Technological advancements have greatly transformed the way of conducting business throughout the world (Baltzan, Detlor & Welsh, 2012). Consequently, many organizations have turned to the use of technology and information systems (IS) in order to improve delivery of services to customers.
Arguably, the use of information systems makes it possible for organizations to successfully compete and delight customers with high-quality products and services. Information systems also allow organizations to make quick decisions and to process huge volumes of information (Gupta, 2011). Apparently, failure to take advantage of technology has led to poor performance in most organizations.
Although the use of information systems presents great opportunities for excellence, proper management is very critical. Having information systems without a good management system in place can lead to errors, poor performance, and demotivation of staff. It is thus imperative to ensure that the use of information systems is accompanied with effective management.
Role of Information Systems in Business
In the contemporary business environment, information systems are everywhere. Generally, the use of information systems permits organizations to reduce operating costs, increase productivity level, motivate employees, reach a wider market segment, make supply chain management more efficient, compete successfully, attract and retain customers, and to grow.
In addition, business enterprises use information systems to support daily activities and solve problems (Oz, 2008).
According to Baltzan, Detlor and Welsh (2012), business functions that have greatly benefited from the application of information systems are customer service, finance, sales and marketing. The use of information systems has also positively affected information technology, operations management, human resource, and security functions.
According to Shajahan (2004), the use of information systems permits organizations to share information horizontally instead of having it passed through various levels to senior managers and back to subordinates.
Information Systems Basics and the Responsibilities of Senior IS Personnel
The words data, information, and system are used almost everyday (Oz, 2008). Data refers to raw facts that may take the form of numbers, pictures or even statements. The word may be also used to imply raw materials that are used to produce information. On the other hand, information refers to processed data that has meaning within a given context.
For data to become information, it must be manipulated using various means that make it easier to understand. An information system is defined as a system consisting of hardware, software, infrastructure, people and procedures which work together to transform data into useful information. The various fragments of an information system facilitate storage, processing and dissemination of processed data.
A number of roles and responsibilities may be used by organizations to refer to information systems professionals (Baltzan, Detlor & Welsh, 2012). The Chief Information Officer (CIO) in an organization ensures that all information systems are properly aligned with the business strategy, goals, and objectives. Typically, the CIO functions as a manager, leader, and communicator of all issues related to information systems.
The CIO is expected to ensure that information systems projects are delivered to specifications and that the vision of information systems is in well aligned with the vision of the organization. The CIO is also required to communicate clearly the information systems strategy to other members of the organization.
The major responsibility of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is to ensure efficient and responsible use of information technology resources within an organization. Seemingly, most CTOs have a good understanding of information technology related problems including hardware and infrastructure. Although the role of the CTO is quite similar to that of the CIO, the CIO may have extra responsibilities.
The Chief Security Officer (CSO) is concerned with the security of information systems in an organization. He or she is responsible for the development of strategies for protecting information systems against different forms of attacks. To be effective, a CSO must be familiar with network connectivity concepts since most attackers rely on computer networks to gain unauthorized access to systems within an organization.
The Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) sees to it that ethics are followed while using information systems and information in organizations. Usually, a CPO is a lawyer with an understanding of legal issues that affect the use of information systems. Finally, the Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) manages an organization’s knowledge.
With the help of knowledge management systems, a CKO oversees the collection and distribution of knowledge. He or she must ensure effective management of both tacit and explicit knowledge.
Job Market in Canada for MIS and ICT Professionals
Research findings indicate that Canada will be faced with a shortage of important skills in the field of information systems in the coming five years (Oz, 2008). Some researchers, however, disagree with this claim and argue that information systems professionals have a very bright future in Canada. Presently, however, employers are concerned that they can not easily locate skilled information systems professionals.
According to the Information and Communications Technology Council (2013), cloud computing is the next big technology that will drive the Canadian information technology sector. Currently, these services can be accessed quite affordably by all business enterprises regardless of how big or small they are. It is thus imperative for information systems professionals as well as business enterprises to focus on investing in the technology.
The benefits associated with the use of cloud computing services include reduction of operating expenses, improved marketing, better security, wider market reach, and scalability. Debatably, the use of cloud computing services by Canadian institutions is yet to gain momentum and information systems professionals build their skills in order to meet future industry requirements.
Assessing an Organization’s Competitive Advantage
According to Oz (2008), it is imperative for every organization to distinguish itself from competitors in order to excel. An organization should have products or services that are unique and outstanding in comparison to those of existing competitors. Although an organization’s competitive advantage may last for only a short period, it allows the organization to benefit before competitors formulate counter measures.
In assessing its competitive advantage, an organization must take time to understand its operating environment. By thoroughly scanning the operating environment, an organization should be able to known the strength of its competitors and new developments in the industry that might be a threat to its survival.
As noted by Baltzan, Detlor and Welsh (2012), three tools may be used by an organization to assess its competitive advantage. They include Porter’s five forces model, three generic strategies, and value chain analysis as explained in the following subsections.
The Five Forces Model
The five forces model was developed by Michael Porter and is a vital tool in the event that organization chooses to penetrate a new market or industry.
Using this model makes it possible to know how lucrative an industry is and what to expect in terms of competition. The model enables organizations to determine the strength of the buyers, the power of suppliers, the effect of substitute products, threat of new entrants, and rivalry among the existing competitors.
Three Generic Strategies
Once an organization decides to get into a new market or industry, it must have an entry strategy. Porter conceived three generic strategies that can be used to penetrate a new industry. The three strategies are cost leadership, differentiation and focus. In cost leadership, an organization endeavors to attract customers by offering competitive prices for its products or services.
This includes providing high quality products and services at costs that are considerably lower than those of competitors. Differentiation requires an organization to develop products or services that are different from those of competitors in order to survive. Finally, an organization can choose to direct its cost or differentiation strategy to a given market segment.
Value Chain Analysis
Generally, operations in an organization may be split into different distinct parts. As a result, success depends on the ability to ensure that the different parts are closely interlinked. Based on the value chain strategy, an organization is made up of numerous processes that are essentially connected (Baltzan, Detlor & Welsh, 2012).
Arguably, an organization’s business processes as well as its value chain play a very critical role when it comes to the implementation of a business strategy.
How Business Driven Information Systems can Increase Competitiveness
By and large, the implementation of information systems in organizations is meant to support its business strategy. Obviously, the business strategy helps an organization to envision what direction it is moving. The business strategy serves as an important blue print that controls all other strategies in an organization.
The development of an information systems strategy or organizational strategy must thus be in line with the goals and objectives of the organization as outlined in the business strategy.
By implementing strategic information systems, an organization stands a better chance of improving its competitiveness. As already explained, information systems offer a supporting role and it is the business strategy that must provide direction regarding the development of information systems.
Proper use of information systems can greatly change the basis of competition to the advantage of a given organization. According to Oz (2008), using information systems can change each of the five competitive forces that shape the attractiveness of an industry.
With the increased proliferation of information technology, organizations have no choice but to embrace the use of technology to survive. The use of information systems permits organizations to develop a competitive advantage, reduce operational costs, effectively manage the supply chain, attract and retain customers, and improve communication with internal as well as external customers.
Although technology creates numerous opportunities for organizations to excel, it also presents serious challenges that must be addressed. For successful implementation of information systems, strong commitment and support from top management, users and other key stakeholders is vital.
Without such support, implementers may face serious challenges and projects may fail. Often, resistance may be encountered when end user feel left out or when proper consultations are not made prior to the implementation of an information system.
Baltzan, P., Detlor, B. & Welsh, C. (2012). Business Driven Information Systems (3d ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Gupta, H. (2011). Management Information System. New Delhi, India: International Book House PVT. LTD.
Oz, E. (2008). Management Information Systems. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Shajahan, S. (2004). Management Information Systems. New Delhi, India: New Age International.