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... Free Sample on Business

Topic: Business Information Systems


An information system is a social system which has embedded in it information technology. It is not possible to design a robust, effective information system incorporating significant amounts of the technology without treating it as a social system. Discuss. The research area is within business information
systems and managing information systems within organizations. The purpose is the allow the reader to gain an insight into how information systems help organizations and how the statement given to discuss affects this.




These days, it is becoming commonplace to refer to the current stage of societal development as the Informational Society, as opposed to the production society that has been characteristic of the institutional system ever since the advent of the industrial revolution. In the narrower sense, the information society as a term has primarily been employed when referring to the progress of modern technology and, more importantly, the impact it has had on the society's institutional structure, culture, and general developmental patterns. Speaking in terms of economics analysis, information today is an important resource, something scarce and valuable, an input underlying or facilitating the production of goods and services. 

The Efficient Managerial Process & Informational Efficiency.

The literature thus distinguishes between the final goods or products and the inputs or resources that participate in their production. One other aspect pertinent to the performance of any economic or social system over and above the production of goods is the distribution of goods. The efficient economic system is intended to secure a most optimal allocation of scarce resources to their best uses, which is oftentimes traced to the notion of comparative advantage. The latter stipulates that all resources (human, capital, informational or otherwise) should specialize in producing something they are relatively best at. Relatively is key here, as, for instance, system A may produce everything better than system B can. However, both have focuses they are relatively better at. 

The whole point is about maximizing the total product by specializing according to the comparative advantage principle, rather than trying to produce it all. However, systems that participate in this integrative framework and specialize must get the other products, which necessitates exchange or trade. Now, unlike production trade pertains to distribution. In fact, even though every system that participates in such integration will benefit, these benefits might likely be distributed asymmetrically. That depends on the ad-hoc terms of trade, or more generally on the systems (agents) relative bargaining powers. Remarkably, the specialization and trade principle applies on supranational (macro) and interfirm/intrafirm (micro) levels alike. For each of the company's subdivisions to perform every function and generate every product would be a prohibitive waste of scarce resources. On the one hand, the learning cost of increasing the scope of operations or the portfolio of products (markets the firm finds itself present in) is huge or the lag is enormous. On the other, not just any firm can afford a full-fledged portfolio of processes and products. Indeed, high initial outlay, as well as incremental fixed cost, amount to rigid entry barriers on a given market. A small firm is normally cut off from the sources of cheap financing, and hence cannot afford enter such markets. 

Another way of looking at the issue would be to see that a high proportion of fixed costs in the cost structure amounts to a high operational leverage and calls for enormous scale of operations, to secure economies of scale for cost efficiency. Indeed, the higher the fixed cost (incremental or variable cost held same), the better the firm may spread its total cost over a large enough scale, so that the average cost is decreasing. If the minimum efficiency scale is high enough, the market naturally can keep only so many firms, which erects entry barriers. Now that we have addressed the issue of scale economies, one caveat would come appropriate at this point. One really need distinguish between the three different types of processes: constant returns to scale (CRS), decreasing returns to scale (DRS), and increasing returns to scale (IRS).[Varian, 1992; Ch. 2] All of these suggest that more will be produced, the more inputs are consumed in the process. However, what distinguishes these is the second-order conditions, or acceleration rates of production. 

The first-order conditions (or indeed the first derivative, if the process could be visualized as a smooth differentiable function) account for mere increments to scale, which are always positive-or why would one produce at higher scales in the first place? However, while the CRS process may be broken down into an arbitrary number of smaller subdivisions without compromising the aggregate output, not so for the DRS and IRS processes. For them, the incremental production is positive too, yet output grows at an accelerating versus decelerating rate in the IRS and DRS cases respectively. Which implies, it pays to increase the scale of production within a single IRS unit because of the scale economies, and it clearly is worth considering breaking down a DRS production among as many units as possible, because of diseconomies of scale. Constant-returns-to-scale type processes leave us indifferent between the two options. In our previous discussion, however, we had implicitly assumed that the firm qualifies as an IRS, so that it clearly is suboptimal for many horizontal subunits to exist that account for the same scope of operations.

We have thus far treated information as an input participating in the production of goods being traded. However, in the informational society, information itself as well as information products is increasingly consumed as final or semifinal goods. Software, cellular communication, and a penetrating role attributed to the Internet all refer to the stage in which the society is mature enough to consume more information and related products. This trend, however, must be a two-way street, because it is the markets (and for that matter the businesses operating on these markets) that supply the bulk of goods and services. The businesses, therefore, can hardly be conjectured to belong a lower level of informational involvement. We will later on dwell on the notion of networks, and on the crucial part that these inherently two-way systems play in the contemporary, information-driven society. 

How does the informational aspect pertain to individual firms, on a micro level? The managerial, or decision making process is an integral part of the organizational behavior pertinent to profit maximizing and otherwise organizational profiles. Managerial process, more specifically defined, refers to making choices under uncertainty or incomplete information that affect the going concern's competitive status in the long and in the short terms. The entrepreneurial propensity or property has to do with accepting risky strategies and growth scenarios, which is symmetric to operating in an uncertain environment. Now, because all organizations are managed by human beings (and are in fact sometimes treated as 'manned institutions'), tolerance for risk does vary depending on the managerial profile as more risk-averse versus rather risk-seeking. 

Therefore, some organizations might accept higher levels of uncertainty (or informational scarcity) in environments that other managers would not even consider entering. However, all else held same, any such decision maker would prefer having more relevant information to less, and will invest in information according to their risk or uncertainty aversion. In fact, it has become almost a convention to say that, whoever enjoys access to relevant information, is more competitive in terms of facing a lesser volatility and uncertainty as to own status on the market. Of course, over and above confidence or variability of the market share, the long-run or expected level of this share matters too. 

Although there is no unanimous sentiment in the literature or the profession as to how to properly define 'management information systems,' the domains of the term's applicability appear to be well-defined. For instance, Davis & Olson (1984) suggest these should connote any computer-aided information processing systems relevant to the organization's operations, management, and decision-making. This involves an integrated system of computerized and manual schemes whose synergy results in material economies and is probably complementary to the firm's processes. Now, it is commonplace to view a profit-maximizing company as an integrated system of assets that jointly contribute to its earning power. Indeed, only the core of assets that retain this earning capacity, in direct or indirect terms, may qualify as assets per se. 

The recent parades of consolidations and mass layoffs hint at the overall trend of downsizing and compressing the assets to the relevant core, whereby the same production units combine more functions, and the remaining employees are delegated a broader scope of responsibilities and moreover are probably the best team players and 'goodwill' builders. (Non-business organizations have their own objectives and performance benchmarks, but the analysis may easily be extended to that general case). In this light, an information system should not be treated as anything different than another earning asset, directly responsible for the firm's competitive status. However, this description has been rather general thus far. One way of zooming in on the big picture would be to point out that, any asset individually may or may not possess an apparent standalone function. But that should in no manner disqualify the business information system from being treated as an asset: the increasingly interdependent or complementary nature of assets within companies actually reveals the benefits of specialization and team play in all contexts. We will address the synergistic team play and otherwise complementarities (specificity of assets) on a number of occasions later on.


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