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IT Systems for Business

Introduction

U21 Global is one of the revolutionary companies in pedagogy and in the spread of knowledge across the globe. The case describes the organization as having the potential to expand into newer markets due to the general increase in demand and enrolment of students across the globe. This demand is natural and can be created as well. The objective of U21 Global is to focus on the second portion: creation of the demand in America, Canada and Europe. This means that U21 has to target itself in such a way in these areas that students opting for traditional university degrees begin to switch to U21 for a change in their lifestyles and pedagogy.

The aim of this paper is to focus on the technical and pedagogical practices that should be implemented at U21 in order to bring the existing students and faculty smoothly to the new system as well as position U21 with a competitive advantage in America, Canada and Europe. The recommendations form an integral part of this paper and a great deal of the potential advantage for U21 is dependent upon the manner in which they are comprehended.

Analysis of the Current Practices

The use of the latest technological advancements at

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U21 is definitely indicative of the fact that U21 has constantly evolved over the years with their technology. The use of blogs, wikis and other advanced tools is one of the factors to consider the development of the future technologies. The current practices followed at U21 are generally satisfactory and seem to be effective.

The extent to which these practices can be extended to a larger student and faculty base is a question that cannot be answered immediately. This is due to the client-server architecture processing and scalability issues that are a frequent matter of concern for network and IT professionals. The architecture in use at U21 seems to be the traditional two-tier architecture which is a popular IT hardware architecture for small servers and static solutions.

(Two-Tier Architecture, 2008)

The above diagram generalizes the current IT practice at U21. The pedagogical practices are fairly simple and effective. The use of technological advancements and tools such as the whiteboard does not burden the server due to the low volume of transaction processing volume. This however, is not a proper solution to the system in the long run where the ultimate aim of U21 is to expand to newer horizons and aim for a larger number of enrolments facilitating them with more teachers and professors.

Proposed Solution

Nick Hutton has a serious and achievable target on board. However, to achieve these targets it is imperative that there are certain IT and pedagogical changes implemented at U21. Without these changes it is difficult to maintain the expansion spree and maintain a scalable and efficient IT system that will cater to the needs of the expansion strategy.

The existing two-tier architecture needs to be upgraded to the three-tier architecture with multiple servers. The use of a single server has been outdated since the inception of multi-processing (Russell & Yilmaz, 2006). The demands of current technology cannot be met with single server and processing capabilities. The three-tier architecture coupled with the use of multiple servers is one of the prime alternatives that are available to U21. The following is an illustration of the proposed IT architecture:

(Three-Tier Architecture, 2008)

The proposed solution will deal with the expansion saga and will not only allow for speedy transfer from the current system to the new one but will also mean added scalability in the long-run. The concept of three-tier architecture is specifically used in such situations where the aim of the system is to provide speedy and accurate communication between multiple users and a single server used by multiple knowledge workers – the professors in this case (Russell & Yilmaz, 2006).

It goes without the need to say that IT changes and architectural transformations require business and pedagogical changes to complement them. U21 is an evolving company with its main business being the imparting of education and the spread of knowledge to its students. The certain pedagogical changes that seem likely to be required are as follows:

ü  Scheduling of professors in such a way that the system is used evenly at all times. This is because if the professors are all concentrated over a shorter part of the day, the system idle time will shoot up. The justification of three-tier architecture then becomes null and void.

ü  The use of group teaching tools and techniques to transmit information and instructions should be deployed on a transit scale. Even though the existing technology may be performing similar group teaching methods the other tools and techniques available allow for more enhanced operations to be performed.

ü  Using WEB ICTs for enhanced communication and transfer of knowledge. ICTs are Information Communication Technologies which are on the rise these days. The essential way in which these work enable people from different backgrounds and locations to communicate and share knowledge with each other without hassles. ICTs are multi-purpose tools and can easily be configured to be used with three-tier architectures (Russell & Yilmaz, 2006).

ü  The essential way in which U21 operates is its basic reason for existence: sharing of knowledge and instructions given by professors to students across geographical courses with linguistic differences. These differences have to be bridged to the maximum possible extent through the use of integrated communications development. This means that the proposed solution will have a great deal of flexibility, adaptability and will be customizable for the users.

Evaluation of Proposed Solution

The proposed solution has the potential to lead U21 to business success more rapidly than any other existing proposals. However, the associated costs and relative effects on other entities should be carefully considered and evaluated. This will enable a clear evaluation of the project as a whole and will give Hutton the decision to implement it.

Any project has to be evaluated with its pros and cons and the final decision to implement a project will only be meaningful if the benefits provided from the implementation of the solution outweigh the costs incurred (Clare & Stuteley, 1995). The proposed solution has a great deal of advantages in terms of the expansion scale and the long-run benefits reaped by U21 by not having to expand much. The conversion of the architecture will reduce problems for a great deal of time and will not only enable faster processing but will also increase significantly the number of different services the server can offer to the users simultaneously (Chaffey & Wood, 2005).

The advantages of this system cannot be evaluated monetarily with a great deal of accuracy. Subjective estimates can however be made which will place the estimated annual profit out of the enrolment of a student at least $1,000 above the current profit levels. This increase in profits per student should not be with higher costs of implementation per student. It can be estimated that the overall costs for the system will be as follows:

ü  $50,000 for the conversion to the three-tier architecture and multiple servers.

ü  $10,000 additional training costs incurred per year for the teachers.

ü  $10,000 additional maintenance costs incurred per year for systems maintenance.

ü  $30,000 additional costs incurred per year for IT professionals and security monitoring.

ü  $20,000 for initial backup systems and continued $5,000 annual costs for disaster recovery management (Boddy, Boonstra, & Kennedy, 2005).

The above costs amount to an initial setup cost of $70,000 along with a $75,000 per year for the implementation of the proposed solution. This means that this cost should be offset through the enrolment of the students. Since the preliminary estimates of the profit per student due to the implementation of the new system stand at $1,000, approximately 75 new students every year will be a primary target for U21 to achieve in order to break-even with the implementation of this system (Wilson, 2001). It should be understood that these costs are highly subjective and have been estimated from the case with critical evaluation and analysis. Therefore, it is recommended that these costs are not treated as actual costs and room for flexibility be ensured at every stage (Curtis & Cobham, 2005).

Alternatives

The proposed system for U21 has a significant competitive advantage for the company. The major IT and pedagogical concerns for U21 will be eradicated through the implementation of this system. The next alternatives that can be proposed for U21 are not some of the best ones. These include the conversion of the two-tier architecture to a service based architecture which has yet to gain momentum and full accuracy.

The amount of scalability provided by the provided solution is by the best. Another alternative for U21 can be the retention of the existing two-tier architecture but with an added increase of main servers. The integration of these servers would be a highly tedious task for the IT professionals and will restrict geographical areas for information sharing due to security and access time issues. The estimated costs of using such systems amount to approximately the same amount, however, the subjective benefits from these systems are definitely lower. The current solution is therefore the most feasible solution.

Recommendations

U21 is a company which is in its initial growth stages. There is a great deal of potential in the European and American markets for its expansion and business success. Hutton has already announced plans for expansion into Canada. The globe is increasingly getting inclined towards the usage of soft technologies and intelligent systems to increase the flow of knowledge and share information.

Keeping these facts and the estimated benefits of the implementation of this system, I recommend that U21 should implement the proposed solution by the time they are done with their marketing campaigns in Canada. This will not only ensure the success of their marketing program but will also give U21 the time to test and debug any bugs in the system before launching into the American and European markets.

The implementation of the system should be followed with extensive training and education of the professors as well as the students. Once the cognitive and technical benefits of the system are visible to the users, it does not take a great deal of persuasion and push to ask them to spread positive words about the system. Since the number of users currently is less, there would be significantly fewer hassles and fewer bugs encountered in the migration of the existing users from the current system to the new one (Laudon & Laudon, 2007).  I would recommend Hutton to consider the implementation of the proposed solution as it is in the best interest of U21 at this moment in time.

Conclusion

The proposed solution for U21 does not only fulfill the IT and pedagogical issues at U21, but it can be accustomed further to target American and European markets – one of the primary strategies in store for Hutton at the moment.

The targeting of the American and European markets can be primarily done on the web since this form of marketing addresses the majority of the customers for such concerns the fastest. Maintaining integrity after the successful implementation of the new system would automatically propel news into the media about U21 in the technological forum. Thus, this would provide U21 with the chance to use this as a chance to market themselves in their desired markets successfully.

Taking care of the cultural, geographical and linguistic differences are all part and parcel of the proposed solution. Thus, the proposed solution would in effect be solving all the problems for U21 in one of the most cost-effective and least time-consuming ways.

Works Cited
1.       Beynon-Davies, P. (2002). Information Systems: An Introduction to informatics in Organisations. Edinburgh: Palgrave MacMillan.

2.       Boddy, D., Boonstra, A., & Kennedy, G. (2005). Managing Information Systems: An Organisational Perspective. 2nd ed. London: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

3.       Chaffey, D., & Wood, S. (2005). Business Information Management, Improving Performance Using Information Systems. London: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

4.       Clare, C., & Stuteley, G. (1995). Information Systems: Strategy to Design. Michigan: Chapman and Hall.

5.       Curtis, G., & Cobham, C. (2005). Business Information Systems. 5th ed. London: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

6.       Laudon, K., & Laudon, J. (2007). Essentials of Business Information Systems. 7th ed. London: Prentice Hall.

7.       Russell, I., & Yilmaz, J. (2006). Information Systems Management Vol. 23 Issue 4, p37-42, 6p.

8.       Three-Tier Architecture. (2008). Retrieved November 14, 2008, from International enginering Consortium: Online Tutorials: http://www.iec.org/online/tutorials/int_bus/images/figure03.gif

9.       Two-Tier Architecture. (2008). Retrieved November 14, 2008, from http://www.oracle.com/technology/products/ias/toplink/doc/10131/main/_html/img/dsessov.gif

10.   Wilson, B. (2001). Soft Systems Methodology: Conceptual Model Building and Its Contribution. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

 

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