Professor Ray Schafer
January 31, 2010
Information systems have had a great impact on today’s businesses, culture and society. They have changed how people do business, how corporations manage their resources, and among other things, how firms interact and compete with each other. This paper will address several questions concerning information systems, their origin, their future, and their present. This paper will define and describe information systems, and how they impact both employees but also different departments and functions. It will also show how problem solving is involved in developing and implementing information systems.
Describing information systems is the best place to start. Business dictionary.com (2010) defines it as “Combination of hardware, software, infrastructure and trained personnel organized to facilitate control, coordination and decision making.” This encompasses a lot of areas. Let me explain it a little more. Information Systems, or IS have moved from the early days of file cabinets which held data (customer orders, vendor status, and ordering records), to the electronic age where it is responsible for communication, data collection, data processing, storage, data protection, tracking, handling of transactions and many more things. On a physical level, it can consist of workstations, servers, scanners, backup storage, networks, cabling and much more as it is ever evolving. Each of these items also needs software to tell each piece of hardware how to work together and perform their duties. This includes operating systems like Windows NT, Linux and application software like APL, MS Access, or Oracle. Lastly, we also have to include the personnel who are in charge of designing, implementing, maintaining and upgrading each unit, and system.
The question is raised why do we need an information system? This can be determined by using a problem solving process. As seen on page 18-20 of Laudon (2009), it consists of four steps of; Problem Identification, Solution Design, Solution Evaluation and choice, and implementation. The first is identification. This means identifying the problem or concern that is found in an organization. It could be slow shipping or missing resources. Once the problem has been identified, a solution needs to be determined. The solution could be to hire more shipping and inventory clerks, increase bonuses for shipping and inventory control, or implement an enterprise resource planning (ERP) that coordinates the data from different departments (shipping, manufacturing, sales, accounting..) in to one database. The next step is solution valuation and choice. In this step the different facets of the possible solutions are evaluated. Price of the different solutions, difficulty of implementation, and practicality is determined. Depending on the size of the firm, implementing an ERP may be more fiscally responsible than hiring more personnel, or increasing bonuses, as an ERP being software is probably more scalable than the others, easier to maintain, more customizable to business growth. The last step is the two-fold function of implementation. In this step the choices are put in to action and results are evaluated. The data is evaluated against the baseline from before any changes were made. The solutions are determined to either be a success or it may cause different problems. The problems or concerns from these findings start the cycle again at problem identification. That is the nature of today’s ever evolving businesses and leads to the adage “The only constant is change.”
That brings up a good point, as to why information systems are needed to run a business in today’s business environment. That question is a bit specious in my opinion. For a business to exist it needs to have a paper trail and a fashion to maintain it. That is an information system. Now, a robust information...