Information Technologies (IT) and Enterprise Systems Strategy
Having grown both from a series of acquisitions and a continual series of internal strategies to retain and grow their customer base, Aux Bons Soins (ABS) Information Technologies (IT) infrastructure has grown widely distributed to the point of being fragmented. The acquisitions of General Maritime Protection and Western General Insurance have created significant challenges in integrating their IT infrastructures into the ABS IT systems platforms and architectures. The senior management team anticipated a certain degree of overlap of system licensing, resources, functions and roles, yet didn't realize how much the duplication would slow response to customers. Concerned with the slow response to customers and market conditions, in addition to the continual discovery of just how inconsistent the reporting processes are across the three divisions, the senior management team initiates the Integrated Management System and Processes (IMSP) project. The IMSP looks to avert the duplication of effort between the two recently acquired companies and ABS, while also consolidating reporting across the accounting and financial management systems, human resource management (HRM), marketing and sales management including the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. At the beginning of the case analysis the senior management team at ABS considers the three separate, highly decentralized system to be a competitive advantage as they are seen being more agile and responsive to the market. This assumption quickly proves false however as the most fundamental reports can't be produced across the entire company quickly enough to make decision quickly. As studies have shown, decentralized IT systems and architectures often lead to significant delays in reporting and analysis of critical aspects of a business' operations (Jackson, 2011). This was certainly happening at ABS, causing the company to lose valuable time and potential cost reduction strategies, in addition to sacrificing greater insight into customers as a result.
With the decision to integrate all three business units into a single, unified IT architecture based on the core concepts of the Integrated Management System and Processes (IMSP) project framework, ABS was able to begin solving serious problems in their IT systems performance. An assessment of the causes of the problems or difficulties of the distributed IT architecture are included in this analysis is also provided. This paper also includes is an analysis of the critical success factors that companies need to consider when deciding to change enterprise-wide IT systems. Foremost among these is the need for planning and executing an effective change management strategy company-wide.
Analysis of ABS Challenges in Centralizing IT Platforms and Infrastructure
Of the many challenges that ABS will encounter when they consolidate their three IT architectures to a single or centralized one is the ability to deliver accurate, real-time analytics of business performance across the entire enterprise. With three separate, decentralized IT infrastructures and supporting organizational structures, the case indicates how difficult it is to get a single, unified view of all activity in the company. When there is a lack of system and process integration across an enterprise due to fragmented or decentralized IT infrastructures, reporting inefficiencies lead to information gaps and degradation in performance (Waggener, 2007). One of the catalysts that further drive this dynamic of gaps in information is resistance to change on the part of employees as well. It is very common for employees who are accustomed to having a decentralized system capable of delivering customized reports and analyses tailored to their specific needs to rebel when a centralized system is implemented. The depth and extent of engrained process workflows in each of the three business units are so engrained that it will take a year of employee education and change management to overcome the resistance to change and also educate users how to use the new system. The lack of interprocess, system and workflow integration is leading to inaccurate Human Resource Management (HRM) reporting, a lack of visibility into CRM strategies and their results, and a complete lack of integration between marketing and sales activities. As a result of these systems lacking integration, the company has no way of quickly determining the level of accounting and financial reporting accuracy and verifiability of results. One of the most critical aspects of integrating the diverse infrastructures together is the need to create a single view of employee, department, division and corporate performance using a common set of analytics or metrics. When an organization can unify its IT infrastructure to provide a single version of the truth for HRM analysis and reporting, the entire enterprise can move more effectively to its objectives with a clear set of priorities based on performance levels (Lindquist, 2007). Prior to the implementation of the IMSP, the company has no means to determine how personnel performance varies across all departments, divisions and newly acquired companies. There is the need for both individualized personal performance in addition to measuring intergroup and corporate performance benchmarked to specific goals and objectives across the company. From this perspective, it is clear that ABS must unify the systems as quickly and thoroughly as possible to ensure a high level of reporting and performance analysis across the three divisions. This centralization of HRM systems will also make one of the most costly aspects of their business, which is payroll, more easily tracked and reported on. Lastly, centralizing the HRM system will also provide ABS executives with an opportunity to see what strategic hires they need to make much more clearly, and where they are doing well in terms of depth of talent. All of these factors will make managing the company much easier and will also give senior management greater agility in responding to emerging market opportunities by assigning their best possible experts on specific projects. With the highly distributed, fragmented approach to IT they have today, this is not possible.
In addition to the many problems that ABS is plagued by today and will have to face in the future due to lack of II infrastructure integration, the lack of a consistent change management plan also hinders their progress. The transition to the unified IT infrastructure is not handled as well as it could have been if executed with more of a focus on showing users how their jobs would be made more effective. When there is a lack of an effective change management strategy, enterprises often descend into negativity and fear that the consolidation of systems signals a layoff or reduction in force. This is exactly what happened when the senior management team didn't get a solid change management plan in place before implementing the change. As the ABS executives found, the lack of communication fueled a strong level of distrust and suspicion of senior management. In addressing change management strategies as a mechanism to overcome resistance to change and fear, enterprises must provide those most affected by the system or process change to gain the greatest amount of information and greatest level of training to ensure they see how their jobs are improved with the new technologies (Johs, Hennestad, Gronhaug, 2007). ABS doesn't do this and users complain the project manager sees their needs as secondary to staying on track with the schedule itself.
ABS IMSP Implementation Key Success Factors
While ABS struggled with the implementation of the IMSP and showed how critical it is to have a solid change management strategy in place, there were key success factors that emerged from their efforts to unify three business divisions' infrastructures into a single enterprise platform. The most significant of these key success factors was the decision to allow those system users who are the most affected by the systems in their jobs to have a greater role in how user interfaces, screens, application navigation and reporting are designed (Johs, Hennestad, Gronhaug, 2007). It…