|Management of agricultural research: A training manual. Module 6: Management information systems, computers and network techniques (1997)|
|Session 3. Computers as management tools|
|Reading note: Computers as management tools|
In this section we discuss the issues related to the management of computer services. These are covered under three broad headings:
· Organization of computer services.
· Acquisition of computer resources.
· Performance monitoring and expansion.
Organization of computer services
Normally computer services are managed by a professionally trained group within the organization. Such a group would include computer services managers, systems analysts, programmers, computer operators and data-entry operators. These professionals have computer hardware, software and applications backgrounds to provide information processing services to the organization. The department could have various titles, including the Computer Services Department or the Electronic Data Processing Department. The department is normally attached as a staff function to the managing director or general manager. In organizations where the management services function exists, computer professionals are included as a part of this function. A typical staffing pattern appears as Figure 2.
The main function of a computer services department is to analyse information requirements of the organization, identify the areas where computers can be used to bring tangible or intangible benefits, and design and implement computer-based systems in the identified areas. Training users in data entry and interpreting results generated by the system would be a major responsibility. This department should also be responsible for maintenance and upgrading of the systems (hardware, system software and application software). Since the technology is developing fast, it is necessary that this department undertakes a market survey of information technology from time to time and suggest ways of adopting new technology.
In the staffing chart presented as Figure 2, maintenance of hardware, installation of system software, development of new systems facilities and training of users on system resource utilization could be vested in the systems analyst(s) [systems].
The task of developing new application packages and providing programming assistance to researchers and administrators could be assigned to systems analyst(s) [applications].
These three section heads are assisted by programmers and computer and data-entry operators in accomplishing their tasks. They report to the computer services manager.
The office assistant provides record keeping services to the computer services manager, in addition to assisting in procuring, stocking and issuing consumable items like paper, floppy disks, printer ribbons and cartridges, software manuals and essential computer spares. A separate computer library could be created, if the number of books and software manuals is large.
The precise number of staff member needed for each of these positions will have to be worked out based on the requirements of the organization. All staff must have formal professional qualifications. They should be able to work with computer systems in a methodical way, with perfect clarity. End users developing applications for their own use need not be computer specialists, but must respect the operating protocols and data integrity requirements established by the system controller.
Developments in computer technology today encourage de-centralized use of computers. The computer services department will have to see its changed role as a catalyst in promoting modern techniques in data processing and data analysis, and as auditor of data processing practices in the de-centralized set-up. This is in addition to its role of developing centralized databases and information systems.