Systems manager

What is the role of a systems manager? In general terms, describe briefly the range of issues and tasks someone in such a role might be concerned with. Is it more important to concentrate systems management efforts on managing the technology or the people in the system, and why? Select one area identified in your range of issues and tasks and examine it more closely with particular reference to this aspect.

In today's information based society, information and new technology are viewed as valuable organisational resources. As such they must be managed carefully, just as any other resources are. The availability of affordable computer power to organisations has meant an explosion of information and consequently more attention must be paid to coping with the information generated. New expectations, developments in leadership styles and means of achieving previously unattainable objectives have been resulted of the rise of the new information world. Therefore, this essay will focus on the need of a systems management in an organisation with a close reference to systems analysis, the role of systems manager and how the systems management should concentrate its major efforts to efficiently and effectively managing the people in one's business.

Systems management is the management of any information system that works because of the purposeful interaction between people and computers. By requiring people, software and hardware to function in concert, systems management supports a more extensive field of organisational tasks, including gathering requirements, purchasing software and hardware, distributing it to where it is to be used, maintaining it with enhancements and updates, setting up problem-solving processes as well as system analysis and decision making. Systems management helps unite some of the computerised information functions of a business and although it does not exist as a singular structure anywhere in the organisation, systems management plays a vital role in every part of the organisational structure ranging from developing and planning a project, day to day management, user support to archiving, disaster planning, security, etc.

Having such a broader spectrum, the person responsible for the systems management activities in one organisation should be able to assess the business functions by examining the inputting and processes of data and the outputting of information the intend of improving organisational processes.

The systems manager is therefore the person who coordinates and manages groups of people and systems and in general is responsible for all the computing resources in the organisation. As such that person must be able to work well with people of all descriptions and be experience in working with computers. The manager will usually be a qualified worker with technical proficiency coupled with an understanding of business and management ethics. Duties within the role are ultimately dependent on the employing organisation and the complexity of its information systems. The role of the systems manager is often related to balancing several at same time. I personally believe that such a person should be able to act as a consultant to the organisation, as an agent of change and also as a supporting expert. The systems manager should be a problem solver. He or she should be the person who views the nature of problems as a challenge and who enjoys devising practical solutions. The manager should be able to systematically deal with situations at hand through skilful applications and tools, techniques and experience. The manager should also be a good communicator capable of relating meaningfully to other people over extended periods of time.

When acting as a consultant the systems manager is able to address issues within the organisation that are not seen by others. He or she may bring fresh prospective to the other members and above all help new team members to easily understand the organisational culture.

Very often systems managers serve a role of supporting experts within the organisation. In this role the manager draws on professional expertise concerning computer hardware and software and their uses in the business. As such the systems manager is not responsible for managing a whole project but to serve as an expert resource to those who are. However, the most comprehensive and responsible role that the systems manager takes on is that of an agent of change. As a manager, the person is an agent of change whenever performing any of the activities in the system development life cycle and are present to the organisations for an extended period. Then the manager acts as catalyst for change, develops a plan for change and works with others to facilitate that change. A systems manager acting as an agent of change, advocates a particular avenue of change involving the use of information systems. You teach the users the process of change, because changes in the information systems do not occur independently but cause changes in the rest of the organisation as well.

The systems manager is also responsible for the computer systems within an organisation, the control of any software or hardware installation, ensuring back up systems operate effectively, purchasing new operation systems, as well as contributing to organisational policy regarding quality standards and strategic planning. They work in any part of the organisation usually on operational level but very often on a strategic level as well. He or she is responsible for the functional performance of technology within the business and direct the work of the people responsible for the smooth running of the systems activities so that the organisational aims are met.

As Kendall (2005) states an organisation is made up of people and technology. Successfully implementing a new system does not only depend on how well the technology fits the organisational needs but very often on how well the people adapt to the changes the technology brings along.

"Baseball is a simple game. If you have good players and keep them in the right frame of mind then the management is a success. Sparky Anderson

What many systems managers fail to realise is that their handling of people affects the outcome of their work. Indeed, the neglect or mismanagement of people can affect the systems management as a whole. Therefore, the efforts of any system management should be mainly concentrated on the people, because recognising the importance of the people leads to successful performance of the day-to-day activities related to systems management, as well as to managing the technological resources. Moreover, without the people no project or business would exist in the first place - people play the integral role in completing the project with top workmanship. Nowadays, many organisations have started to recognise that "technology is an enabler, not the solution for implementing and executing new business strategies. But that the people are the critical factor in completing the project and recognise that "managing human beings cannot occur in mechanical system-oriented way.

What very often happens within management is that in the rush to manage growing data volumes, create new back up systems or strategies, develop and design better systems, many companies have inaccurately overvalued the role of technology, while undervaluing the roles played by the people in the organisation. Until recently, the department of systems management people has primarily been concerned with the organisation's back office rather than being vital to its business goals.

Many new business challenges are out there for the people which are making it more difficult for the professionals to successfully meet corporate objectives, personal objectives and compliance mandates, yet being more approachable to the people will lead to better outcome for the business itself.

I strongly believe that technology is important in the information world we live in, because due to innovative technology the people have reached the era of .... The technology should allow people to do everything they want to do, should be easy to manage efficiently and should help to deliver on business's objectives. But really, the technology should be indiscernible. It is the management of people that the systems management should be focusing the efforts on. (move it at the beginning)

There's obviously a need to focus on the people's skills, the strategies to build, grow and manage organisational activities, but still many managers focus on the technology. As Rich Millington says: "We've forgotten the purpose of technology. Technology exists to make things easier. It doesn't exist to let us do things we wouldn't have bothered to do anyway.

When an organisation is about to launch a new strategy or project, develop a new system or plan, the technology shouldn't be part of any discussions until the people work on aims and objectives, interaction of the users, adoption of the change , etc.

Technology is essential, but should be taken as granted. It is the management of people not technology that will really make a significant difference in how one organisation meets its goals.

Systems analysis is a fundamental division of the systems management life cycle. System analysis deals with the software development activities when developing a new information system. When an organisation is about to develop a new system systems analysis is generally concern with investigating the needs of why a new system is needed, detailed study of current systems that lead to the specification of a new system and at the end developing the new proposed system. Every system analyse starts with a detailed study of identifying the problems that occur in the business. Along with identifying problems, the people involved in the systems analysis phase often seize opportunities that may allow the business to gain a competitive advantage or set an industry standard. During systems analysis, information is collected on the available sites, decision points and transaction handled by the present system. A very useful component of the whole systems analysis process is to identify the main aims and objectives of the project that must discover what the business is trying to do. Then this will clearly show the path of how some aspects of the information systems application can help the organisation reach its objectives by addressing the detailed problems or opportunities.

Activities that often take part during the systems analysis are interviewing user management, on-site observation, questionnaires, summarising obtained knowledge and documenting achieved results. At the very early stage by observing the results of the problem, opportunities and objectives the systems manager must make a decision of whether the proposed project can proceed to its next phase.

Determining information requirements helps the systems manager understand what information users need to perform their jobs is. Among the tools used to identify information requirements are interactive methods such as observing decision maker's behaviour and office environments, investigating hard data, interviews, questionnaires and samplings. All those methods involved direct interaction with the users which help finding out details about the current system's functions mostly about "the people who are involved, the business activity, and the environment in which the work takes place, the time and how current procedures are performed. Systems analysis helps find out why the current system is in use and whether it should be considered when designing any new system. The whole process assists in understanding of how the businesses functions and have complete information on the people, goals, data and procedures. The procedures and requirements must be well documented and analysed. There are a lot of special tools and techniques that help in making the requirement determinations. Usually in the form of detailed data flow diagrams, charts of input, processes and output, data dictionaries are also developed to list all the data items used in the system along with their specifications. When analysing the systems needs, a proposal of the new system is prepared that summarises what has been found, provides cost/benefits analysis of alternatives and makes recommendations of what should be done. When a recommendation is accepted by the management, the project continues to its next stage where a logical design of the information system is accomplished. Accurate data entry procedures are designed so that data going into the system are correct. An essential part of the logical design is planning the user interface. The interface connects the user with the system and therefore is extremely important. As part of the systems analysis is the design of files and databases that will store much of the information needed by the decision makers in the organisation. A well structured database is the basis of the whole new system. Along with the future users, controls and backup procedures are designed in order to protect the system and the data, and to produce program specification packets such as decision trees or tables, data flow diagrams, systems flow charts, etc.

Developing the new system is done by programmers along with the systems manager, who uses different structured techniques for designing and documenting software such as pseudo codes. The systems analysis helps developing effective documentation including manuals, online help, FAQs and "read me files.

Once the new system is developed and ready to use, it needs to be well tested before actually handing it to the users. A series of tests pinpoints problems that can be overcome at the early stages of use and can be much less costly before sign it over to the users. At the end of the systems analysis stage an implementation phase comes in practice which involves procedures of how the system can be handled by the users. This process is strictly connected with the change that the users can experience; therefore it is very important for the systems manager to have a plan for a smooth conversion from the old system to the new one. This includes converting files from old to new formats, building a database, installing equipment and bringing the new system into production.

Systems analysis goes hand by hand together with the system design of the new system. Although the systems analysis is primarily related with identifying problems, opportunities, objectives, systems needs and with developing requirement documents, the analysis go all the way through the whole system's development life cycle. But one should remember is that systems analysis are "the specification of what the new system is to accomplish based on user requirements, functional hierarchy showing the functions to be performed by the new system and their relationship with each other, function network which are similar to function hierarchy but they highlight the those functions which are common to more than one procedure and a list of attributes of the entities - these are the data items which need to be held about each entity (http://www.nos.org/htm/sad1.htm).

Systems management is not an easy discipline - it requires professionals with certain skills and abilities in order to recognize and follow systematically procedures towards making any information system. It requires people and technology to work in synchrony for the flourishing success of any business running. Technology is an integral role of the business activities and it fast becoming our way of living and business operating. And yes it is impossible to imagine our lives without the technology in the today's era. Since the technology is used in every possible field, it becomes an important issue to understand and build computerised systems in an effective way. However, it is very important for systems managers to attend to the people's side of any technology implementation and think about how to make people move quickly to actions that make them part of the organisation instead of being resisters on the back stage. Managing successfully people within an organisation can turn up to be a great team building exercise that saves a lot of troubles during work time.

"Don't try to install technology that manages people; only try to install technology that people can manage. Systems analysis as a part of systems management undoubtedly illustrates that people are the most evitable system within any organisation and that they are the one that can make the business runs effectively.

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