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Literal meaning of “Integration” is combination or amalgamation.

In terms of computer
terminology, “Integration” is a broad term for any software that serves to join together or act as a
go-between between two separate and usually already Integrated software pplications for
business gives you the ability to integrate the diverse information sources pertaining to your
business into a single framework. This integrated information can then be shared by applications
such as Customer relationship Management (CRM), Supply Chain Management (SCM) and
Business process Re-engineering (BPR) systems.

ERP: Short for enterprise resource planning, a business management system that integrates all
facets of the business, including planning, manufacturing, sales, and marketing. As the ERP
methodology has become more popular, software applications have emerged to help business
managers implement ERP in business activities such as inventory control, order tracking,
customer service, finance and human resources.

CRM: Short for customer relationship management. CRM entails all aspects of interaction a
company has with its customer, whether it be sales or service related. Computerization has
changed the way companies are approaching their CRM strategies because it has also changed
consumer-buying behavior. With each new advance in technology, especially the proliferation of
self-service channels like the Web and WAP phones, more of the relationship is being managed
electronically. Organizations are therefore looking for ways to personalize online experiences ( a
process also referred to as mass customization) through tools such as help-desk software, e-mail
organizers and Web development applications.
SCM: Short for supply chain management, the control of the supply chain as a process from
supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. Supply chain management does
not involve only the movement of a physical product (such as a microchip) through the chain but
also any data that goes along with the product (such as order status information, payment
schedules, and ownership titles) and the actual entities that handle the product from stage to stage
of the supply chain.

There are essentially three goals of SCM: to reduce inventory, to increase the speed of
transactions with real-time data exchange, and to increase revenue by satisfying customer
demands more efficiently. In computing, SCM typically is used in reference to software
applications that enable more efficient management of the supply chain.

BPR: Short for Business Process Re-engineering. It is aimed to make radical changes in an
organization from the ground up in an aim to improve performance and make more efficient use
of resources. The concept of BPR generally includes the use of computers and information
technology to organize data, project trends, etc. (Source: http://www.
computeruser.com/resources/dictionary) Many big companies are giving high importance to
software integration. Today nobody wants to access data stored in multiple systems. They want
to build strong links between business systems and make information flow better. Let us take an
example, suppose you want to place an order through the net. An integrated software solution
will, on one hand, take that order, shift it and allocate them to the manufacturing plant and on the
other hand place order for the raw materials on the basis of the stock, update the financial
position of the company with respect to suppliers and the inventory and so on. Many people have
given different names to the integration of ERP, SCM, BPR and CRM. These names include e-
business, c-business, m-business and KM etc. There are many software that do these integration
activities. To name a few there are software known as Baan, Fourth Shift, Frida, JD Edwards
One World, Manage 2000, Masterpiece - MP/Net, Micro strategy, Oracle e-Business Suite,
People Soft and SAP R/3.
Decision Support Systems
A decision support system (DSS) is an interactive information system that provides
information, models and data manipulation tools to help make decisions in semi structured and
unstructured situations where no one knows exactly how the decision should be made. The
traditional DSS approach includes interactive problem solving irect use of models, and user-
controllable methods for displaying and analyzing data and in formulating and evaluating
alternative decisions. This approach grew out of dissatisfaction with the traditional limitations of
TPS and MIS. TPS focused on record keeping and control of repetitive clerical processes. MIS
provided reports for management but were often inflexible and unable to produce the
information in a form in which managers could use it effectively. In contrast, DSSs were
intended to support managers and professionals doing largely analytical work in less structured
situation with unclear criteria for success. DSSs are typically designed to solve the structured
parts of the problem and help isolate places where judgment and experience are required.

DSSs may report repetitive or non-repetitive decision-making. They support repetitive


decision making by defining procedures and formats, but they still permit the users to decide
how and when to use the system’s capabilities. They support non-repetitive decision making by
providing data, models and interface methods that can be used however the user wants. The
broad spectrum of information systems with the DSS label range from general tools such as
spreadsheets, data analysis, and graphics packages to highly customized simulation or
optimization models focusing on a specific business situation.

Enterprise Information Systems


Many firms have tried to take transaction processing to a higher level by creating
enterprise information systems that encompass the transaction processing done in the various
functional silos. The idea of these efforts is to create unified databases that permit any authorized
individual to obtain whatever information would be helpful in making decisions across the
organization. In theory at least, having all this information in a unified database should improve
decision-making. Enterprise information systems are quite controversial because the effort to
create them is enormous. They involve much more than changing the format of databases. Often
it is necessary to change business processes to suit the needs of the information system instead of
vice versa. Nonetheless, many organizations have found that the integration resulting from this
large investment seems to be worthwhile. The last part of this discussion explains why these
information systems are usually called enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems even though
planning is not their main focus.

Management and Executive Information Systems


A management information system (MIS) provides information for an organization’s
managers. The idea of MIS predates the computer age. For example, as long ago as the middle
1500s, the Fogger family in Augsberg, Germany, had business interests throughout Europe and
even into China and Peru. To keep in touch, they set up a worldwide news reporting service
through which their agents wrote letters about critical political and economic events in their areas
of responsibility. These letters were collected, interpreted, analyzed, and summarized in
Augsberg and answered through instructions sent to the family’s agents. This paper-based
system encompassing planning, execution, and control helped the family move more rapidly in
the mercantile world than their rivals. Instructions went out to the agents; the agents executed
their work’ and the agents reported their results.

Computerized MIS generates information for monitoring performance, maintaining


coordination, and providing background information about the organization’s operation. Users
include both managers and the employees who receive feedback about performance indicators
such as productivity. The concept of MIS emerged partly as a response to the shortcomings of
the first computerized TPSs, which often improved transaction processing but provided little
information for management. Computerized MISs typically extract and summarize data from
TPSs to allow managers to monitor and direct the organization and to provide employees
accurate feedback about easily measured aspects of their work. For example, a listing of every
sale during a day or week would be extremely difficult to use in monitoring a hardware store’s
performance. However, the same data could be summarized in measures of performance, such as
total sales for each type of item, for each salesperson, and for each hour of the day. The
transaction data remains indispensable, and the MIS focuses it for management. As part of an
organization’s formal control mechanisms, an MIS provides some structure for the
comparatively unstructured task of management by identifying important measures of
performance. The fact that everyone knows how performance is measured helps in making
decisions and helps managers motivate workers.

SYSTEMS LIFE CYCLE


The systems life cycle is the oldest method for building information systems and is still
used today for complex medium or large systems projects. This methodology assumes that an
information system has a life cycle similar to that of any living organism, with a beginning,
middle, and an end. The life cycle for information system has six stages: project definition,
systems study, design, programming, installation, and post-implementation. Each stage consists
of basic activities that must be performed before the next stage can begin. The life cycle
methodology is a very formal approach to building systems. It partitions the systems
development process into distinct stages and develops an information system sequentially, stage
by stage. The life cycle methodology also has a very formal division of labor between end users
and information systems specialists. Technical specialists such as systems analysts and
programmers are responsible for much of the systems analysis, design, and implementation
work; end users are limited to providing information requirements and reviewing the work of the
technical staff. Formal sign-offs or agreements between and users and technical specialists are
required as each stage is completed.

Stages of the Systems Life Cycle


The project definition stage tries to answer the questions, “Why do we need a new system
project?” and “What do we want to accomplish?” This stage determines whether the organization
has a problem and whether that problem can be solved by building a new information system or
by modifying an existing one. If a system project is called for, this stage identifies its general
objectives, specifies the scope of the project, and develops a project plan that can be shown to
management. The systems study stage analyzes the problems of existing systems (manual or
automated) in detail, identifies objectives to be attained by a salutation to these problems, and
describes alternative solutions. The systems study stage examines the feasibility of each solution
alternative for review by management. This stage tries to answer the questions, “What doe the
existing systems do?” “What are their strengths, weakness, trouble spots, and problems?” “What
user information requirements must be met by the solution?” “What alternative solution options
are feasible?” “What are their costs and benefits?” Answering these questions requires extensive
information gathering and research; sifting through documents, reports, and work papers
produced by existing systems; observing how these systems work; polling users with
questionnaires; and conducting interviews.

All of the information gathered during the systems study phase will be used to determine
information system requirements. Finally, the systems study stage describes in detail the
remaining life cycle activities and the tasks for each phase. The design stage produces the logical
and physical design specification for the solution. Because the life cycle emphasizes formal
specifications and paperwork, many of the design and documentation tools, such as data flow
diagrams, structure charts, or system flowcharts are likely to be utilized. The programming stage
translates the design specifications produced during the design stage into software program code.
Systems analysts work with programmers to prepare specifications for each program in the
system. These program specifications describe what each program will do, the type of
programming language to be used, inputs and outputs, processing logic, processing schedules,
and control statements such as those for sequencing input data. Programmers write customized
program code typically using a conventional third-generation programming language such as
COBOL or FORTRAN or a high-productivity fourth-generation language. Since large systems
have many programs with hundreds of thousands of lines of program code, entire teams of
programmers may be required. The installation stage consists of the final steps to put the new or
modified system into operation: testing, training, and conversion. The software is tested to make
sure it performs properly from both a technical and a functional business standpoint. Business
and technical specialists are trained to use the new system.

A formal conversion plan provides a detailed schedule of all of the activities required to
install the new system, and the old system is converted to the new one. The post-implementation
stage consists of using and evaluating the system after it is installed and is in production. It also
includes updating the system to make improvements. Users and technical specialists will go
through a formal post implementation audit that determines how well the new system has met its
original objectives and whether any revisions or modifications are required. After the system has
been fine-tuned it will need to be maintained while it is in production to correct errors, meet
requirements, or improve processing efficiency. Over time, the system may require so much
maintenance to remain efficient and meet user objectives that it will come to the end of its useful
life span. Once the system’s life cycle comes to an end, a completely new system is called for
and the cycle may begin again.
Dell Computer Corporation started in 1984 by Michael Dell with this very simple
premise as its basic foundation: that personal computers could be built and sold directly to
customers and by doing this, Dell could address their specific needs and provide the best
computing solutions that meet those needs.
Dell’s Direct Method provides two distinct advantages: 1. reducing marketing and sales
cost by eliminating markups of distributors and retailers and 2. building to order reduced
inventory costs and risks of retaining inventories.
Dell’s Direct Model is the main reason why it has achieved its stellar status in business
today. This strategic model enables Dell to interact with customers directly providing them with
fast, reasonably-priced and friendly means of production and distribution.

Strategies to Remain Competitive

In order for Dell Computer to improve its product differentiation, it needs to do the
following:

• Control R&D patents in key industry technologies. They have to give up its extreme
outsourcing and standardization strategy;
• Introduce new innovative services instead of just offering standard services based on
software packages of which it does not have any patent.

The strategic positioning of Dell in the actual e-business does not allow the company cost
advantages nor product differentiation. Dell should affiliate with other players in e-malls and
compete using the combination of huge range of products offered by their multiple malls
partners. A company web site is not enough for Dell.

• Rethink its Virtual Network

Dell’s e-business strategy consists of outsourcing almost all the value chain activities in
order to lessen price. This is a short-term (tactical) cost view and may not be effective in the long
run as competitors are getting more resourceful in providing lower-priced products.
Dell should reconsider the “make or buy” strategic thinking focusing primarily on
activities and components that are could potentially introduce future technological breakthroughs
in PC industry.

• From Hardware to Software

It is high time for Dell to start developing proprietary software that provides supply chain
and integrated solutions (E-crm, e-commerce, etc.).

• SWOT Analysis of Dell Computers


• Ten Opportunities for Improved Profit Margins
• Where to Find Dell & HP Coupons Online

• Functional Strategies
Online “Platinum Councils”. Dell has its regular council face-to-face meetings that are
intended as brainstorming process to be able to determine problems. A good strategy would be
adding a forum on their intranet which would allow them to share ideas and problems
immediately as they arise.

• From “Internet CRM” to “Ubiquitous Marketing”

Dell should utilize a wider array of strategic points such as branching out into similar
businesses that would enable them to come in contact with more prospective customers such as :
- UMTS phones;
- Interactive TV;
- Internet-enabled POS terminals;
- E-wallets.
Dell can introduce and develop ways to offer a customized approach to any media.

• E-marketing

Dell could tie up with Microsoft or make use of popular social networking sites to
advertise their products.
Dell, for instance, could negotiate with Gates to include a Dell logo or a window in
Windows desktops showing the latest Dell’s e-ads any time customers connect on the internet.

• Enhancing Customer Purchase Experience

Strategic ways to attain this would include:


a) Providing link to complementary products (i.e. Microsoft software) in their websites;
b) Providing customer with a choice of system based on their needs such as creating
custom computers designed mainly for computer engineers or construction engineers not based
on product specifications such as the kind of processor or size of monitor.

• Dell should explore emerging computer markets in other parts of the world such as
Europe, China and India.
• It should also explore ways to generate attention from education markets particularly
college students. Product differentiation through more aggressive sales marketing
strategies could do this.
Dell's strategy is; survival, sustainability, revenue generation, and profitability through
innovation and speed.

Dell's efforts remain focused on four strategic initiatives:


“Driving global growth”

“Attaining product leadership”

"Superior customer service”

" Embracing Dell's corporate culture:”


Dell's survival depends on remaining alert to developing trends and economies. Dell's
rapid innovation and resourcefulness has helped maintain its ranking amongst the top PC
producers. Dell's strategic focus on the business and educational markets has resulted in a
significant market share in each of those segments. The organization was the leading supplier of
computer systems business for two years running. Dell's strategic development of its direct
marketing agenda has resulted in phenomenal growth.
Dell consistently delivers swift strategic response to match customer needs to products
and service. In addition to a full line of desktop and notebook PCs designed for consumers, Dell
offers network servers, workstations, storage systems, and Ethernet switches for business
customers. "Electronic commerce is now allowing global customers in some industries to
connect directly and reveal their preferences, such as Dell Computer's strategy of assembling
computers in-house to customer specifications." (Anderson, 2000) Such tactical maneuvers have
allowed Dell to remain the world's premier direct-sale computer vendor.
Dell's strategic alliance with the voices of the customer and stakeholders to accurately
project and exploit trends and make prompt decisions by reassessing strategies, continually adds
competitive advantage by leveraging and enabling the latest process concepts. Dell's strategy to
incorporate customer and stakeholder feedback in process innovation and product design ensures
customer loyalty. This integration serves to prevent misinterpretation between perceived and
actual customer needs. Dell purposely "forms linkages, upstream and downstream, lateral and
horizontal" (Kessler, 1996) through all phases of research and development. These alliances
reduce time and cost as they minimize or remove steps in the research and development process.
It also provides motivation for its employees. Research has shown "that direct contact with
customers triggers quicker action and helps employees to pay attention to new ideas, solutions,
and opportunities." (Kessler, 1996) Rapid product development increases the learning capacity of
employees while strengthening their technical, conceptual, and interpersonal competencies.