Information systems are developed for different purposes, depending on the needs of human users and the business. Transaction processing systems (TPS) function at the operational level of the organization; office automation systems (OAS) and knowledge work systems (KWS) support work at the knowledge level. Higher-level systems include management information systems (MIS) and decision support systems (DSS). Expert systems apply the expertise of decision makers to solve specific, structured problems. On the strategic level of management we find executive support systems (ESS). Group decision support systems (GDSS) and the more generally described computer-supported collaborative work systems (CSCWS) aid group-level decision making of a semistructured or unstructured variety.
The variety of information systems that analysts may develop is shown in the figure below. Notice that the figure presents these systems from the bottom up, indicating that the operational, or lowest, level of the organization is supported by TPS, and the strategic, or highest, level of semistructured and unstructured decisions is supported by ESS, GDSS, and CSCWS at the top. This text uses the terms management information systems, information systems (IS), computerized information systems, and computerized business information systems interchangeably to denote computerized information systems that support the broadest range of user interactions with technologies and business activities through the information they produce in organizational contexts.
Transaction Processing Systems
Transaction processing systems (TPS) are computerized information systems that were developed to process large amounts of data for routine business transactions such as payroll and inventory. A TPS eliminates the tedium of necessary operational transactions and reduces the time once required to perform them manually, although people must still input data to computerized systems.
Transaction processing systems are boundary-spanning systems that permit the organization to interact with external environments. Because managers look to the data generated by the TPS for up-to-the-minute information about what is happening in their companies, it is essential to the day-to-day operations of business that these systems function smoothly and without interruption.
A systems analyst may be involved with any or all of these systems.
Office Automation Systems and Knowledge Work Systems
At the knowledge level of the organization are two classes of systems. Office automation systems (OAS) support data workers, who do not usually create new knowledge but rather analyze information to transform data or manipulate it in some way before sharing it with, or formally disseminating it throughout, the organization and, sometimes, beyond. Familiar aspects of OAS include word processing, spreadsheets, desktop publishing, electronic scheduling, and communication through voice mail, email (electronic mail), and teleconferencing.
Knowledge work systems (KWS) support professional workers such as scientists, engineers, and doctors by aiding them in their efforts to create new knowledge (often in teams) and by allowing them to contribute it to their organization or to society at large.
Management Information Systems
Management information systems (MIS) do not replace transaction processing systems; rather, all MIS include transaction processing. MIS are computerized information systems that work because of the purposeful interaction between people and computers. By requiring people, software, and hardware to function in concert, management information systems support users in accomplishing a broader spectrum of organizational tasks than transaction processing systems, including decision analysis and decision making.
To access information, users of the management information system share a common database. The database stores both data and models that help the user interact with, interpret, and apply that data. Management information systems output information that is used in decision making. A management information system can also help integrate some of the computerized information functions of a business.
Decision Support Systems
A higher-level class of computerized information systems is decision support systems (DSS). DSS are similar to the traditional management information system because they both depend on a database as a source of data. A decision support system departs from the traditional management information system because it emphasizes the support of decision making in all its phases, although the actual decision is still the exclusive province of the decision maker. Decision support systems are more closely tailored to the person or group using them than is a traditional management information system. Sometimes they are discussed as systems that focus on business intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems
Artificial intelligence (AI) can be considered the overarching field for expert systems. The general thrust of AI has been to develop machines that behave intelligently. Two avenues of AI research are (1) understanding natural language and (2) analyzing the ability to reason through a problem to its logical conclusion. Expert systems use the approaches of AI reasoning to solve the problems put to them by business (and other) users.
Expert systems are a very special class of information system that has been made practicable for use by business as a result of widespread availability of hardware and software such as personal computers (PCs) and expert system shells. An expert system (also called a knowledge-based system) effectively captures and uses the knowledge of a human expert or experts for solving a particular problem experienced in an organization. Notice that unlike DSS, which leave the ultimate judgment to the decision maker, an expert system selects the best solution to a problem or a specific class of problems.
The basic components of an expert system are the knowledge base, an inference engine connecting the user with the system by processing queries via languages such as structured query language (SQL), and the user interface. People called knowledge engineers capture the expertise of experts, build a computer system that includes this expert knowledge, and then implement it.
Group Decision Support Systems and Computer-Supported Collaborative Work Systems
Organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on groups or teams to make decisions together. When groups make semistructured or unstructured decisions, a group decision support system may afford a solution. Group decision support systems (GDSS), which are used in special rooms equipped in a number of different configurations, permit group members to interact with electronic support—often in the form of specialized software—and a special group facilitator. Group decision support systems are intended to bring a group together to solve a problem with the help of various supports such as polling, questionnaires, brainstorming, and scenario creation. GDSS software can be designed to minimize typical negative group behaviors such as lack of participation due to fear of reprisal for expressing an unpopular or contested viewpoint, domination by vocal group members, and “group think” decision making. Sometimes GDSS are discussed under the more general term computer-supported collaborative work systems (CSCWS), which might include software support called groupware for team collaboration via networked computers. Group decision support systems can also be used in a virtual setting.
Executive Support Systems
When executives turn to the computer, they are often looking for ways to help them make decisions on the strategic level. Executive support systems (ESS) help executives organize their interactions with the external environment by providing graphics and communications technologies in accessible places such as boardrooms or personal corporate offices. Although ESS rely on the information generated by TPS and MIS, executive support systems help their users address unstructured decision problems, which are not application specific, by creating an environment that helps them think about strategic problems in an informed way. ESS extend and support the capabilities of executives, permitting them to make sense of their environments.
- Types of Systems
- Integrating Technologies for Systems
- Need for Systems Analysis and Design
- Roles of the Systems Analyst
- The Systems Development Life Cycle
- Using Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE) Tools
- The Agile Approach
- Object-Oriented Systems Analysis and Design & Choosing Which Systems Development Method to Use