Business Application Development
Information technology has become integral to the way that we accomplish many tasks in business by utilizing application software to facilitate the flow of information and data between people or departments. These applications have three main purposes: Increase the productivity of users, enable users to be more effective, and provide tools to increase creativity and innovation. Systems development is the development of new applications. This is a multi-phased process comprising problem recognition, requirements determination, systems design, development and construction, implementation, and evaluation and continuing evolution.
Information technology has transformed the modern workplace and has become integral to the way organizations accomplish many tasks. Computers and communication systems have revolutionized the workplace, and information technology gives businesses new and improved ways to create, store, and disperse data and information. Some of these improvements are simple transfers of the same method to a new medium, such as the shift from writing documents with a typewriter to doing the same tasks at a computer workstation. Some of these transformations, however, are more elemental, such as the shift from using the telephone to using e-mail for routine communication. Information technology is often linked into an information system that facilitates the flow of information and data between people or departments in order to help organizations work more efficiently and effectively.
However, hardware alone is not responsible for this transformation. Information systems facilitate the flow of information and data between people or departments by using application software. These are software programs that perform functions not related to the running of the computer itself and include word processing, electronic spreadsheets, computer graphics, and presentation applications, among other applications common in the workplace. Information technology applications include both stand-alone single-user or personal systems that are not interconnected or shared and enterprise systems that comprise a server or mainframe computer, database, and network in addition to the components of a personal system. Enterprise systems are typically shared by two or more users. Both personal and enterprise systems are designed for hands-on usage, are used to improve personal performance, and can be tailored for personal preference and performance. In addition, enterprise systems are designed to connect a variety of multiple users to enable them to share data and information. Typically, enterprise systems are larger than personal systems in both size and scope.
Three Main Purposes of Information Technology
Information technology applications have three main purposes. First, if well designed, these applications can be used to increase the productivity of the user or users. In other words, a good information technology application can improve the ratio of the output of an activity to the inputs necessary to perform it. In general, information technology applications can improve productivity in three ways: they can help users complete activities more quickly, enable users to accomplish more activities within a given time frame, or allow activities to be completed with fewer resources. For example, the use of word processing application software enables users to be much more productive than the previous system of drafting by hand and sending draft documents to the typing pool for processing. The ability to sit at one's desk and type one's thoughts directly into the computer results in significant time savings (for the most part) as opposed to manually writing out a draft, sending it to the typing pool, and waiting for it to be returned. By using a word processing application, one can more quickly turn documents around and deliver them in a timelier manner. In addition, word processing application software allows users themselves to quickly edit documents by adding, deleting, or moving material. Previously, these activities required a complete new draft of the document to be typed by the typing pool. This word processing application illustrates that application software not only saves time but also saves personnel costs and costs associated with paper and other supplies necessary to produce multiple drafts.
In addition to increasing the productivity of users, information technology applications can enable users to be more effective (i.e., do the things necessary to achieve desirable results from their activities). Personal systems can help individual users be more effective by giving them better tools to do their work. For example, graphics software can enable an artist to create more detailed drawings to illustrate a book or document, and a spreadsheet package can automatically perform cross-checks of sums for a bookkeeper or be used as a decision support system to enable an analyst or manager to make better decisions among alternative actions. At an enterprise level, information technology applications can increase the effectiveness of groups, teams, departments, or even the organization as a whole. For example, an enterprise-wide inventory system can help a retail store find an item for a customer and have it transferred to the store or delivered directly to the customer. In this situation, the customer benefits by obtaining the item without additional shopping or effort, and both the individual store and the entire chain benefit by increased sales and customer loyalty.
Not only can information technology applications and systems increase effectiveness and productivity, they can also increase creativity and innovation. For example, rather than writing out scores by hand, musicians can now compose at an electronic keyboard that interfaces with a computer. Software translates the keyboard inputs into sheet music that can be easily edited. Authors can be helped in their endeavors by the quick access to automatic spelling and grammar checkers. People involved in innovation -- products or processes that are new or significant improvements over previous products or processes that have been introduced in the marketplace or used in production -- can also be helped by information technology applications. For example, computer-aided design software can help engineers explore their designs virtually before proceeding to bread-boarding and prototyping. Similarly, financial analysts can use information technology applications to create investment packages, arrange financing, or suggest financial portfolios for clients.
There are several stages in the development of a new information technology application or system, including performing a needs analysis, designing a solution to meet the needs, acquiring the resources necessary to support development efforts, and developing and implementing the solution. This is often referred to as the systems development process. Although the specifics of what is done at each of these steps may vary from business to business, the generic process shown in Figure 1 describes the basics of the development life cycle of an information technology system or application.
Examination of the Need for Business Applications
Before a new business application can be...
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