Despite several attempts to improve and replace their existing software, Comair has not managed to implement all the planned changes that have previously been made. They have still not replaced their out dated SBS Legacy system even though there has been an agreement in place since June 2004 to have it installed and running by 2005.
The problems they have had as result of their systems are a clear indication that they need to replace it. Comair must consider the following in relation to a new system upgrade: ? How well it fits into the current organisational structure of the company ? The benefits they will get from each system and how they compare with each other. ? If the new system meets Comair’s requirements for a system that can manage and process large amounts of data- as past events have shown that the legacy system cannot manage this efficiently. The costs of doing nothing- keeping their existing system- compared with the costs of upgrading or implementing a new system altogether. Comair’s system failure has already had a huge affect on its business activities, having lost almost the entire profit from the previous quarter in December 2004 (around $20 million) when, when the system crash halted its operations. This makes it a strong argument that something must be done to prevent this from happening in the future.
Employing a new system and software may be costly in the short term. However, with the right system in place, the efficiency of a new system compared to their current out dated one will make up for this in the long term. This report gives a full analysis of Comair and its information systems, as well as fully appraising the company’s options for a new system and the considerations that should be made. 2. 0 Introduction to Comair As a company, Comair is associated with the airline industry, offering more han 1,100 daily flights to around 113 cities in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas. As an airline they provide a service for consumers, such as transport for people and cargo as well as food and drink during flights. Their customer relations are also a key focus of their business, in both sales and marketing. Due to the nature of their business and it being a key service for consumers it is essential that they maintain a high quality service level making sure they are meeting the needs and wants of the consumers.
In order for an airline such as Comair to achieve this, the use of Information systems and technology is an essential factor, given the highly competitive nature of the industry. A consumer who receives poor service on an airline is likely not to choose them again. In relation to Comair and its crew scheduling system it is important for them to manage it efficiently so as not to cause issues with their flights and, in turn, with their passengers. By analysing the case study on Comair it indicates that as a company they have not made it a major priority to focus on their information technology and strategy.
Their first implementation of software was in 1986 following union and federal regulations forcing them to update their management procedures. However, as the case study shows, they did not review their information systems software for a further 11 years after this, despite the application being slightly outdated and written in a programming language (Fortran), which dated back to the 1950’s. This is a clear indication that Comair’s information technology strategy is not heavily focused on continually updating its software with the latest and more advanced technology.
The case study proves this, as before 1998 when Dublikar, the director of risk management and information technology, decided to make a five-year plan to update, replace or retire various systems as necessary there had not been any great effort or urgency to replace their aging systems. 3. 0 Company Information Systems & Technology Strategy The importance of effective information systems for the company is to ensure that the data collected relating to the various activities, flights, staff orking hours, number of passengers on each flight etc, can be processed to produce information. This then determines how a particular person, a manager for example, may act based on the knowledge he has drawn from the information. The following diagram highlights this process: When discussing Information Systems in relation to Comair, it is necessary to look at the different types of systems and how this applies to them. The following are information systems classified by their formality: Sector and example |Description | |Retailing: electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) terminals |Provide faster customer, identity customer preferences and | | |improve inventory control by direct links with suppliers’ | | |computer systems | |Financial services: automated teller machines (ATM’s), |Support 24-hour banking services and enable customers to make | |telephone or online banking. transaction without visiting a branch | |Travel: computer-based reservation systems |Enable customers to check fares and availability and to make | | |and pay for reservations without working with an agent | |Manufacturing: computer-aided design and manufacturing |Linking design and manufacturing increases the speed of | | |introduction new products, especially when there are | | |electronics links to suppliers and customers |
(Source: Managing Information Systems, 2009. pg 35) 1 There are different ways of defining an information system and how it is used within an organisation. Firstly, Laudon and Laudon, 2007 describe it as: “a set of interrelated components that collect or retrieve, process, store and distribute information to support decision making and control in an organisation. In addition to this there is the definition of it as: “a group of interrelated components that work collectively to carry out input processing, output, storage and control actions in order to convert data into information products that can be used to support forecasting, planning, control, coordination, decision making and operational activities in a organisation” (B, C, G&H, 2006). Comair’s crew scheduling system conforms to these definitions as its purpose to obtain and convert the data input by the users into information that can be used for operational activities, planning and control etc. As an information system it is essential for Comair’s business as their crew scheduling is a vital part of the organisation. It allows them to keep track of crew-working hours, for example making sure they do not exceed the limit of hours they can work and ensuring that they have the correct crewmembers assigned to the right flights.
It is also an essential system to enable them track the whereabouts of its flight crews when on long haul flights. A major issue with information systems is the possibility of information overload and the problems this can cause. With the number of daily flights that Comair have to keep track of, in addition to crewmembers and number of passengers etc, they have to process a large amount of information in their day-to-day business activity. This affected Comair catastrophically when their systems crashed in December 2004 due to an overload of schedule changes, which exceeded the monthly limit. Comair’s information technology strategy can be highlighted as partly to blame for this problem, as the software was nearly twenty years old by this point.
The indecisiveness of the management to change the system had been partly the reason for why no change had been made before. Furthermore, the evidence that Comair’s information technology strategy was not their prime focus is that they did not have sufficient expertise knowledge for their system within their IT department, as is mentioned in the case study that it was “written in Fortran, a programming language dating back to the 1950’s, in which there was no in house expertise” In addition to this, the lack of expertise knowledge about the system is shown by the fact that no one at Comair knew about the ‘antiquated counter’ and that it could only deal with a certain number of changes per month.
Many daily activities within a company depend on infrastructures that support the flow of information between individuals within an organisation, between organisations or between organisations and individuals. The following graph shows the information technology infrastructure, with its five linked components. Source: Managing Information Systems, 2009. pg 9. 2 4. 0 Company Business Strategy Computer based information strategy can contribute to an organisation’s strategy in the same way as any other capability. A new dimension to the strategy development process has been introduced by developments in information and communications technologies. Porter’s model, as shown below, can be used to illustrate this. |Competitive advantage | | |Cost Leadership |Differentiation | | |Broad target | | | |Competitive Scope | | | | | | | | | | |Narrow target |Cost Focus |Differentiation Focus | This can be applied to Comair in a number of different ways: In many ways the development of a business strategy is a key requirement for determining IS requirements. Like many other factors, IS and IT is an input to the discussion of where the business should be going, just to the same extent as economic and market factors, product development etc. , are considered when defining the strategy. The following diagram indicated the relationship between business, IS and IT strategies: (Source: Principles of Information systems management, 1995- pg. 41) 3
Part of Comair’s business strategy is to continually find ways to gain a competitive advantage over rival airlines, as they had done originally in 1992 by becoming the first airline company to purchase a bombardier regional jet. Once other airlines also started using these jets, Comair “looked to improve its information systems” as a new way of gaining a competitive advantage. However, as mentioned previously, Comair’s information systems do not support this strategy as efficiently as possible due to their outdated system. Furthermore, following the acquisition of Comair by Delta, the focus of the business changed, as the case study indicates: “instead of focusing on IT, Delta focused mainly on marketing. Their lack of focus on IT is also evident by the fact that a new marketing department was installed after the takeover instead of focusing on replacing the director of risk management and information technology, who had left around the same time as the takeover, therefore leading a large leadership void. The effect this had on Comair’s IT department and business activity as a whole is indicated by on their IT employees: “members of the IT department tried not to make too many waves in the wake of the Delta takeover and the leadership void. ” It is also mentioned that, “the IT staff was content to wait for he business side of the company to encourage their projects. Meanwhile the business side was expecting the IT department to be the proactive force. For a company that had originally intended to focus on improving their information systems as a way of gaining a competitive advantage, they had not dedicated enough time or attention to achieve this. As a result, the remaining projects highlighted in the five-year plan remained incomplete. It can therefore be argued that there information technology strategy has not been effective, as the systems changes and proposed implementations have not been made as planned. 5. 0 COMPANY SYSTEM’S THEORY AND DEVELOPMENT In order to begin a systems development process it is necessary to make a detailed analysis that results in a logical specification of what the new system must do.
Once this has been determined, the next stage is consider how it must be done and designed, with final stage being the actually production and implementation. The author, ‘Information Systems in Business, (1997)’ pg 265 4, discusses a traditional systems life cycle view that is defined in six stages: Furthermore, Management Information Systems (1999) pg95 5, highlights other key factors that Comair should consider in the process of designing a new system, they are: economic Feasibility, organisational feasibility, technical feasibility and operational feasibility. With reference to ‘Management Information Systems (1999)’, it identifies certain considerations that must be taken into account when deciding on which system is best for the company. This can be directly related to Comair. [pic]
There are different stages to the information systems development process, as the author Beynon-Davies. P in Information systems (2002) 6 highlights: |Conception |This phase is concerned with developing the key business case | | |for an information system. The clients are the stakeholder | | |groups that determine the parameters of the business case for | | |such a system. The information system is evaluated in terms of | | its contribution and role in the performance of the | | |organisation. Also, the feasibility, in terms of organisational| | |resources and constraints are assessed. | |Analysis |As discussed in the systems analysis table on the previous | | |page. This is the phase of documenting the workings of existing| | |systems and establishing requirements for a new system.
The | | |requirements specification for some application will be a key | | |input into the development information system. | |Design |This part of the process is planning the shape of some new | | |information system, ideally its associated human activity | | |system. Preferably this is undertaken with the participation of| | |user representatives. | |Construction |This is the actual construction of the system.
It may be | | |conducted either by an internal team of the organisation or by | | |an outside party (a form of IS construction known as | | |outsourcing) | |Implementation |Involves testing the system in terms of its specification, | | |followed by the delivery of the system into its context of use. | |Test and delivery plans will be entered into the development | | |information system. It is usually required for users to | | |formally accept the system into its context of use. | | | | |Maintenance |This process involves feedback, which can result in changes to | | |information systems and to elements of the organisation.
It is | | |not often that information systems remain in their original | | |form as they may change for a number of reasons: | | | | | |In the process of using the system errors may be found or | | |changes proposed, therefore corrections may be fed into the | | |maintenance process. | | |New organisational circumstances may force the company to | | |abandon or re-engineer their system. | | |Changes will occur over time in terms of adjustments made to | | |the way both the IS and its context of use works. | |The organisational context may be affected over time by how the| | |system is used and its perceived consequences for performance | | |and people. | Comair have several different options as to how to develop a new system, the decision as to which one will be best suited for them can be decided by considering the above factors and which system provides those benefits. The options available to Comair can be discussed in turn. 6. 0 SYSTEMS DEVELEPMONT OPTIONS
The company and the employees have become accustomed to using the current system and changing it would be a lengthy and complicated procedure, as highlighted in the case study: “the company had grown so accustomed to the SBS system and many of Comair’s crew management business processes and business rules were related to the 15 year old software. ” However it is clear that something needs to be done, considering the huge financial loss incurred by the failure of the aged system. Therefore whilst it can be suggested, keeping the existing system is not the most suitable option. 6. 1Improve existing system Before the approval of SABRE’s AirCrews Operations Manager, the company had been reluctant to replace their current system due to factors such as implementation costs, too time consuming, staff training costs etc. herefore by improving their current system, they do not have the issue of having a completely different system to adapt to, but merely re-educating employees on how to use the system to include the new changes. It is evident that they have already done this to a certain extent following the major system issues: “Comair was still using the SBS legacy system, now divided into two modules so that pilot schedule changes and flight attendant schedule changes each have a monthly limit of 32,000” 6. 2Use Delta’s Software As Delta has acquired Comair, it could be considered that they should implement Delta’s information systems and software. This could be viewed as a more effective way of doing things, as it is not a completely new system to them, as Delta would familiar with it and it would make the implementation of it more straightforward.
In addition, Delta are aware of the issues with the current Comair system and how the company operates, therefore they would be able to decide whether or not introducing their system is the best option. 6. 3SABRE’s AirCrews management system This is the system which Comair, having considered other possible systems, decided to replace their current SBS legacy system with. Despite the cost concerns which halted the their decision to agree a system change before, it could be considered the best option to meet the requirement of implementing a more efficient and reliable system as it is newer and more up to date software. 7. 0 COMAIR’S PEOPLE ISSUES
When building its new system, Comair should firstly consider the people issues and how the new system will affect them. People are required for the operation of all information systems, such as end users and IS specialists. For Comair, the end users would be the company and the employees having to use the information system or the information it produces. IS specialists are the people who develop and operate information systems, which includes systems analysts, programmers, computer operators, and other managerial or technical IS personnel. Comair’s IT department would include these types of people. The issues Comair must consider is whether the new system is suitable for the end users, and making sure they are able to operate it efficiently.
In ‘Managing information systems (2009)’ it is stated that people are the essential to value adding processes and that their and skills and knowledge is something which an IS can support but not replace. If the people involved as end users of the system believe a system will enhance their power or support their cultural values they will support it. If not, they will find ways of opposing it. Walsham (1993) 7 observed that: This implies that the people involved will consider how best to influence events in a way that meets their interests. Also, they will interpret elements of the context to give meaning to events, looking at certain aspects such as, why the company is proposing that system instead of another, or what implications the new system may have for the position if their department.
Comair must take this into consideration when designing a new system ensuring that the people having to use the system are not opposed to it. Considering the number of flights, crewmembers working each day etc. there is large amounts of data having to be processed and therefore having the users opposing the system would only cause more problems the company and result in poor output from employees. This is supported by the theory of Davis (1989), who developed the technology acceptance model. Whether or not people accept and use an IS depends on two variables: o Perceived usefulness o Perceived end of use Perceived usefulness is defined as, “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance” 8.
Whilst perceived end of use is “the degree to which a person believes that using a system would be free of effort” 8 It is essential for Comair to ensure that they meet these needs as closely as possible. The case study indicates that there has previously been a lack of cohesiveness with IT department and the business side of the company. Therefore employing a system that the users feel is not correct would only cause more of a divide within the company 7. 1 COMAIR’S ORGANISATION AND TECHNOLOGY ISSUES Comair must also consider the technology issues of implementing a new system. Firstly, there is the issue of vulnerabilities and threats to the system. Throughout the system development process they can be vulnerable to: Programmer: disabling protective subtle software modification o Maintenance staff: disabling the hardware devises as well as using stand-alone utilities o Operator: Not notifying supervisor and revealing protective measures. In addition to this, they must also consider threats to the information system, such as: o Damage by fire, flood, lost data through power failure etc. o Hardware failure o Software failure and electrical problems o Personnel actions and user errors o Unauthorised system access or programme changes o Theft of data, services or equipment. o Telecommunication problems. A major concern that Comair must also be aware of is its susceptibility to hackers and computer viruses. A common way of dealing with the issue of viruses is to install anti-virus software to detect and eliminate viruses.
Advanced versions run in memory to protect processing, guard against viruses on disks and on incoming network files; emails are a common gateway for viruses to get into the system. Another key issue would be the use of firewalls to prevent hacking of the system by preventing unauthorised users from accessing private networks. As Comair is a large organisation with large amounts of data being sent and processed, encryption of that data is essential. This involves coding and scrambling of messages to prevent unauthorised access or understanding of the data. The company would have to use public key encryption on its files, this involves the use of private and public keys; data encrypted by one key can be decrypted by another.
As a final consideration, Comair’s reliance on its information systems and the evidence of the damage systems failure can cause for the company they must aim to have a ‘disaster recovery programme’- a back up system to prevent complete system failure and potential loss of hardware, software or data either by fire, flood or some other calamity. Bibliography 1. Boddy, D. Boonstra, A. & Kennedy, G. , 2009. Managing information systems. 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Pg 35. 2. Boddy, D. Boonstra, A. & Kennedy, G. , 2009. Managing information systems. 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Pg 9. 3. Ward, J. , 1995. Principles of Information Systems Management. New York: Routledge. 4. Harry, M. , 1997. Information Systems in Business. 2nd ed. Kent: Pitman. pg 265. 5. O’ Brien, J. , 1999, Management Information Systems. th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. 6. Beynon-Davies. P. , 2002. Information systems: an introduction to informatics in organisations. Hampshire: Palgrave. 7. Boddy, D. Boonstra, A. & Kennedy, G. , 2009. Managing information systems. 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Pg 213 8. Beynon-Davies. P. , 2002. Information systems: an introduction to informatics in organisations. Hampshire: Palgrave. Pg 216 ———————– [pic] This diagram shows an example of the activities involved in analysing a system and designing improvements. It also illustrates the need for end users/IS teams and co development of design solutions as part of the process. Organisational feasibility |Economic Feasibility | |How well the proposed system supports the strategic objectives|Cost savings – Which system would provide the most efficient | |of the Comair |cost savings? Examples of this could be, a decrease in | | |information processing costs, or elimination of unnecessary | | |procedures and documents. | | | | | |Decreased required investment – would the new system reduce | | |the inventory investment required? | | | | |Increased sales, revenue and profits – development of more | | |efficient and effective computer based products and services | | |could reduce the risk of Comair’s systems loosing them money | | |(their system failure has previously cost them nearly their | | |whole final quarterly profit in December 2004. | |Technical feasibility |Operational Feasibility | |For any new system Comair are considering, they should ensure |End user acceptance | |they decide upon the correct Hardware, software and network | | |capability for the day-to-day running on the business. Also, |Management support | |they must look at the reliability and availability of the new | | |system |Customer supplier and government requirements | A more subtle set of contexts for an information system are the various social structures which are present in the minds of the human participants involved with the system, including designers, users and any of those involved with the system” |Computer Hardware |In relation to Comair, this refers to their SBS legacy system | | |used to track its flight crews, which flights they were | | |assigned to and how many hours they were flying. It is the | | |technology used for processing and storing data, gathering it | | |and delivering it as output. |Computer Software |In terms of the Comair’s system, this is a set of instructions | | |that controls the operation of the computer, in this case the | | |SBS legacy system. | |Data Management Technology |This is defined as creating databases (a group of files of data| | |that are related to each other) in order to capture data that | | |customer transactions generate and make available relevant | | |parts of it to people who can use it. | | | | |In Comair’s case, they sought to improve their information | | |systems as their current systems ran an assortment of | | |applications, such as crew scheduling, aircraft maintenance and| | |passenger booking, that were not interrelated and as such were | | |becoming out dated. This meant that their data management was | | |not as effective as it should be as it was harder to gather and| | |make use of the data being generated as the systems were not as| | |efficient as is necessary. |Networking communications technology |This is networking and communications technology enabling data | | |in digital form to pass between users. Communication | | |technologies combine hardware and software that send and | | |receive information between linked computers. | | | | | |In regards to Comair’s legacy system, the data collected on its| | |flight crews, how many hours they’re flying etc. his | | |information need to be transmitted over great distances in | | |order for them to be able to keep track of their flight crews | | |when flying to different destinations. | |Technology services |Comair, like many big organisation, need people to manage and | | |run components of its IS infrastructure. This is usually done | | |by way of a specialist IS department or also by use of experts | | |the various departments of the business who are able to provide| | |users with immediate help and advice. | | | | |The issue with Comair in this case is despite them having an IT| | |department the system they are using is highlighted as being | | |out dated and written in a programming language over fifty | | |years old. The most crucial issue mentioned in the case study | | |is that there is no in house expertise within the IT department| | |or other departments of the company. | 1.
Feasibility Study: looks at the aims and scope of the new system and its anticipated cost benefits in relation to the existing system. 2. Systems investigation: a fact-finding investigation and recording of the existing, often manual, procedures 3. Systems analysis: a critical analysis of what the existing system does and the derivation of improvements. 4. System design: design of output, processes, input and files for the new system, usually computerised implementation. 5. Implementation: Scheduling the run-in of the new system by direct change over, stepwise introduction, or parallel running. File conversion and production of documentation. 6.
Review and maintenance: monitoring performance of the new system and making sure to repeat the systems analysis and design cycle where the system has major faults or omissions. |Human Information Systems | |This is an informal type of information system that is used by everyone when interpreting information or impulses from | |the environment and then deciding how to respond. In the day-to-day running of the company Comair, with their 7,000 | |airline professionals, would require this when overseeing daily flights. | |Paper-based information systems | |Before the implementation of the software leased from SBS, Comair relied on this as its main type of information system. | |However, in spite f the changes in technology and Comair’s reliance on the legacy software for their crew scheduling, | |paper based systems are still in use in support of the computer-based system. Companies will often define procedures on | |paper and staff are confident dealing with this type of information system. | |Computer Based information System | |For the larger organisations, including Comair, this is now the predominant type of system used to collect data and | |provide information. Examples of Comair’s use of this type of system can be seen with their Crew scheduling software, | |aircraft maintenance and passenger booking.
This is in addition to the other systems introduced by the five-year plan- | |the e-ticketing system and revenue management application being included in this. | [pic] [pic] |Cost Leadership | |IS can reduce direct costs of manufacture in addition to indirect costs of other functions. As a general rule, companies can | |use computer aided manufacturing to replace manual labour. In Comair’s case, replacing their pen and paper system for managing| |flight crews with software leased from SBS international conforms to this as they are reducing the dependency on labour to | |process the data to keep track of their flight crews. This can also be a more cost effective way of operating. |Differentiation | |IS can help to add unique features directly, such as adapting to customers needs and wants, or allow other functions to do so | |indirectly; setting a high quality service level. Comair’s focus is not primarily on upgrading its information systems, as can| |be seen in the case study: “the company’s systems ran an assortment of applications for crew scheduling, aircraft maintenance | |and passenger booking that were not interrelated and were becoming outdated. ” This therefore makes it more difficult for them | |to be competitive against rival companies and offer a high quality service to its customers.
An example of this is the systems| |crash in December 2004. With no one aware of the schedule changes limit it resulted in a crash, which caused severe financial | |losses, as well as damaging its reputation with its customers. | |However, Comair’s implementation of an e-ticketing system for example is a way of both implementing unique features but also | |adapting to customers needs and wants. With the use of the Internet for booking and arranging flights many consumers see this | |as an essential service when choosing an airline. | |Focus Strategy | |IS can help to identify and create niches directly and to create them indirectly through other functions.
The concentration is| |on a narrow segment and within that segment the aim is to achieve either a cost advantage or differentiation. | |Organisational Analysis | |This is identified as an important first step in systems analysis. In order for Comair to improve its information systems the | |development team must be familiar with them as an organisation, their management structure, people, business activities, the | |environmental systems it must deal with and its current information systems. There must be someone on the team who is | |understands the specific business units or end user workgroups that will be affected by the proposed new system. |Analysis of the present system | |It is essential that the system that is to be replaced or improved be analysed in detail; how the system uses hardware, | |software, network and people resources to convert data resources into information product, such as reports and displays. In | |Comair’s case, this would be the crew scheduling and flight tracking information. It should then be established how the system| |accomplishes the activities of input, processing, output, storage and control. The diagram on the following page illustrates | |an analysis and design approach. | |Functional Requirements analysis | |In order for Comair to determine the their specific business information needs, the process would have to be worked through as| |a team involving themselves and systems analysts.
They would need to determine what type information their business requires, | |what the format, volume and frequency should be and the response times necessary. In addition to this, they would need to | |determine the information processing capabilities required for each system activity to meet the information needs. Given the | |large amount of data that Comair’s systems have to process daily, and to allow for circumstances where additional data needs | |to be processed or changed (as was the case with the December 2004 system failure), it would be an essential requirement for | |Comair to develop and implement a system that can deal with this. |