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Information Systems Integration in Personal and Work Environment

Introduction

Information technology (IT) has changed the society in some 50 years, and has performed a profound impact on all spheres of human life. First of all, IT has successfully integrated into business: currently most business transactions, calculations, illustrations etc. are done with the help of computers and more complex tasks involved advanced technologies, like cloud computing, distributed computing, various simulations etc. A new feature for business is the creation of virtual teams and freelance work; now companies can hire any professional regardless of geographical location and distance.

Scientists also benefited greatly since the development of IT, using the computing power for modeling complex processes, testing hypotheses, performing statistical forecasts, constructing new machines, devices and buildings etc. A great revolution in entertainment industry took place due to IT. 3D technologies, realistic games, impressive computer graphics and animation, creation of various virtual worlds (Henderson, 2009) and even systems for virtual physical interaction (like in the new Kinect by Microsoft) – all these features would seem impossible even a hundred years ago. The very idea of communications has drastically changed: with the use of cell phones and Internet people are able to contact each other at any time, can hear and see each other, and in the near future virtual environment will, most likely, allow to transfer touches through the whole globe.

The purpose of this paper is to consider various aspects of information systems with regard to their integration in personal and work environment. Several key aspects and concepts that impressed me during reading the book “Introduction to Information Systems” by James A. O’Brien and George M. Marakas will be discussed in the paper, with appropriate examples from my experience and analysis of the impact of technologies on different aspects of our life. The paper also describes the interaction and future development of the chosen concepts and technologies, their current and potential advantages as well as disadvantages.

1. Chapter 1 concepts

Chapter 1 of the book “Introduction to Information Systems” describes a large number of key information technology concepts, and it was not easy to choose only two of them worth discussing. I decided to select the impact of intranet and extranet on business functions and transactions – on the example of a store dealing with construction materials, and to consider the role and importance of management support and management information systems on the example of online system SalesForce.com.

Basing on my working experience, it is only possible to draw conclusions for small and medium-sized businesses, and thus this paper will describe the above-mentioned concepts with regard to a small business (up to 50 employees). However, similar patterns of use (with somewhat larger implications and consequences) are expected to be common for medium to large businesses, too.

There is a large number of applications and services in a small business that involve IT infrastructure and a certain type of a network, the major of them being: training, collaboration, publishing, tracking major business processes (controlling storage, accounting, optimizing costs etc.), communications, sharing documentation and performing various transactions. All these processes involve procedures that enable people to communicate, work in teams, create, edit and share various documents and manipulate data. Introducing an effective intranet structure within a small-sized company shapes a more effective and economic set of internal operations.

Generally, an intranet is an IP-based network which allows employees to have access to collaborative workspace, and also serves as company portal (Aber, 2008). Currently it can be very effective to create wireless intranets, since they provide greater flexibility, and allow external agents to get access to the network. A friend of mine had certain experience of working as a manager in a small company selling construction materials in bulk and to clients directly, and they had wired intranet there. All operations were centered around collaboration: tracking the sales and supplies, accounting, documentation and contracts with partners, etc.

However, the intranet was convenient for full-time employees, but their sales representatives and agents of distribution department who spent most of the time traveling, were unable to work with the intranet effectively. Installing an access point as part of the intranet, or even transferring the whole intranet on wireless connection might be an effective solution for this problem. Moreover, a promising idea is to create two networks: one for full-time employees and agents, and one for guests. Partners and customers will be grateful for being able to get access to certain company materials and using shared Internet access might also attract more people to the store.

Regarding the use of intranets, I believe that their future is in integration with extranets and Internet, and in providing access to advertising and educational materials to more people. Also, I believe that the future of intranets is related to wireless technologies and flexibility, so that even full-time employees can travel from place to place, and join different teams.

The use of intranets and Internet result in a large number of business information systems. I have some experience of working with an online customer relationship management (CRM) system Salesforce.com. This company provides business software and cloud computing services. The system has a large number of tools and facilities, and main functions of the CRM can be classified as the service cloud, sales cloud, and chatter (Botha & Bothma & Geldenhuys, 2008). Salesforce.com is easily customized and might be adjusted to varied needs; it also has mobile support, can be integrated with MS Office and MS Outlook, and can be accessed online from virtually any device which has an up-to-date browser and input devices (Botha & Bothma & Geldenhuys, 2008).

At the first glance, Salesforce.com is a transaction processing system, as it allows to store data related to business transactions and has facilities for creating business documents. For example, I had to create invoices within the system, register invoices sent and paid, and regulated customer access to the company’s online services basing on the payment info. However, this is the simplest level of Salesforce.com operations. This system can be regarded as management support system – because it is used for decision-making and evaluation of business effectiveness. In addition to this, Salesforce.com has the functions of a management information system, since it has a large number of reports, and users can create own customized reports. Analysis of sales, dynamics of sales during a given period, sales profitability, analysis of cost trends, evaluation of performance of the managers – all these functions represent only a small part of data analysis tools available for Salesforce.com customers.

After working with this system, I was greatly impressed by its diversity and available instruments. Basing on the experience of working with Salesforce.com, I can state that the future of most business information systems holds the transformation from products focused over a specific task or domain to large customizable complexes of tools able to cover the needs of a typical company. Naturally, such systems should be implemented online or within the company’s intranet/extranet. Most likely, small and medium-sized businesses will purchase full or partial licenses of such large complexes, and large companies will be developing own information systems or adding modules to existing ones, without using external products. In both cases, the effect of information technologies on the performance and on effectiveness of business decisions is profound: it is estimated that for small companies potential savings resulting from the use of information systems constitute up to $1.1 million per year, while large companies (1000+ employees) can save about $21.3 million per year (Aber, 2008). This effect is very significant, and it can be stated that information systems have moved the competition to the level of data, knowledge and business analysis, thus moving the society further into the informational era.

2. Chapter 2 concepts

This chapter is dedicated to analysis of competitive forces, competitive strategies and ways of using informational technology for strategic purposes and gaining competitive advantages through the various applications of IT. As for me, the most notable ideas in this chapter are related to innovative strategies and the importance of creating a customer-focused business. In general, every business tends to create competitive advantages as one of its goals. I believe that among five key competitive strategies innovation strategy is the most important and also the most fruitful one. A vivid example of very successful innovation is Apple, Inc. which has created and occupied a unique market niche. Apple is constantly innovating regarding design, functionality and usability of their devices. It is not following market trends, but shapes the market and consumer needs by offering new devices and new possibilities. Besides innovation, Apple focuses on quality and has a very extensive marketing strategy (Henderson, 2009). However, without great innovations all these efforts would not have such a profound effect. Thus, I believe that in order to be successful, the company should use an innovative strategy and invest into research and development in the first place.

At the same time, it is very important not to create innovations for the sake of innovating; in other words, it’s necessary to create customer value and to build a customer-focused business. In my opinion, this is a strategic objective which should be combined with innovations to be most effective. A customer-focused business anticipates future needs of clients and responds to their concerns,; such approach allows to keep customers loyal and to provide high-quality customer service. Again, Apple Inc. can be set as an example here, with its effective support and millions of loyal customers all over the world. I can also set an example from my own experience.

My cousin worked for a medium-sized company selling cosmetics to smaller stores and sales outlets in bulk volumes. Although their firm had a lot of competitors, they managed to get a significant competitive advantage by innovating and creating customer value. One of their innovations was development of a small program which allowed the sales representatives to access the company’s database, to enter customer’s preferences and form a new order online using GRPS/3G connection. They could also request to send documentation to the customer using this program and could perform the major part of ordering during negotiations with the customer. Such flexibility allowed to make the sales faster and to satisfy the customer’s requests quickly. Thus, I believe that for companies it is most effective to innovate in the direction of creating more customer value and to create a customer-focused business using new IT achievements.

3. Chapter 3 concepts

This chapter is devoted to the description of evolution of input, output and storage devices and their applications. I would like to discuss such concepts as LCD displays, their perspectives and evolution, and the development of mass storage devices. Both of these types of devices are rapidly developing and have great future perspectives.

Regarding LCD displays, they are a significant step in the evolution of displays compared to CRT devices. I can recall working with a CRT several years ago, and at that time the process of using computer seemed very tiresome for the eyes; most likely, this happened due to the low frequency of the CRT display (its HSR). LCD displays do not have such parameter as horizontal scan rate, since the very idea of forming the image for these displays is different and depends on pixels and their rate of renewal (compared to horizontal scan rate). Such types of displays as e-ink provide even less challenges for the vision compared to ordinary (non-computer) environment since they resemble paper with printed text. One of the disadvantages of current LCD displays is their fragility which requires treating them carefully. However, this problem is also going to be solved in near future since Nokia has patented the technology of flexible LCD display in partnership with Microsoft. I believe that this invention will open a new era in computer technologies, since portability of computers can be greatly increased (and weight can be decreased).

Moreover, regarding the rapid development of mass storage devices and popularity of USB disks and SSD hard disks (Henderson, 2009), it is quite easy to forecast the era of ultra-portable devices with storage device embedded into flexible display. It seems to me that computers in near future will be very lightweight, resistible to mechanical damage, with large storage capacities, enhanced color transmission and possibly, embedded satellite broadcast receiver or any other controller allowing to connect to Internet anywhere. Basing on these expectations, it’s possible to say that in future technologies are likely to play even greater role and will penetrate into all spheres of human life.

4. Chapter 4 concepts

Chapter 4 describes different types of software and their applications, gives the ideas of computer languages and considers the variety of web services available over Internet. The concepts which were of particular interest to me in this chapter are system software (and operating systems in particular, as well as their future) and web or application services based on client/server architecture. It seems to me that both of these concepts are interrelated now, since the future of operating systems might be closely related to web services and to online software.

Generally speaking, an operating system is the set of programs and applications which allow user to get access to the resources of the computer, manage hardware and act as an intermediary between user and hardware. Currently it is common to install the operating systems on the computer before using it (or to purchase a computer or a laptop with pre-installed OS). Several years before, it was mostly common for users to install desktop applications on a certain platform and to perform the tasks they need. However, currently more and more services are available online: text editor, table processors, video conversion and audio processing, various management systems (e.g. Salesforce.com, mentioned in the discussion of chapter 1) and other online products have replaced cumbersome desktop applications (Botha & Bothma & Geldenhuys, 2008).

There are certain deficiencies of web services compared to desktop applications, such as high requirements for Internet connection, slower processing of more complex operations and sometimes poorer functionality compared to desktop applications. However, to get access to web services one only needs an internet connection and a recent browser, while to install a proper desktop application, it is necessary to have its version compatible with the OS and hardware, one should install and activate the application, and there also might be licensing issues. Online services are far more convenient, and generally, the functionality of online products is quite comfortable for the users. For example, when my Microsoft Office crashed and I had prepare urgent documentation, I used online Zoho Writer, which had similar functionality. Google documents provide services which are sometimes much better than possibilities of text editors and table processors, especially in the area of collaboration. Thus, web services are expected to grow, and most likely, they will outgrow desktop applications and become a market mainstream.

Moreover, I believe that operating systems will also move online. Now there is a variety of online operating systems and platforms, such as Web OS, OOS, EyeOS, Glide OS, SilverOS (Books LLC, 2010). They cannot replace desktop operating systems now, but it is most likely that there will be a technology allowing to overcome major troubles with installing and maintaining an operating system and providing online platform performing the same functions, with minimal differences for the user when he or she decided to use the operating system from another device. So, I believe that the future of operating systems is related to web services, and soon users will store their files and documents fully online, without being “tied” to a fixed computer or storage device (Henderson, 2009). This approach also has some drawbacks, especially in the area of security, but the majority of users value comfort rather than security for non-sensitive data. So, operating systems are changing and their new step will be the transformation into online services.

Conclusion

The review of many concepts related to information systems shows that current technologies are rapidly developing, and in most areas significant changes can be expected. For example, the use of intranet and extranet systems within organizations is growing, and these networks are promising to become more flexible, wireless and more hospitable for business. Online management systems are likely to replace current software focused on different aspects of business, and this perfectly aligns with the concept of online operating systems and the use of web services instead of desktop applications which can also be perceived in future.

Analysis of concepts related to hardware shows that computers are becoming further integrated into human life, they become easier to carry, more shockproof and more powerful. The changes in LCD manufacturing technologies and approaches to data storage promise to show very effective and impressive devices. This gives plenty of space for business ideas and for inventing new competitive strategies. It is clear that nowadays the most successful strategy is innovative, with focus on customer value and flexibility. The technologies currently shape the structure of business operations and are likely to have even more impact on our lives in future. The world is changing, and I cannot say whether it’s definitely for better, but it’s clear that companies and individuals have to adjust to new environment and there’s plenty of space for further discoveries and technical progress. I believe that it is great since IT enhances all spheres of life and takes the routine operations, leaving the space for creativity and innovative activities.

 

References

Aber, R. (2008). Power up your small-medium business: a guide to enabling network technologies. Cisco Press.
Books, LLC. (2010). Web Operating Systems: Online Os. General Books.
Botha, J. & Bothma, C. & Geldenhuys, P. (2008). Managing E-commerce in Business. Juta and Company Ltd.
Henderson, H. (2009). Encyclopedia of computer science and technology. Infobase Publishing.