INFORMATION AS A COMPETITIVE WEAPON - IBM Mainframe

According to Kroenke, an information system is an open, purposive system that produces information using the 'input-process-output' cycle. The minimal information system consists of three elements—people, procedures and data. People follow procedures to manipulate data to produce information. In today's computer world, the definition of information systems has undergone a slight change. Today an information system is an organized combination of people, hardware, software, communications networks and data resources that collects, collates, transforms and disseminates information in an organization. According to Cats Baril and Thompson, a modern information system is an integrated computer-user

Information Integration

Information Integration

system for providing undistorted information to support the operations, management and decision-making functions of an organization. Management Information Systems, also called information-reporting systems, were the original type of management support systems, and they still are a major category of information systems. MIS produce information products that support many of the day-to-day decision-making needs of the management. Reports, charts, graphs, displays and responses produced by such systems provide information that managers have specified in advance. Such predefined information satisfies the needs of managers at the operational levels of the organization who are faced with the structured type of decision-making.

But the problem with these information systems is that they operate at a departmental level and they give only information that has been predefined. So each department will have its own database and information systems. These systems will produce various reports of varying detail specified when the systems were built.

This method of information gathering has two major disadvantages. One, the people in one department does not have any information about what is happening in the other departments. Maybe at the top management level the summary reports are being circulated to other departments also, but these summary reports often fail in capturing the real picture. The second drawback is that these systems give only the information that it is designed to produce at the time they were built. If a manager wants to know some information that is not in the reports, then these systems are of no help. These systems, as mentioned above lack the integrated approach required for efficient functioning. There will be an accounting system for the finance department, a production planning system for the manufacturing department, an inventory management system for the Stores department and so on. All these systems will perform in isolation. So if a person wants some information that has to be derived from any two systems, he has to get the necessary reports from both systems and then correlate and combine the data.

Because the systems work in isolation, collecting and analyzing the data needed for their departments' functioning, getting information about some aspect that is dependent on more than one department is a difficult task. But no business executive or decision-maker can take good decisions in this situation. Even if he manages to collate the data (produced by the different departments) and produce the information that he requires, he must have lost the valuable time that would have better spend in decision­making.

In reality an organization cannot function as islands of different departments. The production planning data is required for the purchasing department; the purchasing details are required for the finance department and so on. So if all the information islands were integrated into a single system, then the impact of that would be dramatic. For example, if the purchase department can see the production planning details. then it can make the purchasing schedule. If the finance department can see the purchase derails as soon as ft is entered in the system, it can plan for the cash flow necessary for the purchases.

We have seen that in today's competitive business environment, the key resource of every organization is information. If the organization does not have an efficient and effective mechanism that enables it to give the decision makers the right information at the right time, then the chances of that organization succeeding are very remote.

As seen earlier, the three fundamental characteristics of information are accuracy, relevancy and timeliness. The information has to be accurate; it must be relevant for the decision-maker; it must be available to the decision-maker when he/she needs it. Any organization that has the mechanism to collect, collate. analyze and present high quality information to its employees, thus enabling them to make better decisions. will always be one step ahead of the competition. Today the time available for an organization to react to the changing market trends is very short. To survive, the organization must always be on its toes, gathering and analyzing the data—both internal and external. Any mechanism that will automate this information gathering and analysis process will enhance the chances of the organization to beat the competition.

So what is needed is a system that treats the organization as a single entity and caters to the information needs of the whole organization. If this is possible, and if the information that is generated is


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