Selecting a Management Information System
A management information system or MIS is used to assist in the analyses and formulation of business strategy, as well as facilitating operational objectives. Selection of an MIS can help increase understanding and control in an organisation and can be scaled to suit the complexity of most modern businesses. If the right MIS is selected and it is implemented correctly it can provide a competitive advantage for the organisations utilising it.
Position of MIS in any organisation
It is important to consider at what level a management information system fits into an organisation’s structure. An MIS may not hold detailed data of all of the company’s transactional operations, but it will hold data suitable to support management in their decision making process. The data for an MIS is often extracted from the results of the more detailed transactional data.
While the above example shows the separation between an MIS and other types of information systems, it is important to note that there may be an overlap in terms of a systems ability to work at other levels of an organisation, dependent upon its features, data set and flexibility.
Generally as information systems move up an organisations hierarchy flexibility increases. So an MIS should represents a balance between structure and flexibility to best accommodate management at the level at which they operate.
Functions of an MIS
Data capture or input
An MIS collects relevant management information useful to its end users. This information may be collected automatically of inputted by users.
The information collected is stored usually in a database for later extraction and manipulation by then MIS. Physical hardware is required that is a suitable size to accommodate the amount of information the system holds.
Data is manipulated to make it suitable for the management audience it is being presented to. The main aim of this function to make the information meaningful for members of management.
Data and information distribution
The MIS is responsible for delivering the right information, to the right person, at right time. This can be by way of report, image, message, video or audio, but most often is done by charts or tables to facilitate the comparison of data.
Prediction / Forecasting
Historical information can be utilised using formulas and algorithms for prediction and forecasting purposes.
The information can be used for a number of business planning discussions in such areas as:
Information can be analysed to make sure that the business is meeting expectations, which presents the opportunity for control. As MIS’s are often complex systems, tracking a number of business operations, they provide management with many elements of tracking and control.
General considerations when implementing an MIS
For any information management system there are similar considerations, which include:
The first question to ask is what are the hardware requirements of the MIS in order for it to run? Although your server may meet the requirements of the system you should also consider a cost to performance ratio when selecting hardware, as increasing the server specification is likely to make your MIS perform operations faster. This speed increase can make the difference between a sluggish system and one that is responsive to an end users interaction.
Will this server you select solely support the MIS allowing it maximize the usage of the hardware resources available, or will it be on a shared server? The recommendation in most circumstances will be for your MIS to run on its own server, but cost is a factor in this decision. Also an assessment of the complexity of the system you intend to implement should be made as it will affect the resources required. Low resource applications may have minimal impact, and to a certain degree most operating systems will have a number of other programs running simultaneously in any case. The bottom line however is that putting additional applications onto the same server may reduce cost of buying new equipment, but will reduce the performance of your MIS.
In terms of hardware consideration should also be the network equipment required to deploy the MIS. How end users will access the system will be the biggest factor in this decision. Most likely the system will be accessible by a number of end users or manager, and if there is a large amount of data to be transferred between the server and end user workstations then the network infrastructure need to be setup to accommodate this. This type of client/server model has evolved with modern MIS’s making use of cloud technology. Although these cloud based systems process data in the background, they allow for in browser applications with a centralised data store to presents and manipulate information relevant to end users as they interact with the system.
A suitable operating system needs to be selected based on the requirements of the MIS, cost and performance.
- Microsoft OS – With relative popularity and ease of use may be a good selection for your company.
- Linux/Unix OS – This type of OS may present an advantage in terms of performance and cost, but may present a requirement for extra training.
- Other – Perhaps the MIS is served on its own operating platform.
Consideration should also be given to the type of database that is required by the MIS, and if this going to be located on a separate server.
When deciding on the requirements and configuration of the MIS software to meet the needs of management team, it is also important to factor in security to comply the organisations standards.
The media on which the data will be stored needs to be considered. Enterprise SSD offer fast performance, but the life span of the drive and price are factors in this decision. To further boost performance and enforce protection of data Raid can be applied to multiple drives. A configuration of at least Raid 10 would offer protection in case of a drive failure, so that the organisation could recover with no data loss.
Also there are questions as to in what format the data will be stored and will it be encrypted. Also how will data be safeguarded physically and a backup procedure should be implemented.
What corporate procedures exist that will affect the MIS and what new procedures need to be introduced to accommodate it. Perhaps security needs to be re-evaluated in the organisation to as a result of the MIS’s introduction. Also do new guidelines need to be created to assist the end users in the day to day operation of the system?
Linked in part to procedures, different type of people associated with the system need to be considered. Guidelines and security will of course differ dependant up the types of end user, for instance you may have:
- Administrators – User responsible to for installation, configuration and maintenance.
- Data Operatives – Users who will manual keying information which cannot be gathered automatically into the system.
- Managers – Seen as the ultimate end user of the system.
Following the above will help prepare you for the key considerations which need to be addressed when selecting an MIS. Considering these preliminary areas and understanding how a new MIS will fit into your organisation in advance will help you to speed up the implementation process, and reduce the chance of overlooking important aspects of adapting such a system. It will also allow your senior management and your IT team plan the system in order to maximise on the corporate advantage it will bring to your organisation.
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