Introduction The following case study examines how increasingly; Information and Communication Technology are used within large public utilities. I will focus on observing a telecommunications company, particularly BT. In recent years the use of IT has become increasingly widespread. The usage of IT includes producing customer’s bills, provision of the service information, and the actual provision of the service in addition to many other areas. The development of the Internet has seen further uses to which ICT can be placed, and a widening of the access of the public to these services. At the same time there has been a rise in the amount of companies which provide telecommunications services with both benefits and potential dangers for the public.
BT provides services, which aid people to interchange information. For BT’s personal customers, the most popular service is the everyday telephone, but business customers, in addition, transmit data in alternative manors, using computer modems, fax machines, video cameras etc. Information and Communication Technology provides a way of managing data electronically. Business customers, and Bt’s own staff members, increasingly use ICT together with BT’s communications services to exchange data between computers. Information needed by the company A telecommunications company has to compile and store excessive amounts of information.
To begin with, customer details must be stored to permit the engendering of bills. These details would include the customer’s name, address, telephone number and method of payment. The method of payment may include direct debit as a member of a billing scheme, or hold a company in which the bills would be debited. Recorded information will also include the telephone usage by the customer, so a bill can be prepared.
Excellence in customer service is the objective of all organisations wishing to be successful. However, there is often a gap between customer expectations and management perceptions of customer expectations. Organisations often fail to get close to their customers and correctly read their expectations. Customers expect certain things when they walk into a business, and those with the highest level ...
In BT a computerized Customer Service System (CSS) is used. This stores the information of about 25 million BT telephone lines. This huge system is distributed over five sites, which are linked so CSS operators can access information form any site. CSS can calculate which CSS database is needed for a specific enquiry from using the customers telephone number. In addition information is stored about BT’s employees. Details are held about each individual member of staff.
These details would include personal details such as their name, address, National Insurance number, different jobs done within BT and the details of that job. A relational database enables BT to handle relationships between the sets of data in a flexible manner. How information is collected by the company. Any new customer who joins the company must complete a questionnaire; this enables the company to record necessary personal details.
Furthermore, if the customer decides to pay using direct debit, then a direct debit mandate would be filled in and signed by the customer to allow his / her bank to pay the correct amounts. Each time a customer uses a BT telephone line, the exchange stores information concerning the cost and duration of the call. Information is automatically recorded as the number is dialed. A future employee of the company must also fill in an application form and submit a CV, by doing it this way is collected about the staff.
Holiday forms would be filled in; in addition to sick notes for when an employee is absent. This provides the means for establishing information and a profile on certain employees. How the information is stored and organized Taking into account the vast quantities of data, which is stored by the company, it is necessary to take a systematic approach to ensure the information is organized carefully. There are a number of ways to store data, by a telecommunications company such as British Telecom (BT).
The design of a system varies in response to the expected audience for the perticulare application. Some systems are intended for back rooms, some for the front office, and some are for the general public. They are designed for technical users, others for end users. Some are intended to work standalone in real-time control applications, others for an environment of timesharing and pervasive ...
At one time BT used a computerized personnel database (PRISM) to store information about its workforce. PRISM kept job details and personal information about each of its employees. A payroll system, titles PARIS, kept track of employee’s wages and salaries. Because PRISM and PARIS were independent, flat file databases much of the information about employee had to be re-entered. Also, because each district had its own PRISM system, the collection of company-wide statistics was remarkably arduous. A new personal system was introduced into BT to help store and organize data.
It was titled MERIT. All of MERITS data is stored onto a single computer and replaced the twenty-one computers needed for the old system PRISM. MERIT holds a complete set of information based on each employee; this saves time because the information does not require to be duplicated in several departments. It is also more accurate because all the departments are using the exact same data. BT uses a computer system which uses a ‘graphical interface’ the reader is able to see a diagram on screen and makes enquiries by clicking on parts of the diagram. This graphical interface makes it easier for the operator to use; however, it does a lot more than many other databases that it takes a long time to learn all its features.
This computer system is used entirely through Britain by up to 1400 operators at any one time. Each of the operators uses a computer terminal, which is connected to the MERIT computer by a datalink. The operators use MERIT to find out information concerning other employees, and statistics about groups of them. Reports from MERIT can be printed or copied into spreadsheets, which then enables the results to be displayed as charts. Dynamic data is a feature, which means that when the figures in MERIT change, reports can be automatically updated with the new figures. The data of customers would be stored in a database, which would contain a record for each customer, and the fields would contain items such as name, address etc.
Fiber Optics Fiber Optic Cable Facts'A relatively new technology with vast potential importance, fiber optics is the channeled transmission of light through hair-thin glass fibers.' [ Less expensive than copper cables[ Raw material is silica sand[ Less expensive to maintain If damaged, restoration time is faster (although more users are affected) [ Backbone to the Information Superhighway ...
This information would also be stored in another form as the telephone directory. Each of BTs customers receives a copy of this book, which list all private and business numbers (excluding those who have requested to be ex-directory).
Nowadays this information can also be produced on a CD; this allows faster access to the data. The data is regularly backed up on a magnetic strip for safety. These tapes would then be stored in case there was any need to restore the data incase the main files are lost.
How information is communicated Telecommunications companies are obviously at the forefront of communications because that is what there job is. BT provides services to other organizations, but in addition it uses a range of communication techniques in its own everyday business. This business is very complex. BT is involved in communication facilities from a house hold phone to data transmission around the world by satellite. Telecommunication companies are now also providing a wide range of services for alternative organizations to use. The Internet and cable services are also a developing area of business for telecommunications companies.
Also many act as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which provide access to the Internet for millions of people. Some of the services and products which BT provide are: Phones The most modern phones possess a keypad and are connected to a socket to link the public to the network. Several sockets can be connected to one line, so that the phones can be used in various locations around the building. The last number can be re-dialed by all modern phones.
They also have a wide range of additional features, for example, a memory, secrecy and hands-free operation, tone dialing tones, which plays tones as you dial, the keypad may be used to access special services Network services- in addition to dial numbers. Phone systems A phone system -the modern switchboard- contains a number of exchange lines that link it to the public telephone network and a number of extensions. It allows a large organization or business to provide internal communications and access to the public network without providing an individual telephone line for each user. Phone services Digital exchanges provides customers with special services, such as: Call waiting- to inform you of another call Call barring- prevents either incoming or outgoing calls Call diversion- to redirect your calls to an alternative number Reminder calls Charge advice Cordless phones Cordless phones enable greater mobility during telephone use.
Case 1. TECSMART ELECTRONICS Identify the problem: Formulate objectives: Design alternative courses of action: Analysis of the ACA: a. advantages b. drawbacks Conclusion: Recommendation: Case 2. CAN SIX SIGMA WORK IN HEALTH CARE? Identify the problem: New culturein the hospital Formulate objectives: · To be able to make it easy to employees and all staffs the new framework to be used. · Design ...
The base unit is connected to a telephone socket and an electric mains socket. Batteries, that automatically recharge, power the portable handset while the handset is resting on the base. You can make or receive calls within 100 meters of the base unit over a radio channel. Paging Pagers provide a means of keeping in touch on the move, in a cheaper manner. They alert users that someone is trying to contact them. Tone pagers have up to 4 different coded tones to indicate present messages.
E. g. 1- call home, 2- call the office. Numeric pages display up to 20 digits, e. g.
to conduct a telephone number. Message pagers with both letters and numbers can display up to 90 characters or 15 words for more sophisticated messages. The processing done by a telecommunication company and what is produced. There are many ways of processing data. Telecommunication companies uses them for the different jobs it has to do with its data.
Batch processing basically means connecting a number of resembling jobs and doing them at the same time. This way any, repetitive job can be completed by batch processing. For example BT use batch processing for the construction of staff payroll and the production of customer bills. A corresponding job would usually be done overnight, when the systems other demands were low.
During the day, up to 20, 000 BT people are busy directly dealing with customers, and processing billing information at the same time would considerably slow down the CSS system. Therefore customers’ bills are then paid overnight when the CSS is less busy. Every time a customer uses a BT telephone line, the exchange stores information regarding the cost of the call and its duration. During the night, CSS extracts from the exchange all the information necessary to produce a ‘bill image’, this is the data for an individual bill and transmits the data to a bill factory, using a high-speed telephone line.
... of the amount of data flowing from operational to information systems, customers are demanding a scheduling ... real-time' transactional data, and making it available for query, analysis, and reporting. The telephone companies are moving 100% ... time variant." The time variancy of data warehouse data shows up in several ways. The simplest way is that data warehouse data represents data over a long time ...
Here the bills are printed out using laser printers. Interactive processing is on-line processing. Already, the information is stored on a database and there is an interaction between the database and the user. BT uses this in direct enquiries. Real Time Processing operates like real time.
BT needs Real Time processing to monitor calls, when this happens they monitor the length and cost of the call. Real Time processing is used in many other situations, for example life support systems in hospitals, or recording the level of water in a reservoir. When the company’s computers produce data there is generally a physical output. These include telephone bills, pay advice slips and lists of jobs for workers, such as who is going to be connected to the telecommunication services that day. How efficiently is the company in its use of IT In every aspect of BT’s work, IT is used. Simply, it could not manage without it.
BT has been at the cutting edge of developments in IT in Britain and in other parts of the world, and this still continues to be the instance. BT uses IT for everything from generating the company payroll to providing Internet access for millions of customers. The company would be the first to admit that it has to be immensely attentive not to allow competitors to accumulate any expediency and so research is conducted all of the time to investigate any new ways in which ICT can be used. ICT provides a way of handling information electronically.
Business customers and BT’s own staff, increasingly use ICT together with BT’s communications services to exchange data between computers. This aids BT to provide its customers with an improved service that is more efficient. Prior to the CSS, each department in BT held it’s own customer records. Coping with so many departments was annoying for the customer, was time consuming and for BT to gather from separate sources was expensive for BT, but necessary to produce a bill. CSS saves time and money; it also prevents the frustration of the customer, by bringing in all of the separate customer services ‘under the same roof’.
... external users such as customers, business partners, and suppliers. Internal access to data warehouse Access to data warehouse information inside a company is often called ... of the difference between data requirements for these two systems. Even for a subject-specific data mart, iterative process (about 3-4 times) would be beneficial ...
The customer now deals with only one department, alternatively to several. One example of the efficient use of ICT by BT is the storage of information about the customer. This information is stored on a single computer so it is possible to: Produce an account number of a new customer to review with a credit agency that the customer has no bad debts. Place an order for telephone equipment (the CSS database automatically notes that this equipment is in stock, and re-orders when the stock falls below an agreed level).
Arrange for a phone line to be initiated at a date and time to suit the customer (this information is automatically displayed at the engineers work place) Answer customers’ enquiries about their bills- e. g.
giving a comparison of this quarter’s bill with the same quarter last year. Route tests to diagnose distinct faults on a customer’s line. The merit system used by BT holds one complete set of information on each employee, which saves time because information does not need to duplicated in several departments. IT is also more precise because all the departments are using the same data. BT also has to take in to account the efficiency of the service that it provides.
To this to stop BT is constantly reviewing the services which it provides, so customers can be offered the services that they require. However, it is important to remember that new services may often involve considerable research and development costs, therefore the company is forced to proceed cautiously. Today, telephone lines are used to transmit all varieties of information between computers, which could be in different parts of the same building, hundreds of miles apart, or, half way around the world. The old-fashioned voice-phone lines can do this job, but in a slow and not efficient manner. BT has led the world in developing a new variety of phone lines, the Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN).
This is especially designed to carry data, and in the future the gigantic capacity of another medium, fibre optics, will be used more frequently to transmit data, as our need to communicate electronically grows.
Of course both ISDN and fibre optics can be used for normal telephone calls, because the voice telephone will continue to be the most popular form of communication for years to come. Until the optical fibre network was developed, telephone calls were mainly sent along copper wires as electrical signals. As the demand for the system to carry more telephone calls increased, simple copper wires no longer had the capacity (bandwidth) to transfer the amount of information that was required. Systems using coaxial cables like TV aerial leads were not used, but as the need for more bandwidth grew, these systems became increasingly expensive – particularly over long distances when signal regenerators were need more. As demand increases and higher frequency signals are carried, eventually the electronic circuits in the regenerators can not manage. Theoretically, optical fibres have almost unlimited capacity.
On its own, one fibre could carry the conversations of every man, woman and child on the earth at the same time, twice over. However, currently they are only able to utilize 0. 001% of it capacity in practice. The main advantages of using Optical Fibres are: A much higher amount of information can be carried on an optical fibre in contrast to copper. In all cables some of the energy is lost as the signal is transmitted along the cable. This signal then requires to be boosted, which uses the regenerators.
For copper cable systems this is needed for every 2 km to 3 km, however with optical fibres it is only required every 50 km. Normal links between BT’s telephone buildings are lees than 50 km, so there is no need for regenerators buried in the ground. This means increased reliability and cost. Unlike copper cables, optical fibres do not suffer from electrical interference.
They will not cause sparks, so they can be used in explosive environments such as oil refineries or gas pumping stations. For equal capacity, optical fibres are cheaper and less thick than copper cables, which makes them easier to persevere and install. The benefits to the public There are many benefits to the public, which arise out of the utilization of ICT by companies such as BT. One observable benefit is the improvement in the condition of telephone calls since the service went digital. This has provided users with a telephone service, which is less inclined to interference.
Costs have also been reduced but this is due to increased competition. The customers now get a much more detailed bill, which itemizes particular types of call. ICT also allows the company to provide such benefits as discounts for family and friend calls. Information can be provided on line, this includes: Arrange for a phone line to be installed at a date and time to suit the customer (this information is automatically displayed at the engineer’s workplace) Answer customers’ enquiries about their bills- e. g. giving a comparison of this quarter’s bill with the same quarter last year.
Route tests to diagnose distinct faults on a customer’s line. BT can also provide such services as access to the Internet, which benefits the customer by allowing access to the World Wide Web and all the services that it provides. Customers can also use e-mail to keep in contact with other people. The introduction of ISDN lines also makes access to the Internet faster which saves customers time and money.
Advantages of the company using ICT The gain from ICT for the company is considerable. In the last decade there has been an explosion of the use of telecommunication services, and some of this can be attributed to ICT. The developments in ICT have allowed BT to introduce a whole new range services, these provide extra access to more money for the company, it is now rare or someone not to be ‘connected’ in some form to the communications network. This explosion in business has been accompanied by developments that have allowed the company to streamline its workforce and this has kept the companies cost low. Until recently, ‘office communications’ meant letters and memos. Even telephone conversations often had to be certified in writing, and working in co-operation with other people could involve a lot of traveling.
BT uses electronic communications more regularly to replace these memos – passing information from person to person within the company. E-mails are used to send messages instantly from one part of the company to another; distributing reports may prove to be too expensive to send by post; allowing people from different locations to work together on documents. Automating some tasks which used to be paper based – e. g. making claims for travel expenses and ordering office supplies; holding single copies of important documents, so that everybody is using exactly the same copy. Electronic diaries have allowed managers to organize their own appointments and to contrast diaries with other managers to find free time to hold joint meetings.
Diary ing is made possible by the use of ICT. Soon paperless offices could be a reality. The Internet also now provides the company with huge potential areas of development for the future. This is especially the case with the introduction of the Internet into schools. The effects of error in data and how data can be protected It is all very well being able to communicate data all round the world but if the data is incorrect or can be accessed illegally then such communication is unavailing. Errors can betide at a number of stages in the system.
Let us regard a new customer’s details being collected and instated into the BT customer database. Firstly, the customer may incorrectly enter the data on the data form. This may not be picked up by anybody at the company unless the adversity is taken to inquire through the details with the customer. Secondly, the data may be incorrectly entered into the system.
To prevent this a series of checks can be made. These are called validation and verification checks. Validation checks are to see if the data is valid. That means is it of the right type or format. For example, does a customer account number have the correct number of digits.
Verification checks are to spot errors that validation checks would not. To do this data can be entered twice and any discrepancies highlighted for checking. Every effort is made to ensure that BT’s data is secure, using three different back-up systems. The whole MERIT database has automatic real-time mirror-backup as every entry is typed into it, it is recorded at the same time in a second, identical system, if this fails, there is a standby system which can be used by up to 250 operators at once; a complete backup of MERIT data is made once a day on tape, and this is kept on a different site for extra security. Errors could cause all kinds of problems such as bills being sent to the incorrect address; this could lead to a stranger finding an unlisted telephone number.
If the error was in the customer’s payment details then a bill could be left unpaid with the consequences both for the customer and the company. It is estimated that BT holds four terabytes of information about telephone calls and billing. That is, 4, 000 gigabytes or 4, 000, 000 floppy disks. To protect data from accidental loss backups of key data would be made everyday and kept securely in the case they were needed. To keep all this vital data secure, the whole of the database is backed up once a day, but to ensure that it is absolutely safe, the same information is also kept in other forms, like the telephone exchange.
Because the Customer Service System is always in use 24: 7, then time must be found to keep the system functioning, and to install improved versions of certain software. For a major maintenance job, parts of the CSS may need to be closed down for a couple of hours. There are two ways that BT can cope with this: A fault can be isolated and bypassed, so that only the area, which contains the fault, is out of use, and the main areas of the CSS can still operate. CSS sometimes provides a ‘read only’s ervice, so that the operators can see and use old data, but are unable to add new data to the system, or alter any of the existing data. This kind of service is only provided when major maintenance work is needed. Data must be protected from unauthorized access as well as errors, which could happen.
The company must adhere to the data protection act, which defines customers’ rights. These rights include that the customer can see the data held and data must not be passed on without permission. The company would have a system of passwords and hierarchy of access to prevent the misuse of data by employees and hackers. The implications of using ICT in a telecommunications company such as BT The use of IT has allowed BT is to expand its business’ greatly, this has led to great benefits for the customers. It has also led to the creation of many new and highly skilled technical jobs. However, at the same time many jobs have been lost at the company, because many jobs that have previously been done by people are now done by computer.
This loss of jobs can also extend to other companies who make use of the services BT can supply. Electronic communications will help to make BT a ‘green’ company, by saving paper and energy. This will mean changing traditional attitudes to work, and will involve every BT employee. At one time new employees simply had to be able to read and write; in the future they will have to be computer literate too. Many people initially resist the idea of a computer managing their time. The increased use of telecommunications also has implications for society at large.
Many people see great dangers in the way telecommunications can be used to monitor society. This includes things such as CCTV, which watches our every move, and the electronic tagging of criminals which is a modern form of shackles. There are also concerns that peoples privacy will be endangered because data is held in such vast databases and is available across the Internet. This means that enumeration of our private lives may be accessible to somebody who should not have access.
There are also problems for the state in these developments. Only recently a renegade spy threatened to post the names of other agents on the Internet for everybody to see. It is difficult to say what the future holds. We can only be certain that developments will continue to surprise us.
It seems that we are destined to have larger and larger quantities of information at our fingertips. What we do with this knowledge may raise more problems than are solved. We will promptly know of the Information Revolution has been a development for better or worse. The software used by the company A large company like BT will need to use a entire range of software to carry out its standard day to day business.
A relational database will be used to accumulate all the information it stores about its customer and employees. A database held on the computer has abundant advantages over a anecdotal filling cabinet system. The database allows much faster searching and sorting data. It allows data to be altered easily, and it also allows such techniques as mail merging to produce letters to customers.
A word processing package will be used for generating various letters, which must be sent to the customers. This type of package allows enhanced presentation because of the diverse fonts available. Spell checking systems decrease the chance of errors. The company’s use of unequivocally designed software such as MERIT and CSS systems will have been refined by its own programmers to accomplish jobs dealing with customers information as well as employees information. Also included will be fault testing, payroll operations and a whole range of other jobs.
The hardware used by the company Presumably, the most usual item of hardware that the company uses is the telephone, which we observe in most homes and offices. This, however, is not the only device, which BT uses. ISDN lines are increasingly common. I DSN is the Integrated Services Digital Network.
These lines convey digital data quickly, which allows much faster access to the Internet. Satellites are used to communicate data globally. They abide in space and allow data to be reflected off them to transmit it to other parts of the world. These devices play a crucial part in the globalism of communication and allow BT to function its direct dial system or international calls. In a BT office we would also discover the predictable intermixture of PC’s and printers, which might even be linked into Local Area Networks. The MERIT computer will be used everywhere in Britain by up to 1400 operators at any one time.
Each operator uses a computer terminal, which is connected by a datalink to the MERIT computer. The future Optical fibres are not just passive light pipes. Researchers are finding ways in which they can make the fibres become the active elements of the circuit, e. g.
amplifiers and filters. This means that the telephone signals could remain in light form from one end of a link to the other which would remove the limitations of the electronics in circuits, and enable the large theoretical – carrying capacity to be used. Engineers of the future can look forward to designing and using telecommunications systems, which have no loss, infinite bandwidth and high capability. New services for customers, 3 D high definition TV, virtual reality information systems and entertainment, could be effortlessly provided as well as giving them the benefits of lower costs and greater flexibility – an exhilarating future..