Introduction to Information Systems

Recently updated on April 13th, 2023 at 05:59 pm

An information system (IS) is a formal, sociotechnical, organizational system designed to collect, process, store, and distribute information. In a sociotechnical perspective, information systems are composed by four components: task, people, structure (or roles), and technology.

A computer information system is a system composed of people and computers that processes or interprets information. The term is also sometimes used in more restricted senses to refer to only the software used to run a computerized database or to refer to only a computer system.

Information Systems is an academic study of systems with a specific reference to information and the complementary networks of hardware and software that people and organizations use to collect, filter, process, create and also distribute data. An emphasis is placed on an information system having a definitive boundary, users, processors, storage, inputs, outputs and the aforementioned communication networks.

Any specific information system aims to support operations, management and decision-making. An information system is the information and communication technology (ICT) that an organization uses, and also the way in which people interact with this technology in support of business processes.

Some authors make a clear distinction between information systems, computer systems, and business processes. Information systems typically include an ICT component but are not purely concerned with ICT, focusing instead on the end use of information technology. Information systems are also different from business processes. Information systems help to control the performance of business processes.

Alter argues for advantages of viewing an information system as a special type of work system. A work system is a system in which humans or machines perform processes and activities using resources to produce specific products or services for customers. An information system is a work system whose activities are devoted to capturing, transmitting, storing, retrieving, manipulating and displaying information.

As such, information systems inter-relate with data systems on the one hand and activity systems on the other. An information system is a form of communication system in which data represent and are processed as a form of social memory. An information system can also be considered a semi-formal language which supports human decision making and action.

Components of Information Systems

The computer age introduced a new element to businesses, universities, and a multitude of other organizations: a set of components called the information system, which deals with collecting and organizing data and information. An information system is described as having five components.

  1. Computer hardware

This is the physical technology that works with information. Hardware can be as small as a smartphone that fits in a pocket or as large as a supercomputer that fills a building. Hardware also includes the peripheral devices that work with computers, such as keyboards, external disk drives, and routers. With the rise of the Internet of things, in which anything from home appliances to cars to clothes will be able to receive and transmit data, sensors that interact with computers are permeating the human environment.

  1. Computer software

The hardware needs to know what to do, and that is the role of software. Software can be divided into two types: system software and application software. The primary piece of system software is the operating system, such as Windows or iOS, which manages the hardware’s operation. Application software is designed for specific tasks, such as handling a spreadsheet, creating a document, or designing a Web page.

  1. Telecommunications

This component connects the hardware together to form a network. Connections can be through wires, such as Ethernet cables or fibre optics, or wireless, such as through Wi-Fi. A network can be designed to tie together computers in a specific area, such as an office or a school, through a local area network (LAN). If computers are more dispersed, the network is called a wide area network (WAN). The Internet itself can be considered a network of networks.

  1. Databases and data warehouses

This component is where the “material” that the other components work with resides. A database is a place where data is collected and from which it can be retrieved by querying it using one or more specific criteria. A data warehouse contains all of the data in whatever form that an organization needs. Databases and data warehouses have assumed even greater importance in information systems with the emergence of “big data,” a term for the truly massive amounts of data that can be collected and analyzed.

  1. Human resources and procedures

The final, and possibly most important, component of information systems is the human element: the people that are needed to run the system and the procedures they follow so that the knowledge in the huge databases and data warehouses can be turned into learning that can interpret what has happened in the past and guide future action.

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