We explain what an information system is, its characteristics and objectives. Also, what are its main elements and advantages.
What is an information system?
An information system (IS) is called a set of data and elements that interact with each other and that have a specific purpose that, in general, has to do with satisfying a need. For example: The management of a library database.
Information systems must be efficient and easy to execute because they process and store a large amount of data. These data are loaded, automatically or manually , on a physical or digital medium and are used to produce information that is useful for the execution of a certain activity or objective . Every company or organization , be it in the area of medicine, business , chemistry or social sciences , uses an information system.
The term “information system” is often used as a synonym for “computer information system”, however, an information system is anything that has different components that work for the collection and storage of data (whether or not use a computer program) .
Characteristics of an information system
The main characteristics of an information system are:
- It is used to collect, store and incorporate data.
- It can be a formal system, when you use computer-based means or solid structures to achieve the goal or objective, or an informal system, when you use more elementary or handcrafted structures, such as a pencil and paper.
- Stores qualitative information (non-numerical information) and quantitative information (numerical variables) .
- It consists of data that is entered manually or automatically to create a database.
- Use surveys, questionnaires, field observations, censuses, or investigations to obtain data.
- It must be evaluated and measured to be updated or to correct possible errors.
- It must be secure to prevent the information collected from being lost or stolen.
- It requires some type of feedback, this means that the information leaves the system and re-enters with more elaboration or with more information.
Information system processes
Every information system has certain essential internal processes. These are:
- Data collection . Process in which all the available and necessary data are gathered. This can be done manually or through technologies such as scanners or barcodes.
- Data storage . Process in which data is classified and stored, this can occur on physical or digital media.
- Data processing . Process in which data is related and transformed into information available for use.
- Information distribution . Process in which information is used for a specific purpose, such as decision-making or setting objectives.
Purpose and uses of information systems
Every information system’s main objective is to obtain certain information that is then used to make decisions or predict behaviors or phenomena.
There are different uses depending on the type of organization that uses the information systems. However, the main uses or utilities of an information system are:
- Manage and organize data.
- Provide reliable and updated information.
- Automate the different operational processes.
- Be useful for making decisions.
- Control all activities within the organization.
- Differentiate important information from that which is not.
- Integrate all available and relevant information for the company.
- Achieve competitive advantages.
Elements of an information systems
There are some essential elements to carry out an information system. These are usually:
- Human resources . They are those people who are responsible for collecting and organizing the information. In many cases, they are also responsible for loading the data both on physical media and on software or virtual platforms.
- Data . They are those qualitative or quantitative variables about facts or phenomena. Once processed, the data becomes information that the company or organization uses.
- Technology . They are the platforms or software used to store and process the data. In some cases, an information system may not be digital and may be archived in folders or other types of physical files.
Advantages of information systems
The main advantages of information systems are:
- They reduce the cost of labor by optimizing times, tasks and routines.
- They manage tangible and intangible assets, and are a fundamental tool of today’s organizations.
- They are one of the main sources of competitive advantage in the business and corporate arena.
- They allow to collect in one place all the relevant information for the organization.
- They facilitate innovation , problem detection and subsequent resolution.
Examples of information systems
There are different types of information systems according to their main function. Some of the most used systems that work through computer programs or softwares are:
- Transaction processing system . It is an information system that collects, processes and stores all the data obtained from the transactions carried out within a company or organization.
- Decision support system . It is a support system that provides tools and data that facilitate or help in the decision-making process within a company or organization.
- Information system for executives . It is an information system that provides relevant and organized information to the senior managers of a company so that they can have an overview of the status of each of the areas and aspects of the organization.
- Resource organization system . It is a system that integrates and processes the information of all the procedures that occur within a company.
- “Components of information systems” on Britannica.
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