Excel If Formula Provide Variable Number Of Outcomes Multiple Outcomes A Consumer’s Guide to Acquiring Information Technology for your Business

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A Consumer’s Guide to Acquiring Information Technology for your Business

Computer technology has revolutionized the way most businesses operate and will continue to do so in the future. As we all know, acquiring computer systems is not without risks. In this paper, we identify common problem areas and provide some broad, general advice on what you can do to reduce the risks involved.

The hidden cost

One of the biggest problems associated with acquiring computer technology is that the vendors offering to supply the technology are not always upfront about all the costs involved. Because of the complexity of computer systems, consumers are often unaware of all that may be involved in the use or development of technology. Because of this, they may miss out on significant costs in acquiring systems or services. Many of these costs are not obvious, and may only become apparent when systems are upgraded, expanded, changed, etc., or integrated with existing systems.

Here are some important questions to ask regarding cost:

1. If software is being purchased, what is the licensing arrangement? How many users can use the software? What are the limitations of the software in terms of users? What if we need to add more hardware as we add users? How much does maintenance cost and who does regular maintenance and at what cost? How much will the upgrade cost? Will the software work with our existing hardware and operating systems? Do our employees need training to use the software? Do we get the source code?

2. For hardware purchases, is the hardware industry standard, or proprietary? Examples of proprietary hardware are IBM midrange and mainframe computers, while an example of industry standard hardware would be a Windows based PC manufactured by Dell or Hewlett Packard. Does the hardware meet our needs? Can we test a “pilot” system, or does the vendor have examples of other companies successfully using the proposed hardware for a comparable system?

3. Network Costs: What are the costs associated with the network?

Sometimes costs are poorly estimated because a proper analysis is never done to outline the system requirements. Proper systems analysis and software engineering early in the development cycle require a “blueprint” of the proposed system so that costs can be more accurately estimated.

Proprietary hardware

Be careful about getting locked into proprietary hardware. If the hardware is proprietary, remember that the vendor will have a monopoly on supplying upgrades, parts, etc., so be sure to find out these costs before you decide to buy. There will be a temptation for the seller to overcharge for things like upgrades or maintenance as you will be forced to buy only from them. Additionally, some features you may want in the future may be unavailable if the vendor decides not to offer them. Keep in mind that in some cases, proprietary hardware may only have custom cards that run in a typical PC configuration.

On the upside, companies like IBM can maintain strict quality control standards on all aspects of their hardware, and if there’s a problem, they can’t blame someone else for trying to avoid taking responsibility.

Software acquisition

There are many ways to get the software your organization needs. Many large computer companies such as IBM, SAP and Siebel offer off-the-shelf products, frameworks, consulting services and custom software. Another option is to hire programming staff to write the software in house.

When you purchase software, some software vendors may offer to supply the source code. This is highly variable and depends on the nature and scope of the software. If the vendor offers to supply source code, make sure the application was developed using industry standard computer languages, otherwise it may be useless. Some vendors may offer to give you the source code, but then block some key code segments or libraries to make compilation impossible. Again, this renders the source code useless and leaves you at the mercy of the vendor. If you decide to create software at home, you will own it. Many companies do exactly that, especially for web-based software, so that they can maintain a high degree of control over their computer systems.

As a general rule of thumb, go for the simplest approach that meets your needs. Don’t be wowed by bells and whistles if they’re unnecessary. If you can use an off the shelf product like MS Excel, do it.

With the importance of the Internet, many companies choose to hire a web developer (or web development company) to create a website with the functionality they need. Internet and intranet-based information systems are becoming increasingly popular because they are relatively easy to program and customize, and the same software can be used by both internal users (employees) and external users (customers or offsite employees). Again, make sure the developer uses industry standard languages ​​and components so you can fix or modify the software when you need to, and it’s almost guaranteed that you will need to. A very important point that I cannot stress enough is that if you go out with your web developer or the company you hire to develop your software, you will be in an infinitely better position if you own and control your own. Format information systems that can be freely modified, extended, etc., so that you can hire anyone you want to develop and maintain your system.

Conflict of interest.

The last area we want to address is conflict of interest. Advice that appears to be objective and unbiased can actually be counterproductive. This happens when the person giving the advice has a financial interest related to the advice. Here are some example scenarios we’ve seen:

– Your organization is considering outsourcing your information technology management offerings, free of charge, to a consultant to work with you to conduct a feasibility study.

– A salesperson suggests the best way to solve a computer related problem. The solution involves purchasing the products from the seller’s company.

– A consultant recommends a specific software company to do custom programming for a project. The consultant has a financial stake in the software company.

Although these points may seem obvious, it is surprising how often I have seen these conflicts of interest with disastrous results. Find someone you can trust to give you honest and unbiased advice.

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