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Sample Research Proposal: Email and Instant Messaging

Email and Instant Messaging

Email and Instant Messaging Proposal

Executive Summary

Email and Instant Messaging (IM) have become essential components of the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and companies today use these for purposes of communicating and collaborating with different stakeholders. Such technologies have been key enhancers of teamwork activities and collaboration amongst different people in firms because they facilitate communication through sharing of vital information and raising of pertinent questions. Ultimately, organizations need to use information systems such as emails and instant messaging for beneficial activities that can ad value to the firm.

IT has evolved into a key business and organizational strategy, unlike in the old times when it was treated in isolation. Lucas (2005) further reiterates this point by stating that IT should be perceived as “…. a way to help design an organization. Technology can supplement or substitute for traditional approaches to organization design”. Companies today are therefore faced with the tough decision of how to source for IT services and with this regard they can choose to outsource, insource or subcontract email and instant messaging. Fix, an IT manufacturing company (publicly traded marketplace/IPO), is currently facing the challenge of whether or not to retain the existing email and instant messaging systems or switch to other viable alternatives. The main objective of the company is to deliver quality information to all work groups/virtual teams/users/staff in both the global arena and co-located teams using a credible digital means. By carrying out the strategic evaluation of the email and instant messaging, Fix aims to catalyze communication system for the manufacturing processes. Fix must enhance its creativity and innovativeness so as to be more competitive within the marketplace as well as strengthen its organizational core competencies. The company has three alternatives to consider and these include retention of the current system, outsourcing services from other providers, and contracting IT services to a third party. After careful evaluation of the alternatives, Fix settled on contracting the management of the systems to a third party is selected as its most viable hence  best alternative.

The Need or Problem

Currently, Fix channels a lot of resources towards maintaining its email and instant messaging systems. Some of the huge costs incurred include the resources spent on hiring IT staff, maintaining the mail server, and investing in upgrades or maintenance costs which add up to high costs that could be diverted to other core areas or even saved up.

The Fix management team also realized  that their core business and competency lies in manufacturing activities as opposed to the email and instant messaging.

In addition,  Fix also faces a number of serious security threats and scalability challenges. The company lacks the expertise and resources to monitor its systems on a 24 hour basis and neutralize any potential security threats. Other organizations that specialize in these areas are more capable of handling these challenges because they are placed to monitor email traffic and have higher capacity to handle increased traffic and provide viable network contingencies.

Recommended Solution

Fix should focus on its core competencies in the manufacturing sector and outsource the email and instant messaging services to a capable and competent third party. The third party will provide the email and instant messaging applications through the cloud technology. This alternative is considered the best because it allows Fix to exercise a lot of flexibility in terms of handling traffic fluctuations and enhances the ease of access to the applications by stakeholders in different locations, using any devices, and at the time of their own convenience. The vendor is thus responsible for adjusting the capacity of the services according to the demand, and hence can increase capacity with increasing traffic. By outsourcing, Fix will easily transfer “server and patch management, system availability, and end-user support headaches” to a trusted third party expert who can offer better and more effective services(Pearlson & Saunders, 2013). Fix, on the other hand, will be able to concentrate more on its core business.

The chosen vendor has vast experience in this particular industry and has amassed sophisticated expertise and knowledge hence is capable of providing quality service to Fix. Having achieved economies of scale, the vendor will be able to pass on cost saving services and techniques to its clients, Fix included.

The recommendation to select a third party vendor was based on the premise that Fix relies heavily on email and instant messaging to carry out most of its businesses. However, the ever changing trends in technology necessitate the need for the company to delegate and offload any extraneous functions to capable and competent third parties that can readily avail required services. This will allow Fix to focus on its main business and core competencies in the manufacturing sector.

Despite its potential benefits, outsourcing any services or applications can pose potential risks in Fix Manufacturing Company. The managerial team at the company must thus ensure that the regulatory factors regarding governance and control are clearly spelled out to vendors that are hired to provide cloud services for e-mail and instant messaging on behalf of the company. McCray (2008) explains that companies can effectively work with vendors by  ensuring that before the outsourcing company begins working, it is properly introduced and an efficient sustainable plan for change is instituted as well as high level of performance standards are set in place to ensure success up to the last phase. Some of the end results of a successful or effective outsourcing contract will be depicted by excellent performance of the applications, growth of infrastructure, cost effectiveness and sustainability. Djavanshir (2005) lists the following five concerns that companies should beware of when outsourcing information systems:

  • Lack of clarity regarding post-contract processes – the outsourcing procedures must be well known by everyone involved in implementing the program
  • Poor support offered by client services companies – sometimes the implementation process may stall if it lacks support from the managerial team and leaders of client company especially if these persons are charged with overseeing the outsourcing process
  • Poor comprehension of the contract– poor understanding of the contract can cause problems especially if parties involved fail to comprehend the terms, parameters and limitations of the contract
  • Loss of knowledgeable and skilled workers or acquisition of less knowledgeable workers – this can cause uncertainty in outsourcing with regard to human resources and staffing
  • Lack of necessary skills by the client company –  where a company lacks outsourcing experience and necessary training on governing outsourcing, it may end up with a poor program

One of the dangers and major concerns of outsourcing e-mail services is keeping control of the whole process including filtering what goes in and comes out. The outsourcing company is in charge of choosing the location that will be most optimal and functional hence must ensure at the transferred e-mail data are in a centralized location (Baker, 2008). The option for outsourcing the e-mail means that the service will be provided via cloud and this approach may become an obstacle in the exchange of data, and hence may have adverse effects in varied departments of Fix. According to Baroudi (2012),  “the use of cloud computing to run email and instant messaging, VoIP, and cell phones may create security problems for the e-mail applications” (par. 6).

Nevertheless these potential risks and challenges are outweighed by the foregoing advantages of outsourcing these services. In order to reap all the benefits of outsourcing, it is recommended that Fix contracts the services of AliComp outsourcing solutions. AliComp outsourcing offers a variety of outsourcing services that have been specifically designed to cut costs and improve services in the IT sector as depicted in Table 1 (AliComp.com, 2013).

Table 1: AliComp Outsourcing Benefits

Process/FunctionBenefits
Services and Reliability·      Services mainframe, open system, business continuity

·      Provides a  robust framework for information systems

·      Excellent network design

·      Reliable maintenance services

Hardware & Cloud Services Architecture·      Supported by Linux/390

·      IBM Mainframe Processors

·      IBM “A” Data Center

·      Type II Certified SSAE-16 Standards

·      Reinforced network environment

·      Services to IT structure cloud computing for applications

Cloud Security·      Cloud security controls to deter, prevent, correct, and detect threats

·      Provide identity management

·      Physical and personnel security

·      Availability of cloud with secure access to data and applications

·      Applications security using testing and acceptance procedures

·      Privacy access to application with the used of masked access to data

Network Cloud Characteristics·      Network framework supported by private line connections with Optical Carrier (OC-192) transmission rates on Synchronous Optical Networking (SONET)

·      Infrastructure at Service

·      On-demand self-service for computing time, network connectivity and storage

·      Broad network access for thin and thick client platforms

·      Resource pooling with dynamic resources

·      Rapid elasticity for quick up scaling

·      Measured service to control and optimize resource

 

Alternative Solutions

Retain Data Center and its Ownership

Alternatively, Fix has the option of retaining the existing in-house systems. The main advantage of retaining in-house systems is that Fix will be assured of maintaining confidentiality and protecting its trade secrets. If the Image 2company chooses to retain its own data center containing the email and instant messaging systems, it will avoid the potential risks of third party intrusion which may lead to leakage of its information to benefit of its competitors. In case the interest of protecting an organization’s intellectual property (IP), proprietary information (PI) and classified data is critical, and then in-house services are the best alternative. However, these concerns may not apply to Fix because the vendor that has been chosen has been found to provide highly secure services. This is because AliComp treats client information with confidentiality and integrity, hence being highly commended for the company. Table 2 offers a summary of the advantages and drawbacks that a company like Fix will face by choosing to retain the data center and ownership of its applications.

Table 2: Retaining the Data Center and Ownership

Retain the data center and ownershipBENEFITDRAWBACK
Server room build out investment w/o redundancy backup location·      Secure facility to install high value electronics in environmentally controlled high performance center locations·      Very expensive
Thin-client architecture investment·      Increased security and reduced administrative costs·      Requires expensive backend server equipment
Physical security system·      Protects IP, PI, and classified data from being compromised·      Can be costly
Argonite fire suppression/ protection system·      Protects the high value electronics equipment w/o damaging it as water systems do·      Evacuation must take place immediately upon release of gas
Fiber optic cabling·      Allows for higher bandwidth and increased network performance·      Higher installation costs

 

Risks and Solutions

The main risk of information theft was identified and this may result in loss of trade and competitive secrets. However, this risk was mitigated by the advanced technological platform provided by the highly competent services of AliComp, which according to the company and client testimonials have never been breached The messages transmitted through the systems are also encrypted. This thus assures the company of protection of all its company secrets.

Consequences of the Recommended Solution

By contracting the email and instant messaging systems to AliComp, Fix will be forced to shut down the existing data center. Additionally, the IT infrastructure components of the existing data center will also have to be disposed of and the IT staff might also be redeployed within the organization. These employees may also be released to seek other jobs outside the company in case there are no positions for them within the company.

Investment Required

In order to enhance its experience with the outsourcing company, Fix has to upgrade its existing network equipment before implementing the recommended solution. Apart from replacing of routers and network cables, the company will need to change client interfaces. It will also have to train the users of the system on ways of coping and handling the new system more effectively.

Project Plan

For the company to implement the solution effectively, it has to undertake several project-related activities. It is important for the organization to consolidate its finances, purchase the necessary equipment, employ highly skilled and qualified technicians that can facilitate the installation process, and also come up with a schedule for executing the project. This necessitates recruitment of a project manager to oversee the execution of the project.

The project has to be implemented in viable stages and the first stage must entail seeking information from all the stakeholders that will be affected by the program and changes. The vendor may therefore have to establish and submit a necessity test for requirements. Pilot testing can be carried out to a small part of the organization so as to determine the viability of the solutions offered by the vendor. Once the users are satisfied with the solution, the vendor cam proceed to effect it into the entire organization. This can be done in intervals or phases. The program must also be well monitored and evaluated to enhance its effectiveness and gauge how well it fulfills the requirements that were identified at the onset of the project.

Conclusion

Email and Instant Messaging are pertinent as support systems for the function of Fix as a company. Nevertheless, the resources required to maintain the system are too high and the company also has to hire workers to maintain the server, software, hardware, and the infrastructure. This increases operational costs for Fix Company and reduces its profitability and performance. This necessitates outsourcing of Email and IM functions from a third party to allow the company to focus on its core business function. This will enhance flexibility and effectiveness of access of email and IM applications the company that will provide the services will use cloud connectivity.

 

 

 References

AliComp Outsourcing Company. (2013, August). Fully managed IT solutions. Retrieved November 7, 2013, from http://alicomp.com

Baker, P. (2008, 8 August). The pros and cons of outsourcing enterprise emails. Retrieved from http://www.cioupdate.com/trends/article.php/3764216/The-Pros-and-Cons-of-Outsourcing-Enterprise-Emails.htm

Baroudi, C. (2012). Email security: Big risk to organizations and individuals.  Retrieved

Djavanshir, G. R. (2005). 2005. IEEE Computer Society, 32-37.

Lucas Jr., H. (2005) Information technology – strategic decision making for managers. John

McCray, B. (2008, March 3). The top 10 problems with outsourcing implementation. Retrieved November 7, 2013, from TPI.net: http://www.tpi.net

Pearlson, K., & Saunders, C. S. (2013). Managing and using information systems: A strategic approach. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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