The CIMS Project Management Analysis
Business intelligence has been applied by many business organizations with an intention to drive organizational performance. Business intelligence is preferred because it carries the possibility of enhancing sharing of information among employees, as well as organizational departments and across business organizations. Among other benefits include enhancing knowledge sharing, enhancing employee and customer management, as well as linking companies with their suppliers. All these help to drive the cost of their business down.
This paper seeks to look at the CIMS Project at the Waterloo Regional Police and other partners. These partners included seven other police organizations. The paper concentrates on exploring the management aspects of the complex CIMS project. The paper first explores the main aspects of the project and the conceptual focus. It then moves to explain the project using the 8-feature model in the second part. The paper will then feature a theoretical explanation of the outcome of the CIMS project by these eight police departments. The theory (competing, complementary and contradictory) to be analyzed has been chosen by use of the 6-S model.
The paper will then link the discussed theory with the practice at the police departments regarding the CIMS application. The paper looks at the limitations of theory used and the implications, while benefiting on the actual happenings in the case study project. Finally, the paper will focus on the strength and weaknesses of the tools used to analyze the case study, as well as their connections with the incidences shaping the CIMS project.
Application of CMIS (A): Analysis in view of 8-feature model
The CIMS project was preferred by the police organizations with the intention of streamlining sharing of information among the police departments and organizations, streamlining management of police records, providing mobile work environments and enabling computerized dispatches. The vendor to the project was ITG. The management failed to resolve a number of things in the project including agreeing on the functional designs earlier, and realized latter that there was need to review the project and determine whether to correct the issues or move to adopt other solutions. This was necessary because the management realized that the relationship between them and ITG was becoming more unproductive leading to breakdown of performance of the CIMS project.
It appears that WPRS failed to carry out a competitive analysis of the resource capability of ITG, their own needs for the project, as well as the benefits, before they agreed to venture into implementation of the CIMS project. However, the management at the beginning of the project failed to assess all the restraining forces (internal and external factors) that would have affected the project implementation as it proceeded. Thus, they were not able to perceive how such forces as those affecting ITG would affect the project, and how they would restrain them. This was necessary to determining what controversial and uncontroversial aspects of the project would have affected the overall implementation, and how it would be dealt with. As part of political organizations, police departments can never be termed as neutral.
Different police organizations entering the deal with ITG were likely to encounter resistant to change (at present or in future) or face an unequaled pace of change.
Through a force field analysis, WRPS needed an insight regarding how the administration change as a result of political realignments would affect the implementation of CMIS. They failed to analyze how the vendor (ITG) would be affected by political issues, organizational and economic issues, and how these issues would affect the project. In addition, since they were entering into partnership with other police organizations, they failed to assess how changes in these individual police organizations (external factors) would affect the implementation of the CIMS project.
Of course, changes in all the other seven police organizations in the partnership were likely to be influenced by relevant political changes. WPRS did not perceive that these forces and changes would be difficult to track, because they would involve many other outside links as well. These linkages introduced many uncertainties. It can be seen, for example, ITG was not also willing to commit to long-term agreements required by some policies controlling policing organizations, forcing RCMP as a party to exit (Compeau, Scott & Jane, 2001).
Regarding other features of the $16 million project, WPRS concentrated mostly on the core/margin aspects of the project. For instance, they perceived that CIMS would help them to share and manage information amongst them and put in place a mobile working environment. They understood that the failure of the project would tamper with performance of the core activities of the organization. However, WPRS failed to analyze all the risks that involved CIMS project management, as far as the core activities were concerned, although they were aware of the likely benefits of the project. It appears that WPRS did not scrutinize the agreement with the ITG right from the beginning, which could have helped discover such problems as use of words like “juvenile” in the contract, which was contested latter on.
Since WPRS and other police organization departments adopting a novel solution, they needed to understand that the performance of the system depended on much learning of employees and working hand-in-hand to settle the communication problems with ITG (Compeau, Scott & Jane, 2001). As such, a high degree of uncertainty presented the organization with many risks to the implementation. These risks, such as the lack of proper communication, lack of motivation of employees and agents to learn, as well as knowledge and information-sharing would hamper performance of the CIMS. Management of these uncertainties and risks was necessary to make sure the performance of the project was better. Information technology is very dynamic. This understanding was necessary to achieving important changes at WPRS regarding the CIMS project, instead of waiting for the stakeholders to invest extensively into a non-viable relationship with ITG. Urgent needs for Information Technology changes at WPRS could have made managers to put pressure on agents to change according to the requirements of the project, and made them adopt of short-cut solutions to employee learning and development was inevitable. This increased the risk for failure.
Changing Goals and Other Changes
The identification of the possibility of change of project goals and consequent communication of this to the vendor was important to the settling of future conflicts between the partners and ITG. Different information capabilities arise for different organizations (MacFarlan, 1984). Organizations will require application of CIMS for their success, if they have higher information intensity as described by Porter and Miller (1985). In addition, these organizations will end up more dependent on Information Technology. This information intensity was likely to change the goals because police departments kept on expanding their services to the public, and even changed in the way they interacted with the public. One of the possible changing goals was the fact that WPRS could have preferred a long-term vendor, which would match with its needs.
Police departments such as the Waterloo Regional Police Services can be described as having high intensity for information, and therefore, application of further changes to the CIMS was important for continued success of the project. The WRPS needed further linkage with other (and more) police departments in the country in order to increase their relevance in serving the population and increasing efficiency. Project managers needed to understand that these goals and also the technological needs would expand with time, and settle it with vendors. This is because the climate within which they were operating in was likely to be influenced by political changes, as well as other factors.
The current senior stance for the managers at WPRS is not healthy to influence the whole organization to positive change in implementing the CIMS. They must identify why they need the change of the solution and convince the employees why it is currently necessary. The project managers can use a checklist based on the features of the project (namely project changes, senior stance, pace, intentions, solution, significance, changing goals and outside links) in the table below to assess the current viability of the CMIS project and make an informed decision regarding the way they must go. They must redefine activities and agree on objectives where there is a high total score, and identify where trouble may occur when they notice high scores for individual features. This helps in management of individual and all features (see Appendix 1).
Lederer and Salmela (1996) point out to the need of using the contingency theory in analyzing application of complex CIMS projects within organization, because practical needs vary with theoretical solutions. Thus, the paper must analyze the case of management of the implementation of the complex projects in CIMS in light of the actual organizational needs and the existing theoretical expectations.
As far as the conflicts between the ITG and WRPS are concerned, the agency theory recognizes that a conflict may arise between goals of principals and agents. It is in deed difficult for principals to assess if the behavior of the agents were appropriate and befitting to serve the principals, according to this theory (see Alchian and Demsetz, 1972 and Eisenhardt, 1989). The principal stakeholder goals and intentions must be met by the agents in the organization. Agency theory is important to assessing the WRPS as a non-profit organization because it recognizes that different intentions (different from those of profits, for example) drive implementation of the CIMS. The theory of transactional cost economics (TCE) is important to analyzing the non-profit organizations too because the value of adoption of CIMS must be proved worth (Bray, n.d.), but falls short of a complete analysis because it leaves out divergent factors other than those of cost.
Application of CMIS (B)
The transaction cost economics theory proposes the need for managers to justify the investment made in Information Systems projects such as the CIMS (Carr, 2003). In deed, the IT must be changed by management so as to maintain any strategic relevance, and the investment must be justified by the performance/output, whether financial or non-financial. In addition, managers must have these as objectives (Weill, 1992). However, transactional cost economics theory must include other factors that affect performance of CIMS such as knowledge potential of agents (employees) and skills or experience brought in by them. This is largely supported by theories supporting efficient human resource management.
Issues of cost already feature in discussion as far as application of CIMS in the Waterloo Regional Police Services is concerned. In fact, although WRPS can be categorized as a non-profit organization, which aims at providing public services and not being driven by making profits, it must be recognized that cost-effectiveness of any of their project is important because the WRPS uses public funds. It must act to save public funds to justify allocation of funds from the government. Therefore, managers cannot avoid choosing a cost-effective provider, carrying out the cost-efficiency and viability calculations before the project starts. In addition, it is all justified to assess the project in terms of its cost as it progresses. It is important to consider unit-costs for the CIMS and alternative technologies (Malone, Yates & Benjamin, 1987). In deed, according to Malone, Yates and Benjamin (1987), management at WRPS while contemplating on the decision to terminate their deal with ITG or switch over to a better technology must consider the switch-over cost to be incurred and financial profits.
Strategic information systems theory mostly differs from the practice. In fact, some researchers prefer the application of the contingency approach for analyzing such systems, because no one single solution is fit for any specific organization and their need (Lederer and Salmela, 1996). This means that it is important to analyze the needs for an organization, as well as the situation they are in.
According to contingency theory, there were different factors that led to WRPS interest for CIMS not just those restricted to saving costs of operations. To support this fact, as far as the Waterloo Regional Police Services organization is concerned, we can group their needs and factors influencing their application of the CMIS as those of external source and those of the internal source. Another group is the factors which stimulated and motivate the application of the CMIS project and which brought bias into the management of the project (Lederer and Salmela, 1996). In fact, although the transactional cost economics theory is necessary to analyzing the cost value of the project, it must be recognized that Waterloo Regional Police Services concerns with the offering of non-profitable services to the public. Therefore, its basic inspiration is not to save cost.
As far as external factors are concerned, the WRPS required adopting CMIS, so as to enhance sharing of information among the police departments and organizations, streamlining management of police records, providing mobile work environments and enabling computerized dispatches. As far as internal factors were concerned, WRPS needed the CMIS to manage its workforce and increase efficiency by eliminating paper work. The WRPS needed CMIS because it was conceived as important to enhancing maturity and formality of police services (Cragg, 2002; Teubner, 2007). It was also necessary because they were serving more and more populations.
Agency theory recognizes the occurrence of conflict among agents and principals. These conflicts ma arise when CIMS fail to achieve the goals intended. This may occur when agents fail to fully understand the goals of organizations in line with their capabilities. Managers must fist, (since they exist to serve the interests of the shareholders according to stakeholders theory) understand the interests of the shareholders and assess the capability of the provider of CIMS technology to serve the needs. This was not done by the management at WRPS. For instance, it can be seen that ITG had closed business in Ontario in 1998 because of business requirements in the United States. The company was also suffering lack of resources and workforce for its office in Canada (Compeau, Scott & Jane, 2001). WPRS did not agree with ITG on the requirements interpretation of the design, yet these problems were detected much later. In fact, over 60 issues in the CIMS were disputed, yet companies had already paid down payment (Compeau, Scott & Jane, 2001). WPRS needed to understand with ITG earlier that some partners such as RCMP had financial constraints. The vendors need to understand these needs and assess how they can meet them. Solving of the conflicts between agents, providers (vendors), the stakeholders and management can improve if all these factors are put into consideration. Efficient management decisions revolve around ensuring proper technology is used (from a good vendor) from the start, as well as empowering the employees (agents) in line with the requirements of the technology they seek. Thus, continued employee training and empowerment must be part of the project in order to increase performance.
All the theories employed recommend that there should be a look into divergent factors affecting performance of a CIMS. The tools used for this analysis assess these factors. The transactional economic cost propose that not only is cost analysis important, but also other non-financial factors must be put into consideration. The single focus on the financial benefits of CIMS has been opposed by several theories. In light to this contingency and agency theory, the WRPS must therefore assess the capability of the agents (its employees) to meeting the needs in line with the CIMS, rather than blaming the failure on the vendor of the technology, ITG.
It must be recognized that other factors such as knowledge capability of the agents, training (skills) and experience level of staff, and the agent behavior (or habits) and culture (Bray, n.d.) affect performance of CIMS rather than the technology ability or its cost. The 8-S model has been utilized in the identification of the problems occurring and resulting with the implementation of the CIMS by the WPRS and other partners in their partnership with the ITG. The model is helpful in understanding the lack of management practices that were necessary to seal any likelihood of risks/conflicts, as well as take up the opportunities which would enhance performance.
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Appendix 1: Project Profile Tool