Term Paper: Organizational and Technical Issues of Significance in the International or Global Management of Information Systems

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¶ … Technical Issues of Significance in the International or Global Management of Information Systems

The increasingly dynamic and fast-paced advancement of information technology is rapidly changing the business world. In this environment, identifying organizational and technical issues of significance in the international or global management of information systems has assumed new importance and relevance for businesses of all types and sizes. Indeed, small- to medium-sized enterprises today can compete all virtually equal footing with their larger counterparts as they expand their operations worldwide thanks to the Internet and computer-based applications. Nevertheless, there are some profound challenges involved in keeping pace with the rate of change and in integrating legacy computer systems with more sophisticated applications as they are introduced. Furthermore, Moore's Law continues to hold true, and planning for future integrations requires more than an intuitive or seat-of-the-pants approach. This study examines the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature to determine what can be done in this regard, followed by a summary of the research and salient findings in the conclusion.

Organizational and Technical Issues of Significance in the International or Global Management of Information Systems

The Internet has become a dual-edged sword for many business managers today. Keeping pace with the increasingly rapid rate of change in information technology has been likened to trying to drink from a fire hose, and it is not surprising that some approaches have been more successful than others in managing change in this environment. This study examines the range of problems associated with the international or global management of information systems, including language and cross-cultural issues, system integration, managing information resources and technologies for developing systems, as well as addressing organizational change issues that may emerge following the adoption of new information technology systems. A discussion concerning potential solutions to these problems is followed by a summary of the research and salient findings in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview

By all accounts, the Internet has affected the business world in fundamental ways, introducing fundamental changes to business systems that have been in place for decades or even centuries. As Yang and Lu (2005) emphasize, "The fast-paced advancement of information technology is rapidly changing the business world" (p. 3). Not only is this advancement of it changing the business world today, it has been doing so for the past three decades or so. During this period, increasingly powerful and sophisticated computer systems have been introduced that have taken advantage of increased processing capabilities as well as Internet-based business solutions. These new computer systems have represented various levels of interim technologies that have required a concomitant level of investment on the part of companies, and most have invested a great deal of time and resources in integrating them into their existing business processes. According to Sharrock (2001), the Internet has evolved from a United States government research project into a prominent international medium of communication in the space of just three decades.

Not surprisingly, the Age of Information has been characterized by an enormous investment in information technology by corporations (Mcginn, Kudyba & Diwan, 2002). When processing speeds are increasing exponentially and the Internet continues to expand geometrically, these investments may become jeopardized unless they are properly managed and integrated into newly introduced applications and business platforms. In this regard, Mcginn and his associates note, "The latest stage of this it boom involved the emergence of such names as AOL, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, and the multitude of dot.coms that provided the cornerstone to the quickly emerging e-commerce spectrum" (Mcginn et al., p. 21). Many so-called "dot.coms," of course, have come and gone over the years as they experienced the tribulations of trying to bring the product or service to market using varying levels of e-commerce, with many of the constraints to such applications involving language and cross-cultural issues which are discussed further below.

Language and Cross-Cultural Issues

One of the primary drivers fueling the recent evolution of the information economy has been the use of the Internet by consumers and corporations alike as a new method of conducting commerce (Mcginn et al.). According to these authors, "A critical component of the Internet involves the use of domain names and the establishment of the Domain Name System (DNS). Without going into too much detail, DNS is the process by which Web sites are registered and accessible on the Internet around the world. This system is largely dominated by the English language, given the aggressive progression of it commerce in the United States" (p. 155).

The management of Internet domain names has historically been accomplished by using standardized reduced ASCII sets; these sets are based on the Roman alphabet and this approach facilitates the provision of domain names in the English language (Mcginn et al.). This approach, though, also serves as an obstacle to a significant (and growing) percentage of potential non-English-speaking Internet users around the globe such as in China, India and throughout Latin America (Mcginn et al.). A number of initiatives have been advanced in recent years in an effort to address this problem, with one of the most notable being the creation of the iDNS, or International Domain Name System. As Mcginn and his colleagues advise, "i-DNS.net is the leading provider of technology that enables people to navigate the Internet in any language. i-DNS.net provides the gateway via multilingual domain names that enables non-English-speaking consumers and businesses to enter the Internet economy on their own terms, in their own languages" (p. 155).

The iDNS technology already supports almost 60 different languages and is completely compatible with Internet browsers; moreover, the iDNS technology operates seamlessly with the Internet's current domain name system but a seamless and fully multinational system has not yet been achieved (Mcginn et al.). In addition, country code registrations have become increasingly popular in recent years, a trend that has been influenced by several factors in the global marketplace, including the expanding popularity of the Internet around the world and the scarcity of desirable domains in the popular dot.com domain (Sharrock).

Beyond the foregoing, there are also some important cross-cultural issues involved in managing it effectively today. For example, Proctor and Vu (2005) emphasize, "With the emerging international market, various cultural characteristics of Web users have become significant issues to those international companies who are trying to design user interfaces on the Web. People with different cultural backgrounds think and behave differently. Cultural differences such as language, thinking style, communication style, and social relation may affect Web use" (p. 284). There are some important initiatives underway, though, that are designed to improve the ability of consumers and businesses from different cultures to use the Internet more effectively, and those companies that take advantage of these initiatives will clearly enjoy a competitive advantage over those who do not. While this study was being researched, Google representatives announced that they intend to pursue new search options that are region-specific to enhance the online experience for users from different cultures, and while the Internet remains a primarily English-only environment in many ways, these initiatives will clearly help provide an environment that supports users with different cultural backgrounds (Proctor & Vu). In this regard, these authors report: "Until recently, little attention has been given to the effects of cultural differences on Web usability. Research on cultural differences from various perspectives such as linguistic, cognitive style, cultural patterns, and models of cultures has begun to shed some light in the area of human-computer interaction (HCI) for cross-cultural design" (Proctor & Vu, p. 284).

The growing body of research and empirical observations of cross-cultural user interface design has tended to concentrate on the internationalization and localization of display codes (i.e., factors such as formats, colors, icons, and graphics); however, to date, the cognitive elements of the user interface (e.g., information architecture and user interaction) have not received much attention (Proctor & Vu). Nevertheless, the opportunity and need exist to improve the ease of use and nature of the online experience provided the resource are devoted to better understanding how to design and maintain the online presence to be more compatible with the cognitive styles and patterns of culturally diverse user populations (Proctor & Vu). In order to capitalize on these opportunities, business leaders must recognize the need to effectively manage the integration of the legacy and new computer systems and applications in a thoughtful way, and these issues are discussed further below.

Managing System Integration

One of the harsh realities of life in the Age of Information is the cost involved in keeping a computer system current and compatible with rapidly emerging Web-based technologies. According to Luftman (2003), "In the past decade, companies have spent billions on enterprise systems -- including ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, data warehousing, and electronic commerce applications -- and on systems integration, through such technologies as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), Middleware, EAI (enterprise application integration), and XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language)" (p. 252). The various approaches to external systems integration generally fall into one of two categories: (a) approaches that connect… [END OF PREVIEW]

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