Information System: A Holistic Approach Essay

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Executive Summary:

The advent of Information system and its importance for the business organization has forced the organizations to implement different Information system projects. Many of the projects became a failure due to lack of proper skills in order to undertake these projects successfully. On the other hand the companies which initiated and successfully implemented these projects enjoyed the hyper growth. In order to make these projects successful different tools and the management gurus introduced techniques so that success rate of these projects can be increased.

Second important factor is the proper storage and easy access to the information in order to improve its effectiveness.  The third factor, which hinders the way of the successful implementation of these projects, is resistance from the employees. Careful and effectively planned change management plans should be implemented in order to minimize the effects of employee resistance.  Right and effective combination of the above mentioned factors can help the business organizations in competing and achieving the desired level of hyper growth through effective knowledge management.

Organizations are human communities, which are formed by bringing people together to communicate, intact and build ties to help each other to create meaning together. Information plays an important role in building these societies and providing knowledge about the task people perform. The information networks created by the organizations help the people to adopt the environment. Build and develop communication networks, improves learning process, develops sense of understanding and sharing between the people, provides a platform to discuss discoveries and innovations, provide the people with chance to learn after making mistakes.
Learning can be done in two ways.

1) Single loop
2) Double loop

In single loop learning people learn in a way prescribed to them by the organization. In double loop learning people, people not only learn in a prescribed way but also can question and can change the framework. The ability to use double loop learning is a key to success for todays organizations. Hence the role of IS in management is to support, facilitate and improve the knowledge creation and knowledge implementation processes in the organization. (Fig. 1)

Figure 1. Double Loop Learning Interpretation (Argyris, 1985).

The Holistic approach towards Information System undertakes the study of implementing and using the Information System in a successful manner it gives importance to the fact that in order to make most of an Information System the functions performed by the people should also be studied. The study of the Information System components alone cannot serve the purpose. The Information System in the organization should be used to improve the tasks people perform.

The Information Technology is the fastest, easiest and time-savvy way of spreading knowledge throughout the organization and in the organization community. But this purpose can only be achieved if the people know how to use the information system in order to improve their tasks performed. In similar way a large amount of data is not a way to business success. The lack of information about the data and improper storage can result in complications. So in order to use an Information System in a proper system, it is important that

1) It should be properly stored and categorize in an understandable manner.
2) Data should be relevant and to the point.
3) The Information System should be user friendly.
4) It should enhance the performance of the employees.
5) The employees should find it easier to use Information system.

Most often, gaps are found in the peoples knowledge regarding the use of Information System in an appropriate way and the simplification level of the Information System, since most information systems are in technical form there are two ways through which these gaps can be covered.

1) By providing training to the people in order to make them easily use the Information System
2) By making the Information System in a user-friendly way in order to make the people find it easier to serve their purpose.

Some organizations do the arrangements in order to facilitate their employees for using the Information System by introducing on job training courses and assistance. Other makes use of Information Systems in a simple manner so that its employees can use it. The matching of the level of understanding of employees and the level and

Audit of Information:

The Information System of a company requires constant updating. With the changing conditions of market and industry it is important for an organization to keep its Information system in tact with the changing environment. An out dated Information System cannot fulfil the needs of todays global environment. In order to go through the updating process the organizations should carry on an audit to analyze which aspect requires improvement. It also specifies what information is necessary to support the business operations, the information people use currently and the gaps in these information.

In an information system not only information but also the information needed by the people should gathered. People do not categorize their information requirements. It is important for an Information System to serve all the categories of Information required by the people. Through an information audit it becomes easier to find out which segment requires environment.

By discovering what knowledge is possessed, it is possible to find the most effective method of storage and dissemination. It can then be used as the basis for evaluating the extent to which change needs to be introduced to the organization. (Liebowitz, et. al 2000, 3)(Daverport, 1997) adds a step forward he states that the real issue is not about identifying management information needs, but making sense of business world.

A number of changes are impacting on organizations today including:
Increased stakeholder activism;
Technological enhancements;
Higher levels of personal investment;
Globalization; and
Stronger scrutiny of board practices

Information Systems (IS) is serving the purpose of organizational and managerial needs by applying Information Technology. It is very important for an IT specialist to know the needs of the organization and to use and implement the Information Technology to get the best from its use. The strength of most of the businesses lies in the most appropriate use of technology. This not only gives them the cutting edge but also help them to compete successfully in the marketplace or to streamline current operations.

Management information system (MIS) is a computer-based system that makes information available to users with similar needs. The users usually compose a formal organizational entity-the firm or a subsidiary sub-unit. The information describes the firm or one of its major systems in terms of what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and what is likely to happen in the future. The information is made available in the form of periodic reports, special reports, and outputs of mathematical simulations. Both managers and non-managers use the information output as they make decisions to solve the firms problems.

The database contains the data provided by the AIS. In addition both data and information are entered from the environment. Software that produces periodic and special reports, as well as mathematical models that simulate various aspects of the firms operations uses the database contents. Persons who are responsible for solving the firms problems use the software outputs. Some of the problem solvers can exist within the firms environment. The environment becomes involved when the firm brands together with such other organizations as suppliers to form an inter-organizational information system (IOS). In that case, the MIS supplies information to the other members of the IOS.

As firms gained experience in implementing company-wide IS designs, managers in certain areas began applying the concept to their own needs. These functional information systems, or subsets of the MIS that are tailored to meet users needs for information concerning functional areas, received much publicity in some areas and somewhat less in other.

Leverage learning curve advantages from experience with IT. As a company gains experience using IT systems, they become familiar with a set of best practices that do other firms in the industry know more or less. Firms outside the industry are generally not familiar with the industry specific aspects of using these systems. New entrants will be at a disadvantage unless they can redefine the industries best practices and leapfrog existing firms. (Wikipedia, 2005) Taylor defined information behavior as ¦ the sum of activities through which information becomes useful¦ (Taylor, 1991: 221). Taylors view was that an individuals information behavior is dependent upon the type of person, the problem being resolved, the setting (of both people and problem) and what constitutes resolution of the problem.

The most significant call for more attention to be paid to information behavior has come from the writings of Thomas Davenport. In his book Information Ecology, he describes information behavior in terms of:  ¦How individuals approach and handle information. This includes searching for it, using it, modifying it, sharing it, hoarding it, even ignoring it. Consequently, when we manage information behavior, were attempting to improve the overall effectiveness of an organizations information environment through concerted action. (Davenport, 1997: 83-84)

Any patterns in information behavior and attitudes across the organization (and groups within the organization) help define what he calls the information culture (and subcultures). Davenport argued strongly for the need to manage information behavior, whereby the information culture would better support organizational objectives:
Some widely publicized technologies ¦can help capture and disseminate organizational knowledge, but theyre of little help if the people involved arent already predisposed to use information effectively. (Davenport, 1997: 85)
He goes on to identify three critical types of information behavior that improve a companys information environment: [p.87]

a. Sharing information: ¦the voluntary act of making information available to others. [p.87] Often this involves hierarchically horizontal information transfer (peer-to-peer), as opposed to the involuntary information reporting structures based on vertical information transfer.  b. Handling information overload: filtering an overabundance of available information so that attention (limited as it is) can be directed to that which is most useful.  c. Dealing with multiple meanings: recognizing the fact that business-relevant information items may have different meanings across different functional groups within the organization.

In a preliminary study that classified types of information behavior within an organizational context, Bonner et al. (1996) raise some interesting questions. Is it possible to identify the relative combination of strengths of type for individual (and group) information behavior? Would it be possible to establish combinations of information behavior type as being more suitable to certain types of work? Can training programs be developed to strengthen desirable information behavior types?

Bonner et al. defined an individuals information behavior in terms of their behavior at a point in time in dealing with information within a given information environment (or context). It includes the persons behavior with respect to:
¢ determining the existence of, and locating needed information related to a specific problem or issue;
Recognizing new potential uses to which particular information may be put.

The main weakness of MIS is that it is not aimed at the specific needs of the individual problem solvers. Very often the MIS does not provide exactly the information that is needed to solve problems once they have been identified and understood. The decision support system concept was created in response to that need.

Applying the Systems Approach:

The designers of early MIS undoubtedly recognized the situation depicted by the general systems model of the firm even though the model did not exist at the time. The model recognizes the need to link management with the physical system by means of information flows; and, by providing the firms performance standards to the information processor, management by exception is facilitated.

Efforts to achieve the MIS at the firm level proved to be very difficult. Over the years, the trend evolved to develop information systems smaller in scope-the ideas of decision support systems geared to certain problems and problem solvers, and information systems geared to certain organizational levels and functions. When one goes into a firm today, he or she sees not a single information system for the entire firm but subsystems aimed at particular portions of the firms activity.

Faced with the task of solving the firms information problems, MIS developers started at the firm level and worked their way down the system levels. The ultimate solution to the firms problems lay not at the top level but at the lower levels. When these subsystems work together in an integrated fashion, they generate a synergism-a condition in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The competitive advantages of most of companies depend upon the appropriate use of their Information systems. (Cartwright, 2002; 28-29) cites the example of Cisco which, operates in over 115 countries using a direct sales force, distributors, value-added resellers and system integrators. The company is headquartered in San Jose, CA. With major operations in Research Triangle Park, NC, and Chelmsford, MA; as well more than 225 sales and support offices in 75 countries.

As a company that is in tune with the individual needs of its customers Cisco does not take a rigid, product-led approach that favors one particular solution regardless of the fit with customer requirements. Ciscos philosophy is to listen to customer needs and then develop solutions for discussion to ensure that those needs are met-a customer-driven approach.

Cisco describes the method of operating as a global networked business model. A global networked business is an organization, of any size, that uses information and communications strategically to build a network of strong. An interactive relationship with all its key constituencies, such a model is a natural complement to the Internet. The global networked business model leverages the network for competitive advantage by opening up the corporate information infrastructure to all key constituencies

. The global networked business model employs a self-help model of information access that is more efficient and responsive than the traditional model of a few information gatekeepers dispensing data as they see fit. Cisco itself is a leading example of a global networked business. By using networked applications over the Internet and its own internal network, Cisco is seeing financial benefits of nearly $1.4bn a year, while improving customer/partner satisfaction and gaining a competitive advantage.

In todays globalize era of business where the organizations have hundreds subsidiaries and thousands of employees all over the world, it has become more important to successfully design IT/IS strategy in line with the overall business plan. The effective strategy of International Information and Intelligence system serves as a bridge between the employees and the management globally. The successful implementation of global IS/IT technology not only reduces the operations cost throughout the organization but also provided the organization with enormous profit. The Organizations should adopt flexible and adaptive strategy in order to achieve the leading position in all the industry by increasing their market share.

By using networked applications over the Internet and its own internal network, the companies can accrue financial benefits of thousands of dollars a year, while improving customer/partner satisfaction and gaining a competitive advantage.  Organizations should implement their learning programs for employees according to the double loop system through which the employees not only learn in a prescribed way but they can question and can change the framework. The ability to use double loop learning is a key to success.

The IT/IS system should be implemented with all the necessary requirements. The back up system should be strong. In order to go through the updating process, the organizations should implement many programs throughout organization, such as Desktop Environment, Data Center, Regional help desk, HR and Finance processes which should be audited on regular basis in order to analyze the aspect requires improvement.

The IT implementation with effective management practices can improve the availability of organization wide information, Human resource practices and Value chain management. The implementation of corporate-wide Intranet is an additional characteristic of the communication facilities provided. The IS specialists should also provide training in the organization at global level regarding the technical writing or training by melding their knowledge of information technology and business processes.

The Companies should also leverage their learning curve advantages from experience with IT. As the companies will gain experience using IT systems, they will become familiar with a set of best practices that do other firms in the industry know more or less. Firms outside the industry are generally not familiar with the industry specific aspects of using these systems. New entrants will be at a disadvantage unless they can redefine the industries best practices and leapfrog existing firms. (Wikipedia, 2005)

An organization wide uniform information culture should be developed. If every sector and department in the organization will implementing technology in its own way, this will lead to an increase in the complexities such as selection, maintenance, support and standards but will also increase the amount of data processed.

In order to avoid the situation following steps should be taken.
a. The IS/IT specialists should handle information overload in a successful manner. The information should be filtered in order to keep the focus on most useful information.
b. The problems due to the multiple meanings of information should be carefully dealt, since business-relevant information items may have different meanings across different functional groups within the organization. The decision to invest in IT for pharmaceutical sector is not in positive direction since the over all trend of pharmaceutical industry is declining. The IT/IS systems should be versatile so that as many departments as possible can use them. In this way the cost will also reduced and the maintenance and implementation will become easier.

References

Bonner, M., Casey, M-E. Greenwood, J., Johnstone, D., Keane, D., & Huff, S., (1998). Information behavior: a preliminary investigation. In Medhi Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Proceedings of IRMA 1998, Effective Utilization and Management of Emergent Technologies (pp. 68-79). Boston, MA: Idea Group Publishing

Cartwright, R., (2002). Strategies for Hypergrowth, Capstone Publishing, United Kingdom, p. 28-29

Davenport, T., (1997). Information ecology, New York, NY: Oxford University Press

Liebowitz, J, Rubenstein-Montano, B, McCaw, Doug, Buchwalter, Judah, and Browning, C., (2000). The Knowledge Audit. Knowledge and Process Management, 7(1), 3-10

Taylor, R., (1991). Information use environments. Progress in Communication Science 10, 217-251.

Wikipedia, (2005). Management information system, the free encyclopaedia, page last modified 18:25, 31 December 2005, available from

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