Information technology solutions are facing increasing demands by individuals and organizations. It is in the best interests of the business to evaluate and ascertain the ability of the hardware, software, network and human resources that constitute the business systems to meet business requirements.
In order to ensure that the individual or organization gets value for money from existing or intended systems, the following checklist can be used as a guide:
1. Functionality: This refers to the capability of the solution (hardware \ software) to execute the required tasks (functions) to meet business needs. Functionality gives an idea of how effectively the system meets the requirements that were specified by the business. Requirements are broadly broken into functional and non-functional. Functional requirements describe the actual activities the system must perform while non-functional requirements are used to judge how well the functional requirements accomplish the relevant tasks.
For instance, a functional requirement for an enterprise software might be to create customer accounts. Non-functional requirements for the same software might be to ensure that customer accounts are not duplicated.
2. Usability: This is a non-functional requirement which evaluates how user-friendly the solution is. If the solution is usable, the users will find it easy to learn, enjoy using it and make few errors when performing tasks. Usability facilitates efficiency by ensuring that users can subconsciously make use of the solution without having to click many buttons or links in a bid to execute a particular task. Business users naturally shy away from adopting new systems especially if they are used to an existing system. However, they are likely to embrace the new solution if it scores high on usability.
3. Security: Business information systems are increasingly becoming mission critical. Little wonder significant money and resources are devoted to acquiring the right systems. Hardware, software and information assets need to be protected from malicious users, unauthorised users, competitors and so on. Increasing dependence on information technology has also triggered a deluge of organizations, professionals and amateurs actively seeking to infiltrate business systems either for business or pleasure. People have been known to commit suicide as a result of private information being divulged to the public.
Kindly ensure that business systems can withstand deliberate or accidental attempts to access, copy, modify, destroy or disrupt the component hardware, software and information. Secure your systems with adequate physical security, intrusion detection, user authentication and authorization. Proper design and implementation will also reduce susceptibility to code injection and denial of service attacks.
4. Accessibility: Confirm that the solution can be accessed by all users especially those with disability or special needs. Accessible systems are those that can be used by most users and on diverse platforms and devices (laptops, desktops, phones, tablets). For instance, issues might arise if a software system exists as a desktop version and field operatives have access to just mobile devices.
5. Scalability: Business systems have been known to fail due to increased demand when accessed by an unanticipated number of users. Ascertain that your business systems can cope (perform optimally) when growth leads to high volumes of data or users. Scalability is also enhanced by ensuring that the system’s hardware, software, network and human resources can be expanded to handle increased demand without disruption to existing services.
6. Availability: Users must be able to make use of business systems at the right time and in the right place. Availability requirements are usually determined by operational or legal constraints. Factors to consider include power, physical access and support (helpdesk). Analyse business and usage trends to know if the system needs to be available always or at certain periods.
7. Continuity: this refers to the capacity to recover or bring up a system after interruption to service. Natural disasters, human error, hardware\software failures or malicious activity can lead to failure of a business system. Implement and test business continuity plans, tools, policies and procedures to enhance business continuity in event of system breakdown. Downtime can cause serious financial loss or ruin an organization’s reputation.
Increase your ability to respond to business system interruption through backups, restore tests, mirroring, replication and disaster recovery. The needs of the business will determine at what point and time the system must be brought up (immediately or after some time). Also note that resignation or transfer of a key support staff might impact negatively on a business solution if suitable replacements are not available.
8. Support and Maintenance: Ensure that user requests, incidents and problems are adequately handled. Users should have access to help from physical or virtual support teams. Manuals, system tasks and work-instructions can also provide required support to users when in need. Changing business needs might necessitate a change request to modify or upgrade a system. Ensure that there is prompt access to higher level support or vendors.
In a nutshell, your IT Business Solutions should possess these attributes: functionality, usability, security, accessibility, scalability, availability, continuity, support and maintenance.
Finally, endeavour to carry along relevant stakeholders when decisions are being made about business systems. Periodically carry out surveys targeting appropriate stakeholders (users). This will enable you discern user satisfaction levels, appraise system performance and facilitate the achievement of organizational goals.