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WFL: Strategic IT Implications

Stephan Fenty

D03246578

Spring Semester A 2011

Section S

The Information Technology (IT) landscape changes at a rapid pace. For businesses, both public and private, this can have a vast impact and can affect whether a company has a sufficient IT business strategy in place to compete, and even survive. The many versions of Moore’s Law that have developed over the years teach us that the speed of technology will double, while the price will be cut by one-half, every 18 months. This rapid pace has forced companies to re-evaluate their IT infrastructure and their related business processes much more often and to look for ways to do things better, faster and cheaper. Reducing costs while increasing revenues is vital in business today and Government agencies are no exception to this rule. With Federal deficit out of control the Government has been forced to limit budgets for its agencies and to put in place accountability measures. The Company we will analyze in this paper is a Federal agency called the Western Federal Lands Highway Division (WFL), a child agency of the Federal Highway Administration. We will look at a number of technologies with the potential of reducing business costs while increasing productivity, and which may result in a flattening of the organization hierarchy. Forefront in all this is Telecommuting and its related technologies such as Teleconferencing, VPN, VoIP, and Cloud Computing. We will also analyze Enterprise applications and web services as another possible option to tie the functional areas of WFL together and determine whether it is cost effective to implement such a system. The purpose of WFL is to build Federal roads. According to their website, The Western Federal Lands Highway Division (WFL) operates as part of the Federal Lands Highway Program, serving the needs of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming. WFL actively administers the surveying, designing and constructing of forest highway system roads, parkways and park roads, Indian reservation roads, defense access roads, and other Federal lands roads. WFL also provides training, technology deployment, engineering services, and products to other customers[1]. The WFL organization is structured as a traditional enterprise business with many hierarchy levels. The major functional areas include Accounting, Finance, Information Technology, Construction, Design, Administrative Services, Human Resources, Property Management, Environment, and Materials. All functional areas exist in a single physical building and employees work at that central location. There are also remote project offices out of which the construction employees work. These employees are supported by WFL’s IT staff. The Design and Construction functional areas are considered core business areas while the other functional areas, or departments, primarily support these two areas. There are approximately 300 employees total, in which 230 are in support positions. The remaining 70 are engineering positions that are responsible for road design and construction. WFL’s in-house IT infrastructure consists of a LAN and an Intranet connected to Headquarters, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) by two T1 lines. They maintain a web server in the DMZ and use a Cisco Router as a firewall to their LAN. The major hardware platforms consist of 17 IBM Windows servers, 5 Sun systems, 5 Netware servers and a Nortel PBX telecommunication system for phone services. In addition, WFL’s IT team manages a total of 4 high-end, in-house Cisco routers and 20 small scale Cisco routers located at remote construction project offices along with a total of 12 core and edge switches. Other hardware investments include 20 UPS systems, an HVAC system, Cisco 3000 VPN Concentrator, Cisco remote access concentrator, and approximately 300 client computers in which half are desktop computers and half are laptops. WFL’s Information Technology department has a total staff of 21 (17 are contract employees) who manage the infrastructure and provide support services. Other infrastructure costs include software costs and licensing for off the shelf software packages such as Microsoft office, Bentley Microstation, Bentley Projectwise, and warranties and service contracts with venders such as Microsoft, Novell, Bentley, Nortel, QWEST and Cisco.

WFL Business Issues

Since WFL is housed in a central location. Some of the business costs for the entire organization include building rental, maintenance and upkeep. Other costs include utilities such as water and power. Employees in each functional area do their work by accessing files from a central location on a Netware server and without any automated workflow. WFL’s IT staff has implemented Bentley Projectwise for document management and workflow capabilities but it only extends to the Drafting and Design sections. There are a number of shared databases in both Oracle and SQL but no enterprise software or web services linking them to provide a single office-wide solution. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the pace of technology advancement is rapid; this makes it difficult for WFL to stay ahead of the game. Trying to manage an Infrastructure of this scale and hardware diversity is a continuous challenge, not to mention very expensive for a company only supporting 300 total employees. WFL’s IT staff is constantly struggling to keep their infrastructure up to date and often find they are in a reactive state of updating or purchasing new hardware and software. In this paper we will concentrate on two issues; reducing business costs and getting WFL’s IT infrastructure and business strategy into the 21st century. We can achieve the former by proposing possible alternatives in technology for the latter. We will look at strategic implications of information technology over the next three years and then provide some recommendations. Since WFL has multiple systems and databases serving the different functional areas within the organization and a central web based application is needed to manage documents and provide workflow capabilities. The latest version Bentley Projectwise (Version V8I) has incorporated a web component making it possible for remote users to access files using a web browser. Since WFL already has investments in Bentley this may be an attractive alternative if the product were to be utilized for all office documents, and not just for design files. Using this solution would also prove to be cost effective when compared to other options, with minimal reengineering requirements and a server software upgrade to version V8I all that would be needed. Another possible option would be to implement an Enterprise application such as SAP or Oracle Peoplesoft. However, these types of products seem scaled to large manufacturing companies and concentrate on customer relation and supply chain management, which is not a critical success factor for WFL. Furthermore, extensive changes to business processes may be required to take advantage of this type of software. According to the class textbook, “Paradigm shifts and reengineering often fail because of extensive organizational change is so difficult to orchestrate” [2]. A better option might be to hire a consultant to develop specialized front-end software to link the various databases and software programs. This seemed to work well for PC Connections, who took steps to overhaul their fulfillment system. They “Developed new front-end software programs based on Web Services” to address their outdated systems (Laudon, & Laudon, 2010). Hiring a consultant may have substantial upfront costs, but the eventual payoff may be worth it. In today’s mobile world many companies are turning to telecommuting as a way to be more flexible and save money. The government is no exception as seen is the passage of the Federal Transportation Appropriations Bill, which “requires federal agencies to allow all eligible employees whose jobs lend themselves to telecommuting and who would like to telework to do so” [3]. The Federal interest in promoting telework programs “centers around environmental and energy benefits as well as providing the capacity to remain operational during large-scale emergencies” (Heibel, C, 2007). According to Heibel, other benefits of telecommuting include increased productivity, as “Employees who telecommute are not limited to working from home. They can work from different places such as an airport, hotel or client site.” Cost Savings as “Telecommuting helps companies achieve significant savings associated with real estate costs and overhead. Companies can grow without the need to create additional workstations or build new office spaces.” According to an article on the MSNBC website, “telecommuting will become a mainstay in Corporate America but that doesn’t mean everyone will be working at home all the time, a prediction made by many workforce observers just a decade ago”, and “The U.S. worker will be a mélange of office inhabitant and work-anywhere warrior”[4]. Telecommuting is now possible due to advances in technology. Many of these technologies already exist at WFL. For example, they already own their own Nortel PBX system, manage a Cisco VPN concentrator and have a functioning LAN and intranet already in place and powered by two T1 lines. Note some functional areas would not qualify for telecommuting due to the work they do. One department would be Design. These employees work with very large, graphic intensive files that probably could not be uploaded and downloaded over the Internet efficiently. The other factor to consider is that WFL would still need an internal IT department, although smaller since internal desktop support would decline, as more workers become telecommuters. Even so, these conditions can arrange 70-80% of the office could be in a position to telecommute with a few cost effective technology upgrades to their current infrastructure within the next three years. The technologies needed to achieve 70-80% staff telecommuting at WFL include a VoIP system, collaboration tools such as video conferencing and teleconferencing, and possibly upgrading the VPN concentrator so that it will support more concurrent connections. Other business factors include employee buy-in and changes in the way management does business. Using VPN, employees would login to the internal network by way of an encrypted tunnel and work from home just as if they were at the office. The same network resources would be available to them. For a VoIP service, one possible solution would be deploying a softphone on the employee’s laptop or PC. Since WFL already maintains their own Nortel PBX system, they could purchase softphone software from Nortel that would effectively tie into WFL’s existing phone system. Softphone software “ties into a corporate phone system extension and supports the same feature set as a desktop phone in an office” [5]. For example, American National Bank of Texas “uses softphones from Nortel that tie into a CS 1000 IP PBX. A Cisco VPN concentrator is used to provide remote-access VPN links for voice and data” (Hochmuth, 2007). Another VoIP option would be purchasing IP hardware-based telephones. This type of phone will “register with a central PBX or IP PBX over the VPN link and act as regular extensions on the system” (Hochmuth, 2007). An example is the case of Ball Homes, a custom home building company in Lexington, KY. Employees at Ball Homes “have Cisco IP phones in their home offices, which ring at both the office desk and the home-office desk when an employee's phone extension is dialed”. These phones “plug into a cable/DSL router and LAN switch in the home offices, and connect to a Cisco VPN Concentrator 3000 in the company's headquarters” (Hochmuth, 2007). This type of VoIP solution is possible at WFL. Benefits of using VoIP is that it’s cost effective and cheaper than using traditional telephone services, and it would be a step in the right direction to implementing a telecommuting solution at WFL. Collaboration is critical to businesses that do not meet at a central location. Although face-to-face meetings would occasionally still be needed at WFL, a majority of the meetings could be done remotely by video conferencing if the technology were in place. There are a number of ways to get there with many products to choose from. These products range in price from inexpensive or free software (Such as Skype) to expensive dedicated video conferencing equipment from venders such as Cisco Systems. There are a number of video conferencing services for corporations. For example, Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro software is a “flexible web communication system with strong security features that provides enterprise solutions for training, marketing, sales, and enterprise collaboration” which is available as a “hosted subscription service or as licensed software that can be deployed on-site, behind a firewall” [6]. Connect pro can support up to 1500 users and it gives the organization the option of 3 service plans including VoIP audio and broadcast video capabilities. For example, the pay-per-use plan “lets you hold full-featured Acrobat Connect Pro meetings on a per-minute/per-participant basis. Price includes Voice over IP (VoIP) Audio and broadcast video. Teleconferencing is available at an additional cost” (Hussam, 2009). Another service to consider is Cisco WebEx. According to the WebEx website, “It combines real-time desktop sharing with phone conferencing so everyone sees the same thing while you talk. It’s far more productive than emailing files and struggling to get everyone on the same page over the phone. And it can often eliminate the need for people to travel and meet on site”[7]. Prices start at $49 per month, and includes unlimited online meetings, up to 25 participants per meeting, one-click online record and play, and integrated voice conferencing by phone or computer (VoIP). There is no doubt that Cloud Computing will have a major impact on the technology landscape in the private sector, but will it work for the Government? One possible issue would be the security requirements needed to secure Federal information? Google is attempting to tap into this market and has already created a Government cloud. Google’s offering will provide “the commercial Google Apps suite -- which includes hosted e-mail, word processing, collaboration and Web site creation services -- that's tailored to meet specific public-sector requirements” and it will be available to all government sectors including local, state and federal[8]. To deal with the security aspect of Google’s Government cloud, Matthew Glotzbach, product management director of Google Enterprise, has said that “Google's government cloud would comply with rules spelled out in the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), as well as other public-sector privacy and security policies”, and that “the government cloud will rely on Google facilities and equipment located only in the United States” which is unlike their regular offerings that are hosted on a worldwide infrastructure (Towns, 2009).
Glotzbach also states that one of the agenda items going forward between “the technology industry and government agencies is to strive for the standardization of those policies, where we can all agree on a common set of criteria for things like background checks for employees working on government applications” (Towns, 2010). The Government has also taken initial steps towards moving to cloud computing. They have unveiled a new website called APPS.COM, which is “a Web-based storefront designed to let federal agencies easily acquire cloud computing applications” (Towns, 2010). This website is intended to provide cloud computing to Government agencies in the areas of business and productivity applications, cloud IT services, and social media applications. Cloud computing appears to be the wave of the future but it can have its drawbacks in respect to WFL. These cloud computing solutions are still in their infancy and WFL already has an existing IT infrastructure in place that would be capable of providing telecommuting capabilities with several minor upgrades. As David Girouard, president of enterprise for Google has stated, “It will be a draining of the pond”[9] meaning that the cloud computing revolution will be a gradual process.

Strategic Technology Recommendations

The best approach for WFL is a 3-year initiative to move 70-80 percent of employees to full-time telecommuting status. This will provide the best cost savings and better prepare the organization as a whole for future technology changes such as migrating to cloud computing. Also, by upgrading their current IT infrastructure to handle telecommuting instead of going with an Enterprise system or cloud computing, employees can continue to work as they have in the past but at home, which will eliminate possible business process reengineering risks due to extensive change. It will also allow for that type of change in the future, but with smaller steps. A large decision point is the fact that WFL already has the infrastructure in place to move in this direction with only several technology upgrades and implementations needed. The specific technology changes we recommend in the next 3 years include:

• Expand Bentley Projectwise organization-wide for all document processing and upgrading to version V8I, which has a web-based client • Implement a VoIP upgrade from Nortel that will work with their existing Nortel PBX system • Upgrade the existing Cisco VPN concentrator system (If Needed) so that it will support a larger user base • Implement corporate collaboration software such as Adobe Connect Pro or Cisco WebEx • Establish an Information Policy and communicate all Government telecommuting regulations to employees

Works Cited

Heibel, C. (2007, December 10). Benefits of telecommuting. Retrieved from http://smart-data-centers.tmcnet.com/topics/benefits/articles/16146-benefits-telecommuting.htm
Hochmuth, P. (2007, January 24). Telecommuting technologies that really do the job. Retrieved from http://www.itworldcanada.com/news/telecommuting-technologies-that-really-do-the-job-/101102
Hussam, A. (2009, May 28). The Beauty of adobe acrobat connect. Retrieved from http://ahussam.wordpress.com
King, R. (2008, August 4). How Cloud computing is changing the world. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2008/tc2008082
Laudon, K. C., & Laudon, J. P. (2010). Management information systems: managing the digital firm. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Meyers, Michael (2008, March 5). The State of Manufacturing in Oregon. Retrieved March 17, 2008, from Oregon Employment Department Web site: http://www.qualityinfo.org/olmisj/ArticleReader?itemid=00005803
McMillan, R. (2009, September 15). 'government cloud' coming from google next year. Retrieved from http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/government-cloud-coming-google-next-year-855
Tahmincioglu, E. (2007, October 5). The Quiet revolution: telecommuting. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20281475/
Towns, S. (2009, September 15). Google to launch government cloud. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/724044

-----------------------
[1] http://www/wfl.fhwa.dot.gov
[2] Laudon & Laudon, 2010. P.481
[3] Heibel, C. (2007, December 10). Benefits of telecommuting. Retrieved from http://smart-data-centers.tmcnet.com/topics/benefits/articles/16146-benefits-telecommuting.htm
[4] Tahmincioglu, E. (2007, October 5). The Quiet revolution: telecommuting. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20281475/

[5] Hochmuth, P. (2007, January 24). Telecommuting technologies that really do the job. http://www.itworldcanada.com/news/telecommuting-technologies-that-really-do-the-job-/101102
[6] Hussam, A. (2009, May 28). The Beauty of adobe acrobat connect. Retrieved from http://ahussam.wordpress.com
[7] http://www.webex.com/what-is-webex/index.html
[8] Towns, S. (2010, September 15). Google to launch government cloud. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/724044
[9] King, R. (2008, August 4). How Cloud computing is changing the world. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2008/tc2008082

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...Web at least at one point in the transaction's life-cycle, although it may encompass a wider range of technologies such as e-mail, mobile devices and telephones as well”. (Electronic Commerce, modified November 2011, Wikipedia). Today it is said to be over 29.7 billion pages on the World Wide Web. Ecommerce today has gained so much popularity because its core technologies are constantly evolving and keeping up with a technology based world. Each year the number of ecommerce deals grows tremendously. The sales volumes of on-line stores run in a more than comparable race with physical retail stores. Methodology & Business Issues: An E commerce business is in a total different ball park from the traditional style business. While of course there are many pros to becoming an online entrepreneur, you still have to deal with the cons of financial costs such as server costs and investments, legal barriers, privacy, marketing, providing great customer service, and being strategic. The method behind any issues with dealing with E Commerce, is when starting an online business selling products or services always anticipate that there will be some fees before you make your first sale; keep in mind the saying “it takes money to make money!” “Your online store is a sales channel and acts like a sales person for your business. Selling online can be very cost effective as there are less human resource and infrastructure costs unlike a "bricks and mortar" business”.(ECorner.com,......

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...Course Project IS535 Managerial Applications of Information Technology Keller Graduate School of Management Executive Summary Companies today are faced with increase challenges in a increasing competitive market place and so are relying on information and computer system to provide the edge to allow them to stay in the game of competitiveness. Max Satellite Service is not immune from these challenges. There are more competitors in this market that are offering various services such as allowing movie download on game console such as Xbox and Wii. This was unheard of about ten years ago. This project is to focus on one area of its information system to determine possible vulnerabilities, threats; attacks and what can be done to gain control of these by implement preventive procedures before damages possibly in the millions of dollars occur. Company Overview Max Satellite Service is a Satellite TV subscriber’s provider that covers the eastern part of the United State of America with plans to cover rest of the country in three years. To accomplish this large amount of different computer and information systems are used to ensure the reliable operation of product and services that its offer. Sales and promotions will be high on the agenda in the hope of achieving the goals. Even with various competitors that offer subscribers TV and also bundles other services together for a lower introductory price or even provide discount for partners’ services MSS believe that......

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...buyers and other agents have to say about their home. Also reduce reliance on physical office space by renting a smaller space and spreading out virtually, while enabling functional support services. Real estate problems are often characterized as uncertain, complex, and dynamic. Solving them, if solutions are possible, is a multistep process with a strong emphasis on deductive reasoning and decision making, both emphases adopted from the finance and economics disciplines. Company has sacrificed brokerage from buyers to promote adviser ship to make easy to beat competition and get easy business. In short they are free services for promoters. Company is sharing up to 20% for its brokerage form sellers. Adviser can sell all the Real Estate Projects under one roof without taking multiple paid registrations with better variety and margins then existing brokers. Mobile is user-friendly mode and SMS is fast and cheap method for property business. Another way cost can be saved is through Relativa.com. Realtiva is designed specifically for the real estate industry, and also designed for agents, brokers and large firms. There is no software to download. Realtiva also offers white label solutions for large real estate companies, real estate coaches, and web designers in the real estate space. Whether leads come from your buyers/sellers forms located on your website or your IDX Real Estate Search; Track, Find and Save your leads/contacts in one place. Designed......

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