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What Is an Information System?

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  • 0:01 Information Systems
  • 0:53 Technology
  • 2:44 People
  • 3:43 Process
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Information systems are an integral part of businesses. But what, exactly, is an information system? In this lesson, we'll define information systems and then examine the three main components of an information system.

Information Systems

Suneeta is the CIO, or Chief Information Officer, of Hats Galore, LLC. She's in charge of the entire information system's department of her company. That means she has to see to it that technology runs smoothly, is used correctly, and aligns with the company's goals. That's a lot! Suneeta wants to understand better what components go into information systems.

First, though, Suneeta needs to understand exactly what the term information systems means. There are many definitions, but most include the idea that information systems is at the intersection of technology, people and processes within an organization. That is, it combines the components of people, technology and process to achieve a goal. To help Suneeta understand what these three components are, let's look closer at each one.

Technology

As the CIO of her company, much of Suneeta's job involves dealing with technology. In terms of information systems, technology is hardware, software, data and network communication. Hardware is the physical piece of technology, like a computer, tablet or phone. If you can take a hammer to a piece of technology, it's probably hardware.

Software, on the other hand, is a program that runs within hardware. For example, Suneeta has a special software that allows her to see which employees are logged onto their computers at any given time. Suneeta's favorite game on her phone, her spreadsheet app and her Internet browser are all examples of software.

Data is the collection of information into what's called a database. As we mentioned, Suneeta can see which employees are logged on at any given time. That's pretty useful information if she wants to know what people are doing right this moment. But if she collects that information over time, she can see which employees are using their computers the most. Further data that can be even more useful to Suneeta's company includes sales information, such as who has bought what products and what their average customer is like. For example, perhaps the average Hats Galore customer is in their thirties, married and lives a busy lifestyle. Knowing that could help the company by telling them that they need to market their hats in a certain way and/or provide a quick and easy check-out process for the busy customers.

Finally, network communication involves the tools that allow people to communicate electronically, such as via email. This is done through software just like data is often collected and stored through software, but it is in an integral part of a company's function, so it should be considered on its own as an element of technology. All of the different types of technology share one major thing. They involve the use of nonhuman tools to make human work easier, more efficient and more effective.

People

Some days, Suneeta thinks that if all she had to do was manage technology, her job would be a piece of cake. But that's not the only component in information systems, and it's not the only part of Suneeta's department. In fact, perhaps the most central key of information systems are people, including help desk workers, programmers, the CIO and other key players in the information systems department. These people have different functions. For example, Suneeta's job as CIO is very different from the job of a help desk worker who is tasked with fixing problems for employees at Hats Galore. And the help desk workers job is very different than that of a programmer, who designs software and websites for the company.

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