Author's Note: The original professional report was written in the Spring of 2005. Applications suggested for use were suitable solutions in 2005 and may not represent the author's choice today. Applications suggested for use should be seen as examples an organization may use but not necessarily the application that should be chosen. For your organization, these implementation strategies should be discussed by the managers, IT staff, and users before considering full implementation.
So far the focus by the author has been on identifying the information system needs for meeting the requirements of the IT users. Weaknesses in the current information systems have been identified and the ideal information systems for the field offices are identified. With the characteristics of the actual and intended information systems known, improvements and implementation strategies can be recommended.
The recommendations in this report are seen as key actions necessary for improving the field office IT user support programs. In some cases, implementation strategies have been provided with the recommendations. These implementation strategies should be discussed by the managers, IT staff, and users before considering full implementation.
Recommendation 1: Adopt policies and formal procedures that review field office user requirements and business processes before significant changes are made to IT.
Discussion: As discussed in Chapter 2, a clear understanding of information systems and organization requirements is needed to adequately address user support needs. In the past, the Organization has not adequately identified the problems and requirements for IT user support programs. While informal procedures for system analysis are currently in practice at the field office, formal methodologies need to be in place to improve the user support programs. This recommendation to place a sharper focus on business processes is considered to be one of the top five necessary IT priorities for the year 2005 (Gomolski, 2005).
Recommendation 2: Adopt a Mission Statement and Service Level Agreement for the field office's user support program.
Discussion: A mission statement will allow the user support program to better identify its role and purpose in serving the organization and IT users. A service level agreement, while more popular when outsourcing IT user support, has also been shown to assist in the improvement of user support services internally in the organization. A recent study has shown advantages for organizations to adopt service level agreements between the IT staff and its users. As improvements are made to the IT user support program, users feel more satisfied with the program when treated as a customer of the IT department and not just an employee (CIO Research Report, 2001).
Recommendation 3: Provide the field office IT staff formal training in proper system analysis and utilization of user feedback to improve the user support programs.
Discussion: In view of the analysis presented in this report, it is clear that many IT managers in the field office can improve their skills further to perform good information system analysis. Skills in surveying the users and managers can be improved.
Recommendation 4: Regional directives should be modified so that the Field Office is not only encouraged, but required to establish a well defined change management system for IT.
Recommendation 5: Plan, design, and prototype the Approval Management System presented in Table 1 as a subsystem of the Ideal Field Office Change Management System.
Implementation strategy: Rapid application development techniques including prototyping methodologies should be utilized in the design of the Approval Management System. The use of open source software that is licensed to allow for modification of the source code should be considered. The user interface and applications for the Approval Management System should be intranet-based and accessible on the office intranet.
An example of how the implementation strategy could be executed is the phpwsProv module for the phpWebSite package. phpWebSite is a content management system application that can be used to manage content on the intranet servers. The phpwsProv module is designed to accept work-requests, assign the requests, and track provisioning of the work order (Figure 1). Both the module and the phpWebSite package are written using the open source Web programming language "php" and can run on either a Windows Web server or Linux Web server. Necessary modification to meet user support requirements for the field office can be made by the field office's IT staff.
Figure 1 Example of the phpwsProv User Interface from phpWebSite Manual
Recommendation 6: If the Approval Management System prototype is found to be successful, the field office managers should influence the Organization to either enhance or integrate the Organization Change Management System with the appropriate features found in the Field Office Approval Management System.
Recommendation 7: The field office should consider full implementation of the Field Office Approval Management System if the Organization's Change Management System cannot be modified to meet the needs of the field office. Comparison and total cost of ownership (TCO) studies between the locally developed prototype and commercially available software packages should be accomplished prior to considering full implementation of the prototype.
Recommendation 8: Plan and design a prototype of the Project and Task Management System presented in Table 1 as a subsystem of the Ideal Field Office Change Management System.
Implementation Strategy: Rapid application development techniques, including prototyping methodologies, should be utilized in the design of the Project and Task Management System. The use of open source software that is licensed to allow for modification of the source code should be considered. The user interface and applications for the Project and Task Management System should be intranet-based and accessible on the office intranet. The programming languages and system platforms should be similar to those adopted for the Approval Management System to address compatibility and support issues associated with the systems.
The two open source applications to consider as a basis for the prototype are Mantis and XPlanner. Both programs were designed originally to support software developers, not necessarily IT system administration and maintenance needs. However, both are open source applications and modification could be made to the program's source code to meet field office requirements. A benefit for using XPlanner (Figure 2) over Mantis is that it is a project planning and tracking tool for eXtreme Programming (XP). The XP programming methodology is used by some of the Organization's own programmers.
Figure 2 Example of the XPlanner User Interface from xplanner.org
Recommendation 9: If the Project and Task Management System prototype is found to be successful, the field office managers should influence the Organization to enhance and integrate the Organization Change Management System with the appropriate features found in the Field Office Approval Management System.
Discussion: Regional Headquarters made a similar request for changes in the Organization's Task Management System to meet Regional needs. The Organization, as of the writing of this report, has not yet responded to Region's request.
Recommendation 10: The field office should consider the full implementation of the Field Office Project and Task Management System if the Organization's Change Management System cannot be modified to meet the needs of the field office. Comparison and TCO studies between the locally developed prototype and commercially available software packages should be accomplished prior to considering full implementation of the prototype.
Recommendation 11: If both the Approval Management System and the Project and Task Management System are approved for implementation at the field office, work should be performed to better integrate the two information systems into a single Field Office Change Management System.
Recommendation 12: Analysis, design, and implementation of a Field Office Document Management System should follow the stages for developing the IT system presented in Table 3.
Implementation Strategy: A Field Office Document Management System prototype should be built with open source and "open license" applications to be used for the document management. Software development methodologies and software languages for the document management system should reflect those being used for the development of the Field Office Change Management System. Examples of open source projects that may fulfill the needs of the user support program include the Knowledge Tree Document Management System
(Figure 3) and the Document Manager module for the phpWebSite application. Both of these software applications are written in the php Web programming language, are database driven, and can run on either a Windows or Linux system.
Figure 3 Example of the KnowledgeTree DMS User Interface
Recommendation 13: Enhance the knowledge base and associated applications on the office intranet to address the shortcomings of the current Field Office Knowledge Management System (Table 5). The enhancements would include improving the user interface used to input knowledge into the knowledge base, introducing collaboration tools, and providing a consistent format for capturing and retrieving knowledge from the knowledge base.
Implementation Strategies: Currently office personnel wishing to contribute or modify pages or documents on the intranet server require technical skills in HTML and php. The Organization should consider the use of a Web content management system for building and maintaining a knowledge base. An example of a content management system for the intranet is the open source phpWebSite package (Figure 4) which has modules for building FAQs and Best Practices pages. For the purposes of a knowledge management system, the content management system would also have access to the document manage system so that information can be pulled from the documents into the knowledge base.
Figure 4 Example of the phpWebSite Administrative Interface
Bryan Ruby is the owner and editor for CMS Report. He founded CMSReport.com in 2006 on the belief that information technologists, website owners, and web developers desired visiting sites where they could learn about content management systems without the sales pitch. Besides this site, you can follow Bryan at Google+ and Twitter.