DESIGNING COMPUTER BASED INFORMATION SYSTEMS
The role of Management Information Systems (MIS) in an organization can be considered as providing management with required information in right time to help in their decision processes. Information systems are not restricted to any particular functional areas like production, finance, etc. or managerial level. It covers all segments of the company covering all areas. It is also known that additional role of providing required information to external agencies has to be fulfilled.
Information Systems does not necessarily imply usage of computers. However, in today’s context, where computers have become very common, generally information systems and computers go hand in hand.
All organizations have some form of MIS. The data originating daily is captured in some form, manually or using computers, stored and processed to fulfill necessary requirements. The main issue remains whether or not the existing MIS is able to fulfill the information needs within the required time frame and provide analyzed information to managers to arrive at a better decision.
Designing of an information system is not an easy task. Firstly, specific areas where computer application may help need to be identified. For each specific area, thorough understanding of the specific system is required, followed by information needs of managers. Only then any improvements can be conceptualized. This process is popularly known as “Systems Analysis and Design”.
Systems analysis is the process of evaluating and understanding a particular system and its environment. In a way, it will involve studying the inputs to a system, outputs required and the associated processing to convert inputs to desired outputs.
Understanding the existing system is often much more difficult than expected. It requires gathering a lot of information. This will include, interviews with key personnel, study of forms and reports, norms for evaluation and quite often direct observation of production/service processes. This phase involves dealing with human beings, who quite often resist any type of change and hence co-operation to the System Analyst may be rather low.
In the context of computers, the resistance is much more as there is always a fear in the mind of the concerned persons like fear of losing jobs, more control, etc.
Systems analysis is probably the most difficult part in the development of a computer-based system. A System Analyst is expected to have:
- Knowledge of information technology
- Understanding of management process
- Ability of effective communication with different levels.
The Analyst is expected to make a compromise between available technology and current business needs.
After the information has been collected, it is required to pinpoint the weaknesses of the system, if any. The information collected is quite large and it becomes essential to use systematic tools for documentation and analysis. Some of the commonly used tools are:
- System Flow Charts
- Decision Tables
- Grid Charts
- Data Flow Diagrams
- Warnier Diagrams.