Introduction to Information Systems in Business

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  1. Introduction to Information Systems in Business


  1. Aims and Objectives

The aim of this section is to introduce information systems engineering in organisations. The following topics will be discussed :-

  • The reasons why Information Technology and Information Systems are crucial to modern organisations and thus subject to professional management;
  • The factors influencing information systems engineering.

Some of the ideas and many of the references in this chapter are adopted from Avison & Fitzgerald's influential 'Information Systems Development: Methodologies, Techniques and Tools'.

  1. The Importance of Information Technology and Information Systems

All medium to large organisations depend on Information technology for their continued survival. Consider organisations like British Gas, British Telecom, the Power and Water companies having to manually calculate, millions of customer bills every month or quarter! Clearly the clerical effort involved would make it difficult if not impossible for the organisation to make a profit. Similar arguments apply to many other organisations such as the high street banks, central and local government. A recent article in the Daily Telegraph IT supplement suggested that many large organisations could last no longer than 24 hours without IT support! There should be little wonder that attitudes to the development of information systems have changed over the years from an ad hoc almost cavalier approach to a professionally managed, disciplined, planned, engineering approach.

  1. Factors Influencing the Systems Development Effort

A variety of factors influence Information Systems Engineering, ranging from high level strategic to detailed technical issues. The following factors are considered, however the list is by no means exhaustive and you may well care to add your own :-

  • Strategic Information Systems Planning
  • Corporate Data Management,
  • Business Process Re-Engineering,
  • The Technical Environment,
  • Models & Methodologies,
  • Socio-Behavioural Development,
  • Supporting Tools,
  • Quality Assurance,
  • Project Management,
  • Human Resources,
  • End-User Systems Development.

  1.  Strategic Information Systems Planning

Organisations typically develop rolling business plans, they are constructed by taking into account the current business, the external influences on the business (e.g. the economy, government policy and technological advances), and the aims and objectives of the most senior levels of management. The strategic business plan describes how the organisation will strive to move from the current business to the target business.

Business Planning

Information Systems support is necessary to achieve the strategic business plan, so the business plan feeds into a Strategic Information Systems Plan (SISP), which describes how the current IT systems are intended to evolve into the target IT systems. A 'big bang' approach is not feasible, therefore a project-based approach is used. The output of the SISP is a series of development projects, which will either involve modifying existing systems or developing new systems (which are likely to have to interface or integrate with existing systems).

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  1. Strategic Information Systems Planning

In the past information systems were developed simply to improve the efficiency of specific business functions. More recently information systems have been viewed as tools for obtaining competitive advantage. Avison and Fitzgerald (1995) have discussed the following ways in which information systems can help to achieve competitive advantage:

"Redefine the boundaries of particular industries,
Develop new products or services,
change the relationships between suppliers and customers, 
Establish barriers to deter new entrants to marketplaces." 

Porter (1980) identifies five competitive forces that any organisation needs to consider :-

  1. Threat of new entrants.
  2. Bargaining power ...

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