Information can be managed in organisations so that it’s potential for improving business performance and enhancing the competitiveness of the organisation can be realised by looking into aspects of organisations information. Information in an organisation is power because it is the key to the effectiveness and efficiency of how well organisation collects information and manages the information. It is the link between the history of the company and the future as the information management policy of an organisation could be the back bone of the company. In this age where information is very much valued, there is the need for strong information management systems for companies, this should be jealously guarded and secured, managed to the benefit of the company and the structure f the company in line with the organisation’s line of business.
1. STRUCTURE OF SOFT AFRICA WEST (SAW)
Soft Africa West organisation was established twenty years ago as a family business by two sisters with its head office in the UK where both founders lived at the time the business was founded. The main operation of the business is managed in the UK which serves as the head office of the business and the bulk of the administrative duties are carried out in the UK office as well as the main development of products, marketing and bidding processes, order acquisitions and processing while in Africa the core of the business is done and these includes products sales, technical sales, product modifications and customisation, installations, training and support. SAW deals in software business as well as engages in developing accounting software for West African government agencies and departments. The business is a relatively small enterprise employing about 46 employees across two continents and a turnover of ï¿½10 million.
For most part of the operational life of the business, the management team of the business is mainly comprised of family members, the two co founders and one of other family member who happens to be a husband to one of the founders. The implication of having all the boards of the company as family members is that most often, meeting are more or less turned into an informal chats where the real business concerns are most often not talked about and trivial issues are allowed to dominate affairs. Especially when individuals concerned don’t get along with each other, business meetings may turn to a forum where personal grievances are discussed; this was evident in the history associated with the affairs of SAW.
It was documented that there were instances where voices are raised and one of the members insist on being addressed in a particular way which has no bearings on the affairs of the business in any way and other feeling they are no longer in control as they used to be in this instance – Kayla who used to be the managing director but now the technical director. There will always be the problem of trusts too as employees are naturally going to take side with members of the management team, their trust could be won or lost by very important company issues or trivial issues, this could mean each office running a different agenda and method of operation. Transferring an employee from one office or region to another could be counter productive in this kind of situation because of the difference in method operation of the different regional offices.
Five years ago, two mew recruits were employed to join the management team, a CEO (chief executive officer) with an Information Communication Technology (ICT) background and a CIO (chief information officer) to help modernise the company and bring the company to speed with the 21st century and using the latest ICT techniques and tools to maximise operational standards and strategy for the company. This implies that there is more freedom in the boardroom with two non family members on the board, there will be less family affairs being brought to the table and more can be achieved on board meetings.
2. ICT STRATEGY OF SAW
According to the documentation supplied, ICT is not widely used in the company, well rather an accident than design but the company main business is in the IT field as a vendor of accounting solutions. Suffix to say their solution will be installed and run on computers – not on papers. This justifies the urgent need for a move away from paper based office to an organisation that appreciates ICT. The major problem and main obstacle to this is the mentality of the operational director of the company – Doris – who does not appreciate computers and use of ICT methodology. She belongs to the old age where everything is done face to face with personal touch. This had resulted in the different offices of the company being an island on its own with autonomous systems that does not communicate with other offices of the company. This had generated a myriad of problems for the company, there is no ICT model in operation for the company, there is duplication of roles, and it takes time to process orders within country group and from country group to country groups, communication between the satellite offices and the head office in the UK is usually very difficult and often relies on telephone which is often very expensive, telephone services in some of the countries involved is often very erratic as well, meaning there are times when communication between offices by phone is not possible, this could be on for days or weeks depending on the time it takes to fix the problem which is out of the control of the company.
If there is an urgent need for a meeting to take place, which often is the case, several members of the management team had to travel and head in one direction or the other, several problem had been attributed to this method, flying long distance and its associated cost, lengthy staying away from home and family, disruptive to operations in the head office should all the management team need to be on the meeting. As it is there is no person that is in direct ownership of all the data (information) held by the company since each regional office is almost functioning in isolation, so employees in each of the offices could have their allegiance to different people in the management team depending on whom ever they should to give their allegiance to. The information management strategy of the company should be wholly owned by a named officer of the company who will be recognised as the head of the information management for the company, and this is the person that should be responsible for the information management strategy of the company.
After a meeting with all the directors, there is now an agreement that the company need to adopt an ICT method to standardize their processes and develop an ICT strategy for the company. The following are the concerns of the company after the all important meeting:
; What information does the organization need to manage?
; How and what resources would be needed to manage the information requirement?
; How does the company prioritize and develop information management strategy suitable for the 21st century
What information does the organization need to manage?
The company needs to transform all the data they have over the years into useful information for the benefit of the company and for the future operations of the company. The company needs to understand the transformation of data to information though the application of knowledge by selecting, organizing and manipulating their data. The information needed to be managed by the company should include their history of contracts, service level agreements, their customer information and database, all other information held in all their regional offices regarding past orders, future orders, previous customers, products history, product information, company profile, employee details, company financial structure, company management profile, mission and policy of the company. The company should endeavor to gather all related data associated with all the aforementioned groups of data, they should be standardized, every detail should be captured as much as possible, this should be done across all offices and be held ready for organization and manipulation into useful information matrix for the company.
The company need to share information between the regional offices. Tacit Knowledge is a type of knowledge only known by an individual but difficult to communicate within the organisation. Most organisations are not often aware of the knowledge they have and how valuable it is to that of its competitors but it is said to be valuable since it helps to provide analysis of the environment in which a business operates. For this type of knowledge to be transferred effectively, trust and contact is required. This type of knowledge has not been shared in SAW due to the habits and culture that has not been recognized in the team. Explicit Knowledge is a management tool that can be used for the manipulation of organizational knowledge. This type of knowledge assumes that the useful knowledge of individuals in an organization can be clearly developed. In regards to SAW, formal organizational processes can be used to play a central role in the information management by facilitating the dissemination of knowledge between the organizations. Time is money in every organization and for SAW to achieve is goal and make profit, this type of knowledge which is seen as a management tool will help save on the cost of frequent travelling for the directors because delegates can be given the responsibilities to encourage learning and the flourishing of interest across the organization.
Culture Knowledge is the collection of valves and norms that are shared in an organization and this control the way an organization interact both within and outside the company. SAW should view the organization as a family and not as what the business can achieve through individual but rather as a group.
How and what resources would be needed to manage the information requirement?
The company will need to switch from paper based operation to computer based operation to be able to manage their information effectively and efficiently across the different regions. Resources needed should include the following – Desktop computers, Servers, Internet access, Corporate Website, softwares and other hardwares e.g. fax machines, printers, photocopiers etc., and skilled labor in the area of information management.
; PCs – According to the documentation supplied, the company has no architectural platform, so the company should decide if it will go with windows applications or UNIX applications. This will inform the choice of Desktop computers to purchase. The numbers of units will depend on the number of offices that needs to have one installed, and the budget of the company on the acquisition of the hardware.
; Servers – A server is a computer program that provides services to other computer programs (and their users), in the same or other computer. The physical computer that runs a server program is also sometimes referred to as server. This could be purchased as a dedicated server to the company or leased from a service provider; this is where all the information held by the company will be stored. In this age of data and information security, the company might want to consider a secure server as well depending on the sensitivity of the data to be held on the server.
; Internet Access – the company should invest in the acquisition of broadband at the head office and should subscribe to localized services provider in other regional offices as available, this will facilitate the conveyance of information across board in the company.
; Corporate Website: the company should get a website which should be accessible and available at all times to all the offices and the general public. This will be managed like another office but one where all the information regarding the company can be obtained
How does the company prioritize and develop information management strategy suitable for the 21st century
SAW need to adopt a system that will allow each and all the different regions to connect to each other to avoid duplication, maintain managerial systems, adequate order documentation, adequate regional infrastructures as well as look for ways to communicate effectively especially with Sierra Leone. Doris’ feeling about what should be standardized should be taken seriously and priorities should be agreed on what is most important and least important by the company.
Based on the priorities agreed, the company should adopt an information strategy that will represent the company information management strategy and this should be strictly enforced. This also involves employing skilled people in the area of information management, this should not be solely left in the hands of the present director to manage, people with background in ICT should be brought on board to manage the system, other employees should be trained in the use of the new hardwares and softwares that will be purchased. Employees had to be trained to start leaning towards a paperless office, and the innovation should be entrenched in the daily operations of the company. more should be done to encourage employees to move towards a paperless office, supported by the techniques and the powerful hardwares that will be brought on board. In the case of Sierra Leone where power is not that stable, the company had to weigh the option of moving the office to another country in the region or investing in a power generator until the time the country could boast of constant power supply. Business in Sierra Leone can be managed by the office in Ghana or Nigeria, and these are even commutable distances should the need arise, all the office should be linked to each other at all times.
CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE
In the nearest future, there will be problems of communication breakdown from some of the offices due to some other circumstances that may not be present now, but largely due to non availability of constant stable power supply. Also, there is the tendency for employees to continue to use paper in their daily operations duel largely to non effective way of enforcing the strategy of the company to lean towards a paperless office.