The company is a large Japanese computer producer with an independent European direct sales force. It has production and distribution facilities in France, Scotland and Malaysia.
The European production facility is in difficulty having invested in antiquated green-screen systems which they intend to replace with one global ERP that allows the real-time exchange of information between sales, production, marketing, purchasing and procurement. It also allows for the relocation and outsourcing of production to China.
However, the path to this new system is tortuous and budget-consuming, notably due to the lack of documentation, the need for in-depth analysis, the lack of a framework for the new IS and a significant need for resources.
The company has a very hierarchical structure with poor communication. Managers are unmotivated and have a very directive style. Internal communication is unsatisfactory: most communication is vertical. Staff show little confidence in management, the numbers are down and the quality of information is poor.
Interpersonal relations are biased, information is distorted. Personal interests and islands of information take precedence.
Objective for students
The objective was for students to determine the main functional interfaces between people and the requirements for communication. Each group played a department within the company. We set up a role-play environment where each group tried to determine their information needs and those of others.
The objective was to highlight this need for information and its central role to job functions. It was also a lead-in to the notion of ERP which aims to structure this interpersonal communication.
The exercise was designed to provoke thinking around communication and examine the following questions.
What are the risks for the company to circulate unreliable information?
What are the solutions ?
This functional interdependence reinforces the need to ensure that the quality of data remains high to maintain efficiency within the organisation.
Need for strong management support of projects
There may be strong resistance to change
Information is power
Senior management must own transversal functions to ensure company-wide requirements
ERP development aims to standardise flows and speed up processing between actors
A written functional model provides a common understanding of system function
The information system can change habits and improve communication
Poor decision making leads to inaccurate data and poor management
Communication across the supply chain
The sequence diagram below illustrates communication between people in different departments.