Johnson and Johnson is a household name and premier healthcare company that was founded about 120 years ago. This company was established on a simple idea that sterile sutures, dressings and bandages must be available to doctors and nurses in order to treat wounded people. Johnson & Johnson has more than 250 operating companies in 57 countries with a total of 119,500 people. One of these families of companies is the world's largest and most diverse medical devices and diagnostics company that operates from five different locations in Switzerland. Johnson and Johnson in Switzerland has 3000 employees whose primary duty is providing hospitals with a broad range of orthopaedic, surgical and traumatology products.
This case study is based on the implementation of a mobile system solution to aid a faster ordering, invoicing, delivery and efficient stock management processes. The case study was from the web site of Sybase (http://partner-br.sybase.com/partnerportal/detail?id=1066541) which is the company that owns the technology on which Johnson & Johnson's mobile application was built.
Why the Application was developed TECHNIQUES
As posited by Nicholas Carr, there is no one who would dispute the fact that information technology has become the backbone of commerce. According to him, information technology "underpins the operations of individual companies, ties together far-flung supply chains, and, increasingly, links businesses to the customers they serve." (Carr N, 2003). In other words, the current trend in the world economy have demonstrated that information management is vital to supporting the operation of organisational processes and improving performance in order to have a competitive edge and remain relevant.
It is against this background that I believe Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) decided to develop and implement this application. JNJ in Switzerland is involved in high volume of order processing that requires just in time delivery in order to optimise its business and supply chain processes on one hand and also to minimize storage space.
According to the Michael Steiner, head of consumer and sales support at Johnson & Johnson, the decision to create this solution was for three reasons:
First, is to provide quality service which includes data quality and just in time delivery of orders. The second reason is for the purpose of customer loyalty. It follows a logical sequence that if quality services are provided, customers will remain loyal. The last reason, according to Michael is to be able to access information quickly and easily such that it will be possible to determine the delivery status and availability of products when taking new orders.
Willcocks (1992) defined evaluation as "establishing by quantitative and/or qualitative means the worth of information technology to the organisation". Evaluation of Information technology is considered to be a major concern for businesses and hence various methods and strategies are being adopted.
JNJ's evaluation technique for the choice of the mobile sales application is inherent in the case study. The decision to implement this application was based on two approaches, goal-based evaluation and criteria-based evaluation. In order words, JNJ has clearly defined set of goals and criteria that the mobile system must meet before it can be adopted.
A goal based approach sees evaluation mainly as a quantitative process of calculating likely costs and benefits (Walsham, 1993). JNJ in this regard requires a system that will provide a just in time delivery and a system that will reduce costs. Minimising storage space and cost is key to implementing any solution for JNJ. Another goal was to implement a system that can maximise customer satisfaction as well as streamlining internal supply chain process without using paper forms.
Criteria based approach on the other hand evaluates the application on the following points:
- Ability to run on industrial hand held devices
- Secure integration and synchronisation
- Ability to scan 2D barcodes from the mobile device
- Accurate and efficient one day delivery possibility
- Paper free system
The mobile sales application that was chosen by JNJ was considered to have the capability of meeting the goals and criteria outlined above hence the management opted for it.
How the Application Operates
JNJ's mobile sales application was designed and built by a company called Swiss1Mobile. The system was designed to run on top of Onebridge. Onebridge is a secure mobile application that enables mobile devices real time push or synchronisation and it manages both the backend ERP database system and the administration of the mobile handhelds. Other components of the system as outlined in the case study by Swiss1mobile global project manager are:
- JD Edwards World ERP Suite
- Windows Mobile-based Symbol MC 70 and MC 3090-S industrial handheld devices
- Mobile user to enterprise backend connectivity using WLAN via 802.11b/g and WAN via GPRS or EDGE
At the back end of this solution is what Michael Steiner (Head of Customer & Sales Support) called is a "modern logistic centre". This center has the back-end database. Any change made in the ERP and booking systems are synchronised with the mobile database on the handhelds using an encrypted connection at regular intervals. The process ensures that only data that changed are synchronised hence the amount of data that is being sent across the connection is kept to a minimum.
JNJ's Field Agents were each equipped with mobile handhelds that are carried along to customer sites. Orders are entered at customers' site and are transmitted to a logistic center. The orders are immediately processed and ordered products are dispatched from the warehouse. All these happens same day and are paperless as required.
An additional interface built into the Johnson & Johnson's Medical Devices and Diagnostics ERP was designed to deal with a case of part exchange. In this scenario, a set consisting of different model and sizes are sent to the customer. The sent parts would be scanned via mobile handhelds and barcodes booked. The customer remove suitable item and send the rest back to JNJ. At JNJ, the unused part are scanned again and rebooked in the ERP system. The missing items are booked as sold automatically and charged on customer's account.
Critical Analysis of Johnson and Johnson's evaluation technique
Evaluation of Information System is an area that is viewed as being neglected by most organisations. Where evaluation is done, it is a common practice however is to concentrate on pre implementation evaluation while little attention is given to post implementation evaluation. Most IS projects are perceived as bringing inadequate Return on Investment (ROI) partly because of these failures in proper evaluation.
Johnson & Johnson in this case study seems to be up to speed in this regard. There is evidence of both pre implementation and post implementation evaluations of the implementation mobile sales system. Hence JNJ was able to quickly determine if the investment is appropriate and if it actually brings returns.
One other advantage of the evaluation technique is that the system was evaluated in proper alignment with the company goal and objectives. One of the reasons for failure of many IT projects is when such projects are not strategically in line with company wide strategy. The goals set out for this IT system seems perfectly at par with company objective viz optimising business process and increasing customer loyalty by ensuring a real time order processing and delivery.
Another point to note is that the evaluation technique employed by JNJ helps the company to ensure the realisation of their goal. There are Performance Key Indicators in the sets of criteria established and these were carefully monitored. For example one of the pre implementation criteria was that the proposed system must be paperless and this was easily measured. This is makes JNJ to avoid another pitfall for perceived low ROI in IT projects because there seems to be measurable standards and also procedures put in place to ensure the realisation of set goals.
However, despite all the advantages mentioned above, there seem to have be some low points in the evaluation techniques used by JNJ. In the first place it appears that the evaluation was only based on the worth of the system and nothing was mentioned about the worth of the process i.e. the activities involved in producing the system. These two sides of information systems that are inseparable seem to have been separated by this technique. This type of evaluation will not give a true picture of returns on investment of this project. More attention was given to what the system is expected to do such that nothing was heard or seen about the processes involved in creating the system. Some relevant but unanswered questions in this regard are: How was the solution arrived at? What are the criteria used is selecting the solution developer? Are there cheaper alternatives?
One school of thought argues that evaluation approaches or techniques are always in favour of technical questions while ignoring social and ethical implications. Hirschheim and Smithson (1987, p.379) noted that "for information systems evaluation to be meaningful, both non-technical (i.e. social) and technical criteria must be included". I seem to agree with this school of thought to the extent that the impact of the adoption of the new system on other stake holders was not critically evaluated. For example, how will the field workers react to the change? Since it is clearly plausible to aver that the adoption of this new solution actually brought about a total change from the way things are done differently, the evaluation of the social implication on the staff is also necessary.
Closely related to this is the fact that the impact of this new system on the customers were not actually mentioned. It was assumed that all the customers would be happy doing away with paper forms as designed by the system. This may be an inadequate generalisation as it assumes that all the customers were at the same level of technological development that will make them all embrace the new technology. This to me may not be the case, we need further proof to validate the claim.
Furthermore, JNJ was quick to declare that the introduction of this new system increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. It will be interesting to see the criteria and methods used to arrive at this. Issue of loyalty and satisfaction are perceptive as there is no empirical way of measuring it. It may just be the perception of the evaluator. It will be interesting to hear this from the customers themselves.
As mentioned earlier, it seems rather obvious that two major evaluation techniques or strategies were adopted by JNJ. These are goal based and criteria based evaluation techniques. This process involved the decision makers in JNJ outlining goals and criteria for the proposed system. While it appears that the choice made solved the problem, I think that the technique used is not that detailed enough. It seems to me that the apparent success of the project is not as a result of thorough evaluation and good choice of solution in itself, but for the fact that other factors not considered that might have killed the project still remained dormant especially during the post implementation evaluation.
It is important to mention at this point that there are several evaluation models that could have been used by JNJ which would have given a better picture of the ROI. Chaffey & Wood (2005) mentioned some points or criteria which a proposed information system should be evaluated against. Such criteria includes, testing the functionality of the application to determine if it meets business needs. Ease of use is another factor ensuring that a new system will not be cumbersome to learn.
Performance is another criterion which checks the speed of the application to do different things. Scalability is closely related to performance as it describes how the application can adapt to more workload. In addition to this, compatibility is another major factor to consider if the system can easily integrate to existing infrastructure or can be built upon as the case may be. Stability of a system too needs to be considered in order to agree on minimum down time. Last but not the least is security and support. This is to check how secure the system could be and the level of support available.
Looking at JNJ's evaluation against the model given by Chaffey and Wood (2005) it is obvious that some of the factors were inherent in JNJ's strategy. For example the functionality, performance and the compatibility of the new system were given attention. This could explain the level of success that was acclaimed to the implementation of the new system.
- Dave Chaffey and Steve Wood, Business Information Management ..Improving Performance Using Information Systems, Pearson Education Limited, 2005
- Frank Bannister & Dan Remenyi, Why IT Continue to Matter: Reflections on Strategic Value of IT
- Stefan Cronholm & Goran Goldkuhl, Six Generic Types of Information Systems Evaluation (A paper presented to 10th European Conference on Information Technology Evaluation - ECITE 2003, 25-26 September 2003, Madrid)
- Craig Standing et all, The Attribution of success and failure in IT projects, Industrial Management & Data Systems Vol 106, No 8, 2006 pp1148-1165.
- Paul Beynon-Davies, Ian Owens and Michael D. Williams, Information Systems evaluation and the information systems development process, The Journal of Enterprise Information Management Vol 17, Number 4 , 2004 pp. 276-282
- Sven A. Carisson, Advancing Information Systems Evaluation (Reseach) A critical Realist Approach (www.ejise.com Academic Conference Ltd)
- Nicholas G Carr, IT Doesn't Matter, Harvard Business Review (HBH) May 2003 pp41-50.