There are several things that make life worth living. Living a healthy life is most essential, while having a wealthy life is just a bonus. So is the claim made by humanists who seek to preserve the value of life and epitomize the credibility given to a healthy lifestyle. The 21st century has had more innovations and advancements into technology than any other before it. For this reason, competition has become cut throat in every sector of IT in terms of the quality of products provided. Nevertheless, consumers have become picky on the choice of products that they pick out from the stores or subscribe to. The guarantee of quality has become more prominent than the consideration of price for most individuals. For this reason, companies have been formed to ensure that the products put in the market are of proper quality and consumers are not exploited all the same.
Quality is critical to the success in whichever endeavor any individual or group decides to undertake. Quality is often defined as the totality of inherent characteristics in a product or service that bears within itself the ability to increase demand on itself at a fixed price. Information Quality (IQ) is a common term used in the description of the quality of the content provided by Information systems. It can also be characterized as the fitness for use of the information provided. Although the latter definition is generally used to describe everyday functioning and purposes, specialists commonly use more complex models for the quality of information. Most of the practitioners in the IT industry tend to use the term information quality alongside data quality, but academics tend to differentiate between data and information. Information quality assurance is, therefore, a process in which particular information is guaranteed to meet set criteria. IT service quality is, therefore, defined by the user or the consumer and it is in most times the scale in which the product is weighed upon. Both internal and external consumers are in constant need of quality products both in and out of the comfort zone of the provider. Within the economic standards of today’s businesses, companies and providers of IT services tend to find it difficult to keep up with growing demands and often go out of business.
The recent growth in personal computing, as well as networked systems, has brought forth a new concept: Information Systems (IS) departments in companies whose services are in high demand. Modern businesses rely heavily on the services resulting from IT. Despite the heavy reliance on IT and the ever increasing demand for perfection in service and product delivery by customers, little information and research have been provided on the matter of quality assurance. Quality assurance aims to close the information gap that arises because of the requirements to push harder in IT as well as IS.
Quality Assurance can only be defined as doing the right things right and is thus the only sure way to ensure that mistakes are not made during the production of a product that in turn avoids problems during delivery to the clients either as a product or a service or as goods. Quality Assurance (QA) is mostly employed to physical products during their manufacturing process in order to guarantee that the final products shall meet a particular requirement. This happens after the verification of samples provided that depict the quality of the final product. On the other hand, QA is also applied to software in order to verify that both the features and the functionality meet the required purposes and that the code is bug free, prior to the release or sale of the software and its subsequent versions.
Quality assurance is, therefore, an administrative and procedural activity that is implemented in the quality system to ensure that both the goals and objectives of the product are fulfilled as intended. In IT, it involves systemic measurement, monitoring of processes, comparison with standards and associated feedback mechanism that confers error prevention. It is vastly different from quality control that only deals with the process output of the product. In the case of information technology and information systems, there are two principles that govern quality assurance. These principles are: ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘right first time.’ Fit for purpose indicates that the product is designed and suited for the intended purpose while right first time indicates that all errors were eliminated before the release of the product.
Quality in any field is determined by the users, clients or customers who use the product and not by the society in general. The quality, as is often confused is not related to the actual price of the product or the service. The two are separate variables though relating to the same product. Therefore, adjectives like ‘poor’ and ‘high’ should not be used in relation to quality. Even in IT and information systems there are standards by which products must conform and they are monitored by such standards as ISO, 9000 or an alternative as the CMMI model. For this reason, there is an ever growing need for human intervention in the quality assessment arena. Information Systems are designed to make human beings’ life easier and at the same time assist companies in maximizing profits.
Companies benefit by cutting down on human labor that previously cost them billions in wages. Since the invention and the spread of information systems companies have opted to cut down on human labor down to the most important employees within the company. However, with a constant need for growth and quality in the IT sector, there has risen a new breed of specialists known as ‘information systems quality assurance analysts.’ Their sole job is to provide expertise during the application of quality assurance planning techniques within the systems, as well as the software development life cycle.
The drastic, yet advanced calculations in the growth of the information technology world have led to the overreliance of computerization that might eventually become the downfall of human beings. Without human intervention to the computerized world, there is an ever conscious possibility of failing to meet set objectives in terms of assurance of quality. Quality matters are of grave importance to some companies whose reputation relies on the quality of the products they produce. In the context of software development, management personnel require to have the confidence that in case it allocates millions of funds into the development of custom information technology systems, then the IT department shall deliver on their promise.
On the other hand, in when the IT department has been contracted to create custom information technology systems, then the customer needs the assurance that the contractor shall deliver on the product whose function has been specified and whose price has been set in the agreement. The level of confidence needs to be guaranteed before fund allocation to the contractor. Guarantee of quality without the exaggeration of price is paramount in the performance of the business as well as the satisfaction and acceptance of customers in the IT world.
Traditionally, product purchases like washing machines and automobiles heavily relied on the manufacturer and the reputation that has been created over the years. It is very different in the information technology and information systems industry given the fact that companies merge and splinter while others fade away completely. Software products differ completely from automobiles because they are pieces of design, mainly intellectual property whose quality can vary depending on the creators of the software and the usage of the consumer. Then the question arises regarding the quality of the product when it can vary depending on its inventors and its users. The only satisfactory answer that has ever been provided on this front is that the quality should be monitored during the development stage of the software. Assurance should be sought from the developers that quality is built into the products they release to the consumers at all stages during the software’s development. There are three forms of assurances that should be given in order to ensure that the product released is worth placing in the public domain.
According to the Quality Assurance Journal (2010), in the 1990s, there was a crescendo disconnect between businesses and IT. IT was adamant on pursuing the greater and more perfected technology, while companies just wanted to have applications that would provide them with a competitive advantage in the market. According to the journal, IT did not at the time understand business language, while at the same time managers in organizations failed to understand the possibilities and the complexities that would be brought about by game changing technology. The journal states that at the time, business and IT were at loggerheads because they did not understand that they both shared the same goals and in the coming years, each would rely heavily on the other.
However, in as much as the journal criticizes that business and It were on different paths, it is vital to remember that it was during the 1990s that the internet became widespread, opening avenues that could not have been deemed imaginable. Following the decommissioning of the ARPANET in 1990, commercial entities were afforded the right to have to have private connections to the internet. The decommissioning of the NSFNET in 1995 allowed the use of the new liberalized internet to carry commercial traffic that subsequently increased the credibility as well as the market for many companies.
Since the establishment of the internet, commerce has boomed all over the world ranging from online sales to near instant communications through mediums like Email and Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). Business has boomed because of the advancements in information systems and information technology whereby individuals communicate and transact business in real time. The Quality Assurance journal also points out that biopharmaceutical firms are almost always having their departments clash. The quality assurance and the IT departments are in constant clashing because they fail to recognize that they all work geared towards the same goals in the organization. The mostly contested fronts are accountability, responsibility and the agreement as to the extent of regulatory exposure. Solutions to QA and IT problems can be resolved when both departments realize that they each have a unique personality or culture. For example, IT professionals have affection for technology, the latest software and the most adroit or powerful hardware, but they are not too keen on documentation and standard operating procedures.
For IT to develop and inspire progress a few rules have to be broken and this is exactly the point at which Quality Assurance fights back. Quality assurance heavily relies on documentation and following of procedure while IT depends on the innovativeness of the developer and the willingness to work outside of the confines of the rules. Primarily, QA and IT shall always be in loggerheads if there are no rules and procedures to follow. In IT, it is important that the software being produced meet certain set minimum conditions and expectations in order to be considered for use.
Software assurance, according to the journal of technology is defined as the level of confidence given to software that it is free from vulnerabilities, whether designed intentionally or accidentally inserted during its lifecycle and the faith that the functions of the software are in the intended manner. The purpose of having software assurance is to ensure that the procedures, processes and the products used to produce as well as sustain the software conform to the requirements and standards that are set to govern those processes and procedures. A secondary aim of having software assurance is to guarantee that the software produced is always secure. However, for the more software-intensive systems a static and a preventive dynamic analysis of the potential vulnerabilities of the software is required, and in turn, a system-level understanding is required for this purpose. It is because of the required understanding that the architectural risk analysis plan is commonly adopted in any solid software security program.
On the other hand, various institutions have different definitions for software assurance. For example, the Department of Homeland Security addresses the problem of software assurance as having three main facets to its repertoire. The first definition stems from trustworthiness whereby they define that the assurance means that the software is not exploitable i.e. no vulnerabilities exist within the software either intentionally or accidentally inserted. The second definition stems from conformance. Software assurance should mean that the software has met all the requirements as were set out by the different standards that govern the quality of software. The third definition comes from predictable execution whereby the DHS should have the confidence that when the software is executed, it shall perform as intended. Software assurance is mainly a strategic initiative by the Department of Homeland Security aimed at promoting integrity, reliability and security of software. The definition given by the Software Assurance Forum for Excellence in Code (SAFE Code) is that there is confidence that the software, services and the hardware are free from vulnerabilities and that the software in question performs as intended.
The handbook of software quality assurance states that the collective term for IT services and the management of IT infrastructure is known as IT service management (ITSM). ITSM, according to the handbook is rooted on two principles: service delivery and service support in order to provide assurance. It is through these processes that the quality assurance can be provided on the agreed-upon levels of quality. IT service delivery acts on three principles that include service desk function, incident management and problem management. Service desk function allows for the user to contact the help desk in case of a problem with the software either in function or operation. The customer can reach out to the designer of the software for assistance. Incident management is responsible for the restoration of the normal state of IT in order to ensure that normal business functions are not affected. Problem management is mandated with the minimization of adverse incidents and impacts to the business that has resulted from the error of IT infrastructure. Its function is to ensure that such errors do not reoccur.
Conventional methods of pen and paper in terms of management have maintained a decent reputation in terms of management, but in recent years, this process has been viewed as restrictive and limiting. Businesses in the present world are in demand for innovation, cloud computing, outsourcing and increasingly intelligent technologies. The rise in standards for management has forced the traditional pen and paper method out the window. Moreover, with the increased functioning and requirements for certain aspects of business, sometimes managers fail to understand the complexities and there emerges a need for machinery that understands all the functioning of the processes. It means that where managers and human personnel cannot keep up with the complexities of business, there has to be an automated system, especially in the assurance of quality matters of products. An automated system has the benefits of speed and convenience whereas human beings lack in this area.
An automated system has the ability to perform tasks that could be life threatening if performed physically by human beings. For example, Information Technology software can be used to great lengths in nuclear power plants where toxicity is an issue of concern. Software can be used to perform sequential logic that could prove to be tasking for humans. Such functions can be of grave importance and their monitoring requires a keen eye, all through the day. Thus, automation of such systems is necessary because human error in such a case would be catastrophic. In addition, quality assurance for the software to be implemented in such projects has to be top notch. According to the journal of quality assurance, system automation is the next step in big business in terms of ensuring consistency and the maintenance if not increase of profits for businesses. Software and its quality are assessed in terms of its behavior according to its intended purpose and its assurance can either be sought through experiments or through the verification techniques put in place to ensure quality. Quality assurance translates to quality reliability and thus an automation process should provide the assurance that the system shall be reliable and perform as was originally intended.
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According to the Elsevier journal, information systems are defined as both the software and hardware systems that support applications that are data intensive. Information systems encompass a range of disciplines such as analysis and design of systems, information security, computer networking, and database management as well as decision support tools. Management of information deals with both the theoretical and practical problems of collecting and analyzing the collected information in a business setup. Networking and communications in information systems deals with the advanced technologies in telecommunication. Information systems bridge the gap between the business world and computer science world using the foundations of computation and information in order to study the various models of business related to algorithmic processes within the discipline of computer science.
Computer Information Systems (CIS) is a field of study that focuses on both computers and algorithmic processes which include their principles, hardware and software designs, their impact to the society and their applications. Information Systems (IS) is a study that mainly focuses on the functionality of software and hardware over the design of the same. Information systems aim at aiding in supporting the operations of the business in decision making and the general management of the organization. From a broader point of view, information systems do not only refer to information and communication technology (ICT) that the business employs, but rather the interaction that the people within the business have with the technology at their disposal. Information systems are primarily mandated with processing of information in an organization and thereafter sharing the benefits with the society at large. It is because of the importance of information systems in modern businesses that a position has been created in most business. The position of Chief Information Office (CIO) is crucial to the business and the holder of that office is required to sit in board meetings alongside other senior staff such as the CEO, CFO and COO.
Information is the building block for which society establishes itself and progress are borne. It is because of the availability of information that human beings have excelled in most of the fields that they have chosen to explore. The importance of information comes in handy especially where concepts of life and death are in play. Therefore, quality information is important towards the development and progress of society. With the age of the internet and the World Wide Web, information has become the only link to people from different corners of the globe. Information quality is thus associated with the content of information systems. Pragmatists define information quality as the fitness for use in the information provided.
Quality is a subjective concept and its validly can only be determined by the users and the consumers of the information systems provided. Therefore, a high degree of quality increases the objectivity of the concept, or at least the intersubjectivity associated with quality. Information quality can be associated with the accuracy of both the software components and the hardware components associated with the information system. The journal of information systems proposes several metrics used to determine the quality of information systems that are in use. The first metric of quality measurement is verifiability or authority. Verifiability mainly deals with the reputation of the author or the publisher in terms of following both legal and industrial standards. The information system provided should be able to be verifiable from the source or the provider of information. Verifiability means that the reader should be able to verify the validity of the available information regardless of how authoritative it might seem. An information system should allow for the verification of data from outside sources in order to be considered a quality system.
A quality information system should also define the scope of coverage, according to the journal of information systems. In this case, scope refers to the extent to which the topic is explored by a source. Scope takes into consideration factors such as geography, or jurisdictions in the coverage of the desired topic. The scope of the study of information systems should also define the bigger picture and the smaller picture, giving details that are useful to the user. The question of objectivity often rises when the concept of quality information systems is brought up. Objectivity is mainly the bias or expressed opinion that a writer or user has after the analysis of facts. Quality information systems should allow for objective opinions from users in order to allow for improvements and alterations where necessary. Quality information systems should also have the principle of integrity as per an article in the journal. Information systems should adhere to both ethical and moral principles and the overall soundness of moral character. Integrity also means that the system is whole or undiminished in terms of function and design.
Growing organizations require determining the difference between quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC). Both of these aspects form an integral part of the business quality management plan. It also forms the basis for the effectiveness of delivery for products and that the information provided in financial documents is well understood by stakeholders and the customers. Effective quality information systems contribute vastly to success of the projects set out by the organization. On the other hand, if the information systems are poorly understood, then the organization seems to become weak and ineffective in the eyes of the customers that may cause a ripple effect which might end up collapsing the business. A quality information system is designed to provide customers with valuable information, service, and delivery time and tailored to suit their specific needs. The information systems journal, the difference between quality assurance and quality control is very thin and proper distinction needs to be done in order to have quality products, as well as quality services in the industry.
The information systems journal indicates that the quality assurance of information systems relies more on planning, documenting as well as agreeing to sets of guidelines that are in place to ensure quality of final products. Quality assurance is undertaken at the beginning of any project in order to give step by step guidelines for the procession of activities. The end results for quality assurance are quality plans, test plans and inspection plans. This process proves to be in need for quality assurance personnel during the entire process in order to make sure that the set guidelines are followed to the latter. The process of quality assurance in information systems is rife with errors if gone unmonitored and thus there is an ever growing need for people to be hands-on in the process. In as much as information systems rely heavily on software and equipment, the human aspect of quality assurance is vital in the establishment and maintenance of quality standards in an organization.
Increased levels of quality are crucial in the achievement of company objectives in some companies; quality is the competitive edge that most companies have. For those companies whose reputation rides on the quality of their products, having an effective and efficient quality assurance system is the hallmark of their existence. The European journal of information systems outlines that quality assurance in business provides the confidence that the final products or services of the company. Company employees are, therefore, constituents of the most important resource needed for the improvement of quality. Individual employees in an organizational unit are responsible for making sure that their work processes are efficient for the continued improvement of quality. Top level management should realize the importance of having dedicated employees towards the improvement of quality and standards of products set out to the market. For this purpose, training should be provided as well as other motivational factors that would induce diligence in work related performance. An encouraging environment should foster teamwork within the organization in order to facilitate quality production of products.
Before the 1990s and the widespread of personal computer usage, computers were using information systems to manage their data processes and keep records of their transactions. Communication systems mainly relied on paper and word of mouth in order to get information passed on from one point to another. Using this method, companies could only be competitive within certain jurisdictions and the limitations that were created from the use of paper did not allow companies to expand. Today, the aim of businesses is to become competitive on a global scale regardless of size or location. One of the main fronts of competition is the improvement in information communication technology (ICT). It is through ICT that companies are able to provide quality products on a larger scale than they used to in earlier decades. In the competitive arena of business, companies have had to embrace globalization, integration and collaboration in order to conform to global rules and regulations regarding the products sold.
In order to maintain a competitive edge in the respective field, companies have to invest in information systems like ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning) software that serve different functions in the organization. These systems also provide real time data that is used to aid in fast decision making. Information systems such as ERPs help companies to manage their operations seamlessly across the globe. According to the management of information systems journal, information systems serve three distinct purposes in businesses which are: information storage and analysis, assist in decision making and assist with business processes. It is through information systems that companies are able to make use of databases that contain most of the information about the company, and in some instances, entire company data. The modern day information systems are sophisticated whereby they can be used to great extents to gather information from both within the company and from external sources that would assist the company in making future decisions such as SWOT analysis.
It is the role of information systems to assist businesses with decision making because, as an additional function in the company, long term decisions are part of the company’s functioning. Using concepts derived from SWOT analysis and other sources, information system greatly aid the management team in formulating long term plans for the good of the company. Companies use their information systems to gather information about the economy from sources such as Reuters and Bloomberg to acquire information from a global perspective. It is, therefore, for businesses to have quality information systems that can provide information on real time basis that shall eventually benefit the business.
Another role of information systems is to aid with business processes. The journal of information technology and systems states that improved information systems aid the business in developing a bigger number of other value added systems in the company. Quality information systems give more control to employees and ensure that only the qualified personnel work on certain tasks. However, there is a downside to the employment of information systems. The primary goal for developing information systems and the constant upgrades are meant to reduce the labor force in the company that in turn is meant to maximize profits. The disadvantage of having effective information systems is the cutbacks on human labor. Although this may come as an advantage for the company, the lost personnel makes the company vulnerable in terms of human accuracy that is not always present with machinery.
An automated information system (AIS) is defined as an assembly of computer hardware, firmware, software or any combination of these three in a configuration designed to accomplish specific tasks. The tasks expected from an information system include computation, dissemination, processing, storage and communication of information. An information system comprises of computers, networks, word processing and other electronic information handling systems, alongside their associated equipment.
A point perfect example of a modern day information system is the management information system whose main construction is intended for the smoother running of managerial tasks within the business. An automated information system aims at providing real time information and fast computation that would have rather become tedious or take more time if computed by human beings. It is also through the automation of information systems that real time communications can happen that eventually aid in different sectors of the economy. For example, through satellite radio calls and VOIPs government are able to work together instead of making a long, tedious trip back and forth.
Quality assurance does not necessarily rely on the activities required to produce quality products. Instead, efficient and effective methods have to be employed in order to have information systems assured for quality. Information systems should be offered to the customers who are the sole judges for the quality of product or service that they receive. The journal of strategic information systems indicates that networked systems are most vulnerable to error and thus quality assurance should not be an option for organizations that employ this form of system. The quality and security of networked systems should be assured first and foremost before any progress can be registered. The confidence of both the customers and stakeholders in the business and other operational sectors of the economy are more likely to be established through an effective quality assurance process. The process should ensure that the information systems are well designed monitored periodically and monitored often. Such a process for quality assurance in information systems is the education of employees in order to remain up-to-date with the latest performances and trends in information technology. Another form of quality assurance is the maintenance of set standards and protocols in the production and presentation of products and services.
Information systems should be assessed on a regular basis in accordance with the statutes that govern quality management of information systems. The aim of these assessments is to verify the accuracy of the procedures and accuracy of the processes in the ultimate provision of a system that is error proof. An effective information system should provide the users with a guaranteed sense of security, free from breaching or malfunction, according to the information systems journal. Such an effective system should be assured on the security front because the security of a company is one of its most, if not the most important assets. Therefore, the testing phase of an information system should be taken seriously and intensely because the inmost case, the future of the organization that would use it would very well hang in the balance. It is because of the security risks that information systems are prone to that there are strict rules and guidelines for the testing and release of such systems. Security gaps in information systems can cause grave danger to institutions and the requirement for having support personnel from the developers is necessary.
In conclusion, information systems are designed to improve business and the overall functioning of the organization. However, in as much as technology has improved the productivity of businesses, the human element of business should not be ignored. Machinery and human integration should blend perfectly in an efficient information system so that both remain relevant to the workplace and to the changing times and trends. Information system, like information technology should be closely observed during the design and development process in order to ensure that guidelines towards quality products are followed. In the 21st century where information has become a valuable commodity, those with access to it have the upper hand in the forging of the future for a new world. It is only through information systems that vast amounts of ideas are shared and new markets exploited. The rise and dominance of modern information systems have brought forward a new code of ethics and quality in the products sold in the market.
Businesses have grown and excelled as a result of having the proper information systems which give them the competitive edge that is necessary for building empires. Furthermore, the rise in information systems to replace the age old forms of communication and data storage has greatly facilitated access to information over different locations. For example, companies used to have their information stored in files and folders that could only be accessed physically. Today, the internet has facilitated access to this information in real time and has also facilitated business transactions over the internet.
Effective information systems such as networking services have enabled businesses to conduct business in real time through the hosting of meetings via teleconferencing. Companies are able to hold meetings in real time with different branches spread over different geographical regions without the need to physically attend the meetings. Because of the need for effective information systems, quality assurance has to be guaranteed for such organizations. A small vulnerability in an information system can render the company helpless in the face of a breach or a malfunction. Quality is, therefore, a key ingredient in the performance of good business then updated information systems come in second.
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