Computer information systems are vital to the way many organizations function. When developed, maintained and secured properly, they can do wonders for helping create more efficient and streamlined businesses of all shapes and sizes. They can help in areas like communication, data organization and e-commerce. But when not planned or executed properly, they can become a highly problematic misadventures that set back the organizations they were designed to help.
Take, for example, the recent case of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) student information system. As many computer information system projects go, this one began with good intentions and lofty goals. Stemming from a class-action lawsuit, the LAUSD agreed to revamp its record-keeping and organization in order to ensure that student information was properly maintained, organized and easily accessible.
Needless to say, the project did not go as smoothly as planned. In this case, though, not only did the solution not help the organization function better, it actually hindered its productivity. According to The Los Angeles Times, “many teachers were unable to enter grades or attendance or even figure out which students were enrolled in class.” The LA Times also said that students in Jefferson High School “sat in the auditorium for weeks waiting to be assigned classes.”
While the implementation of any computer information system project can be prone to errors, ones like the LAUSD case could have been avoided—if not mitigated—by some simple planning ahead. When implementing a new system, here are two key questions to consider:
Can my current IT infrastructure handle it?
In the LAUSD case, the answer was a resounding “no.” After the new information system was deployed, the district’s data base server overloaded, and the system did not function properly. Apparently the school district did not take a lesson from the infamous Healthcare.gov crash.
When considering implementing new computer information systems or adding to your IT systems in any way, it is vitally important to determine whether or not your additions or changes will be able to happen in your current IT environment. Whether you’re migrating data or implementing an entire new system, before doing so, a thorough evaluation of the corresponding hardware and software should take place, At this point you will be able to determine whether you need to make any upgrades before going live with a new system.
Are there proper backups in case something goes wrong?
While the record-keeping system for the LAUSD didn’t function properly from the outset, that still does not mean teachers should not be able to enter grades or students should have to wait weeks before figuring out what classes they’re supposed to attend.
If your business is changing to a new system—no matter how large or small—that runs your core business process, it is pertinent to ensure that key data is backed up or there are alternative methods in place to ensure that the business can still function even if the unforeseen happens. If the new computer information system fails, you should at least be able to work some processes under the old one or another work around, and certain data—such as a student’s class schedule—must be able to be accessed elsewhere.
Do you have any IT horror stories? How about big wins? Shout out in the comments below, we always like to hear from you!