Page 5: The whole picture
The key to successful Information Management is to link together the various components of an Information System. For example, once connected, a central copier replaces a host of desktop printers. Also, within a properly integrated system, staff can access fax services direct from PCs.
Information management is all about helping people to carry out their daily work in a more streamlined and efficient way. A well integrated information system will ensure that staff:
- spend less time on contributing/seeking/extracting/retrieving data
- undertake fewer tasks when handling information
- generate less paper-based data
- have access to a system that is secure and protects confidentiality where necessary.
Let's look at how this can happen within an integrated system. Suppose that a school's business studies teacher - Joe - urgently needs to order a new textbook that has just been published and reviewed.
- 1Joe e-mails the school office to request an electronic copy of an order form.
- 2Joe completes the electronic order form and e-mails it to the Head of Dept for approval.
- 3The Head of Dept having given approval, Joe prints off a paper copy of the order as a record, and forwards the electronic document to the school office, which must see all purchasing orders.
- 4The school administrator has a query about the exact ISBN number of the book so contacts Joe via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The VPN automatically forwards both the document and the call.
- 5Joe clears up the query and automatically sends a final copy of the order to a printer in the office. Office staff are able to send off the order (electronically) to the bookshop and to place copies of the order in the appropriate central electronic and card files.
When the book arrives, the information system's software can, in a matter of seconds, record the acquisition, make the payment, debit the appropriate accounts and update stock records.
If the system was not integrated, every stage in the process would be more complicated and prone to error. For example, Joe would need to make multiple paper copies of his order, which he would have to personally deliver to his Head of Department and the School Office for signatures. He would have to visit them at a time when they were not busy, and a letter would need to be sent with the order.
There is a good chance that at some stage the order would be left waiting for a long period on someone's desk, and there is a fair chance that important information might be missed out or lost in the process. In contrast an integrated system takes out the delay, uncertainty, and waste of resources involved in information handling.