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MIS Mini-cases -- 1 of 30

Cases for Use in Management Information Systems

MIS Mini-cases -- 2 of 30

MIS Mini-cases -- 3 of 30 Case 01 --

Freeway Ford

You are a management consultant working for Franklin Absolom, the majority stockholder for a group of 10 automobile dealerships. He has asked you to spend several days at Freeway Ford, a dealership that is not performing up to its potential. You are not to go ―looking for trouble‖: instead, your assignment is to find ways to help management at the dealership take advantage of opportunities. One day while you are talking with James Kahler, the sales manager for Freeway Ford, you realize that the dealership only uses transaction processing systems—it is not realizing the full potential of the information it has gathered for managerial decision making. For example, Freeway Ford knows the purchase date and owner of every car it sells, but it never contacts owner about routine maintenance. Freeway Ford know that people who purchase a new car generally trade it in for another new car 3 to 4 years later, but the dealership does not contact these previous customers. Another opportunity comes from used car purchasing and sales. Every car has a vehicle identification number (VIN), and the dealership uses this number to check for known problems with a used car before it makes a purchase. A data bank of car insurance claims histories and major repairs is kept on a set of CDs that is sent to the dealership each month. At the dealership, the VIN is entered into a personal computer that accesses the CDs. However, the dealership buys 100 to 400 used cars a month from other locations. Sometimes the used car buyer is at an auction and does not have access to a computer. Sometimes the buyer is at an estate sale or other private sale. Currently, these are ―blind‖ sales in that they are made without reviewing current VIN information, because the buyer cannot get to a computer and use the CDs to check the car‘s history. You know that Freeway Ford collects data but the dealership is not processing the data to produce information. Also, the used car buyers‘ lack of access to the VIN database could be costing the dealership thousands of dollars each month. You decide that your report to Absolom and Kahler should highlight these two opportunities. 1. In a brief summary (no more than two paragraphs), explain the difference between data and information as it applies to the data collected by Freeway Ford when it sells a car. What data should be processed into information at Freeway Ford? 2. How can the used car buyers access the VIN information when the buyer is not at the Freeway Ford location? 3. How could you expand your suggestions to the entire enterprise of 10 dealerships?

MIS Mini-cases -- 4 of 30 Case 02 --

A Day Late, and Thousands of Dollars Short

You have been manager of Zymurgy Distributors for only three months. It is your first job out of college and a big break. One of the reasons you were hired was that you had worked as a student intern for Zymurgy for two years during the Wing Thing Fair. The Wing Thing was really a contest among restaurants, fast-food vendors, and people around town who think they have the best recipe for barbeque wings. You always thought that the name was stupid, but you couldn‘t ignore the 30,000 to 35,000 people who attended every year. Each year Zymurgy Distributors has the beer concession for the fair. The profits usually amount to about $2 per attendee. That‘s more profit in a weekend that your yearly salary plus bonus. You were in charge of deciding which beers to sell at the Wing Thing this year, and you were desperate to make the right decision. How much light beer versus regular beet? How much of premium and specialty beers? How many people beer stations should be located around the fair? Where should they be located? How many people should you hire to staff the beer stations? Lots of questions, and you were responsible for having the correct answers. But this year, things were bad. Thirty-nine thousand people attended, a new record. But the profits from beer sales were less than $50,000. You should have made almost $80,000 in profits. You knew you did badly, and the visit from your boss just made it worse. You wouldn‘t get fired, but there wouldn‘t be a bonus this year. Even worse, your boss wants to take the Wing Thing away from you next year. To keep the Wing Thing, you‘ll have to analyze what you did wrong, explain to your boss how you‘d fix the problem, and make a great plan for next year. You‘ve been thinking about what went wrong, and you have plenty of ideas. One thing was that you were unsure of yourself, and so you hired a marketing consultant to make recommendations. That report was mailed to you and arrived the Monday after the Wing Thing weekend. Several pieces of information were in the report. One prediction was that 10 percent of the people at the fair would bring a pet. That was interesting, but it didn‘t help redict beer sales. Age and gender have been two good predictors in the past. People ages 21 to 25 tend to purchase less-expensive beers. Those older than 25 tend to purchase more-expensive beers, which have a higher profit margin. Women tend to drink more light beer. Weather is also a predictor. The warmer the day, the more beet that will be sold. The weather forecast for the next two days has always been pretty accurate, so you could have used that information to predict beer sales. 1. Information should be timely, accurate, complete, and relevant. Discuss the information you received from the consultant in these terms. Be as specific as you can. Don‘t just say something was wrong, explain why it was wrong and what could have made it right. 2. Assume your boss lets you run Wing Thing beer sales next year. Also assume that you want to collect information during Wing Thing that will help predict beer sales for the following year. What information should you collect? How is the information timely, accurate, relevant, and complete?

MIS Mini-cases -- 5 of 30 Case 03 --

A Buck More

You, Jackie Goudet, are the leader of a team of three entrepreneurial students on your campus. You‘re an information systems major and working your way through school. Las year, where you were a junior, you assembled the team to form a company to buy back used books from students. The plan was simple, offer one dollar more for a used book that the campus bookstore would pay. You found that two points of exit from the campus accounted for almost 90 percent of all traffic by cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Lucky for you, there was a large parking lot at both points of exit. Students were lured to your site because it was so convenient as they left classes (or final exams) and because you offered a dollar more for used books. It was easy to make money. First, the campus bookstore didn‘t mind that you bought books from students; repurchasing used texts was a headache for the bookstore. Second, your costs were low because you didn‘t have to keep a store open all year and pay employees; you simply rented two trucks and parked one in each of the parking lots where students passed as they exited campus. Third, the student government association loaned you the money to buy back texts and you repaid the loan (without interest) when you sold the texts to the used text wholesaler. Because students considered your services a great convenience and because you offered better prices to students, the student government association was happy to help. Your book buy-back operations gave you insights into a new and possibly more profitable venture: one-stop shopping. Students sell their old books and buy the books need for the next semester at the same time. You‘re a senior this yar, and when you graduate you and your friends have a chance to turn a small-time operation into a substantial profit-making business. You ask your tow fellow entrepreneurs to come to a meeting where you will lay out your ideas. All Turning is the computer expert. He designed the Web pages and information systems that have supported the book-buying operations. He is an information systems major and is experienced with databases, programming, Web-based information systems and communications. Allen is a senior and will graduate with you. Nin Cerro, also a senior, is an operations management major. She knows about logistics and designing systems operations. She was crucial in lining up the text wholesalers, who purchased books from you, and she arranged favorable shipping terms to transport the texts to the wholesalers. Because transporting texts was major cost of the operation, her expertise was valuable. Notes of the meeting follow. Jackie: Hey, guys, I‘ve got a good idea but it‘s a little risky. We‘ve done pretty good with the book setup the last three years. We made over $20,000 profit each semester after we paid off everybody. Not bad for some part-time work. That‘s true, but there was a lot of work behind the scenes. I mean, we had to get all the programs running. The Web pages looked great but they took a long time to make them come out the way we wanted. And we got lucky that the student government let us run the pages of their Web site so we didn‘t have to pay somebody for hosting. And the cost of the laptops wasn‘t included , I mean, well, we used our own stuff and just plugged into the truck‘s lighter outlet for power to run the laptops. We had a bunch


MIS Mini-cases -- 6 of 30 of costs, they just were hidden. We just used our own computer stuff and we borrowed money and Web server space from the student government. Jackie: You‘re right, we didn‘t have to pay for all the stuff we used. But the students made a log more than $20,000; we bought back 35,000 to 40,000 books each semester. And student government didn‘t pay a penny, they were just using a computer that had been given to them. Before we helped them, they didn‘t even have their own Web page. So listen to my whole idea. We can form a real company and buy back books as our job. I mean, we‘ve all gotten pretty good offers to work in companies but don‘t we really want to work for ourselves? Be our own bosses? We can do this, we just need to expand. I figure that if we work enough campuses we can make a lot more money that if we work for a company. But we need to sell books, not just by them. And we need to really capitalize on convenience. The way I see it, we need to make a Web shopping cart like you see on a lot of Web sites. Allen, remember the Web hosting sites we saw on the internet. One of those could host the site for us. Allen: Nina: Yeah. We even made shopping cart applications in one of our classes. I get it, it‘s a kind of ―shop before you stop‖ idea. They tell us what books they are going to sell and what books they want to buy. When they drive by to sell their books, the books they want to purchase will be waiting to be picked up. Count me in!

1. Assume you would buy back approximately 35,000 books at each campus each semester and sell about the same number. Your profits have been a little more than 60 cents per book (excluding the costs talked about in the case), so assume you‘ll also make about 60 cents when you sell a book. How many books need to be bought or sold in order to make a $100,000 profit? 2. Determine how much it would cost to host your Web page. You will still have students just walk up to your truck, but you expect most students will use the Web site to tell you the books they want to sell and buy. 3. This is not a virtual store, and you don‘t have a digital product. Explain how renting trucks and using a Web page substantially decreases your costs of doning business and increases your profits.

MIS Mini-cases -- 7 of 30 Case 04 --

Less Painful Parking Tickets

You leave your apartment with plenty of time to arrive early for class. As you drive toward campus, you discover that a delivery truck has broken down and traffic is a mess. Now you are going to be late. Everybody at school seems to already be parked, and you can‘t find a parking space. Time is running out, and you don‘t want to be late to class. You find an open spot, but there is a sign that reads ―reserved for faculty.‖ You say to yourself, ―It‘s an open space and I might as well take it.‖ The good news is that you made it to class on time. The bad news is that when you return to your car it has a parking ticket. However, the university is having a contest to see who can design the best e-commerce solution for students to pay their parking fines. All of the contest winner‘s parking fines will be forgiven. You‘ve studied this problem in class. It is a classic B2C e-commerce problem. You know that the system will need information from the ticket, information from the person paying the fine, and a method for paying the fine. A Web pay hosted by the university can capture the information needed. You can make this work. 1. Determine what information from the ticket (such as ticket number) needs o be entered into the Web page. Determine what information from you needs to be entered—such as your student ID, vehicle license number, parking decal number, and other information. 2. Create a drawing of what the Web screen should look like for capturing the information about the ticket and about you. 3. How would you verify the accuracy of the information that you enter into the Web page? 4. How would you electronically pay for fine for the parking ticket?

MIS Mini-cases -- 8 of 30 Case 05 --

Cyber U

Most college campuses have computer labs for student use. These labs support course work, are located on campus, have various hours of operation, provide other elements of education. However, the large majority of students today have access to computers and networks off-campus and in dorms. The question becomes, what economic advantages could be realized if your campus applied virtual office concepts to student computing needs? You may wish to make a spreadsheet for the comparison so that you can document your estimates and also make changes to gauge the economic effect of changes to you estimates. Make sure you include at least the following economic factors: 1. 2. 3. 4. Cost of student purchasing a computer Cost of student purchasing a printer Cost of student gaining access to internet Cost of computer lab (multiplied by the numbers of labs the college supports) a. Computer hardware costs b. Computer software costs c. Cost of lab assistants d. Cost of printers, paper, and toner e. Cost of college support

Make one list for the costs in the current computing situation on your campus and a second for the costs based on the campus moving to virtual computing for students. In a virtual campuscomputing scenario, the number of computer labs and computers in those labs and hours of lab operations would be greatly reduced. Students would use their own computing resources to access the software and files needed for course work. The college might then reduce the cost of fees, especially technology fees. This exercise is simplistic, but it should stimulate you to consider if your college costs would actually be lowered if your college adopted more virtual office concepts.

MIS Mini-cases -- 9 of 30 Case 06 --

Confidential Reports

Your company, Fair Heights, is hired by other companies to perform background checks on executives. The executives are typically senior managers in a firm with the title of vice president or higher. Most of the checks are on executives who are being considered for a job, but sometimes you run background checks on current executives. The gathering of information is not the key service Fair Heights provides. Analysis of the information and the security recommendation are the services that make your company unique. During the last ten years of business, Fair Heights has always provided the report to its clients in person or in a written report delivered by a courier. There is a growing demand to make the recommendations accessible via the Internet. The reason is that many of the firms are multinational and assembling key executives to hear Fair Heights‘ report can be difficult and expensive to arrange. Making the arrangements can cause delays and the companies want this vital information delivered as quickly as possible. The move to Web-based reports is inevitable. It‘s your job to make a report for the planning committee that identifies and addresses key issues. 1. You want Fair Heights‘ reports to be confidential, available, and to have integrity. Explain how making reports Web-accessible will affect each of these. 2. List several external threats and internal threats to the security of Fair Heights‘ reports. Make sure you address both accidental and deliberate threats to security. 3. Make a brief risk management report (about three paragraphs) that identifies several risks and classify the impact of each.

MIS Mini-cases -- 10 of 30 Case 07 --

Water Equipment Technology Company of Mexico

Water Equipment Technology Company (WETCO) is a Chicago-based manufacturer of industrial wastewater treatment systems. It has subsidiary operations around the world, including in Mexico. Emilio Chavez, the president of WETCO Mexico, has recently decided to implement SPIR. WETCO Mexico has a large computing operation, but it has never had a strategic information plan. Chavez sent e-mail messages to the other members of the executive committee, advising them of his intentions and asking for the ideas. He has received replies from all three members of the committee—Benito Flores, the vice president of manufacturing and sales; Juan Alvarez, the vice president of finance; and Betty Wilson, the vice president of information systems. President Chavez read the e-mail replies: From Benito: I have given the subject of SPIR a great deal of thought since we discussed it in the least executive committee meeting. I would like to see manufacturing and sale develop our own strategic plan independently of the rest of the organization—including IS. We have a large amount of computing equipment that we use for owr own applications and we are in the best position to know how to use it. There‘s no reason why another area should tell us how to use our information systems. Let Betty and Juan do the same thing— develop their own strategic plans as they see fit. From Juan: Thanks for the opportunity to voice my views. I think that all three vice presidents should work together in developing a single strategic plan. We have a good working relationship and cooperate on many other activities. There is no reason why a joint approach to SPIR would not work. From Betty: IS should prepare the strategic information resource plan for all of WETCO Mexico. Juan and Benito have enough responsibility in their own areas, so that they should not be asked to devote their valuable time to IS problems. Give IS the total strategic planning responsibility. After Chavez has read all three replies, he leans back in his chair and says, ―Our next executive committee meeting should really be exciting.‖

1. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of each of the three approaches given by the vice president. 2. Which approach should WETCO Mexico and why? 3. How should the strategic plan for information systems at WETCO Mexico relate to other WETCO subsidiaries?

MIS Mini-cases -- 11 of 30 Case 08 --

Saint James Hospital

You have just been hired as the new administrator of Saint James Hospital. A hospital administrator has the same responsibilities as a company president. As you take time to get your feet on the ground, you go through the files that were maintained by your predecessor. One of the files is labeled ―MIS Committee.‖ You are aware of the committee and the hospital‘s plan to upgrade the computer applications from the transaction processing to include information systems for the business areas. The development activity was to have begun last week. You open the folder and shuffle through the papers, just to get an idea of the contents. You notice a letter from Ron Harper, the CIO. It is a description of steps that information services plans to take as a part of the new system activity. Information services would like to develop the new systems free from any initial constraints. By doing so, we will have a better chance of designing the systems that are best for SJH. If, after development, the MIS committee wishes to scale down the systems in any manner, that activity can be accomplished. We believe that we should proceed with systems development and accomplish everything up through program testing before involving the MIS committee. Such a prototyping approach best conserves the valuable time of the committee members and provides the committee with an example of how the new system will function. All of the project control will be performed by information services. We have obtained a project management package from the Web and are presently creating a network diagram. Information services will coordinate the analysis and design with the various departments. The systems analysts will explain the study to the department heads, and if the analysts request my help, I will gladly give it. According to our preliminary calculations, it will take about 5 months to develop the prototype information systems. One reason for the short time period is the approach that we will use to identify the managers‘ and physician needs. Out systems people have designed a questionnaire that will be mailed to each potential user. We are quite pleased with the questionnaire and anticipate that it will be more effective than time-consuming interviews, which the physicians especially dislike. I will keep the MIS committee informed of our progress, and when we approach the completion data we can schedule a presentation. If we encounter any problems that we cannot handle, we will call them to the attention of the committee and ask for assistance. 1. You are aware of the three main functions that an MIS steering committee performs. If Ron excludes the committee from the initial portion of the development, will it be able to discharge those functions? 2. If it cannot perform its functions, what are the likely consequences? 3. Ron states that prototyping will be used. Does it sound like that was a wise choice?

MIS Mini-cases -- 12 of 30 Case 09 --

Great Lakes Boat and Marine

Your career is progressing nicely—three successful years in the management services division of a large accounting firm. Your performance as a computer consultant was so outstanding that you got a job offer from one of your clients—Great Lakes Boat and Marine. You had managed the information technology upgrade and deployment so well that Sue Rankin, the president, offered you the position of CIO. The previous CIO decided to retire after the IT upgrade project was completed. Sue told you that the next step was to reengineer the MIS so that it consisted of a strong set of information systems for the business areas. She wants the synergy that occurs when all areas work together. During your first day on the job, you meet with Rankin to learn more about her expectations. She tells you that she has formed an MIS committee consisting of Ric Guenther (vice president of manufacturing), Don Lehnert (vice president of marketing), Ling Huang (vice president of finance), and you. Rankin wants you to get to know each member and then make arrangements for the first planning meeting. You already know Huang, having worked with her on the IT project. You know that she is extremely computer literate and anxious to expand the scope of the computer applications. You have met Guenther and Lehnert, but you don‘t know them very well. As you leave Rankin‘s office, you ask, ―Aren‘t you going to be on the MIS committee?‖ ―No,‖ Rankin replies, ―I‘m too busy planning our entry into the New England market. I just don‘t have time.‖ Smiling, she says, ―That‘s why I hired you,‖ and then she waves you on your way. Your first stop is Guenther‘s office. You find him extremely likeable—a warm handshake, boundless energy, contagious optimism, and a great sense of humor. You spend two hours in his office, learning about him and his area and talking about computers. Guenther wants to get started immediately. ―We‘ve just been waiting for someone like you,‖ he says. ―We‘ve known about MIS and how it can help us in manufacturing but haven‘t had anyone to get things moving. I want data collection terminals in every work area. I need good data to establish production standards. I want all manufacturing managers to become expert in MIS. I‘m willing to give them time off from work to take MIS courses at Great Lakes State, just down the road. I‘ve seen what a good MIS can do in manufacturing and I can‘t wait to get started.‖ Neither can you. You are so excited after talking to Guenther that you almost run down the hall to Lehnert‘s office. When his secretary ushers you into his office and his greeting is ―Well, what do you want?‖ you expect that you might be in for some rough sailing. You introduce yourself and explain Rankin‘s charge of developing an information system for marketing, which you describe as an MKIS. You feel uncomfortable when Lehnert nervously jingles coins in his pocket as you talk. When you pause to catch your breath, he says, ―Listen, I don‘t have time to get involved with Sue‘s project. We‘re planning on expanding into New England, and I have to find eight new distributors. If I can‘t get my marketing job done, there won‘t ban any company to put an MKIS in. Now I have to go. What don‘t you talk with my manager of marketing administration, John Herndon. The MIS would really be in John‘s area. He‘ll get you fixed up. Just a minute and I‘ll have my secretary take you to his office. I‘ve appreciated meeting you, and I wish you all the luck in the world. I‘m sure you will give us a good MKIS.‖ 1. Do we have a problem here? If so, what is it? 2. What is this synergy that Sue talks about? What will be the effect if marketing does not cooperate with the finance and manufacturing areas? 3. Assume that Rankin remains strongly committed to information systems for each business area. What would you suggest to her as a strategy for ensuring that she gets her wish? Give some thought to the MIS steering committee: who would be the best person to be the chair?

MIS Mini-cases -- 13 of 30 Case 10 --

Heritage Homes

More and more young couples are buying older homes and remodeling them as a way of avoiding the high costs of building. In the Wilmington, Delaware, area, about a half-dozen construction firms specialize in remodeling. One is Heritage Homes, owned by Alvin and James Bradberry. The Bradberrys have received a disproportionately large share of the remodeling business because of their ability to come in with lower bids than other firms. When contractors receive invitations to bid, they meet with the owners to inspect the house. To make accurate bids, the contractors must be able to visualize from the owners‘ descriptions and their own observations the work that will be required and then estimate the cost. Because the contractors know they invariably will encounter some unanticipated difficulties one work begins, they add a cushion to their bids. The Bradberrys know their business so well that they do not add much of a cushion. That has been the key to their success. One rainy morning, when the Bradberrys can‘t work outdoors, they are in the office talking about their computer-based proposal preparation system. Alvin has written some programs that computer certain materials costs, and James has developed a word processing file used in preparing written documents. Alvin: What do you think about using an expert system to do our bidding? I‘ve been doing some reading and that seems to be the coming thing. I doubt if any other contractors have such a system and it might help us keep our competitive edge. James: I read the same article that you did but I‘m not convinced that those systems are as good as they‘re made out to be. For one thing, you need an expert. Who would that be? Alvin: Us. We‘re the experts. We know this business better than anybody else. We hit every gid right on the nose. All we have to do is get our knowledge inside the computer—and watch our smoke! James: I‘m not sure I could describe what goes through my head as I work up the bid. It just comes naturally. Alvin: Oh, I think if you stick with anything long enough, you can do it. I wrote those materials cost programs with no sweat. James: But you don‘t have time for a lot of programming. There are more important things for you to do. Alvin: I could do it in my spare time. We‘re in no big hurry. James: Well, it would be nice if we didn‘t have to spend so much time on the bids. If we could do it faster, we could do more bidding and get more jobs. I‘m convinced that there is an unlimited supply of remodeling jobs in Wilmington, and we‘ve always talked about branching out to other cities. Alvin: Exactly. Maybe over the next few months, we could keep notes as we work up the bids—you know, write down what‘s going through our minds. James: That‘s not a bad idea. We always carry a clipboard with us when we check out a house. We could just be more detailed in our note taking. Alvin: After we accumulate a good set of notes, we might work up a form that we could fill out for each job—enter all the data, such as number of rooms, room size, condition of the wiring, plumbing, and so on. Then it would be a simple matter of entering the data from the form into the expert system. James: Sounds good. Say, it‘s stopped raining. Let‘s get to work. We can daydream some other time. 1. 2. 3. 4. Does this sound like a good expert system application? Do you think at Alvin and James qualify as experts? Why or why not? Should they develop the system themselves or let someone else do it? Assuming that an expert system is produced, how could Alvin and James benefit?

MIS Mini-cases -- 14 of 30 Case 11 --

Special Salmon

You are the CIO of special Salmon, one of the largest providers of fish to restaurant chains in North America. The information systems division is located in Miami at the company headquarters. Special Salmon occupies five separate office buildings in an industrial park; each building houses between 75 and 125 employees. Three seafood-processing plants are located in Georgia, Texas, and Virginia. Special Salmon has a fleet of over 200 fishing boats that fish the Atlantic and Gulf coast of the United States. Because competition is keen, it goes without saying that you have to know where the fish are located at any given time. You also have to know the types of fish that are processed and where they will be sold. Getting orders from you restaurant customers requires some negotiation. Each restaurant requires certain amounts of specific items, but about half of their orders are based on what fresh seafood is available and its price. This is a true supply-and-demand business: demand and supply levels change daily as seafood is caught and sold. The product is perishable, so it needs to be sold quickly. At eh same time, restaurants want what is fresh, and that means they must buy what is available. Special Salmon has used proprietary communications with its customers for years. Dedicated phone lines, sometimes called private lines, were used, and they provided secure communications. But the cost was high. Now you are investigating the use of extranets to communicate with your customers. You customers will gain access to your inventory information systems via the Internet to learn what seafood items you have, the inventory in warehouses (as well as when the seafood was caught), and the amounts of seafood due to arrive at the ate the warehouses within the next 24, 48, and 72 hours. Prices for seafood are also provided, but these are determined by the amount of each type of fish purchased and the total dollar amount of the purchase, coupled with recent purchases that lead to volume discounts. You have already convinced the president and board of Special Salmon to switch from dedicated phone lines to an extranet. Now you need to make a plan to implement the extranet. Make the following assumptions:  The microcomputers in each office building and each seafood processing plant are connected via a LAN.  Each office building and each seafood processing plan will connect to the Internet via cable modem. 1. What are the benfits of using an extranet instead of dedicated/private phone lines in this situation? 2. What data communication speeds do you expect from the LANs and from the cable modems? Will this speed be sufficient for your business needs? 3. How do you expect your customers, the restaurants, to react to the change to extranets?

MIS Mini-cases -- 15 of 30 Case 12 --

National Foods

National Foods is a leading manufacturer of food products, competing with such firms as General Mills and General Foods. Each of the firm‘s sales representatives is equipped with a notebook computer with wireless capabilities. At the end of the day, the sales representatives transmit sales data to headquarters. The data identify the number of units of each product that were sold, plus status reports on special promotions such as cooperative ads, coupons, and contests. It‘s Friday afternoon before Memorial Day and Dan Kennerly, the CIO, is on his way out of his office when the telephone rings. It‘s Fred Ennen, the vice president of marketing. Fred congratulates Dan on the new sales tracking system that has just been installed. The system uses the notebook data that the sales reps transmit. Fred raves on and on about it for about five minutes and then asks, ―Why don‘t we install a sales tracking system that will track competitors‘ sales? We could limit it to only selected items at first, such as dog food where the number of competing brands is not large. I‘d like to know about a competitor‘s plans to put a new brand on the market before it actually hits. Then I‘d like to track the sales during the product life cycle. When the sales start to decline we can predict a new product announcement. Doesn‘t that sound like a good idea?‖ Dan replies ―It sure does, but I have a question. Just exactly where will we get the information? It seems to me like it would be hard to come by.‖ ―Not really,‖ Fred responds. ―We get it from the store managers. We pay them a certain amount each month. The money is no problem. I‘ve got enough in my budget. The managers as the competitors‘ sales reps questions and then pass the information along to our reps. Our reps can transmit it to headquarters with their notebooks. Anything wrong with that?‖ ―I don‘t know, Fred. This is all hitting me at a bad time. I‘m taking Alice and the kids to the lake this weekend, and I‘m supposed to be home 10 minutes ago. Let me think this over and get back to you on Tuesday.‖ With that, Dan leaves his office. 1. Assuming that the sales tracking system is implemented as described by Fred, what are some problems that may be encountered in maintaining a continuous flow of information? 2. Comment on Fred‘s system from the standpoint of ethics, morals, and laws. Does it violate any of these guides? 3. If there is a violation, could the system be designed to gather data in another way? If so, explain.

MIS Mini-cases -- 16 of 30 Case 13 --

Databases v. Spreadsheets

I‘m not buying all this stuff about databases. I‘ve tried them and they‘re a pain—way too complicated to set up, and most of the time, a spreadsheet works just as well. We had one project at the car dealership that seemed pretty simple to me: We wanted to keep track of customers and the models of used cars they were interested in. The, when we got a car on the lot, we could query the database to see who wanted a car of that type and generate a letter to them. ―It took forever to build that system, and it never did work right. We hired three different consultants, and the last one finally did get it to work. But it was complicated to produce the letters. You had to query the data in Access to generate some kind of file, then open Word, then go through some mumbo jumbo using mail/merge to cause Word to find the letter and put all the Access data in the right spot. I once printed over two hundred letters and had the name in the address spot and the address in the name spot and no date. And it took me over an hour to do even that. I just wanted to do the query and push a button to get my letters generated. I gave up. Some of the salespeople are still trying to use it, but not me.‖ ―No, unless you are General Motors or Toyota, I wouldn‘t mess with a database. You have to have professional IS people to create it and keep it running. Besides, I don‘t really want to share my data with anyone. I work pretty hard to develop my client list. Why would I want to give it away?‖ ―My motto is, ‗Keep it simple.‘ I use an Excel spreadsheet with four columns: Name, Phone Number, Car Interests, and Notes. When I get a new customer, I enter the name and phone number, and then I put the make and model of cars they like in the Car Interest column. Anything else that I think is important I put in the Notes column—extra phone numbers, address data if I have it, email addresses, spouse names, last time I called them, etc. The system isn‘t fancy, but it works fine.‖ ―When I want to find something, I use Excel‘s Data Filter. I can usually get what I need. Of course, I still can‘t send form letters, but it really doesn‘t matter, I get most of my sales using the phone, anyway.‖ 1. To what extent, do you agree with the opinions presented here? To what extent are the concerns expressed here justified? To what extent might they be due to other factors? 2. What problems do you see with the way that the car salesperson stores address data? What will he have to do if he ever does want to send a letter or an email to all of his customers? 3. From his comments, how many different themes are there in his data? What does this imply about his ability to keep his data in a spreadsheet? 4. Does the concern about not sharing data relate to whether or not he uses a database? 5. Apparently, management at the car dealership allows the salespeople to keep their contact data in whatever format they want? If you were management, how would you justify this policy? What disadvantages are there to this policy? 6. Suppose you manage the sales representatives, and you decide to require all of them to use a database to keep track of customers and customer car interest data. How would you sell your decision to this salesperson? 7. Given the limited information in this case, do you think a database or a spreadsheet is a better solution?

MIS Mini-cases -- 17 of 30 Case 14 --

Data Mining

I‘m not really a contrarian about data mining. I believe in it. After all, it‘s my career. But data mining in the real world is a lot different from the way it‘s described in textbooks. ―There are many reasons it‘s different. One is that the data are always dirty, with missing values, values way out of range of possibility and time values that make no sense. Here‘s an example: Somebody sets the server system clock incorrectly and runs the server for a while with the wrong time. When they notice the mistake, they set the clock to the correct time. But all of the transactions that were running during that interval have an ending time before the starting time. When we run the data analysis and compute elapsed time, the results are negative for those transactions. ―Missing values are a similar problem. Consider the records of just 10 purchases. Suppose that two of the records are missing the customer number and one is missing the year part of the transaction date. So you throw out three records, which is 30 percent of the data. You then notice that two more records have dirty data, and so you throw them out, too. Now you‘ve lost half your data. ―Another problem is that you know the least when you start the study. So you work for a few months and learn that if you had another variable; say the customer‘s Zip code, or age, or something else, you could do a much better analysis. But those other data just aren‘t available. Or, maybe they are available, but to get the data you have to reprocess millions of transactions, and you don‘t have the time or budget to do that. ―When you start a data mining project, you never know how it will turn out. I worked on one project for 6 months, and when we finished, I didn‘t think our model was any good. We had too many problems with data: wrong, dirty, and missing. There was no way we could know ahead to time that it would happen, but it did. ―However, I‘m only talking about my bad experiences. Some of my projects have been excellent. On many, we found interesting and important patters and information, and a few times, I‘ve created very accurate predictive models. It‘s not easy, though, and you have to be very careful. Also, lucky!‖ 1. Summarize the concerns expressed by the speaker. 2. Do you think the concerns voiced here are sufficient to avoid data mining altogether? 3. Comment on data mining and the three objectives of information security; confidentiality, availability, and integrity.

MIS Mini-cases -- 18 of 30 Case 15 --


Accenture is a global management consulting technology service, and outsourcing company, with over 129,000 employees in 48 countries. It specializes in helping businesses and governments improve their performance. Its information systems and business processes are designed so that consultants can work from virtually any location. Accenture has no operational headquarters and no formal branches. Its chief financial officer lives in Silicon Valley, California, while the head of human resources is based in Chicago and its chief technology officer is based in Germany. Accenture‘s thousands of management and technology consultants are constantly on the move, on site with clients or working temporarily in offices that the company leases in more than 100 locations around the world. When a new consultant is hired, Accenture‘s system automatically sets up an e-mail account and instructions on where to pick up a laptop. Managers rely heavily on telephone and e-mail to keep up with their staff, and many of them are constantly in motion. Every day, Accenture employees log on to the company‘s internal Web site, which they can access from anywhere in the world. They use this system to record where they are working, and to access e-mail, phone messages, and their files. The system enables them to share documents and other data with Accenture colleagues and to conduct videoconferences when more face-toface interaction is needed. If a consultant or manager is about to travel to London, Chicago, of Beijing, her or she uses the system to find a cubicle with a desk in that location. Clients who call a manager whose home base is Los Angeles are automatically routed to his or her current working location, even if it is several time zones away. To print a document, a person uses the Accenture internal Web site to click on the country where he or she is currently working. This action brings up a list of offices. After selecting an office, the employee selects a floor, which brings up a floor plan of the building and displays all of the available printers. When the employee clicks on printer, it automatically prints the employee‘s documents. Employees can‘t pop into co-workers officers for informal meetings. Participants in a specific project may be working from many different locations and time zones around the world, so scheduling phone conferences may require a few to give up some sleep. For global phone conferences, the best time appears to be around 1 P.M. London time, which is 9 P.M. in Beijing, midnight in Australia, and 5 A.M. in California. For executives who are constantly on the go, jet lag adds to the problem. Accenture outsources about 82 percent of the information technology it uses. It hires other companies to manage its network, computer centers, and help desk, as well as technologies used at specific locations. External vendors provide the support for Accenture‘s PCs and conference call technology. Accenture also outsources other parts of its business, such as the management of employee travel. Its travel vendors are able to track employee movements. When a major client in Copenhagen asked to see Accenture‘s chief operating officer Steve Rohleder in person, Accenture was able to locate Rohleder just as his plane was landing in Nice, France, en route from New York to India. Rohleder was able to change planes and head directly to Copenhagen.

MIS Mini-cases -- 19 of 30 Some problems, however, require Accenture managers and clients to ―be there in person.‖ When London-based Adrian Lajtha, who heads Accenture‘s financial services group, learned that a project team in the United States felt bogged down, he made an impromptu visit to their work site and staged a three-hour meeting. Personal contact is especially useful when sensitive personnel matters must be addressed or when employees need extra motivation and encouragement during hard times. That means more travel and conferences around the clock for Accenture virtual executives. During the last economic slowdown, for example, Lajtha held 280 meetings in 18 months with groups of the 12,000 employees he oversees. Despite these challenges, Accenture believes virtual management works. The company doesn‘t have to maintain overhead costs for large headquarters, which it believes would amount to much more than its extensive travel expenses. Managers see many benefits to spending time in the field where clients are located. Manages meeting with lower-level employees who work with the clients obtain information that would not be available if they remain at headquarters. And their presence helps cement client relationships. Almost 85 percent of Accenture‘s one hundred largest accounts have been its clients for 10 years or more. Sources: Carol Hymowitz, ―Have Advice, Will Travel,‖ Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2006; Rachel Rosmarin, ―Accenture CIO Frank Modruson,‖ Forbes, June 2, 2006; and, accessed June 15, 2006. 1. What are the advantages of working in a virtual environment like the one created by Accenture? What are the disadvantages? 2. Would you like to work in a company like Accenture? Why or why not? Explain your answer. 3. What kinds of companies would benefit from being run virtually like Accenture? Could all companies be run virtually like Accenture?

MIS Mini-cases -- 20 of 30

Case 16 --

Databases, Privacy, Security

Want a list of 3,877 charity donors in Detroit? You can buy it from USAData for $465.24. Through USAData‘s Web site, which is linked to large databases maintained by Acxion and Dun & Bradstreet, anyone with a credit card can buy marketing lists of consumers broken down by location, demographics, and interests. The College Board sells data on graduating high school seniors to 1,700 colleges and universities for 28 cents per student. These businesses are entirely legal. Also selling data are businesses that obtain credit card and cell phone records illegally and sell to private investigators and law enforcement. The buying and selling of personal data has become a multibillion dollar business that‘s growing by leaps and bounds. Unlike banks or companies selling credit reports, these private data brokers are largely unregulated. There has been little or no federal or state oversight over how they collect, maintain, and sell their data. But they have been allowed to flourish because there is such a huge market for personal information and they provide useful services for insurance companies, banks, employers, and federal, state, and local government agencies. For example, the Internal Revenue Service and Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State paid data brokers $30 million in 2005 for data used in law enforcement and counterterrorism. The Internal Revenue Service signed a five-year $200 million deal to access ChoicePoint‘s databases to locate assets of delinquent taxpayers. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, ChoicePoint helped the U.S. government screen candidates for the new federally controlled airport security workforce. ChoicePoint is one of the largest data brokers, with more than 5,000 employees serving businesses of all sizes as well as federal, state, and local governments. In 2004, ChoicePoint performed more that seven million background checks. It processes thousands of credit card transactions every second. ChoicePoint built its vast repository of personal data through an extensive network of contractors who gather bits of information from public filings, financial-service firms, phone directories, and loan application forms. The contractors use police departments, school districts, the department of motor vehicles, and local courts to fill their caches. All of the information is public and legal. ChoicePoint possesses 19 billion records containing personal information on the vast majority of American adult consumers. According to Daniel J. Solove, associate professor of law at George Washington University, the company has collected information on nearly every adult American and ―these are dossiers that J. Edgar Hoover would be envious of.‖ The downside to the massive databases maintained by ChoicePoint and other data brokers is the threat they pose to personal privacy and social well being. The quality of the data they maintain can be unreliable, causing people to lose their jobs and their savings. In one case, Boston Market fired an employee after receiving a background check from ChoicePoint that showed felony convictions. However, the report had been wrong. In another, a retired GE assembly-line worker was charged a higher insurance premium because another person‘s driving record, with multiple accidents, had been added to his ChoicePoint file.

MIS Mini-cases -- 21 of 30 ChoicePoint came under fire in early 2005 for selling information on 145,000 customers to criminals posing as legitimate businesses. The criminals then used the identities of some of individuals on whom ChoicePoint maintained data to open fraudulent credit card accounts. Since then ChoicePoint curtailed the sale of products that contain sensitive data, such as social security and driver‘s license ID numbers, and limited access by small businesses, including private investigators, collection agencies, and non-bank financial institutions. ChoicePoint also implemented more stringent processes to verify customer authenticity. Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., believes that the ChoicePoint case is a clear demonstration that self-regulation does not work in the information business and that more comprehensive laws are needed. California, 22 other states, and New York City have passed laws requiring companies to inform customers when their personal data files have been compromised. More than a dozen data security bills were introduced in Congress in 2006 and some type of federal data security and privacy legislation will likely result. Privacy advocates are hoping for a broad federal law with a uniform set of standards for privacy protection practices. Sources: Rick Whiting, ―Who‘s Buying and Selling Your Data? Everybody‖ Information Week, July 10, 2006; Christopher Wolf, ―Dazed and Confused: Data Law Disarray‖ Business Week, June 8, 2006; Evan Perez and Rick Brooks, ―For Big Vendor of Personal Data, A Theft Lays Bard the Downside‖ The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2005; and ―ChoicePoint Toughens Data Security‖ CNN/Money, July 5, 2005. 1. Do data brokers pose an ethical dilemma? Explain your answer. 2. What are the problems caused by the proliferation of data brokers? What management, organization, and technology factors are responsible for these problems? 3. How effective are existing solution to those problems? 4. Should the U.S. federal government regulate private data brokers? Why or why not?

MIS Mini-cases -- 22 of 30 Case 17 --

Microsoft and the Future

Microsoft, whose fortune has been built around a computer operating system, is gaining influence on how things get done in hospital operating rooms by hiring doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals in an effort to establish internal expertise about the medical industry‘s IT needs. Microsoft has customized sales and support teams for industry segments in the past. But it wasn‘t until five years ago that the company really began to divvy up its customer base, forming teams for financial services, communications, and government and education, followed more recently by those for automotive, retail and hospitality, health care, manufacturing, and the media. Now Microsoft is expanding the number of industries it targets, injecting industry-specific codes directly into its core software platforms and hiring business technology professionals steeped in the sectors at which it‘s aiming. CEO Steve Ballmer describes a two-pronged strategy of selling customizable applications directly to small and medium-sized companies via Microsoft‘s Business Solutions division, while serving larger companies through partnerships with other technology companies. In both cases, Microsoft engages its wide network of independent software vendors to build apps that run on top of its own software stack. ―At the end of the day, we don‘t provide the vertical capabilities,‖ Ballmer says. But that‘s changing. Microsoft engineers are creating software add-ons, called accelerators, aimed at business processes common to companies in a given industry. And Microsoft Business Solutions has begun inserting what it calls ―industry-enabling layers‖—software that serves the needs of a broad base of companies in a particular sector—into its enterprise applications. Microsoft is far from the only software company with a vertical strategy. Yet Microsoft has a major edge in extending its strategy: Call it Microsoft‘s Foot in the Door advantage. When Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., a 90-year-old maker of aftermarket tires, set out 18 months ago to create a product-life-cycle management system for designing and building new products, it assessed software from PLM specialists, custom software, and Microsoft. Cooper Tire chose a Microsoft approach, using the company‘s SharePoint portal software, Project project-management application, and Visio diagramming program. It was a pragmatic decision: Cooper Tire‘s license agreement with Microsoft already covered the products needed, so the tire company faced development costs but no added application expense. The other approaches would have cost at least $1.5 million, and Cooper did it for less than half that. But what does Microsoft know about tire manufacturing? ―That‘s what we were wondering, too,‖ says Todd Wilson, project manager of technical systems in Cooper‘s tire division. Microsoft brought in a systems integrator—Avanade, a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture—and bore some of the cost. ―The people they‘ve brought in have been experienced manufacturing people. We haven‘t had to teach them,‖ Wilson says. Microsoft and Avanade spent three months developing a prototype to prove its tools could meet Cooper‘s needs.

MIS Mini-cases -- 23 of 30 The resulting system helps the company get new tire designs to market in about nine months, half of what it used to take. That scored points with management because speed to market is key to Cooper‘s strategy of developing high-performance and racing tires to compete with Chinese tire companies. ―We were a fast follower. We want to be more of a leader,‖ Wilson says. Another industry in which Microsoft has well-established customers is retail—it estimates 70 percent of the computing infrastructure in stores runs on Microsoft software. Yet the company is depending on creative thinking to convince retailers to use its software in more, and more strategic, ways. Microsoft is moving quickly, expanding industry-specific sales and support teams, developing application accelerators and industry-enabling layers, and seeking more partnerships with vendors that have deep industry roots. The big question for Microsoft is whether customers‘ familiarity breeds comfort—or contempt. Source: Adapted from John Foley, ―Strategy Shift: Microsoft Is Looking at How Companies Do Business—and Writing Software Products to Support Those Processes,‖ InformationWeek, May 31, 2004. 1. How successful will Microsoft be in competing with software vendors who specialize in vertical market applications like health care, retail, and other specialty services? Why? 2. Do you agree with Microsoft‘s strategy to develop industry-specific partners to capitalize on opportunities in both large and small business sectors? Is there an advantage or a disadvantage to being one of Microsoft‘s partners in this type of relationship? Explain.

MIS Mini-cases -- 24 of 30 Case 18 --

Amazon’s Technology Inc. remains as protective as ever of the Web services technology that powers its website. ―We don‘t go into detail about what our underlying infrastructure looks like,‖ says chief technology officer Al Vermeulen. At the same time, though, Amazon is throwing open its site to outside programmers, providing access to databases and features that have taken years and something approaching $1 billion to develop over nearly a decade. Why secretive one minute but open the next? Amazon has figured out that all that bottled-up intellectual property becomes even more valuable once outsiders get their hands on it. In mid2003, Amazon took its first step to create a ―programmable website‖ when it launched Amazon Web Services 1.0, a set of APIs that provide third-party programmers and fellow retailers with access to some of its data and basic website functionality. The idea has proved such a hit that more than 50,000 programmers have signed up. In 3Q 2004, Amazon introduced Amazon Web Services 4.0, which opened its data fields even more. In 2003, eBay took a small, invitation-only developer program that had been operating since 2000 and opened it to the public, making the API to its e-commerce software available for downloading and supplying a software development kit for it that works with popular developer tools from Borland, Microsoft, and companies that build tools based on the Java programming language. Today, over 8,000 companies or individuals have become members of the development program, and over 600 applications built by independent developers use eBay‘s servers. Amazon and eBay, in turning themselves into software development hubs, are once again expanding the possibilities—and increasing the pressure—for any company that wants to be a center of e-commerce. As Amazon and eBay popularize the use of programmable websites, other e-businesses might find they, too, want to open their websites up to a community of developers—be they independents, or programmers from customers or business partners who want to add their own innovations to a site. ―There‘s no reason we can‘t have thousands of developer communities for thousands of different websites, even on a small scale,‖ says Jeff Barr, Amazon‘s technical program manager. Oddcast Inc. is typical of the kind of company that‘s helping to make eBay a hub of development. The five-yearold software company develops interactive characters that talk to would-be customers and act as website guides for clients such as Coca-Cola, Intel, and McDonald‘s. Using a recording mechanism or text-to-speech software, an eBay retailer can have an avatar pitch to customers about what promotions are available. ―Never in a million years would this have been developed by eBay for its customers,‖ Oddcast CTO Gil Sideman says. So far, a few dozen companies have signed up for the service. Ebay needs to open its environment to outside developers because the company can‘t spot all the market niches customers might want. Here‘s a measure of how important this open approach has become to eBay: About 40 percent of the items listed for sale on eBay‘s U.S. site come in through its API. That means two of five products are loaded onto the site software-tosoftware, rather than manually posted using a browser-based form. Major retailers are taking advantage of these tools, and software companies are hustling to make their tools fit the model.

MIS Mini-cases -- 25 of 30 To make this hub-of-development concept work, Amazon and eBay needed to learn how to inspire clever programmers to work on their platforms. They‘re succeeding in part because they have the kind of user numbers that interest programmers. But they‘re also presenting programmers with a new challenge in the world of Web services: tools and technology for integrating Web platforms. The companies are fast movers when it comes to exposing the capabilities of their platforms at a time when many companies still are cautious about Web services technology. They‘re showing that opening up some of their technology vaults can spur the creation of other software apps that expand their market reach. So just what gets dished up by one of Amazon‘s Web services? The output includes product details, search capabilities, customer reviews, sales rankings, wish lists, and registries. Amazon gives programmers the option of choosing ―lite‖ or heavy versions of those categories, depending on their needs. Its ground rules: Programmers must link to the Amazon site, pricing data can only be stored for an hour, data can‘t be resold, and applications must be written so that they don‘t make more than one call per second to the Amazon site. Amazon and eBay know there‘s hard work to do to get the model and business rules right. But they show no sign of easing up on plans to become as much a destination for developers as they are a destination for shoppers. Source: Adapted from Aaron Ricadela and John Foley, ―New Face of E-Commerce,‖ InformationWeek, July 26, 2004. 1. What are the purpose and business value of Web services? 2. What are the benefits of Web services to Amazon, eBay, and their developer partners? 3. What are the business challenges of Web services?

MIS Mini-cases -- 26 of 30 Case 19 --

Linux v. Windows

Over the past two years Linux has spread like wildfire through corporate data centers. Companies once dependent on expensive proprietary systems from Sun, IBM, or HewlettPackard have replaced them with dirt-cheap Dell or no-name servers that are Intel-powered and loaded with the Linux operating system. Linux now runs almost 15 percent of all servers and is growing at about 23 percent a year. And even mainframe systems have joined in, with IBM estimating that over 10 percent of its mainframe sales are for running Linux applications. Though PC users haven‘t switched to Linux—less than 1 percent of all computers run Linux—a 2002 survey by CIO magazine found that almost 30 percent of chief technologists were considering moving their companies‘ PCs to a Linux PC operating system like Lindows. Wal-Mart, which began selling Lindows-ready PCs on its website in September 2002, had such success with that offering that by Christmas it was having trouble meeting demand. Almost every major PC electronics maker, from HP in printers to Epson in scanners, is making sure it has Linux-compatible offerings. And Sun has poured millions of dollars into its Star Office software suite, which gives Linux users programs that work like—and more important, are compatible with—Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. Backed by technology titans such as Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell, Linux is just now going mainstream. From DaimlerChrysler to Tommy Hilfiger—not to mention just about every major brokerage on Wall Street—Linux is gaining ground. Coming from near zero three years ago, Linux grabbed 13.7 percent of the $50.9 billion market for server computers in 2002. That figure is expected to jump to 25.2 percent in 2006, putting Linux in the No. 2 position, according to market researcher IDC. And get this: Starting in 2003, No. 1 Microsoft‘s 59.9 percent share in the server market will reverse its long climb and slowly slide backwards. Even the surprise but shaky assault on Linux by SCO in its suit of IBM is not expected to slow the steady growth of Linux. Meanwhile, Linux is finding its way into countless consumer-electronics gizmos, including Sony PlayStation video-game consoles and TiVo TV-program recorders. ―Has Linux come of age? The answer is absolutely, positively, unequivocally yes,‖ says Steven A. Mills, group executive for IBM Software. How did Linux make the jump into the mainstream? A trio of powerful forces converged. First, credit the sagging economy. Corporations under intense pressure to reduce their computing bills began casting about for low-cost alternatives. Second, Intel Corp., the dominant maker of processors for PCS, loosened its tight links with Microsoft and started making chips for Linux; at the same time a resurgent IBM made a $1 billion investment in Linux compatibility across its entire product line. This made it possible for corporations to get all the computing power they wanted at a fraction of the price. The third ingredient was widespread resentment of Microsoft and fear that the company was on the verge of gaining a stranglehold on corporate customers. ―I always want to have the right competitive dynamics. That‘s why we focus on Linux. Riding that wave will give us choices going forward,‖ says John A. McKinley Jr., executive vice president for global technology and services at Merrill Lynch & Co., which runs some key securities trading applications on Linux. Using open-source software like Linux is a no-brainer for many companies. It‘s stable and can be fixed easily if bugs appear, and you can‘t beat the price. But some companies and

MIS Mini-cases -- 27 of 30 government organizations are taking their commitment to open source a step further by actively participating in the open-source community that develops Linux. When their developers write patches, modifications or new implementations of open-source software for in-house use, these organizations are releasing that new code back to the opensource community, thereby assisting in the software‘s ongoing development. What‘s the payoff? It makes for better software. ―If we find a bug or a problem, we‘re interested in fixing that problem. We‘re also interested in not fixing it again in the next version,‖ explains Robert M. Lefkowitz, director of opensource strategy at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York. This is why Merrill Lynch sent the fixes it made to opensource software during one of its projects back to the opensource community. ―The way a typical open-source project works is that there is a core team in the open-source community with direct access to modifying the code on its central website,‖ Lefkowitz says. ―People who want to contribute to that community submit their code, which is looked at by a core team and integrated if found appropriate.‖ For all contributions, Lefkowitz emphasizes the importance of creating a corporate policy with help from the departments that could be affected by open-source involvement. At Merrill Lynch, an eight-member Open-Source Review Board determines when contributing is appropriate. Source: Adapted from Fred Vogelstein, ―Bringing Linux to the Masses,‖ Fortune, February 3, 2003, pp. 98–100; Jay Greene, ―The Linux Uprising,‖ BusinessWeek, March 3, 2003, pp. 78–86; and Minda Zetlin, ―In the Linux Loop,‖ Computerworld, April 7, 2003, pp. 37–38. 1. Should businesses continue to switch to the Linux operating system on servers and mainframes? Why or why not? 2. Should business and consumer PC users switch to Linux PC operating systems like Lindows and software suites like Sun‘s StarOffice? Why or why not? 3. Should the IT departments of companies like Merrill Lynch contribute their software improvements to the open-source community for products like Linux? Explain your reasoning.

MIS Mini-cases -- 28 of 30 Case 20 --

What can be done about data quality?

BT Group, formerly British Telecom, struggled with data quality problems for a number of years. Poor product inventory data and customer billing errors were hindering its interactions with suppliers and customers. BT Group was spending too much time and effort correcting data. BT Group started taking data quality seriously in 1997. Nigel Turner, project lead manager for BT data quality programs, identified a data quality ―champion‖ in each of BT‘s major lines of business to lead an information management forum. Each information management group targeted specific projects with demonstrable returns on investment, such as improving privateinventory recordkeeping to increase the number of disconnected circuits return to stock for reuse or correcting names and addresses in marketing data to reduce the number of letters sent to the wrong people. As the project expanded, Turner‘s group centralized data management and developed a data quality methodology that incorporated best practices from inside and outside the company. By improving the quality of its data, BT Group saved as much as $800 million from improved inventory data and interactions with customers and suppliers and increased revenue through more accurate billing. To maintain a high level of data quality in its databases, BT uses data profiling and cleansing tools from Trillium Software to identify and remove erroneous data on an ongoing basis. Emerson Process Management, a global supplier of measurement, analytical, and monitoring instruments and services based in Austin, Texas, had to retire a new data warehouse designed for analyzing customer activity to improve service and marketing because the warehouse was full of inaccurate and redundant data. The data in the warehouse came from numerous transaction processing systems in Europe, Asia, and other locations around the world. The group that had designed the warehouse had assumed that sales groups in all those areas would enter customer names and addresses the same way, regardless of their location. In fact, cultural differences combined with complications from absorbing companies that Emerson had acquired led to multiple ways of entering quote, billing, shipping, and other data. Emerson implemented data quality software tools from Group 1 Software, Inc., in Lanham, Maryland to help profile, cleanse, and merge records for the data warehouse. Customer information for quotations, billing, and shipping is linked to associated transactional records, duplicate records are eliminated, and the data are merged using Group 1 tools, custom software, and manual review processes. Integrating data from multiple business operation also posed challenges at Cintas, which started out in the employee uniform business and then expanded into providing business cleaning supplies and document shredding and storage services. Cintas how has multiple divisions for these lines of business and wanted to integrate customer data from them in a data warehouse to improve cross-selling. But some customers were listed in multiple databases with enough variation in their names and addresses to be identified as different people, and those discrepancies sometimes led to existing customers being identified as new prospects. Such lowquality customer data could create embarrassing situations for sales reps and also make the reps distrust the sales leads provided by marketing. Alternatively, Cintas systems would identify two different customers with similar names as the same customer, depriving the company of a sales opportunity. Cintas chose to overhaul its data warehouse by installing data quality management software from Dataflux to identify duplicate customer records and standardize customer data collected

MIS Mini-cases -- 29 of 30 monthly from each division‘s database. It is considering how it can use the data matching capabilities provided by the Dataflux software to correct data as employees are entering them into its systems rather than when the data enter its data warehouse. Bank of America had maintained a centralized data warehouse with account data from multiple sources used for marketing and cross-selling for a number of years. In 2002, it had to re-examine its data quality efforts to make sure it complied with the anti-money-laundering provisions of the Patriot Act. The bank established a common set of practices for capturing, integrating, and managing the data. Management designated data stewards in business units and the bank‘s information systems department to meet monthly and resolve data quality problems. The bank users both commercial and home-grown data profiling and matching tools to examine and correct data sent to the warehouse. Sources: Rick Whiting, ―Aaww, Rubbish!‖ Information Week, May 8, 2006 and Kym Gilhooly, ―Dirty Data Blight the Bottom Line,‖ Computerworld, November 7, 2003. 1. 2. What was the impact of data quality problems on the companies‘ described in this case study? What management, organization, and technology factors caused these problems? It has been said that the biggest obstacle to improving data quality is that business managers view data quality as a technical problem. Discuss how this statement applies to the companies described in this case study.

MIS Mini-cases -- 30 of 30 Case 21 --

Security Policy

If I have to go to one more employee meeting about security policy, I‘m going to scream. The managers talk about threats, and safeguards, and risk, and uncertainty, and all the things they want us to do to improve security. Has any manager ever watched people work in this department? ―Walk through the cubicles here and watch what is happening. I‘ll bet half the employees are using the password they were assigned the day they started work. I‘ll bet they‘ve never changed their password, ever! And for the people who have changed their passwords, I‘ll bet they‘ve changed them to some simpleton word like ‗Sesame‘ or ‗MyDogSpot‘ or something equally absurd. ―Or, open the top drawer of any of my coworkers‘ desks and guess what you‘ll find? A little yellow sticky with entries like Order Entry: 748QPt#7ml, Compensation: RXL87MB, System: ti5587Y. What do you suppose those entries are? Do you think anyone who worked here on a weekend wouldn‘t know what to do with them? And the only reason they‘re in the desk drawers is that Martha (our manager) threw a fit when she saw a yellow sticky like that on Terri‘s monitor. ―I‘ve mentioned all this to Martha several times, but nothing happens. What we need is a good scare. We need somebody to break into the system using one of those passwords and do some damage. What—if you enter a system with a readily available password, is that even breaking in? Or is it more like opening a door with a key you were given? Anyway, we need someone to steal something, delete some files, or erase customer balances. Then maybe the idiotic management here would stop talking about security risk assurance and start talking about real security: here on the ground floor!‖ 1. Summarize the point the speaker is making. 2. What do you think Martha should do about the point he makes? Surmise why nothing has been done to this point? 3. Explain how the speaker could make his point more effectively.

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