.
Despite the importance of the selection, recruitment and training exercises, the management also plays a critical role in ensuring that employees perform their roles and duties as per the expected standards of the firm (Bernardin, 2008). It is the role of the management therefore to monitor the performance of his/her employees as well as the achievement of their set targets.
However, since employees usually have diversified skills, expertise and needs, the respective managers are expected to develop strategies that will enhance their relationship that they have with their employees. In most cases, it has been advocated that the managers should be the mentors, facilitators, and role models within and outside the firm.
The managers should understand and try to meet the needs of their employees regardless of whether they are professional or personal. Furthermore, it is the role of the sales managers to determine the factors the motivating and de-motivating to their employees hence affecting their performance. Employees should always be regarded as assets of an organization (Robbins, 1999).
The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence
As it has been stated earlier, BSL values the critical role that IT plays to support its operations. It is with regards to this fact that the organization always strives to have the best individuals to uphold and maintain the operations of the IT department. Thus, like many other organizations out there, BSL usually conducts a rigorous recruitment exercise to ensure that it has the right candidates for its job openings.
This has always been a traditional practice within the organization. Thus, different vacancies opening requires different individuals to fill up the positions. Therefore, the manner in which the management will select the individual(s) to fill this position varies depending on the job requirements of the vacant position.
Thus, while recruiting staff in the IT department, BSL considers a number of factors. First, the organization considers whether the position that is available is a short-term post or a long-term post. This is a critical step as it lays the basis on which the recruitment exercise will be carried out. In most cases, it will be unwise to undertake a vigorous recruitment exercise for a short-term work.
Thus, this process saves the organization both time and money. There are also those instances in which the firm does not have the time or capacity to advertise and shortlist candidates. It is during these times that the organization uses recruitment agencies such as Hudson to save on time.
BSL has had a long reputation with such agencies. Most of the candidates that it has received from them have been highly qualified and competent in their work. However, this option is implemented only when BSL does not have the time for the process and the vacant position is fixed. However, before BSL agrees to use this method, it needs to consider its cost implication.
Using a hiring agency to recruit employees is always an expensive exercise. Therefore, the firm needs to consider the impacts of this move on its budget. However, in normal circumstances, the firm advocates the use of its traditional hiring methods where the process is conducted systematically to ensure that the right individuals are selected with regards to the position that is available.
The IS department of BSL comprises of a number of employees. Each individual has a specific role that he/she needs to play to ensure that the operations of the department meet the set goals and objectives. The department is headed by a manager. The IS manager heads the department. However, he/she spends some of his/her time heading another department or portfolio.
The department however has a full time help desk manager. The role of this individual is to ensure that the help desk is run effectively and efficiently. The help desk manager heads two IS support officers and a project/business administration officer. Therefore, the entire department has four different job descriptions under one level of hierarchy.
Despite the fact that BSL does not have a career progression program for its IS employees or minimum employee qualifications, the department has always experienced low turnover rates. However, to prevent the eruption of employee turnover in the future, the IS manager seeks to introduce minimum qualification measures and progression programs for the employees under his umbrella.
Somerville Retail Services
SRS also takes seriously the process of recruiting an employee into the IS department. In most cases, the department itself conducts the recruitment process. However, there are those occasions in which the IS department might require assistance from the HR department to ensure that the recruitment process is conducted in an effective and efficient manner.
This highly reduces turnover rates within the department. In the course of the recruitment process, SRS usually wants to select the right candidate for the job. Thus, the IS department usually goes an extra step in the recruitment process to ensure that this is achieved. There are a number of qualities that the IS manager and the recruitment committee look at during the recruitment process.
The personality of a candidate is important. The department needs to ensure that the selected candidate can take initiative, is attentive to details, advocates for teamwork and has the capability of making decisions on his own. Thus, the department needs to be assured that the candidate can solve issues on demand.
Thus, in the course of the recruitment process, a candidate needs to expressly show that he/she can take initiative, is willing to put his skills and expertise in the work of the department, is ready to learn and most importantly, he/she is capable of meeting tight deadlines under minimal supervision.
Other than that, the candidate also needs to prove that he/she has basic administration skills as well as desirable troubleshooting skills. These qualifications however need to be supported by the ability of the candidate to be able to solve problems in an IT related or non-IT related field.
Here, the candidate needs to expressly come up with a step by step procedure on how he/she can solve a problem within the department, measures that he/she will take to inform other members of staff including the IS manager about the situation and how it is being solved. Most importantly, the desirable candidate should be able to make independent decisions without seeking help from other members of staff.
However, this decision needs to be sound and aim at improving the operations of the organization. The candidate who might possess these qualities thus stands a high chance of being hired into the IS department in SRS.
The IS department in SRS has three different job descriptions. There is the manager, the administration representatives and the helpdesk representatives. Despite this diversification, there are no minimum qualifications of employees in this department. The members of staff however need to show their willingness to work and learn while conducting their daily services within the department.
Those employees who show that they have the initiative to work and learn stand high chances of progressing within the department especially when they are involved in IT. However, for such individuals to progress, they need to be trained in various IT roles such as application management or network management.
It has always been argued that an organization is as good as its employees are (Zoltners, 2006). It is with regards to this that both BSL and SRS have gone to extra lengths to ensure that all its employees including the staff of the IS department are highly qualified to meet the demands and requirements of their respective jobs.
SRS and BSL have rigorous recruitment exercises to ensure that they have the right candidates for the vacant posts that are present in their respective organization. They both seek to have qualified personnel who are willing to take up the challenges and demands that are might arise in the course of their work.
However, while SRS sought support and direction from the HR department during the recruitment process, the IS department of BSL conducted its recruitment exercises independently. SRS believes that it is necessary to include the HR department in order to reduce employee turnover rates.
The only time that BSL sought external help is when the IS department did not have the time to conduct the recruitment process. In such situation, the organization sought the assistance of recruitment agencies such as Hudson. This is a common practice in most organizations in the world where they use agencies and education institutions to tap and develop talent within their organizations.
Finally, it has always been considered essential to motivate employees. This can be achieved either by monetary or non-monetary measures. Promotions and career developments are some of the non-monetary measures that can be used in this process. To achieve this, SRS has a progression program in which employees can grow and develop within the department.
Currently, BSL does not have such a program. However, due to its importance, the organization aims at introducing it. This will ensure that the management of IT personnel within the organization is effective and efficient hence enabling the organization to achieve its short term and long-term goals and objectives.
In the modern world, an organization needs to have a reliable, effective and sound information system that will sustain its internal and external operations. To achieve this, IT has always been incorporated in the running and management of firms.
Due to its simplicity and effectiveness, IT has become an essential component of IS within an organization. These two factors usually improve the overall performance of an organization enabling it to stand at a competitive edge of its rivals and guaranteeing its sustainability in the short run and in the long run.
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