IT Systems & E-Learning #1: Decision support systems for business processes
IT Systems & E-Learning #2: Obtain Information
IT Systems & E-Learning #3: Analyse Information
IT Systems & E-Learning #4: Make Decisions
IT Systems & E-Learning #5: Enterprise Information Systems

Collecting Data

The basis of all information systems is data. Here, we understand data in its broadest definition and consider all forms of data. For example, data can be structured or unstructured and data can consist of numerical values that can be compared on an ordinal scale or of strings that can only be compared with respect to their nominal value. Before we think about data in information systems and how it can help with decision making, it helps if we understand where the data is coming from. A company can obtain data relevant to its business operations from two sources: internal sources and external sources. The figure below shows some examples of the two types.

Data Types

Storing and Cleaning Data

Before the rise of the computer age, companies were using paper-based processes for their business operations. Data about sales, customers, stock levels etc. was only stored on paper and information systems were non-existent. When companies started using computers to record their business operations, data became available in electronic form and could be directly stored in so-called databases. A database is an electronic repository that can store data. A database is usually managed by a database management system (DBMS). The DBMS allows a user to specify the structure of a database, what type of data is stored in the database, and what kind of relationships exist between the data. In large datasets, it is common that not all the data is clean. There may be some inconsistencies in the data or the data may not be a correct representation of the actual state. Therefore, it is important to clean the data as much as possible. A crucial feature of a DBMS are integrity constraints, which reduce the need for cleaning to some degree. A DBMS also allows users to extract information from the database by answering queries, such as “What is the sum of all product sales we had in November”. A DBMS can be part of an information system or it can integrate with the information system by providing answers to queries coming from the information system.

Identifying Business Issues

The relationship between business issues and information systems is twofold. On the one hand, we can use information systems to get an overview of the business health and any operations that could be optimised. On the other hand, we may encounter a business problem during our normal operation and require information to address this problem, for example, if a customer tells us that one of our products is faulty, then we should refer to our database to check how many other customers have bought the same product. In either case, it is important to determine which information is relevant to the business issue and to test whether this information is reliable and valid. From the data in a database, we need to identify exactly which data is relevant. Parameters involved are time, location, language, company department, product etc. Once we have singled out the relevant data, we need to evaluate its reliability and validity for our purpose. We should investigate from which data source the data is coming, if the data is still up to date, and whether this data accurately represents the state it should represent


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