Midsouth Chamber of Commerce (MSCC), a non-profit member supported organization that lobbies state government for local businesses, needed to update its IBM AS/400 based UNITRAK system to a more advanced structure to meet the growing demands of employees and members. Dick Gramen, a former computer trainer for an insurance broker, who had no experience with the AS/400 computer or the UNITRAK software, was hired for the job.
After struggling to learn the previous hardware, software, data structure and organization operations, he urged MSCC’s executive committee to purchase the IBM RS/6000 computer system (a system he was familiar with) to enhance MSCC’s computing capabilities. Despite Leon Lassiter’s (vice president of marketing) admonition, the executive committee unhesitatingly granted Gramen’s request. Shortly thereafter, Gramen accepted a contract with the inapt and inexperienced vendor, Data Management Associates (DMA) to develop the software and convert the UNITRAK database into the new system.
Gramen did not review the contract in great detail and sent it to MSCC president, Jack Wallingford for approval. Even worse, Wallingford, without having any outside specialist or corporate counsel to review the document, blindly signed the contract. The contract later revealed no explicit or quantifiable performance standards for the services to be provided, and that DMA only offered a certain number of free development hours for the creation of the software.
Moreover, DMA had the right to increase the price of services and products provided at its discretion, while limiting its financial and performance liabilities. Not surprisingly, DMA encountered a myriad of problems from the moment of implementation. And as difficulties with the software conversion mounted, DMA quickly used up the development hours, and started billing the MSCC for the work beyond the free hours guaranteed. Consequently, the relationship between DMA and the MSCC declined. The software installation was subsequently stopped within a few months due to erroneous billing issues and the lack of progress.
Additionally, the MSCC could not receive reimbursement from DMA to buy another system or hire another vendor to formulate the required software since it had already made full payment (which implied acceptance of the software system). Before long, it became apparent that Gramen did not possess the necessary expertise to maintain and support the hardware platform or solve problems regarding software implementation. In my opinion, MSCC could have avoided this predicament if upper management had initially chosen a qualified individual to manage its Information Systems.
Gramen failed to carefully assess the existing data resource and rushed to install a new system. He also overlooked the organization’s operations, and disregarded meaningful feedback from Lassiter, one of MSCC’s senior business leaders. Needless to say, the agreement with DMA ought to have been reviewed by someone who specializes in computer software contracts prior to signing. When Lassiter officially took over as President, he hired Sage Niele as financial officer and vice president of operations. This was a prudent maneuver by Lassiter given that he could no longer afford to leave Gramen in-charge of MSCC’s information systems.
Niele earned her MBA from Wharton School of Business, and had formerly performed systems management tasks for a large pharmaceutical company in the Midsouth area. She also managed her own information systems and financial consulting business. Niele began gathering information from the MSCC staff on the deficiencies of the computer system as well as the needs of the organization. At the same time, she sought support from the executive committee and key board members to determine the vision of the MSCC for the operational future.
This bottom-up and top-down approach was effective, and it flattened her learning curve about the MSCC and its current information systems. She also identified several RS/6000 compatible software packages that were worthy of further investigation, and sent only ‘billable’ payments to DMA. I believe Niele is off to a pretty good start. By analyzing the present information system and understanding the organization’s needs, she will eventually be able to develop a well-organized strategic plan that will put an end to MSCC’s long history of poor operational decisions.
In conclusion, Niele must consult other vendors for the development of the needed software seeing as the DMA software module will most likely never become operational. On the other hand, if this option is not viable and proves to be more costly in the long run, she must recommend the acquisition of a suitable up-to-date computer system, and ‘reengineer’ MSCC’s entire information system in order to improve efficiency. References: 1. Brown, C.
V. , DeHayes, D. W. , Hoffer, J. A. , Martin E. W. , & Perkins, W. C. (2009). Managing Information Technology (6th ed. ). (pp. 192-200). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. 2. Brown, J. (2002). Midsouth Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved from http://docs. google. com/viewer? a=v&q=cache:JUu8KurO1bcJ:www. obscure. org/~perky/uofr/fall2002/ISYS203U/MidSouth. pdf+midsouth+chamber+of+commerce&hl=en&gl=bh&sig=AHIEtbQeM3WcQZul-rFxO4h0x5-OQb7qtQ
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