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OBJECTIVES To gain a basic understanding of an information system ACTIVITIES 1. What is the difference between an information system and information technology? Information technology is really on more a set of tools that can be used for many purposes, while an information system involves the application of information technology to some purpose, typically to achieve an objective or to solve a problem. One analogy is the difference between gardening tools (spade, lawnmower, trowel, etc. ) and the activity of gardening. The tools can all be used for a variety of purposes (the spade could be used to wedge a door open).

For some, the activity of gardening fulfils the objective of giving relaxation and wholesome food. 2. Identify some things that a computerized information system can do, which are difficult or impossible, for a non-computerized equivalent. Computerize information systems are generally much faster at storing and retrieving data and at performing calculations than their non-computerized equivalents. Many activities that involve the retrieval, analysis or synthesis of large quantities of data are not feasible for people to carry out manually, even though it may be technically possible for this to be done.

One example is the growing use of data warehouses and data mining software by marketing companies to product very detailed information about individual shopping preferences and habits, which can then be used to direct the marketing of products and services very precisely towards those people most likely to be interested in them. While it would always have been theoretically possible to gather and correlate this data manually for an individual customer, in practice it would take far too much effort to be worthwhile. 3. Why are boundary and environment important for understanding a system?

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, setting a boundary defines the scope of what you are trying to understand. Without a boundary, your analysis has no limits and may become unfocussed or even lose its way completely. In this respect, the environment consists of all those things that are relevant to the system – thus you may need to know about their existence and behavior – but which do not themselves require detailed analysis – so you do not need to understand their internal organization or objectives. Secondly, identifying a boundary helps you to understand a system’s interactions with its environment.

This is one of the most important aspects of a system, and focuses your attention on inputs (received from the environment) and outputs (sent into the environment). 4. Why has a human activity system more than one purpose? A human activity that involves more than one human can be seen from more than one perspective. This may depend on our functional relationship with the system or on our basic assumptions. In one of Peter Checkland’s lectures he used the example of a prison. If we ask the purpose of a prison, the answer depends on our relationship with it.

For many, a prison is for punishing bad people. For others, it is a way of rehabilitating inmates to lead them to a better life. Some prison staff may see it as primarily a system for the storage of convicts. For some people, prison is a way of getting a bed for the night in winter. For some career criminals, it is a way of keeping in touch with the latest tricks of their trade. 5. What is the purpose of a management support system? A management support system usually provides information that helps managers to make decisions.

Most use feedback or feed-forward to monitor the performance of part of the organization for which the manager is responsible. 6. What are the relationships between business goals, information systems strategy and information technology strategy? Business goals and strategy are usually defined first. An IS strategy identifies applications that can help to meet business goals, and an IT strategy identifies IT needed to develop and run the applications. Each informs its predecessor about what can realistically be achieved. The process is iterative.

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