How Businesses Use Information Systems

How Businesses Use Information Systems



How Businesses Use Information Systems

Essentials of Business Information Systems, 8E

Laudon & Laudon

Lecture Files by Barbara J. Ellestad

Chapter 2 E-Business: How Businesses Use Information Systems


As we discussed in Chapter 1, the “digital firm” means more than just plunking down computers that have all the latest bells and whistles on every desk.  The digital firm must connect each functional area and each management level to one another.  Data input to the system in manufacturing must be made available to sales, accounting, and shipping.  Managers in the human resources department must have access to appropriate information regardless of its origin.  Information integration is the key to the electronic business. 

As we go through this chapter, we’ll look at the types of information systems organizations use at each management level. It will provide you with an early, consolidated view of information systems. To help distinguish between the type of function each one is designed to accomplish and to fit them all together, we’re going to look at them in the context of manufacturing candy bars.  Yep, candy bars.  Everyone likes them and everyone has eaten one, so they will be easy to relate to. We’ll call the company WorldWide Candy, Inc. and we’ll give the candy bar the timely name of “Cybernuts.”

2.1 Components of a Business


A business is very similar to the information systems we described in Chapter 1.  Both information systems and businesses require inputs and some sort of processing, both have outputs, and both depend on feedback for successful completion of the loop.

Information systems use data as their main ingredient and businesses rely on people.  However, the similarities are remarkable. Both are a structured method of turning raw products into useful entities. 

Organizing a Business: Basic Business Functions

Whether you are a one-person show or a huge conglomerate, your business still needs four basic functions in order to be successful. Figure 2-1 shows you these functions.

Figure 2-1: The Four Major Functions of a Business

In a successful business, the four basic functions will work seamlessly together to serve five entities: 

  • Suppliers
  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Invoices/payments
  • Products and services.

Business Processes


What would happen if you walked into work one day and the management told the employees they could do anything, anything at all, they wanted to do that day.  If Jimmy from production decided he wants to work in sales and marketing, he could.  If Sally, who normally works in accounting, wants to spend the day in shipping she could.  No one would have to follow any rules or established procedures.  They could accomplish the work any way they choose. 

Sally decides that she doesn’t want to use FedEx to ship out products that day even though the company has a contract that saves them lots of money.  She decides to use an alternate shipping service that will cost the company more and slow down the shipment significantly.  She doesn’t see a need to tell accounting about the change.

Sam decides not to use appropriate packing materials when he’s preparing glass bowls for movement across the country.  He determines that it’s faster if he just plops the bowls into a box, closes the lid, and sends them down the line.  Unfortunately, his co-worker Tim (who doesn’t know anything about Sam’s decision) is responsible for answering customer complaints.

Bill in accounting decides that he needs a pay raise.  Normally, he would require his supervisor’s approval to change any pay record. Since he decided not to use established procedures he simply enters the new salary data in the system.  While he’s at it, he also gives five of his friends pay raises.  While Bill’s friends may like the idea, the rest of the employees in the company are pretty upset. 

You can imagine how quickly chaos would reign in the organization without established business processes that integrate functions throughout an organization.  Processes that deliver the best product for the lowest cost in the most efficient manner are imperative to success.

The way a business organizes its workflows, the method it uses to accomplish tasks, and the way it coordinates its activities among employees, customers, and suppliers, determines its business processes.

Businesses, from the smallest one- or two-person group to the largest you can imagine, must have orderly processes that all divisions can understand.  No part of the organization can work in isolation from any other part.  That’s why a successful business needs information integration.

  • Interactive Session: Organizations:  Toyota as Number One (see p. 44 of the text) describes how the number one auto maker in the world uses technology to support its business strategy.  Information systems help the company adhere to its principles of just-in-time delivery, quality, and continuous improvement.


Managing a Business and Firm Hierarchies

You’ll see at the end of this discussion the integral role each type of system plays–from determining which kind of candy bar to make (senior management);  to how many people the company will need to make the candy bar (middle management); to tracking customer orders (operational management).  Within these three levels we’ll discuss the four major types of systems typically used to make an organization successful.  In addition to management, knowledge workers need access to information about the ingredients used in candy bars and how they affect each other.  Data workers require a method of entering and using information to support managers and other employees.  Production and service workers must have access to information in order to carry out their assigned tasks.

As we work through this chapter you’ll gain an understanding of how each level of the firm hierarchy and each functional area requires a different type of information. For instance, production workers and managers need to know how many candy bars to produce but don’t need to know how the customer is paying for them.  Human Resource workers and managers must have access to employee training records to ensure there are enough trained employees available in the organization.  However, they don’t require access to invoices and payments. 

So, while information integration throughout the firm is necessary, the information must also be partitioned into sections that best serve the user.

The Business Environment

WorldWide Candy, Inc. is a very successful company because it pays close attention to its environment.  It understands its customers and the type of candy they like.  The company monitors changes in the external environment that may impact its supply costs thereby impacting its profits.  For instance, when gasoline prices increase, shipping costs go up.  If the government changes the law requiring what product information must be placed on the candy bar wrapper, WorldWide Candy, Inc. must make changes also.  If a competitor introduces a new product in the market, WorldWide Candy, Inc. must evaluate it against its products.

Figure 2-4 below gives you an idea of all the environmental entities WorldWide Candy must consider.  Information to and from those environmental forces is a required element of every information system in order for WorldWide to remain successful.



Figure 2-4: The Business Environment.

The Role of Information Systems in a Business


Organizations and businesses have always relied on a steady flow of information.  What’s different in today’s world is the amount of information and how it is accessed.  Islands of information can doom a company as can too much information delivered at the wrong time to the wrong people. We mentioned in Chapter 1 that a business ideally uses information to effectively meet its objectives of:

  • Operational excellence
  • Develop new products or services
  • Customer and supplier intimacy
  • Improve decision making


Even with as much progress as we’ve made in the last 50 years, digitization still has a long way to go.  Computing will become more ubiquitous, which will lead to new opportunities and challenges for all businesses and organizations.

Bottom Line: Every business has four functional areas:  production and manufacturing, sales and marketing, accounting and finance, and human resources.  Business processes help clarify tasks and maintain order in an organization. A good information system serves all three management levels and helps a firm monitor its environment.

2.2 Types of Business Information Systems


WorldWide Candy, Inc. needs all kinds of information, both internal and external, to be successful.  It needs to know about production, advertising campaigns, employees, and finances.  It must also keep track of its customers, suppliers, and provide information to the government.  How can one system possibly provide all of the necessary information in order for WorldWide Candy to remain successful?  Simply said, one system can’t do it all. 

Systems from a Functional Perspective

Each management level has a special type of information system that best serves its needs.  Each functional area of a business requires specific pieces of information according to their mission.  Let’s begin by looking at the information system requirements for the four functional areas of WorldWide Candy.

Sales and Marketing Systems


As both of these functions have close or direct contact with customers, they usually work hand-in-hand.  The marketing mission is to identify customers and their wants and needs. Sales’ mission is to put the product or service into the hands of the customer.  As both are so closely related, it stands to reason their information requirements are similar.  That’s why you’ll generally find combined sales and marketing information systems in organizations.

PRODUCTION:  Insert Table 2.1


Table 2.1 shows some sample sales and marketing systems and the organizational levels they serve.  Keep in mind that some of the information used in these systems can greatly affect other functional areas.  Sales and marketing must also gather information from other areas of the organization. For instance, while pricing analysis may primarily be a task for sales and marketing, they must gather information from manufacturing and production to ensure that the cost of making the product or providing the service is covered.

Manufacturing and Production Systems

After sales and marketing actually sell a product or service, someone has to make it.  That’s where manufacturing and production information systems come into the picture.  And there is more to these systems than just the assembly line.  Someone has to decide where the manufacturing plants will be located.  Someone else has to decide how many raw materials will be needed and then order those materials.  Finally, someone will have to make sure the right amount of product gets produced on a daily basis.

Many companies collect massive amounts of data about their products and manufacturing processes. In the past much of that data went unused or wasn’t put into its proper context.  Newer information systems take advantage of all the collected data by producing useful information managers need to make intelligent decisions about the manufacturing and production systems.

Table 2.2 shows examples of manufacturing and production information systems needed to make products for the organization. 

PRODUCTION:  Insert Table 2.2


Finance and Accounting Systems

Pity the company without adequate finance and accounting systems.  How will they know how much money will be available for future expansion or even for next week’s payroll?  Who makes sure the financial assets of the organization are put to the best use?  When your paycheck is short $100, who will fix the error? 

Table 2.3 shows the types of systems this function uses at each organizational level.

PRODUCTION:  Insert Table 2.3


Integration of information throughout a business is most apparent in the finance and accounting systems.  They must gather data from all areas of the company.  These data are processed through the various information systems and then disseminated back out to all the other organizational functions. 

Human Resources Systems

Somebody has to hire employees with the right skills and experience and then make sure those employees are utilized to the full benefit of themselves and the organization.  How will production even know how many employees are necessary or how many the organization can afford to hire?  What is the best ratio of managers to workers for the organization?  How can the organization find the employees to begin with?  All of these information needs can be fulfilled with human resources information systems.

Table 2.4 shows the systems used at each organizational level in this functional area.

PRODUCTION:  Insert Table 2.4


Human Resources information requirements are greatly impacted by external environmental forces.  The government requires extensive record keeping for many different programs such as Equal Employment Opportunity, retirement programs, and tax collection.  Without effective information systems, much of this information would be too costly to provide.

  • Interactive Session: People: Google’s New Search for the Best and the Brightest (see p. 53 of the text) discusses how the most popular company to work for is revising its hiring practices.  It discovered that its old system was too cumbersome and wasn’t a totally reliable predictor of job performance.  The company realized that computers still can’t take the place of human intuition.


Systems from a Constituency Perspective

As we saw in the tables in the last section, each functional area has three distinct management levels: senior, middle, and operational.  Each level has different information requirements. There are four different types of systems to help out. There are transaction processing systems (TPS), management information systems (MIS), decision-support systems (DSS), and executive support systems (ESS).

Transaction Processing Systems


The operational level at WorldWide Candy is responsible for daily operations.  The information systems used in this level of the organization are transaction processing systems (TPS), so-called because they record the routine transactions that take place in everyday operations.  TPS combine data in various ways to fulfill the hundreds of information needs WorldWide requires to be successful.  The data are very detailed at this level. For instance, a TPS will record how many pounds of sugar are used in making our Cybernuts candy bar.  It also records the time it takes from beginning to end to make the candy bar.  And it can record the number of people working on the assembly line when our candy bar is made and what functions they perform. 

Transaction processing systems help answer routine questions such as: “How many Cybernuts candy bars did we produce yesterday?” or “How much sugar do we have on hand for today’s production run?”

Since there’s more to making the Cybernuts bar than just running the assembly line, a TPS will record the sales and marketing transactions as well.  The system will record not just the number of dollars used in the marketing program, but also how many stores are actually stocking the candy bar and where the product is located inside the stores. 

You have to remember that a lot of work is required to get the product from the manufacturing plant to the store shelves.  How much did the company pay to package the product, store the product, and ship the candy bar to the stores?  All that data can be recorded in a TPS, right down to how many truck drivers were required to deliver the product to the local convenience store.

The operational level of an organization also includes functions not directly associated with the actual production of the Cybernuts bar, but vital in keeping the company running smoothly.  The people in accounting may not be pouring the chocolate over the nuts on the assembly line, but those workers that do appreciate the fact that they get a paycheck every two weeks.  Production workers also like to know that the human resource division is keeping track of training programs that may help them advance within the company.  Each of these divisions requires an information system that helps it keep track of the many details that make the production worker happy and productive.  The best transaction processing system will be integrated throughout the organization to supply useful information to those who need it when they need it.

Management Information Systems and Decision-Support Systems


Think about the functions of managers that you may have learned about in other classes:  directing, controlling, communicating, planning, and decision-making.  Each manager takes on these roles countless times a day.  Managers review endless amounts of data hoping to make their jobs easier and more efficient.  

Those using management information systems (MIS) require information on a periodic basis instead of on a daily recurring basis like those using a transaction processing system.  Managers also require information on an exception basis.  That is, they need to know if production is higher or lower than the targeted rate or if they are over or under their budgets.  They also need to know about trends instead of straight numbers. 

Questions they may ask are: “How far behind in production are we for this quarter?” or “How many more workers would we need if we increased production by 10,000 candy bars per quarter?” or “If we do adopt the new Cybernuts recipe, what positions are open for the 25 excess workers and what skills do they possess that the company can use elsewhere?”

WorldWide Candy’s MIS draws data from the transaction processing system to help managers answer structured questions such as: “How much more sugar must we purchase if we increase production from 5,000 Cybernuts bars to 7,000?” 

Figure 2-9: How Management Information Systems Obtain Their Data from the Organization’s TPS.

Before integrated systems, managers received periodic printed reports that gave them lots of data, but often didn’t supply information that they could use to make timely decisions.  Planning was sometimes a wasted effort because the information the managers needed just wasn’t there when they needed it. If they wanted to know how many candy bars were produced in a month, they had to wait until that one piece of information was published in an end-of-quarter report.  If there was a problem getting a shipment out to the convenience store in Paducah, Kentucky, the shipping manager may not have known about it until a customer cancelled her account six months later. 

The human resources department manager would likely not be able to find out about new job opportunities in a different part of the company until after the workers were laid off and had found other employment.  Worse yet, production might have to stop the assembly lines because accounting hadn’t purchased enough supplies to cover the increase in the number of candy bars rolling off the line.

With the integration of information systems up and down the management levels, and throughout the corporation, managers often get needed information in a real-time mode.  The data are kept online, the system gathers the precise information managers need to make a decision, and the information is cross-integrated into all departments.  All divisions see what’s going on throughout the corporation. Information is passed from department to department so that everyone is working “from the same page.” 

Improved management information systems at WorldWide let accounting managers know they must increase their purchases of sugar and milk to support a new recipe developed by Production. Shipping managers know ahead of time that the Cybernuts candy bar requires a new sized wrapper.

The sales and marketing manager knows almost instantaneously that the shipment to Paducah is going to be delayed and calls the convenience store manager ahead of time. The human resources department places information about new job opportunities within the organization on an intranet that workers access it’s convenient. 

The greatest advantage of WorldWide’s management information systems is that managers no longer have to wait until a specific time of the month or quarter to receive the information they need to perform their daily functions.  The system is configured to push the data to appropriate managers instantaneously instead of relying on them to seek it out.  And, managers structure the reports to get only that information they deem necessary at the time. 

Decision-support systems (DSS) also serve middle management at WorldWide, but in a somewhat different way from an MIS.  An MIS uses internal data to supply useful information.  A DSS uses internal data but also combines it with external data to help analyze various decisions managers must make.  Analyzing complex, interactive decisions is the primary reason WorldWide uses a DSS. 

The sales and marketing managers at WorldWide Candy use a DSS to answer semistructured questions like “What price should we charge for the Cybernuts candy bar so that we can maximize our profits, minimize our costs, and still remain competitive?”  Using a DSS, the manufacturing division manager determines the best answer to this semistructured question: “How does the change in the size and packaging of the Cybernuts candy bar affect the other products we produce?”

You’ll notice we describe decisions at this level as semistructured.  Not all decisions required for an organization to function smoothly are cut-and-dried.  There are a lot of gray areas in successfully managing an organization and the larger the company, the more diverse the decision-making process becomes. 

Companies are affected not only by what goes on within the company, but also by external forces not under its control. Because decision-support systems integrate internal and external data, they help upper-level management make better decisions.  What happens to the pricing structure and availability of the raw materials for the Cybernuts bar if civil war breaks out in the sugar producing countries of Central America?  The price of electricity can greatly affect the profit and loss of the Cybernuts bar.  Fluctuating gasoline prices affect the profit margins by increasing or decreasing the distribution costs of the product. All these external events can be put into context in a decision-support system to help WorldWide’s management make better decisions.

Decision-support systems also help those functions of an organization that may not be directly related to manufacturing the products.  Remember the workers who were no longer required in manufacturing?  What is the best way for the human resources department to handle this situation?  Perhaps there is a planned increase in production coming up in the next quarter that will require these workers.  The human resources manager could use a decision-support system to determine if it is better to keep them on the payroll even if they won’t be fully utilized for the next three months.  When the unemployment rate is fairly low the company may have difficulty hiring new workers when they need them.  If workers with specialized skills aren’t easy to find, the company might save money in the long run by keeping them on the books.

Executive Support Systems


Executive support systems (ESS) are used at the very upper echelons of management. At the strategic level, the typical decision is very much unstructured.  Often there is no specific question. Rather, executives may face a series of undefined situations for which there are no easy answers.  These executives require summarized, historical information gleaned from all other levels of the organization, coupled with large amounts of external data gathered from many sources. 

Figure 2-12: Model of an Executive Support System.

Let’s assume that the Cybernuts bar is the most successful, most popular candy bar ever made.  (You could say its success is due to the effective use of the previous three information systems!)  The Universal Food Products Corporation just can’t create a product that comes close to the success of Cybernuts (their information systems aren’t as good) and is very envious of WorldWide Candy.  So Universal Food Products offers to buy the Cybernuts product from WorldWide for what seems to be an astronomical amount of money.  WorldWide executives can use their executive support system to determine if this offer is in the best interest of all.  They analyze information gathered from all of the internal information systems and couple that with external data to help them make the decision. With an ESS, company executives can make their decision based on information, not on emotion.

Because executives haven’t been using computers that long or don’t have time to fiddle around learning how to type, executive support systems must be easy to use and the information must be easily manipulated.  The ESS must be able to incorporate external information with internal data to offer concise, complete information for the imprecise and incomplete scenarios executives face.  And most importantly, the systems must have a fast response time.

Relationship of Systems to One Another



Figure 2.13  Interrelationships Among Systems.

The key element for all these systems is integration.  Figure 2-13 shows how the various systems supply information to one another and combine to serve the best interests of the organization as a whole.  The Cybernuts candy bar wouldn’t be nearly the success it is if all systems didn’t work together to produce a coherent picture for all levels of management.  If the information from the transaction processing system didn’t feed into the management information system, which helped the decision-support system, which then worked with the executive support system, then the Cybernuts bar would just be another junk food.


Bottom Line:  Each functional area of an organization has unique information system needs at each level of management.  A well-designed, well-constructed information system will serve each functional area according to its needs. All four system types must be integrated so that data in one system feeds all the others.  No more islands of information.

Systems That Span the Enterprise


How do you manage all the information needs from different functional areas serving different managerial requirements?  Let’s find out.

Enterprise Applications

No business can afford disjointed information systems that don’t work together to produce a coherent picture of the entire organization.  All the functions of a business must be integrated across traditional lines of demarcation.  Islands of information can be devastating to a company if data cannot be shared throughout the company.  Even worse, the islands of information can create problems if each faction of an enterprise has differing information that conflicts with other islands of information. 

These kinds of problems gave rise to enterprise applications that share the same data anywhere it’s needed in an organization as Figure 2-14 shows. Enterprise applications easily combine internal and external information to present a complete picture of the business. As networks of all kinds take hold, from the Internet to intranets to extranets, Web-based enterprise applications are increasingly widespread.   

Figure 2-14: Enterprise Application Architecture

The following section is an overview of four major enterprise applications:  enterprise, supply chain management, customer relationship management, and knowledge management systems.  We’ll study each of these systems in depth in future chapters.

Enterprise Systems


It’s not unusual to find an organization in which systems don’t exchange information very well, if at all.  Accounting and finance may have a system that serves their needs very well, but they can’t collect information from the system used by manufacturing and production.   Sales and marketing is doing its own thing with its system and losing valuable information from the other systems which could help it do a better job. These situations violate the basic business objectives of operational excellence and improved decision making.

Enterprise systems aim to correct the problem.  Also known as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, their main goal is to bridge the communication gap between all departments and all users of information within a company.  If production enters information about its processes, the data are available to accounting, sales, and human resources.  If sales and marketing is planning a new advertising campaign, anyone anywhere within the organization will have access to that information.  Enterprise systems truly allow a company to use information as a vital resource and enhance the bottom line. 

The greatest enticement of enterprise systems is the chance to cut costs firm-wide and improve information dissemination throughout the organization. The biggest drawbacks to building enterprise information systems are time, money, and people.  Because the installation of the system is so invasive, it takes a tremendous amount of time to install the hardware and software, train people to use it, and rework business processes that will inevitably change. Many companies find it more trouble than they care to handle.

Supply Chain Management Systems


Supply chain management systems offer new opportunities for companies to address the business objective of supplier intimacy by integrating information systems with suppliers and customers and lowering costs for everyone. Earlier in this chapter we explained how the various functional areas of WorldWide Candy contributed to producing its products even though the departments may not have had any direct contact with the candy bar production.  When WorldWide Candy installed their supply chain management system, a form of interorganizational systems, they created a cohesive network for buying the raw materials, creating the candy bars, and getting the packaged goods to the retail outlets. 

PRODUCTION:  Insert Table 2-5


Table 2-5 lists the benefits of using a supply chain management system to get the right product in the correct quantity to the right place with the least cost.  WorldWide Candy has an efficient system for getting the freshest Cybernuts candy bars to the store shelves as quickly as possible in just the right amounts.

While supply chain management systems have drastically improved over the last few years, there are still some problems associated with them.  It is very difficult to integrate systems with outside suppliers who probably have other companies to service.  Some businesses may have dozens of suppliers with which to connect.  It is very expensive and time consuming to build and implement supply chain management systems, therefore some suppliers will shy away from doing so.

And, regardless of how well the system is built, it cannot overcome catastrophic events such as the terrorist attacks in 2001.  You’ll recall that during the days after September 11, the airlines were shut down and other transportation methods were severely disrupted.  Those companies that relied on just-in-time supply replenishment had to either scramble for alternate supply delivery methods or shut down production lines due to lack of supplies.

Customer Relationship Management Systems

Do you wait for the customer to complain about your poor service before you take a critical look at your business processes?  Do you spend more time and money acquiring new customers than you do in keeping your existing ones?  Does each functional area of your organization have a completely different and separate viewpoint of your customers?  Does your sales and marketing department make promises to your customers that manufacturing and production can’t possibly keep?  If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you’re in serious need of a good Customer Relationship Management system.

CRM technology isn’t just a nice looking Web site for customers to click through or more reports dumped on manager’s desks that they don’t have time to review.  CRM systems involve business processes in all the functional areas and every management level of a firm.  The ideal CRM system provides end-to-end customer care from receipt of order through product delivery and addresses the business objective of customer intimacy.

Because of technological limitations in the past, many companies created islands of information in the various functional areas.  Sales and marketing at Cybernuts may tell a customer that the product order would ship by the fifteenth.  Meanwhile manufacturing and production was experiencing a delay in producing the Cybernuts candy bar because the finance department didn’t purchase enough raw goods. The islands of information prevented each functional area from knowing the situations in other areas.  CRM systems help solve some of these disjointed snafus. 

CRM also helps a firm cut the costs of keeping good customers by supplying the entire organization with a consolidated view of the customers’ needs.  Unprofitable customers are more easily identified with a CRM system, and the time and energy spent can be retargeted to more profitable customers. 

Knowledge Management Systems 

Most of the other systems we’ve discussed have been recognized for many years, but knowledge management systems may be thought of as relatively new. KMS systems help a business explore new products and services and improve decision making. WorldWide Candy uses its KMS to capture its employees’ expertise and experience in a consolidated location. It then provides new opportunities for employees to apply knowledge from its system to improve business processes. In some cases a KMS may even help a business survive.

Knowledge workers are those who promote the creation of new knowledge and integrate it into the organization. Research scientists may discover new methods of mixing sugar, cocoa beans, and dairy products to make a better chocolate.  A team of engineers may develop a new method of packaging the Cybernuts bar to make it easier to open.  The legal knowledge workers may spend their time determining copyright protections that could be afforded to the Cybernuts product name.

Sometimes it may appear that a new product requires all new business processes built from scratch.  That may not be the case if the knowledge management system contains information that can help workers gain insight into a similar situation that the company previously experienced. 

Intranets and Extranets

In Chapter 1 we introduced you to the terms intranet and extranets.  Now let’s see how they support the organization and the various information systems that we’ve discussed in this chapter.

One of the most expensive elements of information is that of getting it to those who need it when they need it most.  Compiling, producing, and sending out the information on a timely basis costs a lot of money.  Chances are that by the time people get the information, it’s out of date or not in a useful format.  Intranets and extranets help free up bottlenecks in the information delivery chain and reduce the costs of providing the information to internal (intranet) and external (extranet) users. 

Intranets and extranets have gained popularity because of the invasive nature of the Internet.  The Internet provides a widely-accepted standard for accessing information.  Other than a standard browser there isn’t any proprietary software required for using intranets and extranets and people generally don’t need much training to use the system.  The nets may require a software program that runs in the background and connects to other information systems within the organization.  These programs are used to capture information from a Web page or simply provide users with an easy way to view information stored in other systems.

Collaboration and Communication Systems: Interaction Jobs in a Global Economy

Globalization now allows companies to work around the clock, around the world.  It’s not unusual for major corporations to shift work from one time zone to another, one country to another.  Somehow, the people in all the geographically-separated locations have to be able to easily communicate and share information with each other.

Many new systems for interacting with other employees, managers, vendors, and customers have been developed.  You probably use some of them without realizing how essential they’ve become in creating an enterprise-wide information system that companies have come to rely upon.

  • Internet-based collaboration environments:  groupware like Lotus Notes, Groove, and WebEx conferencing systems provide tools that support workgroup collaboration.
  • E-mail and instant messaging: billions of messages flow everyday between employees, managers, suppliers, and customers
  • Cell phones and wireless handhelds:  provide instant communications anywhere, anytime.
  • Social networking:  more than just a way to socialize among friends, these tools give corporations another way to users to share ideas and collaborate with each other.
  • Wikis: gaining in popularity as a way to share knowledge and ideas among collaborators.  They are much easier to use and manage than more sophisticated knowledge management systems.
  • Virtual worlds: able to house online meetings, training sessions, and lounges, this type of tool is gaining popularity as a way to meet, interact, and exchange ideas.


E-Business, E-Commerce, and E-Government

A common mistake many organizations make is thinking they can simply throw up a Web site, add an e-mail software program for customer communication, and voila¢ they are ready to do business in cyberspace.  They haven’t addressed any of their internal processes and the possible changes to the way they do business.  They’ve spent hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars and can’t get enough sales to support a day’s worth of expenses. 

The Internet, extranets, and intranets offer new opportunities to do business in cyberspace.  Yet there are many problems associated with developing a company’s electronic commerce and electronic business.  It is easy to put up a snazzy, colorful Web site that looks very pretty and may even be easy to use.  It may be a site on the Internet, an intranet, or an extranet.  You must consider though, how you’re going to incorporate that part of your business with your other, more established methods of doing business.  What internal processes must you change or adapt?  What new processes must you establish?  What training must you do with the people who will run the e-business, both technical and nontechnical?  You can’t keep doing your job the same old way.  Lots of businesses have tried and lots of businesses have lost big bucks.

The electronic delivery of government services via the Internet has been fairly successful.  Citizens have easy access to forms necessary in many e-government programs such as tax payments.  Rather than waste time standing in line for vehicle registration and licenses, people can complete these kinds of tasks on the Internet.  Perhaps most importantly, e-government has opened the lines of communications between citizens and elected officials and made information access easier and more timely.


Bottom Line:  Integrating functions and business processes cut costs and allow systems development that involves the whole firm or industry.  Customer resource management and supply chain management give a company the added advantages of end-to-end customer care.  Enterprise systems have many challenges but the benefits, when executed properly, are enormous.  Knowledge management systems allow an organization to fully integrate their newly acquired knowledge into the current systems.

2.4 The Information Systems Function in Business


Many people focus on the job losses caused by technological advances and changes.  On the other hand, many new jobs have been created because of technology.  Information systems departments, previously a tiny group of people usually assigned to the financial group, have moved into the mainstream of most companies. 

The Information Systems Department


Programmers have taken on more important positions within organizations.  They must understand not only the technical side of computing, but they must also know business processes so they can adapt the technology to the needs of their company.  Systems analysts serve as the bridge between the techies and the nontechies.  Heading this group of people are the information systems managers.  Their importance to businesses has grown as the emphasis on technology’s role within organizations has grown. 

Just as most organizations have a Chief Financial Officer, the position of Chief Information Officer has been created to handle the myriad of problems and opportunities businesses face in today’s technologically driven environment.  Very large corporations appoint a Chief Security Officer who’s responsible for enforcing the firm’s information security policy and training users and information systems technologists about security.  The CSO keeps other executives and managers aware of security threats and maintains security tools and policies.

Chief Privacy Officer protects an organization’s data from misuse and abuse and makes sure the company complies with data privacy laws.  Another new position, that of Chief Knowledge Officer, has been created in larger corporations to deal with effectively using knowledge management systems.

Perhaps the most important role of all, though, is the end user.  The responsibility for successful integration of information systems has extended past the “techies” and become part of everyone’s job.  As we’ve seen so far, no functional area or level of organizational hierarchy is exempt from understanding information systems and how they can help businesses meet their objectives.

Information Systems Services

Deciding how to organize the Information Systems function within a business is not as easy as deciding how to organize other functional areas.  After all, sales and marketing has a much different mission than production and manufacturing.  Information Systems on the other hand has similar tasks regardless of the functional area it is supporting.  Sales and marketing needs access to data the same as production and manufacturing.

Some of the services the Information Systems function provides to an organization include:

  • Maintaining computer platforms
  • Providing telecommunications
  • Managing data, including storage and analysis capabilities
  • Providing application software
  • Planning and developing IS infrastructure
  • Determining which technologies will be used, when, and how
  • Educating employees and training managers about information technologies
  • Researching future projects and investments in information systems


Bottom Line:  The IS department is an integral part of any successful business. Programmers, analysts, IS managers, and the CIO are major players in the IS function.  The most important role in effectively using technology belongs to the users.  Large corporations use a chief security officer, chief privacy officer, and a chief knowledge officer to ensure investments in information technology pay big dividends to the firm.


Source: http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/Layla_Hajr/201MIS%20lectures/laudon_ess8_LN_ch02.doc

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How Businesses Use Information Systems


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How Businesses Use Information Systems