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close this bookManagement of agricultural research: A training manual. Module 6: Management information systems, computers and network techniques (1997)
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View the documentForeword
View the documentAcknowledgements
Open this folder and view contentsSession 1: Management information systems
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Open this folder and view contentsSession 3. Computers as management tools
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(introduction...)

Prepared by
V.N. Asopa
Indian Institute of Management
and
G. Beye
Research and Technology Development Service
Research, Extension and Training Division, FAO

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Rome, 1997

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

M-67
ISBN 92-5-104096-6

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Applications for such permission, with a statement of the purpose and extent of the reproduction, should be addressed to the Director, Information Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.

© FAO 1997

Foreword

There has been a tremendous development of agricultural research in developing countries over the past few decades, during which time investment in agricultural research from both national resources and international assistance has increased markedly. However, agricultural research institutions are generally managed by veteran agricultural research workers promoted for seniority rather than for management training and skills. Further, there are few courses available on the management of agricultural research, and solutions and models used in the developed world may not be appropriate for developing countries.

FAO has actively participated in strengthening the national agricultural research systems of developing countries, and has stressed the importance of effective organization and management for efficient research systems. The need for training in this area is great, and resources - particularly trained human resources - are limited. FAO has therefore developed a training programme on agricultural research management to support the training of trainers, with the expectation of a multiplier effect, and to facilitate a common perception of the structure and terminology of management, thus enhancing communication and understanding among agricultural research managers in discussing management problems, solutions and opportunities.

This training manual has been prepared as a basic reference resource for national trainers, to help them structure and conduct their own courses on management at the institute level. A separate manual will cover project and programme management. This manual is based on the four structural functions of management: planning, organizing, monitoring and controlling, and evaluating, each of which is covered in individual modules. Within each module, the manual addresses pervasive management functions, including motivating, leading, directing, priority setting, communicating and delegating, which are at all times a concern to all managers. Topics such as leadership, motivation, human resources management, policies and procedures are treated separately in individual sessions.

This manual as been designed for participatory learning through case studies, group exercises, presentations by the participants and participatory lectures. Throughout the manual, particular effort has been made to use the cases studied to capture the unique and rich experience of developing country research managers in tackling policy, programme and the day-to-day problems of managing research institutions and systems.

This publication is intended primarily for managers of agricultural research institutes in developing countries and for higher education institutions interested in launching in-service training courses on research management. However, it is hoped that agricultural research managers everywhere will also find it useful. The manual provides a course structure with contents that can be built upon and enriched. Users are therefore encouraged to send suggestions for its improvement.

Louise O. Fresco
Director
Research, Extension and Training Division

Acknowledgements

The task of preparing a training manual on Agricultural Research Institute Management began with the FAO Expert Consultation on Strategies for Research Management Training in Africa, held at the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 12-16 December 1983. Following the recommendations of the consultation, and on the basis of the curriculum design adopted, FAO embarked upon the preparation of this manual. In the process of its preparation, many agricultural research managers and management specialists have contributed. Besides the two main consultants, namely Dr Ronald P. Black, Denver Research Institute, University of Denver, USA, who prepared the first draft, and Dr V.N. Asopa, Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India, who prepared the current version of the manual, the contribution of the following specialists in various fields must be singled out: Ramesh Bhat, J. Casas, A.K. Jain, F.S. Kanwar, V. Martinson, Gopal Naik, P. Nath, R.K. Patel, T.P. Rama Rao, S.K. Sharma, E.S. Tayengco, and J.S. Woolston. FAO expresses its gratitude to them all.

Special thanks are due to the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), which has willingly made available its valuable experience and relevant materials throughout the preparation of the manual.

FAO also thanks all those authors and publishers who have allowed the use of copyright material from their publications, even though the courtesy is recognized in each case.

This manual has been prepared under the responsibility of the Research Development Centre, Research and Technology Development Division, FAO, with the guidance of: Mohamed S. Zehni, former Director; and J.H. Monyo, E. Venezian and B. Müller-Haye, past Chiefs of the Research Development Centre. Scientific supervision was provided by G. Beye, Senior Officer, now Chief, Research Technology Development Service.

This module includes five sessions:

1. MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS (MIS)
2. MIS EXERCISE
3. COMPUTERS AS MANAGEMENT TOOLS
4. NETWORK TECHNIQUES
5. PERT AND CPM EXERCISE

Session 1 is devoted to developing a conceptual understanding of management information systems (MIS). The reading note and the guide for this session are based on published literature. Interested participants should be directed to the references for more details. The exercise in Session 2 provides an opportunity for applying the concepts learned in the first session. Session 3 is devoted to the computer as a management tool. The first part of Session 3 introduces participants to computer systems. The second part is devoted to computer systems development, management, maintenance and user services. Session 4 introduces the Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) and the Critical Path Method (CPM). The techniques are applied in an exercise for practice in the last session.

The CPM technique involves preparation of a network which can be used as a planning as well as monitoring and control tool. This technique could therefore also be discussed in association with the module on planning.

Module 6 should be introduced as being technique oriented, for application in monitoring, evaluation and systematic management of various functions in an organization.

Monitoring is an important step in management of research. It enables review of ongoing research, allows mid-course corrections, if necessary, and can provide important inputs for future planning. How does one monitor research where gestation periods are long, outcomes uncertain and intermediate milestones vaguely defined? Through both formal and informal systems. Monitoring of research means monitoring the performance of the scientists as well as their work. An MIS can be designed and computerized to generate information on an ongoing basis on both these aspects. PERT and CPM techniques can be effectively used to periodic reviews of achievements vis-a-vis plans. However, these are formal techniques. As John Nickel observes, the best management is by 'walking about,' implying that a great deal of monitoring in a research institute is informal. Project managers (or principal scientists) and department heads - being in constant touch with their staff - do informally monitor the progress of ongoing research programmes. The directors can also monitor progress in many informal ways, the most important being regular rounds of the laboratories and talking to the scientists and technical staff. In this way the directors should have firsthand knowledge of the prevailing and emerging situations with regard to both the scientific work and the scientists, and should be able to promptly identify and remedy factors hampering progress of the scientific work. Experience indicates that most problems in scientific work arise from a lack of administrative support and from difficulties in timely procurement of materials and equipment. Such problems can be easily identified and solved during regular, preferably daily, rounds. Based on experience and taking full advantage of MIS potential, an efficient inventory system can be instituted for procurement of supplies.

(introduction...)

DATE


TIME


FORMAT

Plenary participatory lecture

TRAINER


OBJECTIVES

At the end of this session, participants should be able to understand and appreciate:

1.Principles and elements of MIS
2.The relationship between organizational structure and MIS
3.Information requirements for MIS
4.Different types of MIS
5.The process of developing a MIS
6.Criteria for MIS
7.Strategies for determining MIS design

INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS

Exhibit 1

Management information systems

Exhibit 2

MIS elements

Exhibit 3

Steps in planning

Exhibit 4

Requirements during the planning process

Exhibit 5

Controlling

Exhibit 6

Requirements for controlling

Exhibit 7

Decision making

Exhibit 8

System

Exhibit 9

Perceiving the system

Exhibit 10

Basic parts of the organization

Exhibit 11

Why a systems approach

Exhibit 12

Information

Exhibit 13

MIS as a pyramid structure

Exhibit 14

Conceptual basis of MIS

Exhibit 15

Implications of the organizational structure for MIS

Exhibit 16

Information requirements for MIS

Exhibit 17

Strategies for determining information requirements

Exhibit 18

Strategy for determining data requirements

Exhibit 19

Types of MIS

Exhibit 20

The MIS process

Exhibit 21

MIS criteria

Exhibit 22

Strategies for determining MIS design

REQUIRED READING

Reading note: Management information systems

BACKGROUND READING

None.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT AND AIDS

Overhead projector and chalkboard

Session guide: Management information systems

Show EXHIBIT 1. Define and discuss what a management information system (MIS) is, and how it helps an organization. Identify elements of MIS: management, system and information (EXHIBIT 2). Each of these should be discussed individually. Management information is an important input for efficient performance of various managerial functions at different organization levels. The information system facilitates decision making. Management functions include planning, controlling and decision making. Show EXHIBIT 3 and discuss various steps in planning. Using EXHIBIT 4, discuss the basic requirements for information during the planning process, and emphasize their importance. Controlling compels events to conform to plans. It includes setting performance standards, measuring performance against those standards, and correcting deviations (EXHIBIT 5). Show EXHIBIT 6 and discuss the information requirements for the controlling function. Decision making is the core of management and aims at selecting the best alternative to achieve an objective. The decisions may be strategic, tactical or technical (EXHIBIT 7). Strategic decisions are characterized by uncertainty. They are future oriented and relate directly to planning activity. Tactical decisions cover both planning and controlling. Technical decisions pertain to implementation of specific tasks through appropriate technology. The elements of decision making include the model, criteria, constraints and optimization. A model is a quantitative-cum-qualitative description of a problem. Criteria relate to methods for achieving goals. Constraints are the limiting factors. Once the decision problem is fully described in a model, criteria stipulated and constraints identified, the decision-maker can select the best alternative. That is optimization.

Show EXHIBIT 8. Define and discuss the concept of a system. Observe that modern management is based upon the systems approach, which views an organization as a system of mutually dependent variables and composed of a set of interrelated sub-systems. This interrelationship is a fundamental concept in the systems approach to management. Show EXHIBIT 9 and discuss how a system can be perceived. The basic elements of the organization include the individual, the formal and informal organization, patterns of behaviour, role perception, and the physical environment (EXHIBIT 10). Show EXHIBIT 11 and discuss the relevance of the systems approach in the design of an MIS. MIS aims at inter-relating, coordinating and integrating different sub-systems by providing information to facilitate and enhance the working of the sub-systems and achieve synergism.

Show EXHIBIT 12. Define information in generic terms as well as in the context of different levels of decision making. Note that all data are not necessarily information. The value of management information lies in its content, form and timing of presentation. Discuss the role of the information system in linking different components of the organization through integration, communication and decision making. Integration aims at ensuring that different sub-systems work together towards the common goal. Coordination and integration are essential controlling mechanisms to ensure smooth functioning in the organization. Communication is a basic element of organizational structure and functioning to integrate different sub-systems at different levels to achieve organizational goals. Information is generated in the organizational structure. Show EXHIBIT 13. Information requirements are different at all levels of the organization. As information flows from bottom to top, it becomes more and more focused as a result of capsulization and concretization. In contrast, information becomes increasingly diffuse as it flows from top to bottom. Since the information system is specific to an organization, organizational structure and behaviour have to be explicitly considered in designing an MIS (EXHIBIT 14). Show EXHIBIT 15 and discuss the implications of various characteristics of the organizational structure when designing an MIS. Refer to Table 1 in the Reading note in discussing these implications.

Show EXHIBIT 16 and discuss information requirements for MIS. It is important to consider carefully the information needs of the organization at different levels of the hierarchy. Strategies for determining information requirements should be discussed in the context of EXHIBIT 17. This discussion can be continued using EXHIBIT 18, in which a step-by-step strategy for determining data requirements is suggested.

An MIS can be a data bank, predictive, decision making or decision taking system. Discuss each of these in the context of EXHIBIT 19. Show EXHIBIT 20 and discuss the MIS process. As already discussed earlier, the MIS design team should first establish management information needs and clearly establish the system's design objectives. The important decision making areas should be identified, and within them the management decision areas delineated. Information needs at each of these levels have to be appreciated in the context of defined roles. A crude description of the system could then be developed and subsequently refined with more precise specifications. An MIS should be based on a few databases related to different sub-systems of the organization, for efficient management of information processing, the MIS should be tested and closely monitored to ensure that all critical data are captured.

Any MIS should be relevant to the individual decision-maker. It should provide up-to-date and accurate information to facilitate decision making. It should enable management to anticipate change. An MIS cannot be static in the face of the changing environment. As the environment changes, decision making changes and hence the information requirements change also (EXHIBIT 21).

Show EXHIBIT 22 and discuss the six strategies determining MIS design. The organization-chart approach is based on traditional functional areas defining current organizational boundary and structure. MIS evolves on its own in a laissez faire manner in the integrate-later approach. The data-collection approach involves collection and classification of all the relevant data for future use. In the database approach, a large pool of data is collected and stored for future use. The top-down approach involves defining the information needs for successive layers of management. The total-system approach involves collection, storage and processing of data within the total system.

EXHIBIT 1

MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS

Definition

"An integrated user-machine system for providing information to support operations, management and decision making functions in an organization. The system utilizes computerized and manual procedures; models for analysis, planning, control and decision making; and a database."

Based on: Davis, G.B. 1985. MIS: Conceptual Foundations. Structure and Development. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

MIS principal concerns

Facilitate decision making by supplying the information needed in an up-to-date and accurate form

· to the people who need it
· on time
· in a usable form

EXHIBIT 2

MIS ELEMENTS

Management functions

Planning
Controlling
Decision making

Information system

Management information

EXHIBIT 3

STEPS IN PLANNING

1. Selecting objectives

2. Identifying activities required to achieve the stipulated objectives

3. Describing the resources or skills, or both, necessary to perform the activities

4. Defining the duration of each activity to be undertaken

5. Determining the sequence of the activities

Source: Kumar, S. 1989. Management Information System. New Delhi: Ashish Publishing.

EXHIBIT 4

REQUIREMENTS DURING THE PLANNING PROCESS

1. Supplying the information needed by the planner at each step

2. Establishing procedures for procuring the information at each step (including the means to view alternatives)

3. Arranging for storage of the approved plans as information for the control process

4. Devising an efficient method for communicating the plans to other members in the organization

Source: Kumar, S. 1989. Management Information System. New Delhi: Ashish Publishing.

EXHIBIT 5

CONTROLLING

Controlling involves

1. Establishing standards of performance in order to reach the objective
2. Measuring actual performance against the set standards
3. Correcting deviations to ensure that actions remain on course

Source: Murdick, R.G., and Ross, J.E. 1975. Information Systems for Modern Management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

EXHIBIT 6

REQUIREMENTS FOR CONTROLLING

1. Defining expectations in terms of information attributes
2. Developing the logic for reporting deviations to all levels of management prior to the actual occurrence of the deviation

Source: Murdick, R.G., and Ross, J.E. 1975. Information Systems for Modem Management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

EXHIBIT 7

DECISION MAKING

Levels of decision making

· Strategic
· Tactical
· Technical

Elements of decision making

· Model
· Constraints
· Optimization

Source: Gorry, G., and Scott Morton, M.S. 1971. A framework for management information system. Sloan Management Review. Fall 1971.

EXHIBIT 8

SYSTEM

"A set of elements forming an activity or a procedure/scheme seeking a common goal or goals by operating on data and/or energy and/or matter in a time reference to yield information and/or energy and/or matter."

Source: Hopkins, R.C. et al. A systematic Procedure for System Development: Systems Philosophy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

EXHIBIT 9

PERCEIVING THE SYSTEM

1. Some components, functions and processes performed by these various components

2. Relationships among the components that uniquely bind them together into a conceptual assembly which is called a system

3. An organizing principle which is an overall concept that gives it a purpose

4. The fundamental approach of the system is the interrelationship of the sub-systems of the organization

Source: Albrecht, K. 1983. New systems view of the organization. In: Organization Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

EXHIBIT 10

BASIC PARTS OF THE ORGANIZATION

1.

The individual

2.

The formal and informal organization

3.

Patterns of behaviour arising out of role demands of the organization

4.

The role perception of the individual

5.

The physical environment in which individuals work

EXHIBIT 11

WHY A SYSTEMS APPROACH

· Developing and managing operating systems (e.g., money flows, manpower systems)
· Designing an information system for decision making
· Systems approach and MIS
· MIS aims at interrelating, coordinating and integrating different sub-systems by providing information required to facilitate and enhance the working of the sub-systems and achieve synergistic effects

Source: Murdick, R.G., and Ross, J.E. 1975. Information Systems for Modem Management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

EXHIBIT 12

INFORMATION

'A set of classified and interpreted data used in the decision making process"

Source: Lucas, H., Jr. 1978. Information Systems Concepts for Management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Information has also been defined as some tangible entity which serves to reduce uncertainty about future state or events

In the context of different levels of decision making, information can be described as:

· source

· data

· inference and predictions drawn from the data

· value and choices (evaluation of inferences with regard to the objectives, and then choosing courses of action)

· action which involves a course of action

The value of management information lies in its content, form and timing of presentation

EXHIBIT 13

MIS AS A PYRAMIDAL STRUCTURE


Figure

EXHIBIT 14

CONCEPTUAL BASIS OF MIS

1. Concepts of organization

2. Organizational theories, principles, structure, behaviour and processes such as communication, power and decision making

3. Motivation and leadership behaviour

EXHIBIT 15

IMPLICATIONS OF THE ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE FOR MIS

Concepts:

· Hierarchy of authority
· Specialization
· Formalization
· Centralization
· Modification of the basic model
· Information model of organization
· Organizational culture
· Organizational power
· Organizational growth cycle
· Goal displacement
· Organizational learning
· Project model of organizational change
· Case for stable system
· Systems that promote organizational change
· Organizations as socio-technical systems

Source: Davis, G., and Olson, M.H. 1984. Management Information Systems: Conceptual Foundation, Structure and Development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

EXHIBIT 16

INFORMATION REQUIREMENTS FOR MIS

1. Assessing information requirements
2. Levels of information requirements

· Organizational level
· Application level
· Technical
· Database

Source: Davis, G., and Olson, M.H. 1984. Management Information Systems: Conceptual Foundation, Structure and Development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

EXHIBIT 17

STRATEGIES FOR DETERMINING INFORMATION REQUIREMENTS

1. Asking
2. Deriving from an existing information system
3. Synthesizing from characteristics of the utilizing system
4. Discovering from experimentation with an involving information system

Source: Davis, G.B. 1982. Strategies for information requirements determination. IBM Systems Journal, 21(1): 4-31.

EXHIBIT 18

STRATEGY FOR DETERMINING DATA REQUIREMENTS

1. Identify elements in the development process utilizing system:

· Information systems or applications
· Users
· Analysts

2. Identify process uncertainties:

· Existence and availability of a set of usable requirements
· Ability of users to specify requirements
· Ability of analysts to elicit and evaluate requirements

3. Evaluate the effects of elements in the development process over process uncertainties
4. Evaluate the combined effects of the process uncertainties on overall requirements uncertainty
5. Select a primary strategy for requirements determination based on the overall requirements uncertainty

Uncertainty level

Strategy

Low

· Asking or deriving from an existing system


· Synthesis from characteristics of utilizing systems

High

· Discovering from experimentation

6. Select one or more from the set of methods to implement the primary strategy

Source: Davis, G.B. 1985. Management Information Systems: Conceptual Foundation, Structure and Development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

EXHIBIT 19

TYPES OF MIS

1. Databank information system
2. Predictive information system
3. Decision making information system
4. Decision taking information system

EXHIBIT 20

THE MIS PROCESS

1. Understand the organization
2. Analyse the organization's information requirements
3. Plan overall strategy
4. Review
5. Preliminary analysis
6. Feasibility assessment
7. Detailed fact finding
8. Analysis
9. Design
10. Development
11. Cutover
12. Obtain conceptual schema
13. Recruit database administrator
14. Obtain logical schema
15. Create data dictionary
16. Obtain physical schema
17. Create database
18. Modify data dictionary
19. Develop sub-schemas
20. Modify database
21. Amend database

Source: Crowe, T., and Avison, D.E. 1982. Management Information from Databases. London: Macmillan.

EXHIBIT 21

MIS CRITERIA

· Relevance
· Management by exception
· Accuracy
· Adaptability

EXHIBIT 22

STRATEGIES FOR DETERMINING MIS DESIGN

· Organization-chart approach
· Integrate-later approach
· Data-collection approach
· Database approach
· Top-down approach

Source: Blumenthal, S.C. 1990. Management Information Systems: A Framework for Planning and Control. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Institute of Personnel Management.

Information and the MIS concept

Information is a set of classified and interpreted data used in decision making. It has also been defined as 'some tangible or intangible entity which serves to reduce uncertainty about future state or events' (Lucas, 1978). A management information system (MIS) is 'an integrated user-machine system for providing information to support operations, management and decision making functions in an organization. The system utilizes computers, manual procedures, models for analysis, planning, control and decision making, and a database' (Davis and Olson, 1984). MIS facilitates managerial functioning. Management information is an important input at every level in the organization for decision making, planning, organizing, implementing, and monitoring and controlling. MIS is valuable because of its content, form and timing of presentation. In the context of different levels of decision making, information can be described as:

· source,

· data,

· inferences and predictions drawn from data,

· value and choices (evaluation of inferences with regard to the objectives and then choosing a course of action), and

· action which involves course of action.

The MIS concept comprises three interrelated and interdependent key elements: management, system and information (Murdick and Ross, 1975).

Management and the MIS process

An MIS is directed towards the managerial functions of planning, controlling and monitoring, and decision making.

Planning

Planning consists of five sequential and interactive steps (Kumar, 1989). These are:

· selecting objectives;
· identification of the activities which are required to achieve the stipulated objectives;
· detailing the resources - including the various skills - required to undertake the activities;
· determining the duration of each activity to be performed; and
· defining the sequence of the activities.

The basic requirements during the planning process of most importance in designing and implementing an MIS for an organization are (Kumar, 1989):

· providing the information required by the planner at each step of planning;

· establishing procedures for obtaining the information;

· arranging for storage of the approved plans, as these will provide the information requisite to monitoring and controlling; and

· evolving methods for communicating the plans to employees in the organization.

Monitoring and controlling

Controlling 'compels events to conform to plans' (Murdick and Ross, 1975). It involves:

· establishing standards of performance in order to reach the objective;
· measuring actual performance against the set standards; and
· keeping actions on course by correcting deviations as they appear (mid-course corrections).

The requirements for successful development of a control system are:

· defining expectations in terms of information attributes; and
· developing the logic for reporting deviations to all levels of management prior to the actual occurrence of the deviation.

Decision making

Decision making is the process of selecting the most desirable or optimum alternative to solve a problem or achieve an objective. The quality and soundness of managerial decisions is largely contingent upon the information available to the decision-maker. Gorry and Scott Morton (1971) classified decision making on three levels of a continuum:

· Strategic decisions are future-oriented because of uncertainty. They are part of the planning activity.

· Tactical decision making combines planning activities with controlling. It is for short-term activities and associated allocation of resources to them to achieve the objectives.

· Technical decision making is a process of ensuring efficient and effective implementation of specific tasks.

Elements of decision making

The four components of the decision making process are (Burch and Strater, 1974):

· Model A model is an abstract description of the decision problem. The model may be quantitative or qualitative.

· Criteria The criteria must state how goals or objectives of the decision problem can be achieved. When there is a conflict between different criteria, a choice has to be made through compromise.

· Constraints. Constraints are limiting factors which define outer limits and have to be respected while making a decision. For example, limited availability of funds is a constraint with which most decision makers have to live.

· Optimization Once the decision problem is fully described in a model, criteria for decision making stipulated and constraints identified, the decision-maker can select the best possible solution.

Systems approach

Modern management is based upon a systems approach to the organization. The systems approach views an organization as a set of interrelated sub-systems in which variables are mutually dependent. A system can be perceived as having:

· some components, functions and the processes performed by these various components;

· relationships among the components that uniquely bind them together into a conceptual assembly which is called a system; and

· an organizing principle that gives it a purpose (Albrecht, 1983).

The organizing system has five basic parts, which are interdependent (Murdick and Ross, 1975). They are:

· the individual;
· the formal and informal organization;
· patterns of behaviour arising out of role demands of the organization;
· the role perception of the individuals; and
· the physical environment in which individuals work.

The interrelationship of the sub-systems within an organization is fundamental to the systems approach. The different components of the organization have to operate in a coordinated manner to attain common organizational goals. This results in synergic effects. The term synergy means that when different sub-systems work together they tend to be more efficient than if they work in isolation (Murdick and Ross, 1975). Thus, the output of a system with well integrated sub-systems would be much more than the sum of the outputs of the independent sub-systems working in isolation.

The systems approach provides a total view of the organization. It enables analysis of an organization in a scientific manner, so that operating management systems can be developed and an appropriate MIS designed (Murdick and Ross, 1975).

By providing the required information, an MIS can help interrelate, coordinate and integrate different sub-systems within an organization, thus facilitating and increasing coordinated working of the sub-systems, with consequent synergism. The interaction between different components of the organization depends upon integration, communication and decision making. Together they create a linking process in the organization.

Integration ensures that different sub-systems work towards the common goal. Coordination and integration are useful controlling mechanisms which ensure smooth functioning in the organization, particularly as organizations become large and increasingly complex. As organizations face environmental complexity, diversity and change, they need more and more internal differentiation, and specialization becomes complex and diverse. The need for integration also increases as structural dimensions increase.

Communication integrates different sub-systems (specialized units) at different levels in an organization. It is thus a basic element of the organizational structure necessary for achieving the organization's goals.

Organizational structure and MIS

MIS has been described as a pyramidal structure, with four levels of information resources. The levels of information would depend upon the organizational structure. The top level supports strategic planning and policy making at the highest level of management. The second level of information resources aid tactical planning and decision making for management control. The third level supports day-to-day operations and control. The bottom level consists of information for transaction processing. It then follows that since decision making is specific to hierarchical levels in an organization, the information requirements at each level vary accordingly.

Thus, MIS as a support system draws upon:

· concepts of organization;

· organizational theories, principles, structure, behaviour and processes such as communication, power and decision making; and

· motivation and leadership behaviour.

Davis and Olson (1984) analysed the implications of different characteristics of the organizational structure on the design of information systems (Table 1).

Information requirements for MIS

Assessing information needs

A first step in designing and developing an MIS is to assess the information needs for decision making of management at different hierarchical levels, so that the requisite information can be made available in both timely and usable form to the people who need it. Such assessment of information needs is usually based on personality, positions, levels and functions of management. These determine the various levels of information requirements.

Table 1 Organizational structural implications for information systems

Concept

Implications for Information Systems

Hierarchy of authority

A tall hierarchy with narrow span of control requires more formal control information at upper levels than a flat hierarchy with wide span of control.

Specialization

Information system applications have to fit the specialization of the organization.

Formalization

Information systems are a major method for increasing formalization.

Centralization

Information systems can be designed to suit any level of centralization.

Modification of basic model

Information systems can be designed to support product or service organizations, project organizations, lateral relations and matrix organizations.

Information model of organization

Organizational mechanisms reduce the need for information processing and communication. Vertical information systems are an alternative to lateral relations. Information systems are used to coordinate lateral activities.

Organizational culture

Organizational culture affects information requirements and system acceptance.

Organizational power

Organizational power affects organizational behaviour during information system planning, resource allocation and implementation. Computer systems can be an instrument of organizational power through access to information.

Organizational growth

The information system may need to change at different stages of growth.

Goal displacement

When identifying goals during requirements determination, care should be taken to avoid displaced goals.

Organizational learning

Suggests need for information system design for efficiency measures to promote single loop learning and effectiveness measures for double loop learning.

Project model of organizational change

Describes general concepts for managing change with information system projects.

Case for stable system

Establish control over frequency of information system changes.

Systems that promote organizational change

Reporting critical change variables, organizational change, or relationships, and use of multiple channels in a semi-confusing system may be useful for promoting responses to a changing environment.

Organizations as socio-technical systems

Provides approach to requirements determination and job design when both social and technical considerations are involved.

Source: Taken from Gordon and Olson, 1984: 358-359.

Levels of information requirements

There are three levels of information requirements for designing an MIS (Davis and Olson 1984). They are:

· At the organizational level, information requirements define an overall structure for the information system and specific applications and database.

· Application level requirements include social or behavioural - covering work organization objectives, individual roles and responsibility assumptions, and organizational policies - and technical, which are based on the information needed for the job to be performed. A significant part of the technical requirement is related to outputs, inputs, stored data, structure and format of data and information processes.

· At the user level, database requirements can be classified as perceived by the user or as required for physical design of the database.

Strategies for determining information requirements

Gordon and Olson (1984) suggested six steps in selecting a strategy and method for determining information requirements (Table 2).

Table 2 Strategies for determining information requirements

1. Identify elements in the development process
· Utilizing systems
· Information system or application
· Users
· Analysis

2. Identify characteristics of the four elements (in 1, above) in the development process which could affect uncertainty in the information requirements.

3. Identify the process uncertainties
· Existence and availability of a set of usable requirements.
· Ability of users to specify requirements.
· Ability of the analyst to elicit and evaluate information requirements.
Assess how the characteristics of the four elements in the development process (listed under 1, above) will affect the these process uncertainties.

4. Determine how the overall requirements uncertainties would be affected by the combined effects of the process uncertainties.

5. Considering the overall requirements uncertainty, choose a primary strategy for information requirements.
If uncertainty is low, then the strategy should be to:
· Ask the users what their requirements are. This presupposes that the users are able to structure their requirements and express them objectively. Asking can be done through
- questions, which may be closed or open,
- brainstorming sessions, totally open or guided, and
- group consensus as aimed at in Delphi methods and group norming.
· Wherever there are close similarities in the organization and easy replication is possible, information requirements can be derived from the existing system.
· Characteristics of the utilizing system should be analysed and synthesized. This is particularly useful if the utilizing system is undergoing change.
If uncertainty is high, discover from experimentation by instituting an information system and learning through that the additional information requirements. This is 'prototyping' or 'heuristic development' of an information system.

6. Select an appropriate method.

Source: Davis and Olson, 1984: 488-493.

Types of MIS

MIS can be categorized (Mason, 1981) as follows:

· Databank information systems refer to creation of a database by classifying and storing data which might be potentially useful to the decision-maker. The information provided by the databank is merely suggestive. The decision-maker has to determine contextually the cause and effect relationships. MIS designs based on the databank information system are better suited for unstructured decisions.

· Predictive information systems provide source and data along with predictions and inferences. The decision-maker can also enquire as to 'what if a certain action is taken?' and whether the underlying assumptions are true. This type of MIS is useful for semi-structured decisions.

· Decision-making information systems provide expert advice to the decision-maker either in the form of a single recommended course of action or as criteria for choice, given the value system prevailing in the organization. The decision-maker has just to approve, disapprove or modify the recommendation. Decision-making information systems are suitable for structured decisions. Operations research and cost-effectiveness studies are examples of decision-making information systems.

· Decision-taking information systems integrate predictive information and decision-making systems.

Process of MIS

The MIS implementation process (Table 3) involves a number of sequential steps (Murdick and Ross, 1975):

1. First establish management information needs and formulate broad systems objectives so as to delineate important decision areas (e.g., general management, financial management or human resources management). Within these decision areas there will be factors relevant to the management decision areas, e.g., general management will be concerned about its relationship with the managing board, institute-client relationships and information to be provided to the staff. This will then lead the design team to ask what information units will be needed to monitor the identified factors of concern. Positions or managers needing information for decision making will be identified.

2. Develop a general description of a possible MIS as a coarse design. This design will have to be further refined by more precise specifications. For efficient management of information processing, the MIS should be based on a few databases related to different sub-systems of the organization.

3. Once the information units needed have been determined and a systems design developed, decide how information will be collected. Positions will be allocated responsibility for generating and packaging the information.

4. Develop a network showing information flows.

5. Test the system until it meets the operational requirements, considering the specifications stipulated for performance and the specified organizational constraints.

6. Re-check that all the critical data pertaining to various sub-systems and for the organization as a whole are fully captured. Ensure that information is generated in a timely manner.

7. Monitor actual implementation of the MIS and its functioning from time to time.

Table 3 Methodology for implementing MIS

1. Understand the organization

2. Analyse the information requirements of the organization

3. Plan overall strategy

4. Review

5. Preliminary analysis

6. Feasibility assessment

7. Detailed fact finding

8. Analysis

9. Design

10. Development

11. Cutover

12. Obtain conceptual schema

13. Recruit database administrator

14. Obtain logical schema

15. Create data dictionary

16. Obtain physical schema

17. Create database

18. Modify data dictionary

19. Develop sub-schemas

20. Modify database

21. Amend database

Adapted from Crowe and Avison, 1982.

Criteria for MIS

Crowe and Avison (1982) suggested five criteria for an MIS:

· Relevance Information should be relevant to the individual decision-makers at their level of management.

· Management by exception Managers should get precise information pertaining to factors critical to their decision making.

· Accuracy The database from which information is extracted should be up-to-date, contextually relevant and validated.

· Timeliness The information should be provided at the time required.

· Adaptability The information system should have an in-built capability for re-design so that it can suitably adapt to environmental changes and changing information requirements.

Strategies for determining MIS design

MIS design should be specific to an organization, respecting its age, structure, and operations.

Six strategies for determining MIS design have been suggested by Blumenthal (1969):

· Organization-chart approach Using this approach, the MIS is designed based on the traditional functional areas, such as finance, administration, production, R&D and extension. These functional areas define current organizational boundaries and structure.

· Integrate-later approach Largely a laissez faire approach, it does not conform to any specified formats as part of an overall design. There is no notion of how the MIS will evolve in the organization. Such an MIS becomes difficult to integrate. In today's environment - where managers demand quick and repeated access to information from across sub-systems - the integrate-later approach is becoming less and less popular.

· Data-collection approach This approach involves collection of all data which might be relevant to MIS design. The collected data are then classified. This classification influences the way the data can be exploited usefully at a later stage. The classification therefore needs to be done extremely carefully.

· Database approach A large and detailed database is amassed, stored and maintained. The database approach is more and more accepted for two main reasons: first, because of data independence it allows for easier system development, even without attempting a complete MIS; and, second, it provides management with immediate access to information required.

· Top-down approach The top-down approach involves defining the information needs for successive layers of management. If information required at the top remains relatively stable in terms of level of detail, content and frequency, the system could fulfil MIS requirements (Zani, 1970). The usefulness of this approach depends on the nature of the organization. It can be suitable for those organizations where there is a difference in the type of information required at the various levels.

· Total-system approach In this approach the interrelationships of the basic information are defined prior to implementation. Data collection, storage and processing are designed and done within the framework of the total system. This approach can be successfully implemented in organizations which are developing.

References

Albrecht, K. 1983. A new systems view of the organization. in: Organization Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bee, R., & Bee, F. 1990. Management Information Systems and Statistics. [Management Studies Series] London: Institute of Personnel Management.

Blumenthal, S.C. 1969. Management Information System: A Framework for Planning and Control. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Burch, J.G., Jr., & Strater, F.R., Jr. 1979. Information Systems: Theory and Practice. New York, NY: John Wiley.

Crowe, T., & Avison, D.E. 1982. Management Information from Databases. London: Macmillan.

Davis, G.B. 1982. Strategies for information requirements determination. IBM Systems Journal, 21(1): 4-31.

Davis, G.B., & Olson, M.H. 1984. Management Information Systems: Conceptual Foundations, Structure and Development. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Gorry, G., & Scott Morton, M.S. 1971. A framework for management information systems. Sloan Management Review, Fall 1971.

Hopkins, R.C. et al., 1962. A Systematic Procedure for System Development: Systems Philosophy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Kumar, H. 1989. Management Information Systems: A Conceptual and Empirical Approach. New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House.

Lucas, H.C., Jr. 1978. Information Systems Concepts for Management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Mason, R.O. 1981. Basic concepts for designing management information systems. In: Mason, R.O., & Swanson, E.B. (eds) Measurements for Management Decision. Philippines: Addison-Wesley.

Mehra, B.K. 1982. Putting management back into MIS. pp. 41-50, in: Keen, G.W. (ed) Perspectives on Information Management. New York, NY: John Wiley.

Murdick, R.G., & Ross, J.E. 1975. Information Systems for Modern Management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Zani, W.M. 1970. Blueprint for management information system. Harvard Business Review, November-December 1970.

(introduction...)

DATE


TIME


FORMAT

Plenary and small group

TRAINER


OBJECTIVES

At the end of this session, participants will have had an opportunity to:

1. Map the flow of information for a specific management decision area.
2. Develop a set of documentary instruments to aid management in the planning, monitoring and control, and evaluation of this area.

INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS

None.

REQUIRED READING

None.

BACKGROUND READING

Reading note: Management information systems

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT AND AIDS

Overhead projector and chalkboard

Session guide: Management information system exercise

The previous session presented a basis for the development of management information systems (MIS) for research institutions. The purpose of this session is to provide an opportunity to develop a similar set of instruments for management decision areas such as:

· general management;
· financial management;
· productivity management;
· facilities management; and
· personnel management.

Divide the participants into three or four small groups. Assign to each group the task of selecting a management decision area for which to design an MIS. The decision areas may be planning, monitoring, control or evaluation. Didactic material should be prepared for overhead projection and photocopied for distribution to the whole group.

Re-convene the plenary group, distribute document sets to all participants, and ask each small group to present its MIS.

(introduction...)

DATE


TIME


FORMAT

Plenary session

TRAINER


OBJECTIVES

At the end of this session, participants will have:

1. A brief introduction to computer hardware, software and applications development as a background to the identification of potential areas for the use of computers in the management of agricultural research.

2. An understanding of application areas and a framework for the use of computers as a management tool for agricultural research.

3. Knowledge of the management of computer services activities in institutions engaged in research activities.

INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS

Exhibit 1

Functional diagram of a computer

Exhibit 2

Terms used in computer systems

Exhibit 3

Computer configurations

Exhibit 4

Software

Exhibit 5

Computer languages

Exhibit 6.

Common computer software

Exhibit 7

Computer applications in agricultural research

Exhibit 8

Framework for de-centralized use of computers

Exhibit 9

System development strategies

Exhibit 10

Management of computer services function

Exhibit 11

Staffing pattern for a typical computer services department

Exhibit 12

Acquisition of computer resources

REQUIRED READING

Reading note: Computers as management toots

BACKGROUND READING

None.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT AND AIDS

Overhead projector and chalkboard

Session guide: Computers as management tools1

1. Given the current rapid developments in computer systems, this section may seem dated, but it nevertheless provides a basic introduction to the subject.

This session has two components. The first component gives an overview of computers, introduces the fundamentals of computers, and illustrates use of computers in management of research institutions. The second component relates to strategies for development, management, maintenance and expansion. If participants are already familiar with computers, it is desirable to focus on the important managerial issues which arise in the context of systems development and maintenance. If a computer system is available in the vicinity of the workshop venue, participants should be shown the system and, if possible, even be given an opportunity to work with it.

A computer is equipment which receives information, processes this information in some way according to a given set of instructions, and presents the results in a useful form (EXHIBIT 1). The physical components of a computer are called hardware. The set of instructions given to the computer to accomplish a task is referred to as software. The hardware components of a computer system consist of the input device through which data or instructions are entered, the output devices on which the processed results are presented, and between them a central processing unit (CPU), which receives data or instructions from input devices, processes them and returns the results to the output devices. A CPU can be has basically three components: memory unit; arithmetic and logic unit; and control unit. The component in which the instructions and data to be handled by the processor are stored is called main memory. Computer memories depend on electronic circuitry. The basic unit of storage in the memory system is a bistable device, i.e., it has two alternate stable states.

Show EXHIBIT 2. Define and explain the terms used in a computer system. Show EXHIBIT 3 and discuss five alternative computer configurations. Observe that stand-alone, inexpensive systems such as personal computers (PCs) are becoming increasingly widespread because of ease of use, convenience and low cost. The concept of work stations emerged from the fact that dedicated systems can be configured to offer problem solving environments optimized for special applications. The current trend is to interconnect a number of low-cost, mini-computer systems based on advanced micro processor chips, as multi-terminal systems.

Less expensive, local area networks (LANs) provide interconnection between PCs in nearby locations, while wide area networks (WANs) cover geographically widespread areas.

Show EXHIBIT 4 and initiate discussion on computer software. Software can be classified into systems or applications software. Broadly speaking, software that offers facilities for better utilization of systems resources is called systems software, while software developed for specific application needs is called applications software. Software such as operating systems, computer language processors, general purpose packages and special purpose packages are systems types. Financial accounting, payroll, personnel and inventory control packages are examples of applications software. Discuss each of these.

Computers use different languages to receive instructions. The CPU executes instructions stored in the main memory by fetching and decoding them. These instructions have to be in binary form in the machine language of the CPU. Higher-level computer languages have been developed for convenience. The language translator software translates the instructions into a machine-understandable language. Show EXHIBIT 5 and discuss various languages for different applications. Observe that with the availability of PCs, where help is available on-screen, most users do not need to know the machine languages.

Commonly encountered PC software includes programs for electronic spreadsheets, data management systems, word processing, operations research in statistics, project management, computer aided design, presentation systems, desk-top publishing and packages integrating two or more of these programs into software suites. Show EXHIBIT 6 and discuss each of these.

EXHIBIT 7 lists important uses of computers in agricultural research. These include project management, research data analysis, training and administration. Use of computers in financial accounting, personnel systems, library services and management information systems (MIS) is fairly common.

A framework for de-centralized use of computers relates to systems for data processing. This includes systems for regular data processing, prototype information and decision support (EXHIBIT 8).

From the point of view of research institutions management system development, management, maintenance and user services are quite important. The computer system may be centralized or de-centralized. Both have advantages and disadvantages, as discussed in EXHIBIT 9. In the centralized system, users interact directly with the system. They can augment the basic packages using fairly simple peripheral applications based on end-user software products to develop additional programs for their particular requirements. The major limitations of centralized computer systems are that:

· centralized systems may not ensure total translation of users' requirements, usually due to imperfect communication between systems developers and users; or

· users may not wholeheartedly endorse systems which are not developed by them.

In the de-centralized approach, users themselves develop their applications, with the help of end-user software packages, such as electronic spreadsheets and data management systems.

However, there are some problems associated with the de-centralized approach, as considered below.

· Excessive de-centralization can lead to data indiscipline, making system integration a difficult task. Each department or individual may develop individual coding schemes, define their own data fields, specify their own types and sizes for the data handled by them. Sharing such data is difficult if proper standards are not evolved and adhered to.

· Lack of systems analysis and design skills in users can result in the development of half-baked products. Systems which are not thoroughly tested might be put into use while users are ignorant about any problems ('bugs') in the program,

· De-centralization may lead to disintegration if each individual solves his or her problem in isolation. One might develop an efficient system within a very narrow scope of a department or individual. Sometimes such solutions may turn out to be efficient overall solutions, but more often they are a cause of problems.

· Users may tend to be possessive of their systems and databases, and be unwilling to share or cooperate.

· Lack of exposure to decision analysis and model building techniques often results in the development of mundane applications where value added to the processed data is negligible. Users waste their energy in 'playing' with computers: developing more cosmetic features rather than objectively analysing results produced and taking necessary action to evolve and improve the essential effectiveness of the program.

Management of computer services (EXHIBIT 10) includes organization, acquisition, performance monitoring and expansion of computer services. EXHIBIT 11 illustrates the staffing pattern for a typical computer services department. The designations relate to functions which have to be performed in managing the computer system. Of course, the staffing pattern will differ from organization to organization and will depend upon services offered. Considerable care has to be exercised in acquisition of computer resources, considering current requirements and likely future needs. Not only the initial cost of acquisition but also subsequent maintenance and operating costs have to be considered in designing computer system configurations.

Show EXHIBIT 12 and discuss the steps in acquiring a computer system. Emphasize that performance evaluation of available systems, as well as after-sales service, are important criteria in making any decision to buy a particular system.

EXHIBIT 1

FUNCTIONAL DIAGRAM OF A COMPUTER


Figure

EXHIBIT 2

COMPUTER TERMS

Technical terms

bit

binary digit - the smallest unit of information, expressing a state of 0 or 1

byte

a group of 8 bits operated on as a unit and storing a meaningful instruction or data

kilobyte (kb)

storage unit of 1024 bytes (= 210 bytes)

megabyte (Mb)

1024 kb (= 220 bytes)

gigabyte (Gb)

1024 Mb (= 230 bytes)

nanosecond (ns)

10-9 seconds; the timescale at which main memories can receive and supply information

ROM

read-only memory - information fixed in the memory and cannot be overwritten

RAM

random-access memory - memory unit used to store instructions and data in active use; can be overwritten and is often ephemeral

Peripheral devices

mouse

pointing device to indicate selection of items on the screen

digitizer

used to capture graphic information by recording points on maps or figures

optical scanner

captures a paper image in a form that the computer can use

video scanner

captures a video image in a form that the computer can use

OCR

optical character recognition - software to interpret a scanned image as text for word processing

VDU

visual display unit - displays text and graphics as output and input to CPU

floppy disk

back-up and porting medium (a 3½" DS/HD floppy holds 1.44 Mb)

EXHIBIT 3

COMPUTER SYSTEM CONFIGURATIONS

1.

Stand-alone, inexpensive systems (e.g., PCs)

2.

Work stations (powerful CPUs, large RAM, large hard disks, high-resolution graphic VDUs and advanced software for specialized applications)

3.

Mini-computer systems with dumb terminals (terminals with VDU and keyboard only) or intelligent terminals (terminals with some independent processing capacity, e.g., PCs)

4.

PCs connected through an inexpensive LAN

5.

Computer systems at distant sites, connected through a WAN

EXHIBIT 4

SOFTWARE

Software includes operating systems, language processors, general purpose packages and special purpose packages

Systems software
Facilitates better utilization of system resources, including
· operating systems (e.g., MS-DOS; Windows; OS/2; MacOS; etc.)
· language processors (e.g., for C++, FORTRAN, COBOL, etc.)
· general purpose, end-user packages

Applications software
Developed for specific application needs, including

· financial accounting
· payroll
· personnel management
· inventory control
· geographical information systems (GIS)
· computer aided design (CAD)
· computer aided manufacture (CAM)

EXHIBIT 5

SOME COMPUTER LANGUAGES

Language

Derivation

Main use

FORTRAN

formula translation

scientific

COBOL

common business-oriented language

commercial data processing

BASIC

beginners' all-purpose symbolic instruction code

beginners

PASCAL

Named after the scientist

structured programming

PROLOG

programming logic

artificial intelligence

C; C++


use of basic system resource

EXHIBIT 6

COMMON SOFTWARE

· electronic spreadsheets
· data management systems
· integrated packages
· operations research
· statistical analysis
· project management
· CAD/CAM
· computer-aided software engineering
· presentations
· word processing
· text processing
· desk-top publishing

EXHIBIT 7

COMPUTER APPLICATIONS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH

Research

· project management
· data analysis
· statistical analysis

Training

Administration

· financial accounting
· payroll
· personnel information system
· library systems
· MIS
· other

Publication

· word processing
· graphics
· DTP

EXHIBIT 8

FRAMEWORK FOR DE-CENTRALIZED USE OF COMPUTERS

Systems for data processing:

· regular
· prototype
· for decision support

EXHIBIT 9

SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES

CENTRALIZED SYSTEMS
ADVANTAGES:
· Users interact directly with the system for solutions
· Users can add simple enhancements using commonly available programs
DISADVANTAGES:
· System may not completely meet the users' requirements due to imperfect communication between system developers and users
· Users may not wholeheartedly endorse systems not developed by they themselves

DE-CENTRALIZED SYSTEMS
ADVANTAGES:
· Users develop their own applications with user-friendly software packages
· Minimum effort needed to completely satisfy users' requirements for a computer-based system
· Users can introduce modifications into the system as and when needed
DISADVANTAGES:
· Can lead to data indiscipline, making system integration difficult
· Development of half-baked products due to lack of systems analysis and design skills
· Can lead to disintegration if individuals solve their problems in isolation
· Users become possessive of 'their' systems and databases and are unwilling to share them or to collaborate
· Development of mundane or restricted applications due to ignorance of decision analysis and model building techniques

EXHIBIT 10

MANAGEMENT OF THE COMPUTER SERVICES FUNCTION

Organization

Acquisition

Performance monitoring

Expansion

EXHIBIT 11

TYPICAL COMPUTER SERVICES DEPARTMENT STAFFING PATTERN


Figure

EXHIBIT 12

ACQUISITION OF COMPUTER RESOURCES

1.

Analysis of requirements and configuration design

2.

Performance criteria established

3.

Selection of computer systems

4.

Initial screening

5.

Performance evaluation

6.

Final selection

(introduction...)

Computers have been increasingly used in research and commerce over the last three decades. The concept of stored program computers, in which instructions and data are stored in a memory unit and fetched and executed by a processor, has not undergone change, but developments in micro-electronics have brought the size and cost of computer systems to previously unimaginably low figures. In parallel, computers have become more powerful and accessible with the emergence of sophisticated, user-friendly software.

Overview of computer technology

Computers are equipment which receive information, process this information in some way according to a given set of instructions, and present the results in a useful form.

Computer fundamentals

The physical components of a computer are called hardware. The set of instructions given to the computer to accomplish a task is referred to as software.

The hardware components of a computer system consist of the input devices through which data or instructions are entered; the output devices by which the processed results are presented; and the central processing unit (CPU), which receives data or instructions from input devices, processes them, and presents the results to the output devices, the CPU can be has three primary components: a memory; an arithmetic and logic unit (ALU); and a control unit. Most of the components of a computer, such as memory, ALU, control unit and interconnections to (interface between) input and output devices and the CPU operate through electronic circuitry, which makes it possible to perform the processing at extremely high speeds. The speed of a CPU is normally measured in millions of instructions per second (MIPS).

The input and output devices are usually electro-mechanical items. Input devices -which include keyboards, scanners, etc. - convert mechanical actions into electrical signals and send them through the interfacing circuitry to the CPU. The output devices are printers, plotters, VDUs, etc. These devices convert the electrical signals received from the CPU into physical movements to generate the output. Certain storage devices working on the principle of electro-magnetic storage, such as disk drives or magnetic tape drives, are also used with computers. These are helpful in storing data and instructions for later use. They are also known as auxiliary storage devices. The input, output and auxiliary storage devices are commonly known as peripheral devices.

The CPU control unit seeks the instructions stored in the memory, one by one, decodes them and executes them with the help of the arithmetic and logic Unit (ALU). It also coordinates operations related to transfer of data to and from input and output devices. The control unit and ALU together are called the processor.

The functional diagram of a computer system is given below:


Figure 1 Functional diagram of a computer system

Processor

The electronic circuitry forming the ALU and control unit is called the CPU, or simply the processor. The processor executes instructions stored in the main memory by fetching and decoding them. The instructions must be in a language the processor can understand. Normally these are groups of bits which trigger an appropriate circuitry of ALU or control unit. Each processor has its own convention for using the combinations of bits for executing specific arithmetic (add, multiply, etc.), logic (compare, branch) and control (initiate device, store, retrieve, etc.) operations. Such a convention is known as the machine language. Each processor has its own machine language. The architecture of the processor (instruction set, size of data handled per instruction, unit of data transfer between processor and memory, basic data types handled, etc.) determines its size, power and cost.

Developments in micro-electronics in the past decade or so have provided tremendous opportunities for the growth of computer technology. Micro-electronic technology has made it feasible to have thousands of electronic components fabricated into a small area of silicon wafer (approximately thumbnail size. Such fabricated wafers of silicon are popularly known as silicon chips or simply 'chips.' With these developments, various functional units of computers (CPU, memory, input/output interfaces) which previously required thousands of separate electronic components have become very compact through integration. In fact, it has become possible to have a CPU on a chip, large memory capacity on a chip, and input/output interfaces also on a third chip. These developments have brought down the cost of various components, and have made computer systems more affordable by the end user.

The late 1970s saw the arrival of the home computer, which consisted of limited powered (8 bit) microprocessor chips with limited memory (64 kb) and inexpensive peripheral devices, such as floppy disk drives, video monitors, keyboards and character printers. The most attractive feature of these systems was the availability of user-friendly software products, such as electronic spreadsheets, data management packages and word processing packages, which made using computers so simple. Since then, a large number of vendors have introduced inexpensive computer systems catering for low-volume, data processing applications: systems based on microprocessor chips from companies like Intel, Motorola and Rockwell.

The use of micro-computers as end-user computing devices got a boost when the giant, USA-based computer manufacturer International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) entered the micro-computer market. IBM introduced a product called the 'IBM Personal Computer' (IBM/PC) based on a partial 16 bit microprocessor chip (INTEL 8088) manufactured by the Intel Corporation. Soon after its introduction, several manufacturers, who were otherwise offering different products centred around a variety of microprocessors, introduced equivalent PCs in their own product range, with hardware specifications similar to that of the IBM-PC. Such systems are called IBM-compatible PCs. The reason for such adoption of one specification is simply the market potential. The same is responsible for the availability of third-party software (software developed by neither manufacturer nor user, but by a commercial software company) on IBM-compatible PCs. Later we shall see how these PCs are superior to earlier mini- and large computers in terms of meeting the information processing needs of end-users, in addition to their price advantage.

Mini-computer manufacturers like Digital, Data-General and Hewlett Packard have also taken advantage of the micro-electronic revolution and have introduced microprocessor-based versions of their earlier computers. This approach gave them advantage of providing readily available and well tested software from their minis for the inexpensive micro-computer systems.

Some manufacturers have adopted a technique called bit slicing, in which a combination of smaller microprocessors is put together to offer the power of a larger processor. For example, using bit-slicing technique, four 4-bit microprocessors can be used to make a 16-bit processor.

Today, the user has a wide choice in the availability and use of computers. Computer systems based on 32-bit microprocessors, offering features superior to those of earlier super-mini-computers are already available as desktop models, with 64-bit machines on their way.

Main memory

The component in which the instructions and data to be handled by the processor are stored is called main memory. Normally computer memories today use through electronic circuitry, although in the early computers, tiny magnetic cores were used. Since auxiliary storage devices are also used for storing instructions and data, the memory system from which the processor takes instructions directly is also known as main memory.

The basic unit of storage in memory systems is a bistable device, i.e. a component having two stable states. Conventionally these stable states are used to represent a 0 or a 1. Hence, the unit of storage is known as a binary digit or bit. Since a bit can represent only two values, we need a group of bits to store a meaningful instruction or data. The standard unit adopted for such group is eight, and a group of eight bits is known as a byte. Using standard coding systems, known as ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) or EBCDIC (Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code), a byte is used to store a character (typically any keyboard character). Larger memory units are the kilobyte (written kb) (a storage unit of 210 bytes = 1024 b); similarly, a megabyte (Mb) is a unit of 1024 kb (= 220 bytes); while gigabyte memories are increasingly common (1 Gb = 1024 Mb = 230 bytes). The sizes of main memories normally range from 1 to 2 Mb for home computers, to 16 Mb to 64 Mb for larger computers. These capacities help the processor to readily access the instructions and data. The larger the capacity, the better should be the utilization of processor power and hence the better the performance. The time taken for a main memory to supply or receive information is measured in nanoseconds (1-9 seconds, or one thousand-millionth of second). A typical memory unit may take around 200 nanoseconds to transfer a byte to the processor, i.e., 5 Mb per second.

The storage space of a memory system can be used to hold permanent instructions or used as a scratch pad. Since memories are made of electronic circuits, they can be prefabricated to have a desired set of frequently used instructions. The information stored in such memory modules cannot be overwritten; they can only be read. Such memory modules are known as read-only-memories (ROM). Since the information is prefabricated, their contents cannot be erased.

A large portion of main memory is normally used as temporary storage space. In that portion of memory - known as random access memory (RAM) - instructions or data are copied from auxiliary storage devices. Once they are used, another set of instructions and data can be copied into the same place. This feature gives us the flexibility to use the same computer for different applications. Since RAM is made of electronic circuitry, but not prerecorded like ROM, the contents of RAM get erased by switching off the power supply.

Peripheral devices

Computer peripherals have also seen major developments. Input devices like card readers and paper tape readers have become obsolete. Since computers have become inexpensive, direct data-entry systems, by which users directly interact with the computer, have become common. These systems, which are driven by inexpensive processors (quite often they are IBM-compatible PCs) accept data from keyboards. They offer, through resident software, formatting and data validation features, with the help of which the user can design customized screens and incorporate validation checks for data to be entered.

A pointing device called a mouse has become popular for use with PCs. The mouse facilitates the selection of menu and data items displayed on VDU screen without using the conventional keyboard. The user can move the pointer displayed on the VDU screen to a desired position by moving the mouse on a pad, and indicate the selection by pressing the select buttons on the mouse.

Another useful device that helps in capturing graphic information by tracing different points on a map is digitizer. This is an important input device for applications involving spatial planning, as well as in engineering design.

Optical and video scanners are used to capture pictures directly into computer files. Optical scanners create an image of pictures in computer memory by scanning them. Video scanners take the picture of the object kept in front of a video camera. These devices are widely used in desk-top publishing (DTP) applications. They are also used in geographical information system (GIS) applications.

VDUs of different types have become common output devices with PC and minicomputer systems. A wide range are available, either cathode-ray tube based (like a TV) or using liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, and with a wide range of options in terms of size, colour or B&W, resolution, colour quality, size of screen, etc.

A wide range of light- to heavy-duty, hard-copy printers offering different character fonts are used with PCs and micro-based mini-computers. These printers, which are now inexpensive can generate regional language printouts, since they use a dot matrix technique to print the characters. Letter-quality printers are also available for use with word processing applications. Laser printers and ink-jet printers which produce a high resolution hard-copy image composed by the user in computer memory are a new addition to the variety of printers. These are popularly used with DTP applications.

Floppy disks have become common back up and porting media. The 5¼" size disks are becoming obsolete, being replaced by 3½" disks. They are standard equipment for almost all systems. Floppy disk drives record 360 kb to 1.4 Mb of data on these disks. To back up large volumes of hard-disk-resident data, tape drives are available to take a backup on cartridge tapes. They record data of the order of 40 to 60 Mb or greater. Winchester technology is widely used for hard disks. With improved reliability, Winchester disc drives come as a compact and composite unit of drive and disc, offering storage capacities of the order of 30 Mb to several gigabytes. Compact disk read-only memories (CD-ROMs) are a recent innovation, capable of storing gigabytes of data on an optical disc. Information on such discs is normally pre-recorded by the suppliers, offering the data and software for popular applications such as encyclopaedias, dictionaries, literary collections and tutorial material for various subjects, with extensive illustrations. CD write-once read-many times (WORM) capability are also available today.

Computer configurations

With the availability of different types of processors and peripheral devices, a number of configurations are possible. Typically, they can be classed as:

· Stand-alone, inexpensive systems (e.g., PCs).

· Work stations (powerful processors with large memory and disk capacities, high-resolution graphics and advanced software for specialized applications).

· Mini-computer systems with dumb terminals (terminals having keyboard and VDU only) or intelligent terminals (terminals having some processing capacity) such as PCs.

· PCs interconnected through an inexpensive local area network (LAN).

· Computer systems at different locations connected through a wide area network (WAN). Some of these configurations are considered in the sections below.

IBM-compatible PCs

The original IBM PC was based on a CPU processor chip called the Intel 8088, and optionally with an Intel 8087 numerical co-processor chip to provide faster computational speed. The motherboard (the main printed circuit board) provided 40 kb of ROM. Using expansion slots, additional RAM memory of up to 640 kb could be added. The PC in its simplest form was interfaced with two 5¼" floppy drives, a keyboard and a monochrome VDU. Additional ports could be used to connect a 10 or 20 Mb Winchester disk (in which case it was called the IBM PC/XT), printers or LAN boards.

The IBM PC/AT (Personal Computer; Advanced Technology) computer used the next generation of Intel microprocessor, the 80286 chip, with a clock frequency of 8 to 10 MHz, RAM memory of around 2 Mb and either colour graphics or enhanced graphic adapter (EGA). This system was normally interfaced with a 1.2 Mb, 5¼" floppy disk drive and a 40 Mb hard disk drive.

The next generation was the IBM PS/2 (Personal System model 2), and used micro-channel architecture for efficient input-output and graphics handling. It was based on Intel 80386 chip as the main processor, supported 8 Mb main memory and worked with a clock speed of 25 MHz, offering a capacity of about 5 MIPS.

The IBM PC and PC/XT models, being inexpensive, were widely used in home-computing and end-user computing applications. Many organizations provided at least a PC/XT to each departmental head to facilitate computing and information processing needs. The operational cost of these systems is minimal since their power requirements are less than 1 kW per unit and do not require air-conditioning.

The technology for small computers similar to the PC has been advancing by leaps and bounds: so fast that it is difficult to keep abreast of the latest developments. User-friendly software to exploit the full potential these powerful systems is more and more accessible, and their operating environments are making the use of computers simpler. At the same time, international operating modalities - in agricultural research as much as in any other sphere - are based increasingly upon the use of computers in every activity.

Other personal computers

Apple Computers are another popular microcomputer company, which introduced several popular PCs even before IBM entered the scene. This company has used Motorola chips as the main processors. The Apple Macintosh is the most popular PC centred around the MC68020 processor and later versions, and is a system with very user-friendly screen management software, together with excellent word processing and desk-top publishing software capabilities.

Work stations

The concept of work stations emerged because dedicated systems can be configured to offer highly efficient problem solving environments for special applications. Computer aided design (CAD) applications available on work stations include digitizers, plotters and high resolution graphic monitors, in addition to the powerful processors supported by large main and auxiliary memories. User-friendly and comprehensive design software available with work stations enable the designer to solve problems with relative ease. Similarly work stations for geographic information systems (GIS) can be used for spatial planning applications such as development of infrastructure facilities. SUN and Apollo work stations are two popular models.

Micro based mini-computers

The current trend is to introduce low cost, mini-computer systems based on advanced microprocessor chips in a multi microprocessor architecture as multiterminal systems. The power offered by these systems is comparable to some of the super-mini-computer systems of not long before. PCs are used as terminals to mini-computers. Such configurations offer the advantages of providing computing facilities in a distributed manner, with scope for centralized processing and storage facilities wherever needed.

Microprocessor-based computer configurations vary from simple, single-user systems such as PCs, to complex multiterminal systems. Apart from these developments, minicomputers and mainframe computers offered by established computer manufacturers have undergone changes. These have become more powerful and compact, and offer powerful software systems.

Local area networks

Personal computers located in close proximity, such as in a suite of offices, can be interconnected through inexpensive hardware using telephone cables. Such interconnection is known as a local area network (LAN). One of the computers is used as a file server to store commonly used software and data. A LAN reduces software cost since the installations need not buy multiple copies of the software. Each PC user connected through the LAN can access the software from the file server. Apart from this, file transfers, electronic mail, etc., are other benefits of a LAN configuration. The viability of LAN configuration will have to be evaluated based on the cost of LAN circuit boards to be installed in each PC, the cost of a file server to offer better performance, and the benefits of such interconnection.

Wide area networks

Computers located at various sites distant to each other can be interconnected through telecommunication networks known as wide area networks (WAN), using communication controllers, modems and associated communications software to facilitate software and data sharing amongst the users of the systems. Pooling of software and hardware resources located at different locations, and transmission of data from originating sources to destinations using them are strengths of WANs. The systems connected to a WAN need not be homogenous. Expensive software systems installed at one of the nodes of the WAN can be used by any user connected through one of the other nodes.

Software

Computers have become powerful and well accepted - if not almost obligatory - tools for decision support, built up on the availability of user-friendly software. Operating systems, language processors, general purpose packages and special purpose packages constitute the main elements in software. General purpose, end-user software systems include electronic spreadsheets, data management packages and integrated software packages. Special purpose software systems include packages for operations research, statistical analysis, project management, computer aided design, computer aided software engineering, presentation, word processing and desk-top publishing.

Software can be classified into systems and applications software. Broadly, software that offers facilities for better utilization of systems resources is called systems software. Software developed for specific application needs is called applications software. Operating systems, language processors and general purpose end-user packages are examples of system software. Financial accounting, payroll, personnel and inventory control packages are examples of applications software. Systems software will have to be procured from the manufacturer or established software houses. Application software can be designed and developed in-house using a team of professionals or with the help of professional software developing companies.

The following sections briefly present such software packages. For more details you should refer to product literature or software reviews in computer periodicals.

Operating systems

The first and most important piece of software needed for computers is called the operating system (OS). This software presents an end-user view of the computer, making several physical characteristics of the computer and its peripheral devices transparent to the user. OS allows the computer to accept commands in natural language (rather than in binary code, the native language of the machine) and to execute them and thus offer various services. The services offered by OS include acceptance of instructions and data from several types of input devices, presentation of results through various types of output devices, organization of the storage space on auxiliary storage devices in the form of files, load the specified software from these devices into the main memory and execute them, and so forth. The basic operations required to work with different devices are all performed by OS. Normally the user is required to specify the operation (read/write) to be performed and the device on which to perform. The task will be executed by OS without burdening the user with several device-dependent details. Similarly, several software packages can be stored on disk or tape and can be executed by giving simple instructions to OS. In large computer systems, OS also provides a multi-user working environment. Security through passwords, resource sharing, accounting of system utilization, etc., are some of the additional tasks performed.

MS-DOS [Microsoft Disc Operating System] on IBM-compatible PCs and UNIX on minis have become de facto industry standards. Because of this, the portability of software and data files has increased enormously. Many computer manufacturers still offer proprietary operating systems on their mini- and large computers.

Computer languages

The CPU executes instructions stored in main memory by fetching and decoding them. Therefore these instructions will have to be in binary code, the machine language of the CPU. However, it is difficult to give instructions in machine language to handle even the simplest of operations. We can express our problems better in natural language closer to our application environment. Taking this into account, software developers have designed higher-level computer languages (machine language being lower-level language) and developed translators which translate instructions given in high-level language into machine language, which then can be executed.

For scientific applications, languages such as FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslation), COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) and BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) have been developed. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has also developed standard specifications for these languages. In addition to these, a language called PASCAL (named after the scientist) was developed by computer scientists to promote better discipline in program writing, called structured programming. Languages such as Prolog (PROgramming LOGic) for artificial intelligence applications and language C/C+ + for developing applications involving the use of basic system resources have become popular.

To be able to use any of these languages, we need to have the language translator software - called a compiler or interpreter - needed to execute programs written in a higher level language. Compilers or interpreters for the same language will be different for different computer operating environments. Depending on the requirements, we need to acquire these software systems.

All these languages were offered on the early mini- and large computers. Today they are all available on PCs and micro-based mini-systems. Some of the popular language processors available on PCs are Turbo Pascal, Microsoft C, Quick BASIC, Microsoft COBOL, Micro Focus COBOL, and Turbo Prolog. These language processors offer in-built editing features and efficient compilation techniques to improve programmer productivity and run-time efficiency.

Electronic spreadsheets

Electronic spreadsheet software are considered a software marvel, which has brought computers closer to end-users. With a matrix-like column-row interface and cell positioning through directional keys, users can enter data in the form of text, numbers and formulae into specified cell addresses, and specify the relationships between the cells. Financial, statistical and mathematical functions supported by these packages offer model building capabilities to end-users. Graphics features enable improved presentation of results and data. Data management functions provide good interfaces with spreadsheet databases. Table handling facilities such as table look up and result tabulation by substitution of the given values in the specified cells enable the user to perform 'What-if?' analyses. These features qualify the spreadsheet packages to be used as DSS generators (software systems that facilitate the development of DSS) in a limited sense. Today these packages are extensively used in cash flow projections, project investment analysis, budgeting and business planning. They have almost replaced the use of conventional programming languages for those applications which can be modelled as spreadsheets. To give an example in the area of materials management, electronic spreadsheet packages are widely used in the generation of comparative statements, consumption budgeting exercises and A-B-C analysis.

Popular electronic spreadsheet packages are VISI-CALC, Lotus 1-2-3, VP Planner, Multi-Plan, Super Calc, Excel, Quattro, Softpro-456 and IFPS.

Data management systems

Data management software facilitates development of data processing systems with user-convenient interfaces. Facilities offered by these packages include data creation, manipulation, processing, organization, query processing and report generation. Data management packages available on PCs are directly responsible for development of effective de-centralized information systems. Users can participate actively in the design, development and use of computer-based information systems because of the simple interfaces provided by these packages. The command- and programming-level features enable the packages to be used as generators for data-oriented, decision-support systems. Popular data management packages on PCs are dBASE IV, RBASE, Reflex, INGRESS and ORACLE.

Integrated packages

In a number of situations, the user is required to use features offered by electronic spreadsheets, data management packages and word processors together to solve a problem. Integrated software systems offer all these features through one package and offer a convenient programming language. They also eliminate the need for transferring data from one package to another. They are the ideal DSS generators. Popular integrated packages are FRAMEWORK II, Symphony, Focus and Farsight.

Operations research and statistics

Packages for operations research and statistics enable the user to solve optimization, forecasting and simulation problems. LINDO, GINO, SPSS/PC+, RATS and SLAM are some of the popular packages.

Project management

Project-management software packages offer facilities to accept project network data, perform resource analysis, scheduling, cost analysis and generate reports to aid project monitoring. Popular project management packages are Harvard Total Project Management, Time Line, MS Project, INSTAPLAN and PRISM.

Computer aided design

CAD packages provide features such as automatic dimensioning, projections, hatching, 3-D visualization and standard libraries of designs. Popular CAD packages are AUTOCAD, PRODESIGN-II and Generic CAD.

Computer aided software engineering

Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) packages are tools which improve the productivity of designing and developing information systems. They provide a structured systems analysis and design environment and accept systems specifications in the form of data flow diagrams, record layouts, entity-relationship diagrams, structured charts, systems flow charts and screen layouts. CASE tools automatically document systems specifications entered by the analyst and generate a number of analysis reports and diagrams. They provide features like prototyping, screen painting, validation of data flow diagrams and generation of record layouts in COBOL, dBASE IV or Pascal. Popular CASE tools are Yourdon Tool Kit, Nastec Design Aid, MEGA, Execlerator, Structsoft and TURBO ANALYST.

Presentation systems

Presentation software systems assist the user to produce electronic slides involving text and pictures, to capture from other software packages, and cut and paste from picture libraries. The packages can be used for classroom instruction, seminars, workshops and boardroom presentations.

Word processing and desk-top publishing

An application that came into prominence with the availability of inexpensive hardware is word processing. Word processing packages offer facilities to create, edit and present textual information. Cut-and-paste features, underlining, boldfacing and alignment features greatly simplify the preparation of final versions of documents. Facilities such as mail merge, spell checking, generation of table of contents, indexing, etc., greatly enhance the power of these packages. Wordstar, WordPerfect and WORD are some of the popular word processing packages.

Desk-top publishing (DTP) is a related application which addresses problems such as development of page layouts, selection of fonts and inclusion of graphic objects in addition to word processing. Pagemaker and Ventura are two popular DTP software systems.

Recent developments in microcomputer technology and user-oriented software products offer enormous opportunities for improving the quality of decision making. They have provided excellent scope for developing convenient interfaces with databases, data analysis models and graphics so that the user can use the computer as a decision-support aid, accommodating personal styles in the analysis and interpretation of data. There is wide scope for using computers as a management tool in any organization.

Computer applications in agricultural research

Recent developments in computer technology can be exploited to excellent effect in various facets of agricultural research. Consider the tasks associated with management of agricultural research.

The director of a typical institution conducting agricultural research would have to manage the major areas of:

· research,
· training, and
· administration.

In research, computers can assist in management, primarily in the areas of project management and analysis of research data.

Project management

Formulation of projects for agricultural research involves extensive searches of literature and development of a technically feasible proposal.

Computers can offer support in the task of literature search through information retrieval systems in libraries. A good information retrieval system which offers selection and retrieval of related work on the topic of research interest can greatly enhance the work of research. If a network service is available, connecting libraries of related organizations, the scope of the task can be further enhanced. One library network package available for PCs is CDS/ISIS, distributed by UNESCO. Apart from this, there are a number of other packages for this service.

Tasks like working out project budgets, time frames and generation of proposal reports can be aided with the help of electronic spreadsheets, data management systems and word processing, which facilitate development and presentation of different alternatives with relative ease.

Monitoring and bookkeeping activities related to project finances (grants and expenditures) can be aided through accounting packages developed using data management systems. Several useful reports for internal record keeping as well as for submission to funding agencies can be generated by these packages. Any of the project management software systems listed earlier would offer comprehensive analysis and reporting features. Users should be acquainted with formal project management concepts in order to use these packages effectively.

Research data analysis

Use of computers for data analysis is not new to agricultural research scientists. Statistical techniques such as regression analysis, discriminant analysis and factor analysis are used widely in research studies. These were performed using minis or mainframe computers in the past. Today every researcher can perform these analyses for reasonably large-sized problems more easily on PCs with the help of the -user-friendly packages described earlier. Where necessary, more complex analyses can be performed using advanced statistical and operations research packages. Area planning applications can use graphic software. GIS packages can assist researchers to generate alternatives by performing complex data analyses of spatial information and displaying the solutions on maps. Research studies relating to monitoring applications can also benefit from thematic mapping software systems in reducing the cumbersome mapping tasks.

Training

Training in the context of agricultural research involves development of case studies based on research and associated experiences in the field. Preparation of teaching material can be assisted by computers through data analysis, data management and packages performing the transfer of data from one package to another, and then using word processing and DTP for reports and didactic material preparation. Cases can be updated easily if they are maintained in computer memories.

By using a computer-connected projection system, presentations in seminars, workshops and classrooms can be made more effective, either by presenting live situations of data analysis, or by presenting an electronic slide show. Such teaching modules can be easily exchanged among instructors and made available for wider dissemination.

Administration

A large number of administrative functions related to agricultural research projects can be assisted by computers.

Financial accounting

Preparation of financial statements through processing of revenue and expenditure documents on a day-to-day basis can be done by computers. Such systems offer correct and up-to-date statements on the financial position of the institution. A detailed project accounting statement giving the expenditure under different budgetary heads can also be generated using the same data. Such details help the project coordinator to work out a financial plan.

Employee payroll

Generation of employee payslips and associated accounting statements is a fairly common and well accepted application of computers.

Processing of basic salaries, allowances and recoveries to generate pay-slips would also facilitate automatic preparation of various statements to be sent to external agencies like insurance, provident funds and banks. Similar statements can also be prepared for various internal servicing units, including the telephone department for telephone charges recovered, hostel on the amount of hostel bill recovered, cooperative society on loan amounts recovered, and personnel and accounts department on the recovery of various loans sanctioned by the organization.

Payroll systems can also assist management by facilitating the study of the financial implications of various wage revision schemes. The system, with some extensions, can also be used in wage negotiation exercises.

Personnel information system

Personnel information systems, which contain the basic data on various employees of the organization, can assist the personnel department in planning and execution of human resources development activities and employee welfare schemes by providing vital information on employee background, such as educational qualifications, training and past experience. Availability or gaps in human resources can be estimated easily. Future scenarios can be developed under various policy options to help the organization develop long-range plans.

Library systems

Administrative services of the library, such as circulation and document acquisition systems, can be effectively aided by computer-based systems. Operational efficiency and user services can be significantly improved through such systems. The circulation system can assist in locating books in circulation, generating loan records, overdue statements and usage frequency of library materials. The acquisition system keeps track of books procurement. In the case of periodicals, the system can keep track of receipt of volumes and assist in follow-up procedures.

Qualitative improvement to the services provided to researchers can be accomplished by using computerized indexing and information retrieval systems. Such systems can provide selected retrieval of information on recent acquisitions as well as acquisitions as of a given date for any given author, subject, publication, keyword, etc. Sharing and access of similar information from other libraries is feasible through computer networks.

Management information system

Information about achievements and use of resources compared with targets and budgets can be prepared through computer-based systems maintaining information on various activities of the organization. Such reports help management in taking timely corrective actions (if needed) and guide it toward efficient use of resources. Systems can be developed to aid in the planning and monitoring tasks of departmental heads by providing them with information on activities desired at specific intervals.

Other systems

The applications presented above are not exhaustive. Depending on the volume of data, complexity of procedures or need for quick retrieval of data, computer applications would vary. Systematic development of systems with the correct, open perspective can bring desired results through the use of information technology. The next section deals with approaches to the use of computers in organizations.

A framework for de-centralized use of computers

With the prices of microcomputers coming down and the systems becoming more and more user-friendly, use of microcomputers in a de-centralized set-up has been steadily increasing. PCs are used in a number of de-centralized data processing and decision-support applications. In this section we discuss two types of use in detail.

Systems for data processing

One of the most common applications of microcomputers in a de-centralized set-up is data processing. These applications are developed for either regular use or prototyping.

Regular data processing systems

Since software available on PCs makes it possible to develop data processing systems with less effort, one is often tempted to develop systems for regular use. These systems can, however, be successfully implemented only if the security and integrity features, which are weak in PCs, are achieved through externally imposed data access discipline, i.e., by following certain norms for accessing database files and by establishing procedures of back up and recovery. Normally such externally imposed discipline would function well if the systems are managed by individuals or by close-knit groups. Special efforts are, however, required to extend PC-based data processing systems to a general-user environment, because it is difficult to impose security and integrity disciplines externally on a large group of users. Advanced PCs which offer UNIX-like operating systems and advanced database management systems are one solution to this problem. Today, a large number of organizations are adopting this approach. Quite a few data processing applications are developed and regularly used for processing using PCs.

Prototype information systems

Development of illustrative systems in pilot projects is another popular use of PCs. Using end-user software packages, it is possible to develop, easily and quickly, a live model of an information system, involving all steps of information processing. Such systems can be subjected to field tests through installation in the pilot project areas. Experiences of using the system and suggestions for improvement can be documented. Subsequently, the main system can be developed using the appropriate technology, taking into consideration the experiences and suggestions resulting from use of the prototype. Prototyping in this form also facilitates user education and improves user participation in the computerization process.

Systems for decision support

From earlier discussions, it is evident that there is no dearth of software tools available on PCs to develop systems to assist the decision-maker. In fact, users have to prepare themselves to meet the challenge of utilizing the power offered by inexpensive and yet powerful information technology.

To design systems for decision support in planning, users should acquire model building and optimization skills. To design decision support systems for monitoring, users should acquire a feel for numbers and develop better indicators of performance using advanced statistical techniques. In both cases, development of aesthetic screen interfaces is an art to be acquired through experience. There are a number of instances where users have developed powerful decision support systems using end-user software without the assistance of systems specialists. However, beyond a certain level of complexity, users need to acquire system design and programming skills. More importantly, users should concentrate on acquiring the modern tools of problem solving in their problem domain to use the microcomputer technology to its fullest potential in a de-centralized set-up.

Systems for evaluating alternatives in project appraisals, project monitoring, profitability analysis, market research studies, production scheduling, inventory management, purchasing, portfolio management, advertising and engineering design are some examples of PC-based decision support systems.

System development strategies

Two approaches are generally used in the development of computer-based systems in a decentralized environment.

In the first approach - the traditional - a centralized department, such as a computer services department, develops systems and installs them on PCs. This approach has all the advantages of using expert skills in developing systems which are vital to the successful implementation of complex application systems. If systems so developed meet most of the user requirements, their acceptance should be high, primarily because:

· users interact directly with the systems for solutions; and
· users can enhance the system at local level by use of simple add-ons based on use of peripheral applications developed using the computer and end-user software on hand.

Major limitations in this approach are:

· it may not ensure total translation of users' requirements into the computer system because of imperfect communication between systems developers and users; and

· users may not wholeheartedly endorse the systems which are not developed by they themselves.

In the second approach, users themselves develop their applications with the help of end-user software packages like electronic spreadsheets and data management systems. In this case, since the problem context is very well known to the developers, the effort involved in completely translating the users' requirements into a computer-based system is minimal. It can be expected that such systems get implemented smoothly since users are the owners of the system. It should also be possible for users to introduce improvements to the system from time to time. The current trend in a number of organizations is to encourage this approach.

Some problems likely in this approach are:

· excessive de-centralization might lead to data indiscipline, making system integration a difficult task. Each department and individual might develop individual coding schemes, define their own data fields and the types and sizes of data to be handled. Sharing such data would be difficult if proper standards are not evolved and enforced;

· lack of systems analysis and design skills in users might result in the development of half-baked products. Systems which are not thoroughly tested might be put into use while users are totally ignorant of any bugs in the system. Systems developed must therefore be subjected to rigorous checking by others not associated with development before releasing them for regular use;

· de-centralization may lead to disintegration if each individual solves his or her problem in isolation. One might develop an efficient system within a very narrow scope of a department or individual, but, in a number of cases, such solutions probably turn out to be inefficient solutions overall;

· users may tend to be possessive of 'their' systems and databases, and may not share them with others; and

· lack of exposure to decision analysis and model building techniques might result in the development of mundane applications, where the value added to processed data is negligible. Users might waste their energy in playing with computers to developing more cosmetic features rather than objectively analysing results and taking the necessary development action.

In spite of the above dangers, development of applications by users is an ideal solution to increase users' involvement in information processing in organizations. Perhaps a mixed approach is desirable. Based on the organization culture, each organization will have to work out a strategy of information processing and cautiously blend technology with decentralization. A core group from management services, computer services and user departments could analyse the issues and work out a strategy to take advantage of developments in information technology.

Management of the computer services function

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.


Figure 2 A typical computer services department staffing pattern

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.

Acquisition of computer resources

A detailed exercise may be necessary for most organizations wishing to evolve a strategy for adoption of information technology. The exercise would include study of requirements, design of a suitable configuration, scheme of acquisition and selection of systems. The following sections describe these processes.

Requirements analysis and configuration

Design of a suitable computer configuration is fundamental to the use of computer in management. Computer services departments, if they exist, or expert consultants should be invited to design a suitable configuration, with approximate cost estimates. The alternatives discussed in the earlier sections, such as stand-alone systems, work stations, minicomputer with terminals, PCs in a LAN or WAN, etc., will have to be evaluated in the context of organizational needs. Application needs and availability of suitable software generally become vital factors in configuration design. It is always desirable to start with a good software base, since it determines the pace at which applications can be developed and users can be involved in the computerization process. A reliable hardware-software combination is essential for successful computerization.

Requirements analysis is an elaborate exercise, involving almost all the members of the organization. The professional group entrusted with the task of designing a suitable computer configuration should hold discussions with all the relevant members of the organization and try to understand the practices of information management as they exist in the institution. Methods to improve these practices with the help of appropriate information technology will be worked out by the group. Any special computing requirements will also be taken into consideration at this stage. A detailed exercise of this nature is necessary to develop a strategy for the use of information technology in the organization as a whole. This ensures proper introduction of information technology and effective use of the system.

A phased approach to acquisition and introduction of computers is normally adopted in cases where experience in the use of computers is limited within the organization. Unless it is estimated that the full configuration will be utilized within a year, it is not desirable to acquire a large configuration of hardware and software, since the rate of developments in technology may render these systems obsolete before the organization is ready to use them.

Selection of computer systems

The effort necessary for the selection of hardware and software depends upon the configuration decided upon. While the prime consideration for selecting a PC may be limited to the availability of good after-sales service, it is quite complex for mini- and large computer systems, and for systems involving use of recent processors, peripheral devices and software products. Even in the case of PCs, the software selection exercise may have to be done extensively for advanced software products.

It is perhaps the power of the machine and how well the operating system and application software can exploit it in a desired configuration which determine the selection of minis and large systems.

Initial screening

Data on comparative performances of hardware and software products can be obtained independently from standard computer magazines. Any user experience, if available, in the neighbourhood will be a valuable input for evaluation. These inputs along with vendor supplied information may be tabulated to prepare a short list for detailed consideration.

Data may include hardware characteristics such as speed, capacity, expandability and method of interconnection of processor, memory and input-output devices. The model and make of these units are equally important inputs.

Ease of use, features supported, ease of data conversion, efficiency of implementation, etc., are some dimensions by which data on software may tabulated for comparison. These inputs will have to be collected for each important software package, including operating systems, language processors, end-user packages and special purpose application software systems.

Vendors offering comparatively superior hardware and software products for the specified computer configuration can be shortlisted for detailed performance evaluation.

Performance evaluation

To evaluate the performance of shortlisted systems, a detailed study using benchmark test programs will have to be carried out.

These studies involve development of a large number of prototype programs (around 20 to 30) running in the proposed hardware-software environment. These benchmark programs will have to be run in several experiments on the proposed equipment.

Observations such as smooth performance of the system (easy navigable, no breakdowns, no hang-ups, etc.) and knowledge of system engineers concerning the hardware and software may be given equal importance to elapsed and execution times required to run the test programs.

Benchmark data may be used to evaluated the vendors using either of approaches. Either

· assign interval scores to each vendor on each criterion and multiply this score by the weights of the criteria. Add these weighted scores to produce a final weighted total. Use these totals to rank order the systems. This scheme works right when the weights are judiciously chosen and the resultant totals are not too close; or

· prepare a brief scenario of how the organization would function with each proposed system. These scenarios would illustrate efforts required in using the proposed system along with the associated costs and benefits. The decision making body can then rank these scenarios and choose the most desirable one.

Final selection

In addition to benchmark results, the market image and service reputation of the vendor are other important points to be considered while selecting computer systems. Detailed techno-economic evaluation may be necessary after this stage.

Since computer selection is a specialized task, it is advisable to engage professional consultants to select complex hardware/software systems involving large budgets.

Performance monitoring and expansion

Monitoring the performance of computer services is as important as monitoring other functions. It is perhaps more complex because of the several issues, including:

· the manager of the computer services function has a wide variety of subordinates, ranging from highly technical computer personnel to clerical personnel;

· the department is responsible for a broad range of activities, from creative system design to routine clerical tasks;

· the department has an impact on many areas of the organization; and

· the manager is responsible for major investment in hardware and software.

Given these points, top management should see the manager of the computer services department as a change agent and give support to the manager's activities within the organization.

Management will have to evolve policy guidelines for data retention, privacy and security. These areas have significant bearing on cost, legal and societal implications.

Auditing computer procedures is essential to ensure adequate control for computer-based systems. Some illustrations of audit controls are: maintenance of control logs for input and output; records of job run, beginning, ending, errors, re-starts and re-runs; file back-up procedures; program back-up procedures; back-up arrangement for processing with another organization; insurance for re-creating bad files; disk and tape library controls; system documentation; user documentation; and operator documentation.

Performance of the computer services department can be influenced by reviewing the performance of existing systems, including users, in the design of new systems and training of the staff of user departments.

Based on these inputs, an expansion plan may be worked out. The plan could include the expansion of the computer services department in terms of augmentation of manpower or equipment. A detailed exercise may be necessary in the case of equipment expansion to take advantage of developments in information technology.

Literature references for further reading

Bodily, E.S. 1985. Modem Decision Making. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Chien. 1989. Introduction to Micro-computers and Applications. Homewood, IL: Irwin.

Condon, J.R. 1987. Data Processing Systems Analysis and Design. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India.

Grauer, T.R., & Sugrue, K.P. 1987. Micro Computer Applications. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Haueisen, D.W., & Camp, L.J. 1988. Business Systems for Micro Computers. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India.

Lucas, H.C., Jr. 1984. Managing Information Services. London: Macmillan.

Lucas, H.C., Jr. 1984. Information Systems Concepts for Management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Norton, P. 1989. Inside the IBM PC. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India.

Pratt, W.T. 1983. Programming Languages. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India.

Sanders, H.D. 1988. Computers Today. 3rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Senn, J.A. 1989. Analysis and Design of Information Systems. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Computer magazines

Byte, published by McGraw-Hill Inc., New York.

Computers Today, published by Living Media Ltd., New Delhi.

Dataquest, published by Cyber Media (India) Pvt Ltd., New Delhi.

PC Magazine, published by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, New York.

(introduction...)

DATE


TIME


FORMAT

Plenary participatory lecture

TRAINER


OBJECTIVES

At the end of this session, participants will have been introduced to:

1. Principles of networking.
2. Computation of the critical path and slack times.
3. Crashing of activities to reduce project duration.
4. Using the Critical Path Method (CPM) as a planning and monitoring tools.

INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS

Exhibit 1

Concept of a network

Exhibit 2

Activities and events

Exhibit 3

Activities and events in a project plan

Exhibit 4

Network for Exhibit 3.

Exhibit 5

Illustration: Time estimates for activities

Exhibit 6

Illustration: Incorporating time estimates in the network

Exhibit 7

Illustration: Different paths through the network

Exhibit 8

Computing earliest start and finish time

Exhibit 9

Computing latest start and finish time

Exhibit 10

Illustration: Earliest and latest time estimates

Exhibit 11

Total and free slack time

Exhibit 12

Illustration: Partial network

Exhibit 13

Slack time estimates

Exhibit 14

Illustration: Time and cost estimates

Exhibit 15

Time scale network

REQUIRED READING

Reading note: Network techniques

BACKGROUND READING

1. Wiest, J.D., & Levy, F.K. 1972. A Management Guide to PERT/CPM. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India.

2. Baker, B.N., & Eris, R.L. 1964. An Introduction to PERT/CPM. Homewood, IL: Irwin.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT AND AIDS

Overhead projector and chalkboard

Session guide: Network techniques

This is a technique-oriented session, and best handled by working through an illustration. In order to be ready with all the calculations, the resource person should beforehand have worked through the example given in EXHIBIT 3.

Initiate discussion by asking participants whether they have been able to draw a project graph for the relationships presented in Table 1. Chances are that some of them may have drawn fairly neat graphs while others may have graphs which are difficult to read since lines cross each other blurring the relationships between various activities. At this stage, introduce the concept of network.

Show EXHIBIT 1, explain what a network is, and discuss the components of a network. A network is composed of activities and events. Show EXHIBIT 2. Activities represent a definite stage of work for the project. They have to be sequenced in order of given technical or other relationships. Activities may be real or dummy. Dummy activities are used solely to establish relationships and are of no consequence in terms of time or resources. Each activity consists of a beginning and an end. Events represent a definite point in a total project. Events occur instantaneously and have no duration. They consume neither time nor resources. Draw diagrams of activities and events to illustrate these concepts. Observe that while activities are denoted by arrows, events are shown by circles in a project network.

Using the concepts of activities and events, draw a network for the illustration1 given as EXHIBIT 3. It is preferable to draw the network in stages, encouraging class participation. Once the network has been drawn (EXHIBIT 4), observe that it:

· shows all the stipulated sequential relationships;
· has a beginning and an end; and
· there are various ways to traverse it from beginning to the end.

1. The example and its solution are taken from pages 141-151 in: Gupta, V.K., Asopa, V.N., Gaikwad, V.R., & Kalro, A.H. No date. Planning Rural Development Projects in Laos: A Guide. New Delhi: ILO-ARTEP.

Observe that several activities can be conducted simultaneously, allowing project duration to be reduced. One does not have to wait for one activity to be completed before initiating another activity unless there is a predecessor relationship. Besides, different times taken by various activities may provide some advantages.

Discuss the need for estimating time for each activity. Note that we may have either a definite knowledge of the time required for an activity or only an estimate of time. Introduce the concepts underlying Critical Path Method (CPM) and the Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) models. Observe that PERT incorporates uncertainty and controls cost through control of time. In contrast, CPM brings costs into direct consideration. CPM is more suited for institute management and can be used as a planning, monitoring and controlling tool. In contrast, PERT is more appropriate for scientific research projects which involve a high level of uncertainty concerning activity times. Depending on whether PERT or CPM is being used, we can estimate time for each activity. For the PERT model we first obtain optimistic, pessimistic and most likely time estimates, and then compute an expected time, as discussed in the note. Since the discussion in the session concentrates on CPM, we have assumed normal time estimates.

Incorporate into the network the time estimates for the individual activities given in EXHIBIT 5. Show EXHIBIT 6, which is the network with time estimates. Now ask participants how many routes are there from event 1 to event 9. This is tantamount to completing the entire project through all its activities. Let them work through the various paths. There are six different paths (EXHIBIT 7) and the longest one has a total time of 36.2 months. This is called the critical path. Discuss the important features of the critical path. Observe that, while activities on the critical path are being completed within the stipulated time, activities on the other paths (called slack paths) will also be pursued simultaneously and completed during that period. Since the critical path is the longest path, it represents the minimum time required for completing the project. If a project network is modified, the critical path may also change.

Show EXHIBIT 8 and introduce the concept of earliest start and finish times. Note that we compute these in order to gain a better understanding of the interrelationship between various project activities and to try to reduce or control project duration.

Earliest start and finish times are calculated using a forward computation method. Earliest start time is the earliest time that a project activity can be initiated. Obviously, this will depend on completion of the predecessor activities. Add to the earliest start time the time required to complete that particular activity. This gives the earliest finish time. Using the relationships shown in EXHIBIT 8, compute earliest start and finish time for individual activities in the network.

Show EXHIBIT 9 and introduce the concept of latest start and finish times. These are calculated using backward computation: we start with the completion time of objective event (9) for last activity i (8, 9) and work backward. Using the relationships shown in EXHIBIT 9, compute the latest start and finish times for the network. Note that one may compute either the earliest or the latest time estimates. Both need not be computed. The resource person should do these calculations on the board, activity by activity, for the entire network. Show EXHIBIT 10, where these values are tabulated.

Show EXHIBIT 11 and introduce the concept of slack time. Slack may be total or free. Total slack is the difference between the latest and earliest start times of an activity. It can also be calculated as the difference between the latest and earliest finish times. Free slack is the difference between the earliest finish time of an activity and the earliest of the early start times of all its immediate successors. Illustrate the calculation using the partial network in EXHIBIT 12. Use the data on early and late start and finish times given in EXHIBIT 10 and calculate total and free slacks. Incorporate these estimates in the network, as shown in EXHIBIT 13. Note that activities on the critical path will have no slack time. It follows then that activities which are not on the critical path probably have some slack time. Knowing this helps when scheduling activities. The strategy should be to concentrate on activities on the critical path by taking advantage of the knowledge of slack available on activities which are not on the critical path.

Discuss the need for reducing project duration. At this' stage, it would be useful to discuss time and cost relationships as a prelude to crashing the network. Recall that the CPM model has definite time estimates for each activity. In some cases this time can be reduced by providing more support and resources. This is called crashing. Show EXHIBIT 14 and use the data on crashing time and cost to illustrate the process of crashing stage by stage. This should be done with the help of EXHIBIT 15. Observe that, for obvious reasons, only the activities on the critical path will be considered for crashing. Thus, only activities e, h and a should be crashed. We will begin with the activity which has the smallest cost per unit of time. Stage-by-stage crashing should be shown and discussed. As EXHIBIT 15 shows, we begin with the original network (Chart I) and then crash activity e from 4.1 to 2.1 weeks at a cost of Rs 240 per week. This reduces the project duration or the length of the critical path from 36.2 to 34.2 months (Chart II in EXHIBIT 15). Next, we crash activity h from 5 to 4 weeks at a cost of Rs 300 per week; this further reduces the length of the critical path by another week, from 34.2 to 33.2 months (Chart III in EXHIBIT 15).

Finally, we crash activity a from 8 to 6 weeks at a cost of Rs 450 per week and that reduces the project duration to 31.2 weeks (Chart IV in EXHIBIT 15).

Before concluding the session, ask participants whether there are limits to crashing. Obviously, the cost of crashing imposes a limit. In addition, technical requirements may also limit the potential for time reduction.

EXHIBIT 1

THE CONCEPT OF A NETWORK

A network diagram is a graphical representation of all the activities of a project, placing them in their proper sequence and with all interdependencies clearly established. The network diagram provides a complete picture of the project.

EXHIBIT 2

ACTIVITIES & EVENTS


Activities
· Real or dummy
· Predecessor-successor relationship
· Represented by arrows

Events

· Instantaneous occurrence

· Denotes the beginning or end of an activity

· Represented by circles

· Burst or merge events

Event


Activity
a
®

Merge event


Burst event


EXHIBIT 3

Illustration:
ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS IN A PROJECT PLAN

Stage of work

ACTIVITY

EVENT


Identification

Predecessor

Successor

Identification

Predecessor

Successor

1

a

-

b, d

(1,2)

2

2

2

b

a

c

(2,3)

2

3

3

c

b

e

(3,4)

3

4

4

d

a

e

(2,4)

2

4

5

e

c, d

f, g, h

(4,5)

4

5

6

f

e

j

(5,6)

5

6

7

g

e

k

(5,7)

5

7

8

h

e

I

(5,8)

5

8

9

i

h

-

(8,9)

8

9

10

j

f

i

(6,8)

6

8

11

k

g

i

(7,8)

7

8

Source: pp. 141-151 in: Gupta, V.K., Asopa, V.N., Gaikwad, V.R., & Kalro, A.H. No date. Planning Rural Development Projects in Laos: A Guide. New Delhi: ILO-ARTEP.

EXHIBIT 4

NETWORK FOR EXHIBIT 3


Figure

EXHIBIT 5

Illustration:
TIME ESTIMATES FOR ACTIVITIES

Job identification

Activities predecessor successor

Normal time (months)

a

-

b, d

8.0

b

a

c

8.6

c

b

e

6.3

d

a

e

14.7

e

c, d

f, g, h

4.1

f

e

i

1.1

g

e

i

3.7

h

e

i

5.0

i

h

-

4.2

For PERT:

Expected time (te) = (to + 4tm + tp)/6

where:

to = most optimistic time estimate
tm = most likely time estimate
tp = most pessimistic time estimate

EXHIBIT 6

ILLUSTRATION INCORPORATING TIME ESTIMATES IN THE NETWORK


Figure

EXHIBIT 7

Illustration:
DIFFERENT PATHS THROUGH THE NETWORK

Path

Time for completion (events 1 to 9)


(months)

1-2-4-5-6-8-9

32.1

1-2-4-5-7-8-9

34.7

1-2-4-5-8-9

36.0

1-2-3-4-5-6-8-9

32.3

1-2-3-4-5-7-8-9

36.2

· Identify the critical path.
· Why is it the critical path?
· What about other paths?

EXHIBIT 8

CALCULATING EARLIEST START AND FINISH TIMES

Earliest start (ES) time
Earliest possible time an activity can begin is the latest of the earliest finish (EF) times of the proceeding activities
Thus
ES (3,4) = EF (2,3) = 16.6 months

Earliest finish time
Sum of the earliest time an activity can begin and the time (t) required to complete the activity
Thus
EF (2,3) = ES (2,3) + t(2,3) = 8 + 8.8 = 16.6 months
EF (3,4) = ES (3,4) + t(3,4) = 16.6 + 6.3 = 22.9 months

EXHIBIT 9

CALCULATING LATEST START AND FINISH TIMES

Latest start (LS) time
The latest time an activity can be started without delaying completion of the project

Latest finish (LF) time
Sum of the latest start time of an activity and the time (t) taken to complete it

Examples
LS i (8,9) = 36.2 - 4.2 = 32 months
LF i (8,9) = 32 + 4.2 = 36.2 months

LS f (5,6) = 32-1.1 = 30.9 months
LF f (5,6) = 30.9 +1.1 = 32 months

LS a (5,7) = 32 - 3.7 = 28.3 months
LF a (5,7) = 28.3 + 3.7 = 32 months

EXHIBIT 10

EARLIEST AND LATEST TIME ESTIMATES

Activity

Earliest

Latest

Slack


Start

Finish

Start

Finish

Start

Finish

a

0.0

8.0

0.0

8.0

0.0

0.0

b

8.0

16.6

8.0

16.6

0.0

0.0

c

16.6

22.9

16.6

22.9

0.0

0.0

d

8.0

22.7

8.2

22.9

0.2

0.2

e

22.9

27.0

22.9

27.0

0.0

0.0

f

27.0

28.1

30.9

32.0

3.9

3.9

g

27.0

30.7

28.3

32.0

1.3

1.3

h

27.0

32.0

27.0

32.0

0.0

0.0

i

32.0

36.2

32.0

36.2

0.0

0.0


EARLIEST AND LATEST TIME ESTIMATES FOR NA PHOK SEED PROJECT

EXHIBIT 11

TOTAL AND FREE SLACK TIME

Total slack
Difference between late start and early start times
or
Difference between latest finish and earliest finish times

Free slack
Difference between early finish time of an activity and the earliest of the early start times of all its immediate successors

EXHIBIT 12


Illustration: PARTIAL NETWORK OF NA PHOK SEED FARM

EXHIBIT 13

SLACK TIME ESTIMATES

Activity

Slack


Total

Free

a

0.0

0.0

b

0.0

0.0

s

0.0

0.0

d

0.2

0.2

e

0.0

0.0

f

3.9

3.9

g

1.3

1.3

h

0.0

0.0

i

0.0

0.0


TOTAL AND FREE SLACKS

EXHIBIT 14

TIME AND COST ESTIMATES

Job

Activities

Normal time
(months)

Crash time
(months)

Crashing cost (Rs)


Predecessor

Successor




a

-

b, d

8.0

6.0

450

b

a

c

8.6

6.6

240

c

b

e

6.3

2.3

72

d

a

e

14.7

14.7

-

e

c, d

f, g, h

4.1

2.1

240

f

e

i

1.1

1.1

-

g

e

i

3.7

2.7

900

h

e

i

5.0

3.0

300

i

h

-

4.2

2.0

-

EXHIBIT 15


Figure

A drainage experiment for salinity control

Consider a research effort being planned to identify the performance of different crops under varying drainage spacing and agronomic practices on saline and waterlogged soils. The primary objective is to reclaim the saline and waterlogged soils by installing sub-surface drainage. The secondary objective is to identify the crop and agronomic practices which in combination yield the highest profit. The output of the research project, Drainage Experiment for Salinity Control, will be useful in recommending crops and agronomic practices in areas where sub-surface drainage has been provided to reclaim saline and waterlogged soils. This research is to be started in a completely barren, saline and waterlogged area of 25 ha at Petlad village in Gujarat (India). The research project has already been approved by the Department of Agriculture and a budget allocated. The research project is composed of 23 activities. Although the research project includes a large number of activities, we shall take the most important ones.

Before installing any drainage, a detailed soil survey is to be carried out in the study area. After this, soil analysis followed by system layout will be done simultaneously with land development (levelling and grading). Once the land is levelled and layout maps are ready, three activities can initiated simultaneously. These are constructing of sumps, digging collector ditches and procuring drain material. Once these activities are completed, installation of the collector drains can start. It must be remembered that if any preceding activity is not completed, the collector drains cannot be installed. As soon as the collector drains are installed, the process of digging and installing lateral drains can be started. Once that is complete, land bunding can be done, followed by leaching of salts. Once leaching is accomplished, two activities - namely sowing of bajra and cotton - can be done simultaneously. Then several agronomic treatments can be imposed. After that, the salinity level under each treatment can be measured. While the crops are maturing, a computer program should be developed and tested with some hypothetical data. This will involve taking in parallel observations, including depth of water table under the various treatments in both crops. Once the crops have been harvested and yield recorded, the yield and water table data can be tabulated and fed into the prepared computer program. This should result in estimated production functions which, together with the final results, will allow recommendations to be formulated.

Table 1 presents the project description. The activities are labelled alphabetically. Using the sequential relationship given in the table, draw a graph showing full details of the project and clearly indicate the manner in which various activities are interrelated. Predecessor and successor relationships recorded in Table 1 should be strictly adhered to.

Table 1 Events and activities in the Project Plan for the Drainage Experiment for Salinity Control, Petlad

Stage of Work

Activity


Job

Predecessor

Successor

Soil survey

a

-

b, c

Land development

b

a

d1

Soil sampling + analysis

c

a

d

System layout

d

c

e, f, g

Construct sumps

e

d1, d

d2

Dig collector ditches

f

d1, d

h

Procure drainage items

g

d1, d

d3

Install collector drains

h

f, d2, d3

i

Dig lateral ditches

i

h

j

Land bunding

j

i

k

Salts leaching

k

j

i

Sow bajra

l

k

d4

Sow cotton

m

k

n

Impose treatments

n

m, d4

o

Measure salinity

o

n

p, q, r

Computer programming

p

o

u

Yield (bajra)

q

o

s

Yield (cotton)

r

o

t

Measure water table (bajra)

s

q

d5

Measure water table (cotton)

t

r

d6

Tabulate results

u

p, d5, d6

v

Estimate production functions

v

u

w

Prepare report

w

v

a

In order to graphically represent the project and its constituent activities, we need to understand the concepts underlying the network approach, as discussed below.

Network

A network is a graphical representation of a project, with all its activities and their interrelationships. The network graph gives complete details of the project, with all activities drawn according to their sequence as stipulated in the project plan and respecting their interrelationships.

Activities

A project consists of a number of activities, each representing a stage, a process, a task, an action, or work in progress which requires time, money or resources for its completion. Stated in simple terms, an activity is a step in project completion for which it resources are required.

Activities may be real or dummy. While real activities consume time and resources and represent a stage of work in the project, dummy activities are used to establish dependency relationships. They consume neither time nor resources.

Activities are inter-related through predecessor and successor relationships. Predecessor activities are activities which have to be completed before a particular activity can be started. Likewise, successor activities are activities which can be initiated only after a particular activity has been completed.

Events

An activity has a beginning and an end denoted by events. Events are instantaneous occurrences. They have no duration. They consume neither time nor resources. Every activity has two events associated with it. While one event represents the beginning of the activity, another event denotes its completion.

The first event in a network is the start of the first activity and thus initiation of the project. The last event represents completion of the project.

Events in a network simultaneously denote the completion and/or beginning of one or more activities. When an event represents completion of several activities, it is called a merge event. When several activities begin from a single event, it is called a burst event. These are illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Symbols and conventions used in preparing network diagrams


a
®




EVENT
Arabic numeral in circle

ACTIVITY
Unbroken arrow labelled in lowercase roman type

MERGE EVENT

BURST EVENT

DUMMY ACTIVITY
Broken-line arrow labelled in lowercase roman type

Distinguishing between events and activities

In a network, events are denoted by numbered circles. Activities are denoted by continuous arrows, while dummy activities are denoted by dotted lines.

Drawing the network

The first step in drawing a project graph is to understand the sequential relationship between various activities in the project. This provides an understanding of the dependencies involved among the various activities. There are 11 activities (a to k) in the example given in Table 1.

Activity a has no predecessor and can be started at any convenient time. Activities b and c can be started concurrently, but only after activity a is completed. Here dummy activity d1 has been shown by a dotted line to show that activity b has been completed. Activity d can be started only after c is completed. Once b and d are completed, the researcher can start e, f and g activities simultaneously. Only after completing activities e, f and g can the successor activity, h, be started. Again two dummy activities, d2 and d3, are used to show that e and g are completed. After this, activities h, i, j and k are taken up in sequence once the predecessor activity is completed. Once k is completed, the researcher can start two activities simultaneously. These are l and m. To show activity l has been completed, dummy activity d4 is included. After l and m are completed, activities n followed by o are implemented. If either l or m is incomplete, activity n cannot be started. There are three successors to activity o, viz., p, q and r. It means that after completing activity o, these three activities can be simultaneously started. The immediate successor of activity q is s and of r it is t. Only after completing activities s, t and p can the researcher start activity u. Here again, to show that activities s and t have been completed, two dummy activities, namely d5 and d6, are used. Therefore, d5, d6, and p are the predecessors for activity u. Once activity u is completed, activity v can start. Its successor activity is w. Once w is complete the project is also complete, since there is no successor activity. Therefore w is the ultimate objective activity and indicates completion of the project.

The network is shown in Figure 2. Using the concept of events associated with each project activity, we can modify Table 1. The activity and event relationships are presented as Table 2.

If we look at the network closely (Figure 2), it is obvious that some activities can be carried out simultaneously, so that the time required for completion of the project can be reduced. A network which shows all events and activities in the proper sequence, with all necessary dependencies between various activities clearly established, is used as a planning tool. Additional details on time required for completion of individual activities would further increase its utility.

Estimating time

If we know the time required for completing various activities in the network, we can estimate the total time required for completely implementing the project. It is difficult to estimate the time required for completion of various activities unless we have previous experience of undertaking similar activities. Otherwise, some knowledgeable person can be contacted to get some idea about the likely time requirement. Obviously, each individual could provide a different estimate for various activities. These estimates will have to be appropriately weighted and then used for further analysis.

Depending upon how time estimates for project activities are derived, we can use either the Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) or the Critical Path Method (CPM). They are two somewhat similar management models.


Figure 2 Network diagram for the project on drainage for salinity control.

PERT and CPM models

PERT is mostly used in projects involving non-repetitive activities or where no past experience is available. Activity times have to be 'guestimated' using the relationship:

te = (to + 4tm + tp)/6

where:

te is the resultant estimated time
to is the most optimistic time estimate
tm is the most likely time estimate
tp is the most pessimistic time estimate

The difference between the most optimistic and most pessimistic time estimates is the estimated uncertainty. This knowledge can be further exploited by using a standard normal distribution to compute the probability of completing the project by a target date.

In contrast, the CPM model is used where some past experience is available about both time and cost required by different activities in a project (say a project on construction of a laboratory). In PERT, the focus is on time. The underlying assumption is that cost varies directly with time for all activities within the project. The total project time is controlled by controlling individual activities on the critical path and hence the cost of implementing the project is also indirectly controlled. CPM directly brings the concept of cost into the planning and control process. In the case of CPM, time estimates are less uncertain. When time can be estimated fairly well and costs are known in advance, CPM is useful. However, when there is a great degree of uncertainty and when control over time is more important than control over cost, PERT is a better choice.

Table 2 Events and activities in the Project Plan of the Drainage Experiment for Salinity Control

Stage of work

Activity

Event


Identification

Predecessor

Successor

Identification

Predecessor

Successor

Soil survey

a

-

b, c

1,2

1

2

Land development

b

a

d1

2,3

2

3

Soil sampling + analysis

c

a

d

2,4

2

4

System layout

d

c

e, f, g

4,5

4

5

Construct sump

e

d1, d

d2

5,6

5

6

Dig collector ditches

f

d1, d

h

5,8

5

7

Procure drainage items

a

d1, d

d3

5,7

5

8

Install collector drain

h

f, d2, d3

i

8,9

8

9

Dig lateral ditches

i

h

j

9,10

9

10

Land bunding

j

i

k

10,11

10

11

Leach salts

k

j

l

11,12

11

12

Sow bajra

l

k

d4

12,13

12

13

Sow cotton

m

k

n

12,14

12

14

Impose treatments

n

m, d4

o

14,15

14

15

Measure salinity

o

n

p, q, r

15,16

15

16

Computer programming

p

o

u

16,21

16

21

Yield (bajra)

q

o

s

16,17

16

17

Yield (cotton)

r

o

t

16,18

16

18

Measure water table (bajra)

s

q

d5

17,19

17

19

Measure water table (cotton)

t

r

d6

18,20

18

20

Tabulate results

u

p, d5, d6

v

21,22

21

22

Estimate prod. functions

v

u

w

22,23

22

23

Report results

w

v

-

23,24

23

24

Dummy

d1

b

e, f, g

3,5

3

5

Dummy

d2

e

h

6,7

6

7

Dummy

d3

g

h

7,8

7

8

Dummy

d4

l

n

13,14

13

14

Dummy

d5

d

u

19,21

19

21

Dummy

d6

t

u

20,21

20

21

PERT is mostly used in projects involving non-repetitive activities like research (particularly scientific experiments) and development, for which no past experience is available, while CPM is used when some past experience is available, such as in a construction programme. These different areas of application for the two seemingly similar techniques are because of rather not-too-well defined differences in their methods.

CPM is more appropriate as a planning as well as monitoring and controlling device. Given the focus of this manual on institute management, we shall consider the CPM model in detail.

Incorporating the time estimate

The time estimates for various activities are worked out using the above relationship. Table 3 shows the optimistic, pessimistic, most likely and resultant estimated time for various activities.

Critical path

We can incorporate the time details into the network diagram (Figure 3).

Table 3 Time estimates for various activities involved in the salinity control through drainage experiment

Stage of work

Activity

to

tm

tp

te

Soil survey

a

4

5

10

5.7

Land development

b

10

15

25

15.8

Soil sampling + analysis

c

30

40

50

40.0

System layout

d

7

10

15

10.3

Construct sumps

e

15

20

30

20.8

Dig collector ditches

f

5

7

10

7.2

Procure drainage items

g

25

30

45

31.7

Install collector drain

h

3

5

7

5.0

Dig lateral ditches

i

20

29

45

30.7

Land bunding

j

5

10

12

9.5

Leaching of salts

k

7

10

15

10.3

Sow bajra

l

3

5

7

5.0

Sow cotton

m

3

5

7

5.0

Impose treatment

n

4

6

7

5.8

Measure salinity

o

30

40

50

40.0

Computer programming

p

30

40

60

41.7

Yield (bajra)

q

100

100

100

100.0

Yield (cotton)

r

150

150

150

150.0

Measure water table (bajra)

s

10

8

15

9.5

Measure water table (cotton)

t

10

8

15

9.5

Tabulate results

u

5

7

10

7.2

Estimate prod. functions

v

10

12

18

12.7

Report results

w

20

30

45

30.8


Figure 3 Activity times in the network of the salinity control experiment

There can be several paths from starting event 1 to end event 24. Different paths will have different time estimates for completion of the project. In our illustration, there are 11 paths. These are listed in Table 4. Each path from starting event 1 to end event 24 has different time estimates. The total time required to complete the project would depend on the path chosen.

Table 4 Different paths through the network of the salinity control experiment


Events making up the path

Time to complete from events 1 to 24 (days)

1

1-2-4-5-8-9-10-11-12-14-15-16-21-22-23-24

261.3

2

1-2-3-5-8-9-10-11-12-14-15-16-21-22-23-24

226.8

3

1-2-4-5-6-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-22-23-24

342.7

4

1-2-4-5-7-8-9-10-11-12-14-16-18-20-21-22-23-24

403.6

5

1-2-3-5-7-8-9-1-0-11-12-14-15-16-18-20-21-22-23-24

369.1

6

1-2-3-5-6-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-18-20-21-22-23-24

358.2

7

1-2-3-5-6-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-18-20-21-22-23-24

308.2

8

1-2-4-5-7-8-9-10-11-12-14-15-16-17-19-21-22-23-24

353.6

9

1-2-3-5-7-8-9-10-11-12-14-15-16-17-19-21-22-23-24

319.1

10

1-2-4-5-8-9-10-12-14-15-16-18-20-21-22-23-23-24

379.1

11

1-2-4-5-8-9-10-11-12-14-15-16-17-19-21-22-23-24

329.1

In comparison with other paths, path number 4 is the longest since it requires the maximum time: 403.6 days. The longest path in a network is called the critical path. All other paths are called slack paths. In our example, all except path number 4 are slack paths. In the case of path number 4, a minimum of 403.6 days are required to complete the project.

Since different paths from starting event 1 to end event 24 have different time estimates, the total time required to complete the project would depend on the path chosen. Altogether there are 11 paths.

Earliest start and finish times

For the project manager, it is useful to know the earliest start (ES), latest start (LS), earliest finish (EF) and latest finish (LF) times for various activities. This allows scheduling of the work in such a manner that project duration is minimized. Some activities can be implemented simultaneously, and some activities can be delayed while efforts are concentrated on completing other activities which impose a time constraint on the completion of the project.

The ES of an activity in a project is the earliest possible time that the activity can start. In other words, it is the earliest finish time of the preceding activities. A project can be started at any time, therefore, its ES is zero. This is also the ES of activity a. The ES of activity d is 45.7 days.

The EF of an activity is its early time plus the time needed to complete the activity. In our illustration, activity a can be started at the earliest at zero time. It requires 5.7 days for completion. Thus its EF time is 5.7 days.

Latest finish and latest start times

The LS time of an activity is the latest time it can begin without pushing the finish date of the project further into the future. It can be computed by subtracting the expected average time required for the activity from the LF, which is its late start time plus its duration. LF and LS for each activity are calculated as follows:

LFa = LSa - ta

LSa = LFa - ta

The EF, ES, LS and LF calculations are illustrated in Table 5 and summarized in Table 6. These are incorporated in the network diagram (Figure 4).

Table 5 Computing ES and EF, and LS and LF times

EF (2,3) = ES (2,3) + t(2,3) = 5.7+15.8 =21.5

EF (2.4) = ES (2,4) + t(2,4) = 5.7 + 40.0 = 45.7

ES (4,5) = EF (2,4) = 45.7

EF (4,5) = EF (4,5) + t(4,5) = 45.7 +10.0 = 56.0

ES (5,6) = EF (4,6) = 56.0

EF (5,6) = ES (5,6) + t(5,6) = 56.0 + 20.8 = 76.8

ES (5,7) = EF (4,5) = 56.0

ES (5,7) = ES (5,7) + t(5,7) = 56.0 +31.7 = 87.7

EF (5,8) = EF (4,5) = 56.0

ES (5,8) = ES (5,8) + t(5,8) = 56.0 + 7.2 = 63.2

LSw (23,24) = 403.6 - 30.8 = 372.8

LFw (23,24) = 372.8 + 30.8 = 403.6

LSv (22.23) = 372.8-12.7 = 360.1

LFv (22.23) = 360.1 +12.7 = 372.8

LSu (21.22) = 360.1 -7.2 = 352.9

LFu (21,22) = 352.9 + 7.2 = 360.1

LSp (16,21) = 352.9 - 41.7 = 311.2

LFp (16,21) = 311.2 + 41.7 = 352.9

LSt (18,20) = 352.9 - 9.5 = 343.4

LFt (18,20) = 343.4 + 9.5 = 352.9

LSr (16,18) = 343.4 - 150 = 193.4

LFr (16,18) = 193.4 + 150 = 343.4

LSs (17,19) = 352.9 - 9.5 = 343.4

LFs (17.19) = 343.4+9.5 = 352.9

LSq (16,17) = 343.4 - 100 = 243.4

LFq (16,17) = 243.4+100 = 343.4

The ES of activity h will be 87.7 days as until activities e, f, and g are completed, activity h cannot be started. The EF for the last activity in the network gives the earliest time the project can be completed. In our example it is 403.6 days.

Slack time

From Table 6, we observe that for some of the activities, LS and ES are identical. In contrast, for some activities, e.g., b, e, f, p and s, the LS and ES are different. Consider activity e: it can be started at any time between 56 and 66.9 days and still will not delay the project. The difference between these two, 10.9 days, is called the slack time. We say then that activity e has slack, and we define the total slack (TS) of an activity as the difference between its LS and ES times. The free slack is the difference between the EF of an activity and the earliest of the ESs of all its immediate successors. The computations are shown in Tables 7 and 8, and illustrated in Figure 5. These can be depicted in the network.


Figure 4 Earliest and latest start and finish times

Table 6 The earliest and the latest time estimates

Activity

Job

Earliest

Latest

Slack



Start

Finish

Start

Finish

Total

Free

Soil survey

a

0.0

5.7

0.0

5.7

0.0

0.0

Land development

b

5.7

21.5

40.2

56.0

34.5

34.5

Soil sampling + analysis

c

5.7

45.7

5.7

45.7

0.0

0.0

System layout

d

45.7

56.0

45.7

56.0

0.0

0.0

Construct sumps

e

56.0

76.8

66.9

87.7

10.9

10.9

Dig collector ditches

f

56.0

63.2

80.5

87.7

24.5

24.5

Procure drainage items

g

56.0

87.7

56.0

87.7

0.0

0.0

Install collector drain

h

87.7

92.7

87.7

92.7

0.0

0.0

Digg lateral ditches

i

92.7

122.8

92.7

122.8

0.0

0.0

Land bunding

j

122.8

132.3

122.8

132.3

0.0

0.0

Leaching of salts

k

132.3

142.6

132.3

142.6

0.0

0.0

Sow bajra

l

142.6

147.6

142.6

147.6

0.0

0.0

Sow cotton

m

142.6

147.6

142.6

147.6

0.0

0.0

Impose treatment

n

147.6

153.4

147.6

153.4

0.0

0.0

Measure salinity

o

153.4

193.4

153.4

193.4

0.0

0.0

Computer programming

p

193.4

235.1

311.2

352.9

177.8

177.8

Yield (bajra)

q

193.4

293.4

193.4

293.4

0.0

0.0

Yield (cotton)

r

193.4

343.4

193.4

343.4

0.0

0.0

Measure water table (bajra)

s

293.4

302.9

343.4

352.9

50.0

50.0

Measure water table (cotton)

t

343.4

352.9

343.4

352.9

0.0

0.0

Tabulate results

u

352.9

360.1

352.9

360.1

0.0

0.0

Estimate prod. function

v

360.1

372.8

360.1

372.8

0.0

0.0

Prepare report

w

372.8

403.6

372.8

403.6

0.0

0.0

Time-cost relationship

The CPM model is largely associated with 'normal' completion times. In some cases, a few activities can be completed in less time by incurring extra expenditure. In such cases, the cost of the project goes up. If cost is not a consideration, the time of an activity can be reduced to a certain minimum. This reduction of time to perform an activity is the crash time. This is the minimum time that an activity will take. It will definitely increase the cost of the project. In fact there exists a trade-off between time and cost of the project. The relationship of reduced time for the activity versus increased cost is known as the time-cost curve. The additional cost of crashed time is calculated as follows:


Table 7 Computation of total slack

TSb (2,3)

= LSb (2,3) - ESb (2,3)


= 40.2 - 5.7 = 34.5

TSe (5,6)

= LSe (5,6) - ESe (5,6)


= 66.9 - 56.0 = 10.9

TSf (5,7)

= LSf (5,7) - ESf (5,7)


= 80.5 - 56.0 = 24.5

TSp (16,21)

= LSp (16,21) - ESp (16,21)


= 311.2 - 193.4 = 17.8

TSs (17,19)

= LSs (17,19) - ESs (17,19)


= 343.4 - 293.4 = 50.01

Table 8 Slack time estimates for the network

Activity

Job

Slack



Total

Free

Soil survey

a

0.0

0.0

Land development

b

34.5

34.5

Soil sampling + analysis

c

0.0

0.0

System layout

d

0.0

0.0

Construct sumps

e

10.9

10.9

Dig collector ditches

f

24.5

24.5

Procure drainage items

g

0.0

0.0

Install collector drain

h

0.0

0.0

Dig lateral ditches

i

0.0

0.0

Land bunding

j

0.0

0.0

Leaching of salts

k

0.0

0.0

Sow bajra

l

0.0

0.0

Sow cotton

m

0.0

0.0

Impose treatment

n

0.0

0.0

Measure salinity

o

0.0

0.0

Computer programming

p

177.8

177.9

Yield (bajra)

q

0.0

0.0

Yield (cotton)

r

0.0

0.0

Measure water table (bajra)

s

0.0

50.0

Measure water table (cotton)

t

0.0

0.0

Tabulate results

u

0.0

0.0

Estimate prod. function

v

0.0

0.0

Prepare report

w


0.0

Table 9 shows the normal and the reduced time of each activity. For example, the normal time to complete activity a is 5.7 days. By increasing labour and extending the working hours, the activity can be performed in 4 days, thereby reducing its duration by 1.7 days but incurring an additional expenditure of Rs 80, as the cost to complete this activity increases from Rs 320 to Rs 400. One can work out the additional cost of crashing the duration of the activity by one day. It is Rs 47.06 per day. This is also the slope of the time-cost curve.


Figure 5 Total and free slacks

It indicates an additional expenditure of Rs 47.06 by crashing the duration of activity a by one day. The slope value of the time-cost curve of each activity can be seen in Table 9.

Since the aim is always to minimize the cost of the project, those activities are crashed first which have the least slope value, i.e., a lower slope for the time-cost relationship. In the network we found that ten activities, viz., a, g, i, j, k, o, t, u, v and w could be crashed in view of the length of time. How does one decide which activity to select first for reducing the cost? From Table 9, activity a has the lowest increase in cost for crashing. Thus, this activity is the first to be selected to decrease the duration of the activity. The time saved in this case is 1.7 days. The total increase in cost due to saving time will be Rs 47.06 x 1.70 = Rs 80.00. This indicates that the cost of the project will go up by Rs 80.00 if the duration of activity a is reduced to 4 days instead of the previous 'normal' period of 5.7 days.

The activity with the next least slope value from the time-cost relationship is j. The slope is 35.60 and the crashed time is 2.50 days. So Rs 53.60 x 2.50 = 134.00 is the increase in the cost of the project by reducing the duration of activity j activity from 9.5 to 7 days.

The process of costing is repeated till one can no longer justify the higher cost of the project by reducing the project time. If all possible activities are performed as per the crashed time, one can save 68.50 days in completing the project: i.e., the duration of the project can be reduced from 403.6 days to 335.1 days. This is achieved at a higher cost. The additional cost of crashing the project time is Rs 20 873.92. This means an increase of 4.28% in the cost of the project with a 17% saving in project duration (Table 10).

Table 9 Time crashing and cost estimates

Activity

Job

Normal time
(days)

Crash time
(days)

Increase in cost (Rs/day)
(= slope value)

Soil survey

a

5.7

4.0

47.06

Land development

b

15.8

10.0

517.24

Soil sampling + analysis

c

40.0

10.0

0.00

System layout

d

10.3

5.0

23.59

Construct sumps

e

20.8

20.8

0.00

Dig collector ditches

f

7.2

5.0

1136.36

Procure drainage items

g

31.7

30.0

588.23

Install collector drain

h

5,0

5.0

0.00

Dig lateral ditches

i

30.1

15.0

624.17

Land bunding

j

9.5

7.0

53.60

Leaching of salts

k

10.3

10.0

83.33

Sow bajra

l

5.0

5.0

0.00

Sow cotton

m

5.0

5.0

0.00

Impose treatment

n

5.8

5.8

0.00

Measure salinity

o

40.0

10.0

200.00

Computer programming

p

41.7

30.0

89.06

Yield (bajra)

q

100.0

100.0

0.00

Yield (cotton)

r

150.0

150.0

0.00

Measure water table (bajra)

s

9.5

5.0

93.33

Measure water table (cotton)

t

9.5

5.0

93.33

Tabulate results

u

7.2

3.0

128.57

Estimate prod. function

v

12.7

10.0

348.15

Prepare report

w

30.8

25.0

398.27

Dummies

d1 to d6

-

-

-

Table 10 Crashing time and project cost

Crashing stage

Activity

Crashing cost
(Rs/day)

Time saved
(days)

Total crashed cost
(Rs)

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(3x4)

1.

a

47.06

1.70

80.00

2.

j

53.60

2.50

134.00

3.

k

83.33

0.30

25.00

4.

t

93.33

4.50

419.99

5.

u

128.57

4.20

539.99

6.

o

200.00

30.00

6 000.00

7.

v

348.15

2.70

940.01

8.

w

398.27

5.80

2 309.97

9.

g

588.23

1.70

999.99

10.

i

624.17

15.10

9 424.97

Total

68.50

20 873.92

(introduction...)

DATE


TIME


FORMAT

Plenary participatory lecture

TRAINER


OBJECTIVES

At the end of this session, participants will have had an opportunity to practise:

1. Drawing a project network.
2. Calculations involved in identification of the critical path and crashing of activities.

INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS

None.

REQUIRED READING

Exercise: Developing salt-tolerant varieties of paddy

BACKGROUND READING

Reading note: Network techniques

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT AND AIDS

Overhead projector and chalkboard

Session guide: PERT and CPM exercise

The previous session presented a conceptual basis for preparing a project network and the calculations relating to identification of the critical path and crashing of activities to reduce project duration. The purpose of this session is to provide an opportunity for participants to practice these calculations through an exercise.

Divide the participant group into three or four smaller groups to facilitate interaction. Distribute the exercise as well as the computation sheets. Let them all work on the same exercise.

Reconvene the plenary group and distribute and discuss the solution, and discuss clear whatever doubts participants might have.

PERT and CPM exercise: Developing salt-tolerant varieties of paddy

Among several research programmes initiated to develop appropriate technologies to combat the growing problem of salinity, developing salt-tolerant varieties may be the most important technological advance for low-cost management of agricultural production in the affected areas. In this context, a research programme was proposed to:

(i) identify salt-tolerant strains;

(ii) develop a high yielding, salt-tolerant cultivar;

(iii) test the cultivar in the National Testing Network, and get it released through the National and State Variety Release Committees; and

(iv) test the performance of the cultivar in farmers' fields to get feedback from the farming community.

To implement the research programme, some 20 activities were identified (Table 1) and three time estimates were collated, based on the opinions of many breeders with long experience in developing varieties.

Table 1 Project for development of salt-tolerant varieties of paddy

TASK

Activities

Estimates


ID

Pred.

Succ.

to

tm

tp

Grow donor plants

a

-

b

16

20

24

Cross & harvest F1 seeds

b

a

c

4

5

8

Rear F1 plants

c

b

e

8

12

16

Procure chemicals, etc.

d

-

e

12

20

32

Determine polar stage; plant F1 anthers for induction

e

d, c

g

4

10

12

Prepare aseptic growth room

f

-

g

8

12

20

Plant calli; regenerate plants; screen for salt tolerance

g

e, f

h

4

8

12

Screen plantlets in culture solution for salt tolerance

h

g

i

4

5

8

Identify haploids; create diploids

i

h

j

4

5

8

Transfer plantlets to field for screening and seed production

j

i

k

8

12

16

Screen material at Network sites

k

j

I

12

20

25

Select homozygous lines for agro-edaphic environments

I

k

m

16

20

24

Test material in on-station trials

m

I

n

16

20

24

Data analysis

n

m

o

4

8

12

Nominate entries for National Screening Nursery

o

n

p

16

20

25

Promote entries to National Trials

p

o

q

30

40

50

Evaluate on-farm in farmers' fields

q

p

r

15

. 20

24

Farmers' Field Days

r

p

d1

3

4

5

Release of cultivar by Variety Release Committees

s

q

t

5

8

12

Overall analysis and report writing

t

s

-

10

12

15

Dummy

d1

p

s




Computation sheet 1 Project for development of salt-tolerant varieties of paddy

TASK

Activities

Events

Expected time


ID

Pred.

Succ.

ID

Pred.

Succ.


Grow donor plants

a

-

b





Cross & harvest F1 seeds

b

a

c





Rear F1 plants

c

b

e





Procure chemicals, etc.

d

-

e





Determine polar stage; plant F1 anthers for induction

e

d, c

g





Prepare aseptic growth room

f

-

g





Plant calli; regenerate plants; screen for salt tolerance

g

e, f

h





Screen plantlets in culture solution for salt tolerance

h

g

i





Identify haploids; create diploids

i

h

j





Transfer plantlets to field for screening and seed production

j

i

k





Screen material at Network sites

k

j

I





Select homozygous lines for agro-edaphic environments

I

k

m





Test material in on-station trials

m

I

n





Data analysis

n

m

o





Nominate entries for National Screening Nursery

o

n

p





Promote entries to National Trials

p

o

q





Evaluate on-farm in farmers' fields

q

p

r





Farmers' Field Days

r

p

d1





Release of cultivar by Variety Release Committees

s

q

t





Overall analysis and report writing

t

s

-





Dummy

d1

p

s






Computation sheet 2: Network for project for development of salt-tolerant varieties of paddy

Notes: Incorporate estimates for expected time, earliest and latest start and finish times, and slack time. Indicate the critical path.

Computation sheet 3: Different paths through the network

Path

Time for completion
(from events 1 to 20; in weeks)















Computation sheet 4: Earliest and latest start and finish times, and slack time estimates

TASK

ID

Earliest

Latest

Slack



ES

EF

LS

LF

Start

Finish

Grow donor plants

a







Cross & harvest F1 seeds

b







Rear F1 plants

c







Procure chemicals, etc.

d







Determine polar stage; plant F1 anthers for induction

e







Prepare aseptic growth room

f







Plant calli; regenerate plants; screen for salt tolerance

g







Screen plantlets in culture solution for salt tolerance

h







Identify haploids; create diploids

i







Transfer plantlets to field for screening and seed production

j







Screen material at Network sites

k







Select homozygous lines for agro-edaphic environments

l







Test material in on-station trials

m







Data analysis

n







Nominate entries for National Screening Nursery

o







Promote entries to National Trials

p







Evaluate on-farm in farmers' fields

q







Farmers' Field Days

r







Release of cultivar by Variety Release Committees

s







Overall analysis and report writing

t







Dummy

d1







Computation sheet 5: Estimating the probability of completing the project

Activity in critical path

Time estimate

Standard deviation for each activity

Variance for each activity


to

tp




























Total variance


Calculate the probability of completing the project on the target date:


Looking at the table, the probability of completing the project by the target date is about __ %


Solution sheet 1. The network exercise on the project for development of salt-tolerant varieties of paddy


Figure 1 Activity times in the network of the project on salt-tolerant varieties of paddy

Solution sheet 2: Different paths through the network for the project on development of salt-tolerant varieties of paddy

Path

Time for completion
(events 1 to 20; weeks)

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-18-19

229.3

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-18-19

245.1

1-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-1 3-14-15-16-18-19

195.4

1-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-17-18-19

195.4

1-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-18-19

195.4

1-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-17-18-19

195.4

Solution 4: Estimates of earliest and latest start and finish times and of slack time

TASK

ID

Earliest

Latest

Slack



ES

EF

LS

LF

Total

Free

Grow donor plants

a

0.0

20.0

0.0

20.0

0.0

0.0

Cross & harvest F1 seeds

b

20.0

25.3

20.0

25.3

0.0

0.0

Rear F1 plants

c

25.3

37.3

25.3

37.3

0.0

0.0

Procure chemicals, etc.

d

0.0

20.7

16.6

20.7

16.6

16.6

Determine polar stage; plant F1 anthers for induction

e

37.3

46.6

37.3

46.6

0.0

0.0

Prepare aseptic growth room

f

0.0

12.7

33.9

46.6

33.9

33.9

Plant calli; regenerate plants; screen for salt tolerance

g

46.6

54.6

46.6

54.6

0.0

0.0

Screen plantlets in culture solution for salt tolerance

h

54.6

59.9

54.6

59.9

0.0

0.0

Identify haploids; create diploids

i

59.9

65.2

59.9

65.2

0.0

0.0

Transfer plantlets to field for screening and seed

j

65.2

77.2

65.2

77.2

0.0

0.0

Screen material at Network sites

k

77.2

96.7

77.2

96.7

0.0

0.0

Select homozygous lines for agro-edaphic environments

l

96.7

116.7

96.7

116.7

0.0

0.0

Test material in on-station trials

m

116.7

136.7

116.8

136.7

0.0

0.0

Data analysis

n

136.7

144.7

136.7

144.7

0.0

0.0

Nominate entries for National Screening Nursery

o

144.7

164.9

144.7

164.9

0.0

0.0

Promote entries to National Trials

p

164.9

204.9

164.9

204.9

0.0

0.0

Evaluate on-farm in farmers' fields

q

204.9

224.7

204.9

224.7

0.0

0.0

Farmers' Field Days

r

204.9

208.9

204.9

208.9

154.8

154.8

Release of cultivar by Variety Release Committees

s

224.7

232.9

224.7

232.9

0.0

0.0

Overall analysis and report writing

t

232.9

245.1

232.9

245.1

0.0

0.0

Dummy

d1







Solution sheet 5: Estimating the probability of project completion

Activity in critical path

Time estimate

Standard deviation for each activity

Variance for each activity


to

tp



1,2

16

24

1.33

1.77

2,3

4

8

0.67

0.45

3,4

8

16

1.33

1.77

5,6

4

12

1.33

1.77

6,7

4

8

0.67

0.45

7,8

4

8

0.67

0.45

8,9

8

16

1.33

1.77

9,10

12

25

2.17

4.71

10,11

16

24

1.33

1.77

11,12

6

24

1.33

1.77

12,13

4

12

1.33

1.77

13,14

16

25

1.50

2.25

14,15

30

50

3.33

11.09

15,17

15

24

1.50

2.25

17,18

5

12

1.17

1.37

18,19

10

15

0.83

0.69

Total Variance

37.87


Calculating the probability of completing the project by the target date.




Looking at the table, the probability of completing the project by the target date is about 100%


TOTAL AND FREE SLACK ON THE NETWORK OF THE PROJECT ON SALT TOLERANT VARIETIES OF PADDY.

This training manual has been prepared as basic reference material to help national research trainers structure and conduct training courses on research management at the institute level. It is intended primarily for managers of agricultural research institutes in developing countries and for institutions of higher education interested in presenting in-service training courses on research management. The manual consists of ten modules, each addressing major management functions including motivation, leadership, direction, priority setting, communications and delegation. The four structural functions of management - planning, organization, monitoring and control - are covered in individual modules. The manual has been designed to support participatory learning trough case-studies, group exercises and presentations by the participants.