Understanding Information Systems as a Discipline

Information systems is an academic discipline of the complementary networks of hardware, software, users and business processes that organizations use to collect, filter, process, create and distribute data. Any specific information system aims to support planning, operations, management and decision making.

Contemporary approaches to understanding the domain of Information Systems interfaces a multi-disciplinary perspective. Essentially, in this lens, the usage of information technology is viewed through the lens of people, process and technology. So what is exactly meant when we talk about the nuances of analysis from the perspective of people, process and technology?

Information_Systems In each of these perspective, we attempt to break down the case of analysis to its finer version. The image provides us a top-down plausible units of analysis when we are considering such a perspective of analysis of Information Systems, which again are popularly called Management Information Systems.

Some researchers of the domain clearly demarcate between information systems, computer systems (or the discipline of Information Technology), and business processes (Denoted by functions, workflows and routines from an Operations Management perspective). Information systems typically include an ICT component but are not purely concerned with ICT, focusing instead on the end use of information technology. Information systems are also different from business processes as it interfaces with the same and help to control the performance of business processes. To this effect, the three inter-disciplinary focus are very different and yet converge to create the unique discipline of Information Systems.

Information_Systems_Perspectives

At a multi-disciplinary level, different theories are utilized to explore the different challenges within this domain. For example, theories of consumer behavior may be drawn from Marketing Management, while theories may also be drawn from Sociology and Psycology to understand the different ways and outcomes when people engage and interact with information systems to achieve any desirable (or not so desirable) outcome. Further theories of operations management, operations research and management science may be explored extensively to developed decision support systems and model the business processes effectively while adopting information systems, entirely from scratch or even to improve upon the existing systems. Again theories of economics may be used to explore the trade-offs of decision making associated with the use of information systems in different context. One such area could be the exploration of how information technology affects the buyer supplier network structure (or even the markets and hierarchies) after its adoption by the different stake-holders. Similarly, how information assimilation affects the dynamics of competition and markets is an interesting domain which has been explored in information systems literature. Again, in these emerging days of Web 2.0 and Social Media, how ICTs facilitate the sharing of information (through viral Facebook and Twitter messages) and subsequently affect the society and polity, would cut through disciplines like consumer behavior, sociology and political science.

Essentially, while some limited version may look at Information systems as a perspective of a machine consuming some raw inputs (raw data) and converting it into an useful output (meaningful information or even knowledge), the discipline entails so much more from the perspective of different actors.

Analysing_Information_Data

Indeed we are witnessing an information era where information is transcending the way organizations, its human stake-holders and its internal “business rules” are being marshaled by the information and communication technologies. Now how it affects the finer print of the social, organizational and political entities is something to analyze while approaching the domain.

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