You may have heard the term "information systems" as a type of degree some people get from a college or university. Or maybe you've heard it as a general term used to describe information and communication systems in general.
Information systems are more than a degree or a general term. It is a broad term that describes how data is collected and processed within an organization.
That’s why I decided to write this article to help you learn what an information system is.
What is an Information System?
Information systems (IS) are a group of interrelated components that collect data, process the data, and disseminate the resulting information. This helps support decision-making and other administrative duties within an organization.
If that’s too long for you to digest quickly, you can think about information systems as a network of all communication channels used in an organization.
These communication channels involve:
- computer hardware and software
- the data processed by the hardware and software
- the people in charge of the hardware and software
- the processes those people undergo to make the hardware and software process data as intended
The parts involved in the communication channels described above are the components of an information system. And that’s one of the things we are going to discuss soon in this article.
Examples of Information Systems
Modern social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram and reality shows are great but less obvious examples of information systems.
On those social media platforms:
- the Twitter or Facebook app and the web version are the software
- the computers in Facebook's and Twitter's offices and their data centers are the hardware. The hardware could also involve the devices on which users access those social media platforms
- the data is the biodata of users, the tweets and posts, and the engagements they have
- the people are the employees of the social media platforms, and possibly the users
- the processes are the steps taken to convey the data and the resulting information to the users
Another example is a competitive TV reality show.
- the people are the participants and the audience
- the hardware and software are responsible for capturing the votes of the audience
- the data is the content of the show
- the processes is the ways the vote are cast – SMS, an online poll, and others
Components of Information Systems
As we discussed eariler, the components of information systems are hardware, software, data, people, and processes. Let’s look at these components one by one.
The Hardware Component of Information Systems
As you may have learned in school back in the day, hardware is any physical part of the computer that you can see, feel, and more importantly, touch.
But that’s what hardware is to the layperson. As related to information systems, hardware is the equipment and machinery. It's the input and output devices such as keyboard, mouse, system unit, monitor, scanner, printer, and every other part of the computer system.
The Software Component of Information Systems
Simply put, the software is what tells the hardware what to do. This software is computer programs you can find in installation disks and executables that you can download from the internet.
However, technology has evolved beyond software being installable files and executables in disks. These days, you get access to software embedded on a website.
For instance, back in the day, we all had to install Photoshop or Coreldraw to make graphic cards and images. Today, you get access to the same thing on canva.com.
Also, designers had to install Adobe XD on their computers, but today, you can use figma.com to design whatever you want.
The Data Component of Information Systems
Data is probably the reason why information systems exist. Every other component of information systems revolves around data.
Data is a collection of facts. It could be user data such as name, age, gender, and any other thing you can collect and save in a database.
In its original form, data does nothing. Data becomes useful and powerful when it is interpreted and analyzed. When the interpretation and analysis are done, you don’t have data anymore – what you have is information.
The People Component of Information Systems
People are the most important component of an information system. That’s because they are the ones in charge of making the hardware and software process data as they should.
Sometimes, more emphasis is laid on the technological components of information systems than those in charge of it. This should never be the case because, from the lowest to the highest ranked team member, every member of an organization is extremely important. And any organization that fails to invest in its people is bound to fail.
The Processes Component of Information System
Also called procedure, the processes component is the steps taken to achieve the desired outcome or an end goal. Just like the software tells the hardware what to do, processes are what tell the people what to do.
In many organizations, automation isn't enough to get a lot of processes done. In fact, some automation can be buggy and might end up taking more time than when you do the same thing manually. That’s one of the reasons why the people component is extremely important.
In this article, you’ve learned about what information systems are and you've seen some examples. We also discussed all the components of information systems and what they entail.
If you want to read more about information systems, you should check out this resource from pressbooks and this short article from techopedia.