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  • 0:01 What Is an Information System?
  • 0:34 General Purpose vs.…
  • 1:48 Typical Components of…
  • 2:40 Different Types
  • 4:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Zandbergen

Paul has a PhD from the University of British Columbia and has taught Geographic Information Systems, statistics and computer programming for 15 years.

An information system is software that helps you organize and analyze data. This makes it possible to answer questions and solve problems relevant to the mission of an organization.

What is an Information System?

Many organizations work with large amounts of data. Data are basic values or facts and are organized in a database. Many people think of data as synonymous with information; however, information actually consists of data that has been organized to help answers questions and to solve problems. An information system is defined as the software that helps organize and analyze data. So, the purpose of an information system is to turn raw data into useful information that can be used for decision making in an organization.

General Purpose vs. Specialized Information Systems

There are some general types of information systems. For example, a database management system (DBMS) is a combination of software and data that makes it possible to organize and analyze data. DBMS software is typically not designed to work with a specific organization or a specific type of analysis. Rather, it is a general-purpose information system. Another example is an electronic spreadsheet. This is a tool for basic data analysis based on formulas that define relationships among the data. For example, you can use a spreadsheet to calculate averages for a set of values or to plot the trend of a value over time.

In contrast, there are a number of specialized information systems that have been specifically designed to support a particular process within an organization or to carry out very specific analysis tasks. For example, enterprise resource planning (ERP) is an information system used to integrate the management of all internal and external information across an entire organization. Another example is a geographic information system (GIS), which is used to manage and analyze all types of geographical data. Expert systems are another example of information systems. An experts system is designed to solve complex problems by following the reasoning of an expert.

Typical Components of Information Systems

While information systems may differ in how they are used within an organization, they typically contain the following components:

  1. Hardware: Computer-based information systems use computer hardware, such as processors, monitors, keyboard and printers.
  2. Software: These are the programs used to organize, process and analyze data.
  3. Databases: Information systems work with data, organized into tables and files.
  4. Network: Different elements need to be connected to each other, especially if many different people in an organization use the same information system.
  5. Procedures: These describe how specific data are processed and analyzed in order to get the answers for which the information system is designed.

The first four components are part of the general information technology (IT) of an organization. Procedures, the fifth component, are very specific to the information needed to answer a specific question.

Different Types

The many different types of information systems can be divided into categories based on where they are used in the hierarchy of an organization.

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