In today’s era of globalization, managers face a number of demands from their clients and staff. More so, a lot of managerial demands call for the incorporation of relevant systems to assist in quicker service delivery. These increased demands have been witnessed in the current rise of companies subcontracting, sourcing, and outsourcing which have made the running of organizations become effective and cost-efficient.
The business dictionary defines information system as “the necessary combination of hardware, software, infrastructure and trained personnel organized to facilitate planning , control, coordination and decision making in an organization” (Business Dictionary, 2001).
Today’s digital world has made management of organizations more efficient and effective. The era of continued employment is now gone and in has come expansion of business technology and information system. Management of a large number of employees in an organization often proved difficult until the adoption of information systems by a majority of companies. Dealing with a large number of employees only led to increased operation costs with reduced efficient service provision affecting the organizations negatively.
Therefore this paper is going to focus on information systems for managers together with all sub topics encompassed in it. The paper will then conclude by highlighting on the whole issue under discussion.
Managing the digital World
In our day to day lives, there are some tasks that we cannot avoid. An example, is television watching. The transmission of television images have over time evolved from analog to digital ensuring increased clarity of relayed images. Such technological improvements have been witnessed in a wide array of devises including photograph taking, copier machines, music recordings, printers etc. This entry into the digital world has managed to make their use more efficient and easy. This efficiency and ease of use is what is required in organizations.
Most of the information currently being generated is in form of digital data which requires proper management and storage. The major question here is “how can we ensure that this global torrent of digital data will be preserved in meaning into the future and managed so that the information can be found where needed by those who want it” (Rays, 2008)
Managing is choosing what is right among various options. This is due to the high storage and inadequate storage space. The same applies to digital data. Storage of this kind of data is expensive; this is also a continued generation of Digital Data by various scholars that will need storage. The kind of storage needed will make the information easily accessible. It’s within the realization of this that there are calls for the proper management of digital data. According to Joyce Rays (2008), “we need to create preservation environments to actively manage digital repositories within a framework of policies and procedures. We will need to make decisions about which data to and which not to discard, and we need to invest in good practices to ensure that needed information can be found at the right time.” (Rays 2008)
For managers, management of the digital world is very crucial for transparency and general administration of organization. In the past, various managers have been forced to resign due to lose of crucial information that they could have used to defend themselves. Managers managing institutions like schools and institutions need a secure system that will make their functions credible. Crucial information will be required thus loss of such information or student ability to temper with such information could create a major blow to the credibility of the results. Employee salary records could also be changed to reflect different amounts if not securely stored. Proper management of this digital information according to Bantin will make the documents “important assets that can assist the institution in meeting its goals and in conducting business more efficiently” (Bantin, 2000).
Fuelling globalization through Information System
Some scholars believe globalization to be dating as far back as the late 19th century but later slowed down with the start of the First World War. It’s a broad concept inviting various definitions despite the general agreement of it being a continuous process. The international forum for globalization defines the term as “ the present world wide drive towards a globalized economic system dominated by supernatural corporate trade and banking institutions that are not accountable to democratic process or national governments”.(International Forum on Globalization 2006)
From the above definitions, globalization encompasses all activities aimed towards the promotion of interaction and cooperation among various societies in the world. Globalization is also viewed as creation of a world village necessitated by improvements in technology, transport and communication. Among these, information systems have had the greatest impact on the quick spread of globalization. They have been a number of barriers blocking interaction and cooperation between different societies especially in terms of trade. Removal of these barriers has been made possible by developments in information systems leading to increased collaboration. Currently, there has been increased economic, social and political integration leading to increased exchange of goods, services, innovations and technology.
Information systems according to (Kroenke, 2008), refers to “both information and communication technology as well as the way in which people use this technology in support of the business process”.
A number of technological innovations have been introduced which have greatly fueled globalization. Among these, there is the release of the Netscape Web, work flow software, outsourcing, in sourcing and many other things.
Introduction of the World Wide Web by the Netscape for example enabled the general public to access the internet and enjoy the various opportunities that come with it. “Company and business men were able to advertise their products to a wider-market. This is because of, various relevant information applicable to an individual’s business. Applications like the XML, HIMC, and PHP enable people to communicate over the internet easily” (Schneider, 2009). Business transaction was made possible in that an order and related shipment of product can be done between two different offices located in very far apart offices. The introduction of outsourcing has lifted the divisions of labor to a high level. Companies are able to subcontract some of these tasks to third party companies which are more efficient and cost effective in providing the required services e.g. the working of an organization being left to an instant service company, transportation in the organization etc. Many companies have also been able to delegate some of their major operations to the sub-contractors who have specialized in in-sourcing e.g. distribution. From the above it can easily be argued that information systems have truly fueled globalization. Because of this, company in India can easily manage, communicate and monitor its subsidies in Kenya without much difficulty
Valuing information investments
Who does not concur with the statement that credible information is power? Power implies that we are in a position to influence others in a way deem fit to us. Information in any organization is highly valued and is protected at all costs. A lot of financial resources should be dedicated to finding relevant information for an organization to improve on its daily functioning. Managers need considerable investment in information system so as their businesses can remain competitive in as far as the productivity level, capacity, sales and costs is concerned. However, some managers and company executive officers feels that heavy investment in information system only leads to an increased cost of production. This view is supported by Mitra & Chaya (2006) who in their study found out that information technology in a number of companies were associated with reduced productivity and the reduction in the total costs. In the same study however, the overhead costs still remained high despite investments in information systems. The popular belief by a majority of the people that investment in information systems would drastically reduce the cost of labor was also found to be false. This study explains why a number of managers have shied away from heavily investing in information technology in their organization as it does not guarantee certain profit realization. Despite the above findings, managers need to realize the major role played by information system in the realization of profits and improving the ease with which various functions are carried out within organizations. Over the past few years, there has been an increased competition between organizations to either expand their customer base or realize increased sales and as a result, a number of illegal means have been employed with the sole aim of driving competitors out of the market.
Managing information systems infrastructure
According to Badaway, “information Technology Management is concerned with exploring and understanding Information Technology as a corporate resource that determines both the strategic and operational capabilities of the firm in designing and developing products and services for maximum customer satisfaction, corporate productivity, profitability and competitiveness”.(Badaway 2008)
Nobody would love to spend large sums of money in a project that will be rendered obsolete after a short period of time. Information systems should thus be designed in such a way that it will be able to allow for various modifications that come along as new businesses arise. The entire information infrastructure includes databases, telecommunication networks, hardware’s, and software’s which are often managed by different specialists. In the 21st century, globalization has meant that most of the infrastructure belonging to various businesses crosses a number of national borders calling for extensive planning to be able to handle the various corporate demands.
The installation of information technology should be customized to make its use applicable to the organization. In an organization, there are a number of hardware’s, software’s, databases and communication networks that need to be put in use for harmonious running of the organization. Each of these components need to be designed in such a way that they will help meet organizational needs and objectives.
In managing of these infrastructures, a detailed hardware configuration will be required in order to meets the different needs of the organization. An appropriate operating system with possible to support all the applications required by the organization needs to be designed. In addition, the infrastructure also includes “the integration, operation, documentation, maintenance and management of the components as defined in infrastructure”. It guides how computer input and output resources are arranged operated and managed. With proper management, information access and distribution will be made easy making the operation of organizations activities easy.
Enabling commerce using the internet
Internet commerce has been defined as “the use of the internet for all phases of creating and completing business transactions” (Novak and Hoffman 2000). Previously, a number of managers had ignored the internet as a potential means of carrying out electronic commerce. Most of these managers recognized the use of online networks and Electronic Data Interchange as the only means through which electronic commerce could be done.
According to Skyrme, “the internet to these managers was totally irrelevant and unsuitable for electronic commerce” (Skyrme 2007). However, this perspective has recently changed. Most of the organizations and companies are now rushing to the internet with the aim of taking their businesses to another level. As a result, various surveys have been conducted which prophesize that over the next few years, the volume of trade conducted via the internet will have increased ten fold.
By the year 2000, the use of the internet for carrying out business transactions only represented about ten percent of those using the mail order to conduct their businesses. It was discovered that the use of the internet in business transactions only revealed itself in the final phases of the transaction. Skyrme captures this well in his argument that “too much focus of electronic commerce to data has been put on carrying out the final transactional phases in the ordering and payment” (Skyrme 2007). In the business perspective, most of the transactions will have gone through over forty processes to reach to the ordering and payment phase. It’s with this realization that more has to be done to fully utilize the internet for commercial purposes. David Skyrme argues that:
The total use of the internet for electronic commerce will only be achieved if it will be broadened to accommodate such services as; the full sales and marketing cycle, identifying new rules, developing ongoing customer relationships, assisting potential customers with their purchasing decisions, providing round the clock points of sale, supply chain management and ongoing customer support (Skyrme, 2007).
Through the adoption of these “ wider perspective of internet commerce as an ongoing interactive relationship that uses email, discussion lists and other internet facilities as well as the world-wide web, internet commerce will have reached an invaluable position to the organization” (Novak & Hoffman, 2000).
The use of the internet for commercial purposes has greatly improved to the extend that currently, over eighty percent of major businesses own at least a website in addition to increased use of the electronic mail. Electronic mail has rapidly grown in its use to become among the most favored means of communication between business owners, customers and businesses to other businesses. Development in information systems has now enabled businesses to be able to provide up-date and easily accessible information about their businesses through the world wide-web. Additionally, electronic mail has enabled potential buyers to send there feedbacks to the organization that would make possible processing of transactions also ordered through the servers. Delivery of products has also improved tremendously as are result of these developments. Some software’s and documents can now be sent to the customers through the internet. For other products like books, orders can be placed through the internet for their quick shipment. Developments in electronic money transfer have come to contribute greatly in internet commerce. Through the company’s databases, customer’s information details can be accessed thus reducing the chances of making deliveries to wrong people.
From the above discussion, we can deduce a lot of advantages that come with investing in information systems. Managers who have fully invested in internet commerce will in the near future realize reduced costs of marketing, increased productivity, increased sales and general increment in the organizations profitability. “The World Wide Web operates round the clock thus enabling round the clock business transaction. The large number of people with access to internet ensures expansion in the organizations market as people all over the world can be reached” (Jung, 2010). “Costs incurred in both domestic and international advertisements will tremendously reduce because “people with particular interest tend to visit particular places in cyber space. Customers find you rather than vice-versa” (Skyrme 2007).
Already the internet has had a number of advantages in international trade. New developments keep on rising each day to make this internet commerce more reliable and cost effective thus it’s only to the peril of the organizations managers that internet commerce can be ignored.
Securing information systems
Access to relevant information in itself means more power. This has seen information systems becoming more vulnerable to destruction, abuse and error as more and more people are attempting by use of various means to access them. Securing information systems involves, “protecting information and information systems from, unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction” (Allen & Julia 2001).
In organizations, there are a number of confidential documents of very much importance to the organization that its privacy, integrity and confidentiality should be maintained at all times. Organizations always demand personal information about their employees. They also have sensitive information regarding their products, their customers, their financial status and different formulas for making different products. All these are often electronically stored for the purposes of easy transmission from one office to another. Access to employee’s private information by unauthorized individuals could interfere with their personal privacy, whereas access to information regarding business customers could lead to loss of business as competitors could approach the customers in question with sweeter deals.
Necessary mechanisms should be put in place to protect this important information. These mechanisms should be applied to maintain the confidentiality of the information. Unauthorized access or disclosure of information to unauthorized people should be blocked at all costs. The mechanism also needs to maintain the integrity of information through ensuring that data is not modified without authorization. Without this, employees could easily breach the organizations payroll database and change their salaries.
Enhancing business intelligence using information system
Business Intelligence (BI) aims to up-hold good business decision-making. Gartner (2009) Argues that:
A BI system can be called a decision support system (DSS). Though the term business intelligence is often used as a synonym for competitive intelligence, because they both support decision making, BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze mostly internal, structured data and business processes while competitive intelligence, is done by gathering, analyzing and disseminating information with or without support from technology and applications, and focuses on all-source information and data (unstructured or structured), mostly external, but also internal to a company, to support decision making (Gartner, 2009)
Information technology takes up the main role in enhancing business intelligence. This is because of its essential function in developing business intelligence in organizations. Because business intelligence is encompasses a wide group of application and technologies for collecting, keeping, examining and making data available to enterprise users. This enhances the making of better decisions businesswise from the complication of an administrative information system which are geared towards “the combination of the concept of intelligence and the concept of competitiveness, as organizational tools to give market leadership to enterprises” (Gartner, 2009). The concept again involves internal and external information to be put in as improvement stages helping organizations acquire unique solutions.
Gartner goes ahead to say that, competitive intelligence encompasses getting, processing and handing out vital information to key individuals. Business enhancement using information systems “can evolve to business intelligence as an extended concept of business systems effectiveness and strategy. This extended concept comprehends knowledge management aligning organizational competencies, building on cognitive bases, to position businesses strategically in the market” (Gartner, 2009).
Building organizational partnership using information systems
“Inter-organizational information systems (IOSP) are being used within SCM to improve businesses processes and to facilitate closer working relations with business partners” (Williams, 2005). Nevertheless, technology itself impacts on this relationship because partners let in different levels of “information flows, communications, function integration and partner integration” (Williams, 2005). Inter Organizational Information System Partnership is divided into Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.
Organizational variables such as information flows, partner co-ordination and integration, partner trust and confidence are measured against the level of IOSP development. Variables such as management commitment, financial costs, system standards and partner resistance are investigated as forces or barriers, and related to different levels of IOSP development. IOSP development therefore, results in increased information flows and coordination which supports the development of trust and confidence in business partners. However, the customer position in the supply chain, whether it be retailer, distributor or manufacturer can influence the use of IOSP of its business partners. Also, although IOSP allows businesses to source and contact a larger range of business partners, the tendency is for businesses to use a smaller number of partners (Williams, 2005).
Coining of Organizational Information System Partnership changes an organization’s relationship with its partners while moving it in the direction of partnership integration. Conversely, some organizational aspects impacts on the integration. The aspects differ with the stage of this development. Organizational commitment together with the display of IOSP obligations can “develop and act as a positive force in developing IOSP or as a barrier against IOSP development. Other barriers include resistance from business partners, financial cost with lack of system standards and technical maturity of the organization” (Williams, 2005). The consequence of the barriers is again affected by the stage of IOSP development.
Developing information systems
Development of an information system involves a step by step process that has to be followed to ensure that the system serves the purpose for which it was created. In the process of developing an information system, what should be considered is the “system’s function of contributing to better and more timely organizational decision making” (Hohhof 2004). Among the systems objectives, should be to help the organization prepare itself for surprises at the same time averting the breach of security.
Development of information system involves a process that is aimed at reducing the cost of operation; hasten the process of making various business transactions and ensuring security of the information. This process according to Hohhof (2004) “developing an information system includes; analyzing organizations system, carrying out the feasibility study, designing the system, testing the system, implementation and documentation of the design”. Analysis involves critically studying the operations in the organization thereafter finding how information is being handled. The additional equipment required is noted down, those that require improvement are also noted down so that necessary changes can be made.
The next stage involves carrying out the feasibility study and as explained by Valachi
The aim of a feasibility study is to see whether it is possible to develop a system at a reasonable cost. At the end of the feasibility study a decision is taken whether to proceed or not. A feasibility study contains the general requirements of the proposed system. The information system established should help the system operate better than it did. Any system that will only increase the cost of operation without having a positive change on the organization should not be affected (Valachi, 2006).
In the design process, the following areas should be considered. “Inputs, outputs, system design, hardware and software” (Valachi, 2006). The design should be such that the hardware requirements should not be costly to the organization. The software should be applicable to the problem at hand and the system should be user friendly.
The author goes further to state that
Any new system needs to be thoroughly tested before being introduced. First of all the system should be tested with normal data to see if it works correctly. Secondly, the system is tested with data containing known errors to try and make it fail (‘crash’).Thirdly; the system is tested with very large amounts of data to see how it can cope. It is important that processing time and response rates remain acceptable with varying amounts of data (Valachi, 2006).
Implementation involves introduction of the system to the organization. According to Bluff (2000), the implementation methods include; direct and parallel implementation. He further states that with direct implementation, “the users stop using the manual system and start using the computer system from a given date. The advantage of this method is that it is less costly in effort and time than any other method of implementation” (Bluff, 2000). In parallel running, “the new system is introduced alongside the existing system. Both systems will be in operation at the same time. This has the advantage that the results from the new system can be compared with those of the old system” (Bluff, 2000).
The last stage in the development of the information system is the documentation stage. Here, documents are generated regarding computer applications and they include such documents as technical documents and user guides. The difference between these two is that “User guides are written in English. The guide covers how to run the system, how to enter and modify data. The guide should include a list of error messages and advice on what to do if something goes wrong” (Mathews, 2010). On the other hand, a technical document “is used to explain a system to a specialist i.e. an analyst/programmer. This document will be used if any changes have to be made to the system. It is a very important document which needs to be fully up-to-date” (Ekman, 2007).
Managing information system ethics and crime
In the 21st century, there has been an increased interest in computer use; this interest has developed increased cases of computer crime and fraud. According to Charmayne, “Information systems vulnerabilities cover more territory than just personal losses. Computer information systems are vulnerable to physical attacks, electronic hacking, and natural disasters. With computer information systems serving as the vital life blood of many organizations, managers must be aware of the both the risks and the opportunities to minimize the risks to information systems” (Charmayne 2001).
There are a number of computer crimes and different scholars have categorized them depending on how they view them. Charmayne identifies four major types of computer crime. These include “theft, copyright infringement, and attacks”. He defines theft as’ “unauthorized removal of physical items such as hardware or unauthorized removal or copying of data or information” (Charmayne, 2001). Most cases of theft have been reported at airports especially theft of laptops with the main motivation being data contained or software for corporate systems. Fraud cases involve capturing of personal information from the credit cards, advertisements that will mislead the consumers and pharmaceutical companies that purport to provide useful medical advice as well as selling altered medication. In the crime of copyright infringement, the internet has made it possible for people to use music, software and other pieces of work that they have not appropriately acquired. The most wide spread copyright infringement has been reported in software’s due to the ease with which files for downloading can easily be posted. Some people have also opened fictitious companies where they post illegally acquired trademarks and logos so as to appear legitimate. Attacks on organizations and individuals are also another form of internet crime that has widely been used. According to Charmayne, this attacks “may be either physical or logical” (Charmayne 2001). Their have been a number of cases in which web sites, individuals and products of some organizations being attacked by different groups or individuals.
Due to the sensitive nature of a number of organizations information, much emphasis has to be put in establishing secure information systems. This security will go along way into ensuring that the organizations credibility is maintained as well as remaining competitive in the market.
In this era, managers cannot ignore the major role played by information systems in their businesses. The reported cases of information systems crime should not deter managers from investing in information systems because its advantages outweigh the disadvantages by far. By following the above sequence, and prescribed security measures to be taken, the information system developed will be owned by the organization making its use easy, secure, and accepted by all its users.
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