Information Systems in Business

Many large businesses such as manufacturers or suppliers, factories or distribution centres have many Information Systems set up and designed to handle the large quantities of processes involved in conducting their function.

Large Information Systems

Some businesses are so large that their processes may require information systems to handle day-to-day business processes. One such example is order processing. Businesses with large order systems or large quantities of products to manufacture may only handle order processing through information systems.

One such information system used in a logistical setting is one that would be used to record inbound goods. Physical product businesses for example need to record incoming raw materials or ordered products to process them and turn them into a product. Without a centralised information system it can be very hard to keep track of stock levels, although maintaining the whereabouts of goods used by the business can be useful but in the real world some of these goods can go missing, be wasted, damaged or arrive having already being damaged. This is why information systems must be able to handle losses and inform stock keepers when the product is becoming depleted and must be re-ordered especially on systems that involve Kanban or Just in Time systems. This is one such example of where information systems must be able to handle all scenarios that an employee will encounter.

Examples of Business Information Systems

Business information systems have different requirements throughout the various departments;

Human Resources must be able to use information systems to 
handle processes such as,

  • Employee Payroll.
  • Employee Performance.
  • Hiring and Job Roles.
  • Staff Records and Employee Contracts.
  • Holiday Management and Illness.
  • Training Programs.
  • Attendance and Absenteeism.
  • Staff Disciplinary Records.

Senior Management may not always use information systems as their roles may be too strategic or sporadic to construct an information system, however they may have daily or even business cyclic tasks such as,

  • Monitoring performance of the business or business processes.
  • Maintaining customer relationships through relationship management software or CRM.
  • Assess generalised performance of a store or business through warehouse management software or employee performance.
  • Make strategic decisions about business processes by using sales data or reporting software.
  • Identify problems with processes or business cycles.
  • Generate Reports for Sales, Product Development or Manufacturers.

General Management may use information systems to,

  • Distribute work to employees.
  • Identify problems with processes or business cycles.
  • Monitor Employee clock-in times.
  • Monitor Employee processes or performance.
  • Record Paying Hours or Overtime.
  • Action directions from higher up.
  • Discipline employees.
  • Correct or Normalise Data on the System.
  • Query or edit the database.
  • Prioritise.

Employees may use information systems to,

  • Action Jobs tasked to them.
  • Query a database.
  • Create orders for customers.

Some of the advantages of using an information system

  • It may aide the speed a process in a business can be completed as all of the data needed is centralised and managed in one place.
  • The information system may enable employees to manage large orders or information as a batch.
  • The information system may be able to prioritise important jobs on the system.
  • Mistakes could be identified by the system and prompt the user to rectify it.
  • The system may improve or identify bottlenecks in the business process.
  • The system may allow for customers to interact with it directly and therefore reduce the time it takes for a business to fulfill a customers desires.
  • The system may be compatible with other systems through an API which can link systems together.

Some of the disadvantages of using an information system

  • If the system is custom or highly specialised making changes to it can be hard or expensive or slow.
  • The information system may be slow which could frustrate users.
  • The system may not have all the features an employee desires or,
  • The system may not allow some of their users to change data that they need to change.
  • The information system may not be suited for its use case.
  • Employees may have preferred the previous method or may not be it savvy enough to use the system.
  • The system may be designed in such a way that mistakes become a problem.
  • The system may be abused by employees for gain. (clocking out early, marking work as completed when it isn’t)
  • If it breaks a business may not be able to function if they are reliant on it.
  • If it breaks it may corrupt data that may be unrecoverable.

Custom Information Systems

And there are many more examples of businesses using information systems. Many of them my abe trivial or bespoke, however there are programs designed to make information systems at a higher level than writing a program for them, One such example is Microsoft Access.

Many businesses will use Microsoft Access or custom programs to create their data and manage company process. Added advantages of using a custom program is that the company may use a single program (or a single database) for a large business process are,

  • Having a custom program allows the business to construct the data they wish to use when they need to, such as recording information that other companies may not.
  • Using a custom program may allow for the business to create specific access control levels.
  • Customisation like company logos or specific company colors or themes.
  • Many Many more…

 

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Access Control in Daily IT Organisation Tasks

Many Businesses use IT to manage their accounts, documents and decision-making. It is, therefore important that Access Control be implemented in Organisations to prevent unwanted modification or prying eyes from being able to commit computer crimes, such as the ones outlined in the Computer Misuse Act. Using Access Control can prevent these people and operational staff from being able to modify information that otherwise is not their place to edit. Some common implementations of Access Control could be limiting the information available to a customer about Transaction Processing Systems or Management Information Systems not allowing Managers access to manufacturer prices.

Access Control in Strategic, Tactical and Operational Management

In order to implement these features a common method of maintaining strict control is through a permissions model, where it is outlined to the computer what permissions a login has access to, such that they are able (like a file system) to edit, read or write a file or piece of information. Here are some common examples of Access Control;

  • A Supermarket Employee is not able to alter the price of products.
  • A Manager is not able to create new users for a MIS (Management Information System).
  • A DSS (Decision Support System) is not able to commit to a higher level of privilege without presenting documentation proving that that decision is possible, a good example of this could be a bank requiring an account number to confirm that the account is active before allowing the employee to make changes or a support agent requiring a pin from a customer before being allowed to view the customers details.

Strategic Operational and Tactical in Access Control

The three levels of control is a common (but not de-facto) model for systems management, however often these levels of tasks can become obscured by other factors. These tasks can often be divided up among IT departments in formal organisations, such as ‘Ops’ and ‘Licencing’. The use of Access Control can be used to coordinate effective ICT teamwork on large projects and in other departments, such as accounting.

Garbage in Garbage Out Data

When you signup for a website. You enter your information (or data). You don’t always get it right and could miss a box or spell your own credentials wrong (garbage), this data in an ICT system is very important that it is minimised. There are numerous ways that this can be accomplished.

Data must be correct

In order to have an accurate IT solution, your data must be correct, otherwise users may find your solution hard to use. It is important that you minimise GIGO through thorough data validation.

Garbage in Garbage Out

garbage in garbage out

 

When you enter data into an ICT system it is vital that your data is accurate, valid, and up to date. This can be accomplished though input validation. When you enter data, it should be of top quality it is vital that GIGO does not occur. GIGO is garbage in, garbage out, and refers colloquially to the fact that whatever you put into an ICT system, such as garbage, is what you will get out. This is because ICT systems are designed to preform the task that they were designed for, and doing tasks that aren’t what they are supposed to do, will inevitably produce garbage as computers work by logical process. An example of this would be putting an email address in a phone number box on contact information, and when ringing someone, the call does not connect, because it cannot ring an email address.

To stop this sort of thing from happening you must read instructions, follow tutorials and understand the implications of what you are doing, otherwise you could corrupt your data.

Data should be accurate, up-to-date, reliable, complete, correct, designed for purpose and when entered, it should be paramount that it follows these principles, otherwise your it solution could produce frustrating results that the user does not expect. Make sure your data is accourate by forcing users to enter it correctly.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Types of Processing data

When data is processed there are multiple methods of processing data, there are several types that all have individual Advantages and Disadvantages.

Batch, Interactive and Transaction Processing

 

Batch Processing

Batch Processing is when data is processed in ‘batches’ (groups)

Advantages

  • Batches mean that the process does not require human interaction, this allows the system to be automated and means that it can be left running for multiple sessions at a time, that could potentially last a long time, This type of process can also allow for custom processing ‘jobs’. Which means that the data can be suited to fit the needs of the user, for example, a bank wants to process a large quantity of bank statements, with a temporary notice at the top, they would be able to customize the ‘job’ to be processed with the new notice.
  • They can take a long time to process and may require multiple hours to complete, they may also require multiple retrys and query’s, so being able to compute data in batches means that all the necessary data can be consolidated for the job.
  • Batch processing also means that the data can be run at low points when there is little load on the system.

Disadvantages

  • Using ‘big data’ can take a lot of computing power and can take a long time, and could still process GIGO. (garbage in, garbage out) Stopping batches may cause the system to corrupt the data involved and the system it is using may exhaust the resources of the machine, causing the process to fail.
  • Batch processing could include anomalies that may not have been accounted for, for example when someone had filled out their name on a form as ‘Mr Davies’ when the form only required ‘Davies’, the result could be that a letter that has been batch produced ‘Dear, Mr Mr Davies’.
  • The Batch process could mean that users receive incorrect information until their data has been processed.
  • Data must be accurate to prevent GIGO.

Examples : Mail merge, Bank Statements, Mass Emails, Game World ‘chunks’, Video Rendering.

Interactive Processing

Interactive processing is when a system performs processes as it is being used.

Advantages

  • When playing games, only the crucial information that requires being rendered or physics that need applying to objects need to be processed, allowing for a smoother gameplay. This may also be considered a disadvantage as it can break the immersion of the game when textures are rendered poorly or objects do not have their expected physics, such as objects that do not fall to the ground, or signs do not render their text fully and appear blurred.
  • Websites can check that reservations are not double booked as users place their orders, usernames can be checked for availability as they sign up, emails can be parsed for validity.
  • Websites such as dominoes can start to create an order, before the customer has even completed their order.
  • Video Viewers can set the quality of a video, or it can be done automatically, while the video is playing.

Disadvantages

  • Interactive processing cannot take place on very taxing processes that require a lot of computation.
  • Interactive processing may not be possible until the process is completed
  • Interactive processing may mean that data could become corrupted, such as pausing a rendering video or deleting data that is open by other processes in place.
  • Online Shopping could offer discounted prices are out of date as the offer has expired, but was already added to the customers basket.

Examples : Online Shopping, Video Rendering, Video Live Streams, Booking Seats.

Transaction Processing

 Transaction processing is mode one at a time.

Advantages

  • Transaction processing is fast and efficient, and the data can be updated quickly and securely, booking a seat on a flight and in a cinema ensures that your seat is not double booked.
  • Effective for high traffic websites and concerts where there is high demand for a product.
  • Transaction processing means that customers do not withdraw funds they don’t own.
  • Transaction processing often means that the system can prevent two events happening at the same time.

Disadvantages

  • Transaction Processing requires the transaction to be completed before it is accepted, therefore there can sometimes be considerable wait times before a transaction is complete.
  • Transaction processing means that the system must always be available during operating hours, therefore when a system goes down, there can sometimes be great repercussions.

Examples : Banking, Stock Control Systems, Booking Systems.

The use case for each type can vary, however most have set types that work best for the solution, so it is important to know which one is bet for a solution, or you could run into issues.

Data, Information and it’s Differences

Data itself is valueless, however when provided with context, it becomes valued, a database contains lots of raw information, and therefore it would be extremely hard to interpret anything from it, for example here is a table from a database:

YesBlue5100No

Without context, its information means nothing, it could mean anything. It is abstract, however when combined with some context, it becomes useful and can be useful.

 Andrew has completed his homeworkYes
Andrew’s school house colorBlue
Andrew’s last test score5
Andrew’s highest test score100
Andrew is real No

Now that we have provided this table with some context, it makes more sense, this is the difference between information and data. Information is data that has been given meaning. Although it is odd to keep data about a fictional Andrew, it is funny to think that within this website, data is stored that will contain Andrew’s table, and only when this page is read will it make sense what the purpose of this information is for.

  • Data is anything from numbers and letters to characters or metadata, it may be inputted into a computer through a form or another computer system.
  • Information is data with context, it makes sense. It becomes information once you are familiar with what it is referring to.

An ICT System is something that provides information, automation, data or computation to a user. Some examples of an ICT System are:

  • A School Website.
  • A video rendering server.
  • An online picture editor or gif creator.
  • A fire alarm system.
  • A sprinkler system.

ICT is visible everywhere and can be extremely beneficial to society, you reading this website is the result of hundreds of ICT systems being monitored by individuals called System Administrators or Sysadmin for short. Short of the simple systems that keep the website running, there is also the bigger picture systems, such as the time management servers, update servers for the OS of the website and your own computer, Record and bill systems checking that the server is paid for, Website analysis systems indexing this website on Google and other search engines, Security and Antivirus checking your router for bad traffic and even ISP systems, ensuring that your and this end of the connection is working, and if any of those systems were to fail, catastrophic consequences could occur.