The Information Plan is designed to outline the needs for information and computer systems and resources for a business or organization. The Information Plan usually focuses on electronic information systems including "Electronic Data Processing" as well as general computer needs. With the development of personal computers, this now includes office as well as large-scale systems. Generally, manufacturing automation systems are excluded from this plan except for information transfer. Manufacturing and technical research systems are generally covered in their own plans.

10.1 General Information

General needs for information should be noted if requiring allocation of resources. The nature, source, and use of the information should be noted.

10.1.1 Library Requirements

Library or Business Information Center resources should be noted if major programs are envisioned, particularly, if internal studies using library resources are anticipated.

10.1.2 Special Studies

Special studies, not including under in research and development or marketing should be included here, if significant costs are anticipated.

10.1.3 Data Services

Data services include computer, dial up resources like DIALOG. These services can be expensive to use. If the costs are anticipated to be significant, they should be included. All electronic resources should be included.

10.1.4 Records Destruction

Records destruction programs may be required by the Corporation. These involve timely destruction of records to avoid unnecessary legal entanglements. Any special considerations for this business should be noted.

10.2 System Selection

Standards are used to assure effective and efficient use of resources in securing computer systems and software. However, each business contains its own special requirements. As such, the standards should be set by the business. In most cases, standards exist for the larger organization, division, department, or the corporation. It is general advisable to follow existing standards, where there are likely to be reasonable correct for the business.

The specific systems recommended or secured by the business should be specified if it differs from that of the larger organization. The criteria for selection should also be noted if it differs from guidelines.

10.2.1 Guidelines

Operating organizations and management information groups usually set guidelines for computer equipment and software. These guidelines represent suggestions for system selection. The guidelined components, in general, are widely used. They are supported, to some extent, by the guidelining organizations. Guidelines should be reviewed and determined to be effective, though not necessary determined to be the best.

However, the guidelines usually are limited to widely used applications, personal computers, spreadsheets, word processing, and graphic packages. Special applications, including simulation and scientific programming, are not included. The support of guidelined components is generally constrained to a limited set of applications and computers (platforms). Furthermore, because of the time required the guidelined components can be out-of-date. Better systems are often available which have not yet been guidelined.

It is generally recommended that guidelined components be used where there are no other constraints or conditions that would exclude them. However, the guidelining organizations do not assure that the guidelined systems either are the best for the business or even that they are satisfactory. It is the obligation of the organization to determine what is best for itself.

10.2.2 Performance

Performance is usually the key criteria for selecting a system or software. The performance should be noted in terms of what the system is to do. Technical performance is usually not sufficient.

10.2.3 Consistency

It is important that the systems and software being used is the same throughout the business. This is to provide a means to share data, information, programs, and expertise.

10.2.4 Compatibility

An alternative to complete consistency, is to assure that the systems can communicate with each other. It is most desirable that the systems are compatible in the sense that programs and data can be exchanged.

There has been significant effort in the last few years to make, previously incompatible systems, work together. Programs exist that run on mainframe, PC's and minicomputers68. The choice of systems in the future may be less sensitive to the compatibility problem. However, the less incompatible the system, the better.

10.2.5 Documentation

All software programs written for the business should be documented. Technical documentation, users' guides, and manuals, should be prepared. Guidelines for the preparation should be noted or at least referenced.

10.2.6 Licenses

Licenses or purchase agreements for all non-public, non-proprietary software should be secured. The status of all critical non-commercially available programs should be noted.

10.2.7 Records Destruction

A program for compliance with record destruction of electronically stored data and software should be prepared and reviewed.

10.3 System Requirements

Detailed system proposals should be prepared for the development of all non-personal computer programs. The requirements for all systems should be summarized in the information plan.

10.3.1 Objectives

The objectives for each system should be noted. These objectives should reflect the use of the systems and any special requirements.

10.3.2 Functional Specifications

The functional specifications include the types of equipment that the program will use and the data required as input. If available, the computer languages, sub-systems, modules and sub-programs that will be used in development should be noted.69

10.3.3 Life Span

The expected life span of the system is critical in determining the extent of support provisions, flexibility in design, and extent of documentation. The life span of all programs developed within this business should be estimated.

10.3.4 Life Cycle Costing

The life cycle costs covers all expenses connected to using the system over its life span. These costs include, development, implementation, maintenance, support, and expected enhancements.

10.4 Business Systems

Business systems include most of the support, accounting and office functions for the business. These systems, more than most, have to interact with each other, sharing data and programs.

10.4.1 Information Needs

Because of the expected interaction among functions, it is critical to review the information needs of the business. These usually include document routing and control, accounting data, sales and cost information, and expenses.70

10.4.2 Data Flow Diagrams

The data flow diagram shows the sources and uses of information. The planning purpose for this chart is to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in data storage and information reporting.71

10.4.3 Accounting Systems

All business operations require accounting systems in place. If a standard system is being used for this business, it should be identified. If a new system is being developed, the reason for its development should be noted and its specification. Details of its development should be documented and reviewed by the organizational accounting function responsible for financial auditing.

10.4.4 Manufacturing Systems

Quality, shipment, and inventory control should be logged and coded to allow for a total product history to be generated. If a standard system is being used, it should be identified. If a new system is being developed, its specifications should be noted. Details of its development should be documented.72

10.4.5 Audit Critical Systems

Systems that are likely to be critical in the financial reporting of the organization, are referred to as audit critical. The development of these systems should be reviewed with the auditing organization, as well as the business group comptrollers.

10.4.6 Integrated Systems

An overall plan for system integration should be considered. This tends to require the development of subsystems that use the same or compatible languages or packages.

10.5 Timing and Costs

It is important that the information systems be in place as the business develops. Timing and costs can be critical.

10.6 Other Systems


10.6.1 Office Automation

Office automation has become a major component of business information systems. If the needs of the business requires unique facilities, these should be noted along with the objectives and specifications. Consistency in office automation is extremely important.

10.6.2 Products

Products can include software as a component. Security and control of these products should be discussed in the information plan. However, the development and maintenance of these systems should be covered in the product development section of the business plan. The resources for development and maintenance should be covered separately from the general business and marketing information support system.

10.6.3 Marketing Systems

Systems are used to assist in the marketing and distribution functions of the business. These systems should be described in detail. Funding for their development usually is covered under the marketing budget. If so, they should be described in both sections of the business plan. Sales Aids

Sales aids consist of all demonstration or "customer assistance" tools using computer programs. Included in this group are "expert systems" used by the sales force or for use directly by the customer. ....

Identify: (1) the objectives, (2) support, and (3) control elements for each system. Sales Force Communications

Remote communication systems are becoming a dominant component in marketing support systems. Outline the components of the systems in-place and the standardization of software. Note the particular communication network being used. Complaint System

A key element of the quality assurance program is rapid response to complaints. The system to recording and tracking complaints should be efficient, effective and in place as early in the venture as possible. Customer Computing

Customer computing includes distributor/agent communications as well as on-line sales aids. In this section, any networked structure involving customers should be described along with the means of support. All electronic data interchange (EDI) applications should be included in this section. Data Control

Since proprietary data might be distributed in the marketing systems, controls need to be imposed. The nature of these controls should be described. Timing and Cost

The marketing systems are part of the promotional and sales activities of the business. Their timing relates to the on-going marketing process. Timing and costs of all programs should be identified.

10.6.4 Technical Computing

Technical computing includes all design, scientific, and analysis activities. Usually these activities are confined to the technical staff for personal use and are not considered to be Audit Critical. However, some of the activities can give critical competitive advantage and therefore, are vital to the venture. Design

Design data, including CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing), are considered proprietary. Consistency of systems is a great advantage. Both the choice of CAD/CAM systems and the protection procedures for information should be reviewed. Forecasting

Sales and price forecasting programs and information should be protected. Simulation

Simulation programs and scientific computing usually involve systems that are not easily interpreted by business personnel. As such, they do not require the same degree of protection from theft. However, do to the complexity of the systems and their uniqueness, care must be take to assure full documentation to prevent loss. Research Data Support

Research data are usually stored as hardcopy and as magnetic materials. Since these data may be called upon in legal actions (patents), they need to be protected.

10.7 Security

Security of systems is covered in the Electronic Information Security Guidelines. An example of those guidelines is listed in the appendix.

10.8 Communications

Communication systems including telephone, fax, electronic mail as well as any special data acquisition system should be described in the information plan if it differs from the existing system.

10.9 Support

System support is usually classified in terms of the qualifications of the support staff: (1) trained support and (2) expert support. Training support focuses on the helping, the novices use the system. It is usually the least expensive approach. The personnel are trained on the software in a specific environment.

10.9.1 Application Suite

Training and support of systems are targeted to the "application suite". This is the intersection of supported equipment, supported software, and supported applications. Not all equipment that can use the software is supported; nor are all applications of the software are supported. This limitation of hardware, software, and applications allows for effective training of the support staff in a short period of time.

If trained support is planned for this business, the application suite for that support needs to be identified. This includes both the areas that will be covered and what is likely not to be.

10.9.2 Expert Support

Expert support usually consists of a small group of highly knowledgeable consultants. This type of support tends to be expensive to maintain on a formal basis. Usually, expert support is handled informally and in conjunction with training support.

10.9.3 Source

The sources of support should be identified and budgeted.