Study notes

ICT: types of information

Businesses tend to have several "information systems" operating at the same time. This study note highlights the main categories of information system and provides some examples to help you distinguish between them.

For most businesses, there are a variety of requirements for information:

  • Senior managers need information to help with their business planning
  • Middle management need more detailed information to help them monitor and control business activities
  • Employees with operational roles need information to help them carry out their duties

Executive support systems (ESS)

Designed to help senior management make strategic decisions. An ESS gathers, analyses and summarises the key internal and external information used in the business. ESS typically involve lots of data analysis and modelling tools, such as "what-if" analysis, to help strategic decision-making.

A good way to think about an ESS is to imagine the senior management team in an aircraft cockpit, with the instrument panel showing them the status of all the key business activities.

Management information systems (MIS)

Primarily concerned with internal sources of information. MIS usually take data from the transaction processing systems (see below) and summarise it into a series of management reports.

MIS reports tend to be used by middle management and operational supervisors.

Decision support systems (DSS)

Specifically designed to help management make decisions in situations where there is uncertainty about the outcomes of those decisions.

DSS use tools and techniques to help gather relevant information and analyse the options and alternatives. DSS often involves use of complex spreadsheet and databases to create "what-if" models.

Knowledge management systems (KMS)

Exist to help businesses create and share information. They are typically used in businesses where employees create new knowledge and expertise, which can then be shared by other people in the organisation to create further commercial opportunities. Good examples include firms of lawyers, accountants and management consultants.

KMS are built around systems which allow efficient categorisation and distribution of knowledge. For example, the knowledge itself might be contained in word processing documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations. internet pages etc. To share the knowledge, a KMS would use group collaboration systems, such as an intranet.

Transaction processing systems (TPS)

Designed to process routine transactions efficiently and accurately.

A business will have several TPS; for example:

  • Billing systems to send invoices to customers
  • Systems to calculate the weekly and monthly payroll and tax payments
  • Production and purchasing systems to calculate raw material requirements
  • Stock control systems to process all movements into, within and out of the business

Office automation systems

Try to improve the productivity of employees who need to process data and information.

Perhaps the best example is the wide range of software systems that exist to improve the productivity of employees working in an office (for example, Microsoft Office XP), or systems that allow employees to work from home or whileon the move.

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