Features and functions of information systems

The features and functions of information systems play a key role in helping businesses to make better, more informed decisions. Information systems aren’t merely computers, instead they involve a combination of data, technology and people.

Features of information systems

When data is entered in to an information system, it has to be entered in a way that can be managed and processed. When the data is processed it turns data into information which is then output to end users of the system. The data is generated from various sources such as different departments of a business as well as external sources. The data must be accurate or else the information output can be inaccurate or misleading.

Getting data and processing it involves the use of people in order to create information for specific uses or purposes that are relevant to a business. Staff training and skills in relation to information systems are important so that a business can get the most out of its information system.

The hardware that IT systems use has to be capable of running the software required by the business and also be capable of handling a large amount of data and information processing. The hardware should be kept up to date which enables the fast capture, storage and use of data.

The software that is used by businesses and the staff has to have the necessary features and functionality so that it can produce and use the information created by a business. The software should also have the features necessary for staff to carry out their work efficiently, for example: to analyse and process data and reports.

The information that is produced by various departments in a business needs to be shared around a business as it will be used for different purposes. For doing this the telecommunications in a business needs to be effective so that the information shared and distributed goes to the correct destination after being processed.

Functions of information systems

There are various functions of information systems like the collection of input data, storage, processing, and producing the output information. The functions also control the information flow as well as the feedback loop. The systems can be also open and closed systems.

The input in an information system has two types:

  • Output is created with detailed data which is stored and processed
  • The specification of what type of analysis is done must be specified by the user

The storage of Data should be done at the most detailed level possible. Regular backups and various summaries should be completed to avoid losing any important data due to errors. The backups should also be stored in a geographically different location to avoid any major disasters such as flooding or fires etc.. which could impact on both the original data storage and the backup data storage.

A process is a function which transforms data into information. A simple process would be adding up a number of items that is sold by a business by a variable such as the location of a store or the product or the time and date. More complex processes are the functions that perform calculations and can make assumptions about missing data in order to create information from the data available.

Feedback / control loops
A feedback / control loop is what happens to output when it is processed and produced. The system continuously repeats the same processes depending on the output of the last loop which can then impact on the input of the next data in to the loop. For example if a business might want to buy stock from a supplier if the stock level reaches 10. The system might check stock levels every hour (in a loop) and if the stock level is above 10, the loop continues without action until the point it hits 10 or under at which stage the command gets executed and new stock is ordered.

There are two types of output in this context, graphical and textual:

  • Graphical output is usually used to look at information on a larger scale which is then presented as charts, graphs, diagrams and pictures.
  • Textual output is information on a smaller scale which is presented as charters, text or numbers.

Open and closed systems
The type of information systems can be defined as open or closed systems depending on how they react and interact with their environments:

  • An open system will interact fully with its environment and is capable of handling any unexpected event as it monitors the environment which means that it can adapt the output depending on the circumstances.
  • A closed system is separated and secluded from the environment which means they do not interact with it much. A closed system only interacts with the environment when it is planned and predicted beforehand or as a part of an automated process. It works when it is triggered and only acts according to events. Closed systems do not have any effect on external environments. An automatic payroll calculator would be triggered by an event such as payroll day.