Information Management and Systems
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Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
It is defined as the discipline that covers several applications including people,procedures and technologies.these a ppliocations aree collectively reffered to as information systems.
Information Systems Management (ISM) are distinct from the normal information systems in the sense that they are capable of analyzing other information sytems that are apllied in operational activities of an organization.It is a planned system of perfoming collection,storingand dissemination of data in the form of the required information for carrying out necessary management functions.
In the academic world the term is used to refer to,a group of information management methods twined to the automation of human decision making.Such systems include;Expert Systems,excecutive information Systems and Decicion Support Systems.
ISM includes the application of Information Technology in support of major functions and activities in an organization or institution.ISM supports processes of:Storage,collection,manipulation,utilization and distribution of information resources of an organization.Manual processes are also included in an information system.This term is used as a synonym for information that are computer-based.
Information systems will often deal with dockets such as use,development and management of an organization’s information technology infrastructure. It includes systems that are not intended for decision making
Currently the focus of companies has shifted from product oriented to information oriented.this means that there is more competition in process and innovation,by market operators, rather than product.There is much emphasis on the production process and services that accompanies the process of production.
One of the most valued asset of a company is it’s information. This calls for a very strong information infrastructure.Therefore the study of information systems is keen on why and how technology can be put into excellent use in service to information flow within an organization.
A great majority of information systems are developed for people. This peole employ the same in various areas including functional areas such as;human resource,marketing,finance,accounting etc.ISM professionals require a strong mixture of both technical and business knowledge for them to develop an information system that meets the needs of an organization. They must understand organization’s objectives,its structures,operations and financial implications that are relative to these factors.Good understanding of these factors will give the ISM professionals a good base for effective communication with users before designing systems that will support their needs.It is also a good attribute of an ISM manager or professional to be updated with the evolving information technologies.They should posses a strong foundation of technical skills so as to select appropriate technologies and implementation of computer based information system.
In the current workplace,it is definite that technology works both effectively and reliably. ISM professionals have a key role in implementing technology within organizations.
Infomation Systems Managers plan,network,and direct research and facilitate all computer related duties of firms.They are functional in determining both business and technical goals during consultation with the top management.They make detailed plans in accomplishing these goals.They give directions to other computer related workers e.g computer programmers, system analysts etc.They also aid in planning and coordinating activities like installation and upgrading of hardware and software,developing computer networks,implementation of internet and intranet sites and systems designing.They are involved with upkeep,security and mantainance of networks.They have a role in analyzing the computer and information needs of the organizations they work with from a strategic and operational persp[ective.Hence determining the longrange personnel and equipment requirements.Their duties also include assigning and reviewing their surbodinates’ work.They are also supposed to ensure that their organizations do not lag behind competitors.
End users of a system have different information needs depending on what he/she is trying to find,why she/he is trying to find and when she/he is trying to find the information.An example is the design of a staff directory,where there is an assumption that most users will be able to perfoam known item searching.Thet the user knows exactly what he is looking for,e.g Kerry’s phone number.He has necessary terms to articulate the need,e.g he knows Kerry’s second name is Brown and that’s what he will search under.And finally he knows that that staff directory exists and that it’s the right place to look.
Identification of information needs is important in designing an information system and to the provision of relative information services.For effective identification of information needs one has to identify the different methods for gathering information on various factors influencing those needs.A selection depending on the needs of the user is necessary.A step by step procedure is necessary in identifying information needs of most users.a careful analysis is to be made to distinguish the actual needs from the data gathered. The information needs identifierwill be able to discover, as a bye product, several ideas, tools, methods and techniques of satisfying the users in meeting their needs.At present,insufficient self sufficiency constitutes information needs. These information needs represent vacuums in the current knowledge of the enduser. Besides the expressed or articulated needs, there exists unexpressed needs which the user is aware of but will not like to express. The other category of need is the dormant need which the user is not aware of. But the information services provider might be able to bring to light these needs . A need is specific.It is generally time bound,either immediate or deferred.Information provided for a need will be used.Information provided may also be used or may not be used. Information needs depend on:
- Area of interest
- Hierarchical position of individuals
- work activity
- need to take a decision
- Availability of facilities.
- Need to seek new ideas
- Motivation factors for information needs
- Need to establish priority for recovery etc
Information needs are also affected by a variety of factors including:
- The consequences of information
- Range of information sources available
- Background,professional,motivational orientation
- Uses of which information will be used.
- The social, political, economic, legal and regulatory systems surrounding the user
Information needs identification is also somewhat a complex process. Some of the factors rendering it complex include:
- Original documents needed by researchers
- Individual preferences and behavioural aspects add a further dimension.
- Same information is perceived differently by users
- Information is put to different uses
- Need is satisfied by having access to the identified information in a particular package and form, and at a suitable time
- The flow of information and channels of communication are complex and add to the complexity
The main steps in the process of identifying information needs is shown below:
- Studying the subject(s) of interest to the organization and or User(s
- Studying the organisation and its environs
- Studying the immediate environment of the User(s)
- Studying the User(s)
- Performing a formal interview
- Identifying and recording of the information needs
- Analysing and refining the identified information needs.
Preparation for identifying information needs
A very undefined situation is faced maybe only by the information professionals. They are unable to prescribe the required information to their clientele in the way the other professionals like physicians prescribe.Such prescriptions have a final say and authority, and which are embraced by the clients.Prescription is authoritative mainly because the clients of physicians and other professionals are seeking advice in a field which they themselves are ignorant of. But the clients of information professionals are more often specialists in the areas they seek information and professional advice. The main reason why there are difficulties experienced by the information professionals in distinguishing the wishes or the desires from the actual needs of the users . Therefore the information professional has to prepare himself/ herself in such a way as to create confidence in the users about his/ her professional capabilities. It will also be important if the investigation of information needs is to be successful, it is above all good to bear in mind that the person chosen to be the information needs identifier will need to be acceptable at all levels of users and have credibility. most guidelines in the form of a step by step procedure to identify information needs is presented incorporating the steps to be taken by the information system adentifier to equip himself/ herself for this investigative work.
Study of subjects
An information needs identifier must study the subjects of interest to the organization,users, and identify the central, peripheral and supporting areas.The result of such a study would produce a ‘handbook’ on the subject to guide further work of identifying the information needs. This handbook is not a technical manual for technical personnel but a handy tool for the information professional. Such a handbook would present a bird’s eye view of the subject giving the following :
Definitions of the subject concerned, collected from different authoritative sources bringing out the similarities and differences; scope of the subject giving definitions and scope of divisions and subdivisions; scope of the subjects that are ‘tool subjects’ applicable to the subject concerned for its development; and scope of the subject in terms of the areas/subjects where the subject concerned is applied for their development. The different types of classification of the subject concerned including special subject classifications, taxonomic classifications, general document classifications, and vocabulary control tools such as thesaurus. The historical development of the subject giving the landmarks (significant contributions) under the broad divisions and subdivisions; the trend of research in the subject concerned as revealed in review documents marking out the broad areas in which current researches are in progress; and the trend of education and training in the subject concerned. The important sources of information such as documentary sources , institutional sources and human sources; and the information transfer process among the users of information on the subject.
After carrying out such a study of subject the Information Needs Identifier becomes confident enough to continue the work of identifying the information needs as he is exposed to the technical terminology and structure of the subject.
Study the organization and its environment
This is the second step in studying the organisation and its environment and preparing a profile for the organisation. Here, it is helpful for the information need identifier to know the type of the organisation for example, whether it is a corporate office, business or industrial enterprise and also differentiate whether it is public sector or private sector government or non government organisation, profit making or not for profit organisation, so as to identify the different types and styles of management and decision making processes which have a bearing on the information needs. As for this purpose, the information need identifier has to study the overall objectives, functions and the factors that affect the functions of the organisation concerned. Hence the organization’s chart, the functions/ activities chart, annual reports, project reports, internal reports and other publications of the organisation would have to be studied. It will be of benefit to the information need identifier to attend special training courses/ orientation programmes usually organised for the benefit of new employees/ entrants/ management trainees by the organisation. The training courses are usually in the form of a series of lectures by senior personnel in the organisation spread over a period of three to six months. It would cover all subjects relating to the work of the organisation the basic scientific and technical background and detailed aspects of the engineering and technology of production. Further the participants would be taken to the different divisions of the organisation for observation and practical knowledge of the different items of work.
- Further, the environment in which the organisation works and its impact would have to be analysed. An information need identifier may have to study the super ordinate organisation, its objectives, functions etc., forming the environment and the factors that may affect the particular organisation concerned. Incase of a national organisation, then the country’s political, social, economical and technological environment having a bearing on the organisation as well as government regulatory environment would have to be taken note of.
Study of the users specific environment
At this point, it may be necessary to define in an ordely manner, the category of users whose information needs are to be identified. The Information need identifier must get himself well acquainted with the department of the individual user before conducting any actual interview with the user for the identification of his/her information needs. Most of the aspects to be covered in this study are:
- History of the concerned department, its objectives and functions.
- Organisational structure.
- Details of products and/ or processes of manufacture and/ or research.
- Details of plant, machinery, equipment, testing and other facilities.
- Scope of each discernible activity of the department.
- Information flow in the functioning of the department.
- Present sources of information and the channels and media used in the departments.
- Types of information services being used in the departments.
- Specific subjects on which information is being sought including type of information and kind of presentation required.
- Recent significant events and problems solved and the way they are solved including specific information used in solving the problems.
- Any other items of interest such as on going projects, training programmes etc., in the unit.
Some of the sources that are to be studied for this purpose include the monthly/ quarterly/ annual reports by and on the department/ unit and its functions, minutes of meetings on and by the department/ unit, progress reports, project reports, all investigation/ review reports, performance reports, correspondence, proposals by and on the department, records of equipment, machinery and other facilities etc. It may be necessary for the INI to spend sufficient time in the user’s department to understand and acquaint himself with the working of the department, its organisational set up, the various activities etc., and thereby understand the situation in which the user is operating. This understanding will help the INI to easily correlate the user’s information needs in relation to his environment/ situation and enable the INI to grasp what the user is intending to communicate during any future interview with the user.
Study of the user
Users often tend to classify their wants/ interests into fragmented shopping lists, whereas their true needs may only be identified from a greater understanding of the user as a person . Therefore,emphasis should be placed on the basic needs of the individual as person . As such, it is essential that information need identifier should attempt to perceive the users’ problems as holistically as possible. If this is acceptable, then the expression of the information need ceases to be scientifically impersonal objective entity and becomes an expression which cannot be fully communicated apart from the user.
Therefore, the next step, after the study of the users’ environment, is to study each of the individual users. Users are individuals. Nevertheless, in designing information systems, it is useful to classify groups of users. In relation to a specific existing or planned information facility, at least four different types of users can be distinguished ..
Potential user; the one who needs information which might be provided by specific services of the information facility.
Expected user; the one who is known to have the intent of using certain information services (subscriber to a specific information service such as an abstracting service).
Actual User; the one who has actually used an information service regardless of whether any advantage was derived from it or not.
Beneficiary; the one who derives measurable advantage from information services.
Turning a potential user into an actual user and into a beneficiary should of course be the aim of planners, designers and operators of information systems.
Users may be further classified into the following broad functional groups :
- Top Management which is responsible for policy making, strategic/ long range planning regarding mergers, acquisitions, capitals, new product lines.
- Scientists responsible for research, innovation, technical know how generation etc.
- Middle Management responsible for solving problems and making decisions required to fulfill the goals and implement policies set up by the top management.
- Supervisors responsible for ensuring that the products and services are produced on time, within the cost and quality level set.
- Operating Personnel / Technicians responsible for routine operations.
Moreover, in an organisation setting, a user may play different specific work roles in performing his duties and in carrying out his functions and responsibilities. Some of the specific roles managers play, for instance include :
- Team Leader
- Monitor/ Controller
- Disseminator Spokesman
- Trouble shooter
- Resource allocator
- Resource Seeker
- Decision Maker.
Some of the communication activities of a manager and the percentage of events for each of the activities are given below:
- Receiving information, facts 27.8 %
- Receiving request for information, facts 8.0 %
- Receiving request for action 5.1 %
- Receiving request for approval 1.1 %
- Receiving opinion 0.7 %
- Receiving request for opinion 0.4 %
- Receiving applications for positions 0.4 %
- Receiving invitation 0.4 %
- Giving information, facts 12.1 %
- Giving opinions 0.7 %
- Giving instructions 0.7 %
- Seeking information, facts 9.2 %
- Requesting action 3.3 %
- Seeking opinion 0.4 %
- Checking and signing documents 6.6 %
- Circulating and moving documents 2.6 %
- Making notes and writing 1.5 %
- Interviewing 1.1 %
- Discussing interviewees 0.7 %
- Introducing speaker 0.4 %
- Participating in decision making 0.4 %
- Delaying response 0.4 %
- General discussion, meetings 12.8 %
- Complex events 1.8 %
- Others 1.5 %
Further an individual may form a node in the following three directions of information flow in the organisation:
- Communicating down the line which is basically of five types :
- Giving job instructions and specific task directives.
- Job rationale information that is designed to produce understanding of the task and its relation to other organisational tasks.
- Information about organizational procedures and practices.
- Feedback to the subordinate about their performance.
- Indoctrination of goals information of an ideological character to inculcate a sense of mission.
- Communicating upward which may be reduced to what people say:
- about themselves, their performance and their problems;
- about others and their problems;
- about organisational policies and practices; and
- about what needs to be done and how.
- Horizontally communicating with colleagues in the same hierarchical level.
A user, in his professional capacity, is in continuous interaction with:
- his culture that sets values and policies, and other influences and attitude.
- formal organisations such as his employing organization.
- invisible colleges, gate keepers as a type of reference group sufficiently distinguished by its membership criteria and communication patterns to warrant separate identification.
- the political system that can promote or inhibit activity and information flow.
- the legal and economic systems that impose legal and financial restraints on access to information.
- his work team, a sub system of the organisation that is distinguished because of interpersonal characteristics.
- himself, that is his cognitive system, motivations, attitudes etc
- formal information systems such as libraries and information centres.
- membership groups like professional societies that control information channels
- reference group made up of individuals having similar specialisation or interests but who are not necessarily in the same membership groups.
Users who find themselves in such complex situations may have to be studied using a combination of various direct and indirect methods.
Direct methods of user study are:
- Personal informal contacts with the user.
- Observing the user while at discussion with his colleagues;
- Survey using questionnaire
- Dialogue with the user while rendering information services to him/her
- Observing the user at his work spot (office, laboratory, factory, group meeting etc.)
- Interviewing the user, his supervisors, his subordinates, his personal secretary/assistant or his colleagues of co ordinate status.
- Observing the user while using information sources and services.
- Observing the user while giving a lecture/demonstration etc.
Indirect methods include:
- Study of diary record of activities/ functions/ events maintained by the user.
- Study of citations received by the user’s publications
- Study of citations/ references given in the user’s publications
- Study of papers, books etc., published by the user
- Study of job description of the user
- Analysis of user’s response/ feedback to information services
- Analysis of reference queries received from the user
- Study of documents used by the user
- Analysis of the patents, designs etc., held by the user
- Scanning correspondence and reports prepared and received by the user
Advantages of direct observation are that the information need identifier comes in direct and personal contact with the user in a dialogue, interview or discussion and that it provides an opportunity for observing the users in their normal environment. Therefore direct observation provides information on the personality and behaviour pattern of the user in different action situations. A disadvantage of the direct observation is that it so much depends on the observer’s own capability and adequacy in carrying out such observational studies. Inadequacies may come up in professional attainments, ability in communicating, maturity, tact and knowledge of and skill in carrying out an observational studies. It is also necessary to note that the inferences drawn from the observations may have incidence of subjective element of the observer.
The analysis and inferences from indirect studies are based on the work done by the users which is based on serious thought on their part and is not merely some kind of off hand ad hoc statements.Therefore the records of users’ is adequate in providence of a more reliable indication of his/her subject interests, level of understanding, orientation, up to date in the subject and the skill to express ideas in writing for communication with peers. These studies also provide adequate time for analysis.The data collected is about a situation at a point in time and in a particular context which is to be extrapolated to a dynamic changing situation.Users are a living, developing beings, working in a system which itself is subjected to constant change.Few methods of study of users are discussed below:
Preliminary survey of users.
To begin with it is very useful to start with a survey of users.key attributes of a user may be grouped as follows:
Normal field of specialisation Specific topics of interest within the field of specialisation
Subjects closely related to the above
Academic background and orientation
Educational background Professional background Background of research, developmental activity, management activity etc.
Psychological attributes, particularly
Temperament Reception and communication of ideas Attitudes towards professional team mates, colleagues, etc., in the organisation
Ability to express ideas precisely
Attitude to using and acquiring ability to use the tools and techniques of information services
Specifically the information need identifier would need information about the user relating to the following :
- Foreign language competence.
- Types of reports both internal and external received and sent by the user Types of reports both internal and external – which the user is not receiving but would like to receive
- Functions, activities, tasks (job description) and responsibilities (specific work roles) in the organisation;
- Authors and Corporate Bodies, whose works are of interest
- Education, training and special expertise.
- Membership in professional bodies
- Channels of communication between the user and other departments/ personnel of the organisation Outside organisations with which the user has academic or professional contacts
- Membership in committees, task groups
- Periodicals and other information services received through membership
- Subject and associated interests specific subjects, allied subjects
- Annual Reviews and other Series publications in which interested.
- Periodicals often containing articles of interest which are to be specifically notified
- Kinds of information media preferred by the user;
- Time most convenient to the user to receive information services
- Position of the user in the organization.
- Types of information notices/ services preferred by the user
- Approximate time available to the user in a day or week for reading
Also information about the user may be obtained by a study of his/ her resume.Information need identifier should also carryout surveys using questionnaires for collecting such preliminary information about the users. He should fill up the questionnaire himself after following the steps of studying the subject, the organization, the specific department and the resume of the user. This would show some gaps in the resume and would help concentrate on information not available from it. A shortcoming with the questionnaire method is the low return rate.
Study of Work Diary Maintained by the User
Users may maintain a diary about their work for their own use. It records;
- important activities like filing of license applications, critical events and incidents
- comments on how improvement could be achieved in the organization
- discussions/ meetings with experts and / or with colleagues, for specific problems and their solution
- the consultants/ consultancy organisations preferred
- method of solution or probable reasons for non solution
- route of search for specific information, kinds of documents/ sources/ services/ channels/ media consulted and used and their usefulness
- procedures, techniques s/he has used and/ or has planned to use
- details of projects s/he is engaged in
- working details
- cases of problems faced
- results arrived at
Some organisations it is mandatory that such a diary or record is maintained by each member of staff above a certain level as a part of the project routine, in a general prescribed form. Users to be studied should be asked to maintain a diary of all important events, cases of problems faced, method of solution, the specific information sources/ services/ channels/ media used and their usefulness. Also, they may be asked to record each and every event in the order of occurrence. Such a diary record, properly designed and carefully maintained can be a source of useful information on the specific topics of interest to the user.The methods and techniques s/he has used or planned to use in his work; the kinds of documents, information sources and services s/he uses extensively; the extent of time he normally spends in reading books, articles, reports etc., in discussion with colleagues, experts; and the kind of personal information services s/he prefers. Occassionally it may give some information on the persons in the organisation and outside it, with whom he usually associates himself with.
Survey of information sources used
The next step is to make a study of the different sources of information/ information services being used by the users. This aim of this study is to bring out the relevance of different types of sources/ services, the frequency of use, the availability/ accessibility of the s
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