ADMN641 Information Systems Design and Integration
Lesson 1 - Introduction
“I think there is a world market for maybe 5 computers.”  Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, 1943. 
Better, Faster, More Ubiquitous

Evidence that information systems are closely intertwined with our lives is all around us. Think of a typical day in our lives. At the grocery or the drugstore, scanners read our purchases. When we talk with our travel or insurance company, the agent  frequently stops to enter information into their computer about our requests . At the automobile repair shop, extensive information is entered about the condition of our vehicle and the actions that are taken to maintain it. The examples continue. In fact it is difficult to think of a business that does not use computing and information systems. A larger concern for all of us as devotees and students of information systems is an understanding of the eventual impacts of this data capture, its storage and later processing. How might this information be used?

The grocery store might use the data to captures more of our business by sending coupons to us based upon prior purchases.  Our travel agent' s computer might notify us through a mailing of an attractive price on a vacation spot we have been waiting to visit. And the auto repair shop might send us a notice next month when our automobile' s 20,000 mile checkout is due.

It should be clear that the grocery store that does not attract us through coupons or the travel agent who is not aware of our preferences will be left behind in receiving more of our business.  It should also be clear that information systems are becoming faster, better at targeting us, and more ubiquitous.
List some other arenas where computing touches us all, not just through data capture, but also through efforts to personalize delivery of products and services.
This course is very much about learning about the "guts" of these systems. How are they created and maintained? Who does it? When? How is it done? When do we migrate to a different mode of business, whether it be a different way of capturing data, processing changes, massaging data, or analyzing trends to create sophisticated rules?

The words you are reading right now are likely a prime example of a different way of doing business. They are not coming form a Professor's mouth in the classroom, but to you digitally. What does that mean for you or perhaps your employer as the customer, for the Professor as producer, or the College Dean, as a manager and leader? Further what are the principle issues that a Chief Information Officer or IS project manager must deal with to put this new way of doing business into place?

The world of IS is changing very rapidly. The "rules" through which data processing shops created IS's  in the 1960's, 70's, 80's and even into the 90s are now becoming passé. They are often now too burdensome and slow to create systems which must blossom and produce results in a much shorter time frame. A prime example is exhibited by the textbook that you have purchased for this class. In decades past, the life cycle of a text would be measured in terms of perhaps 3 - 5 years per edition.

But now virtually all IS text book manufacturers accompany their books with CD-ROMs and continually updated World Wide Web pages. In order for publishers to stay competitive or stay ahead of the other textbook producers, they must include the 'latest' information. The cycle involved in writing, proofing, and bringing to print a textbook has just become too long. In the IT arena, information which is 3-5 years old is ridiculously outdated. Five years ago the browser you are now looking through did not exist.

A course perspective

The objectives of this course focus upon a basic understanding of ISs, and how IS’s support decision making in an organization. To support those objectives we need to gain a broad perspective of the many  issues facing the manager of an entire IT unit. These include such concerns as what are the pieces of an IS, how do they work together, and what is the impact of time upon their effectiveness?

Therefore the lessons in this course focus upon the detail issues in which an in information systems manager must be knowledgeable.  These include planning and requirements definition, outsourcing, packaged software, scratch development, and systems maintenance.  Side issues include such things as selection methods, risk evaluation, return on investment, and cyclical trends in business, people, hardware, and software.

The material in this course assumes you are computer literate. Computer literacy in this context assumes that you understand hardware, software, database systems, and telecommunications. If you need refreshing in that area, the text Laudon and Laudon covers these elements in chapters 6  through 10. The rationale for this understanding should be plain. Before developing or utilizing an information system many other things must be in place, or otherwise in a development plan. Even a single, stand alone,  information system is composed of integrated hardware, software, people, and frequently telecommunications components.

What is an Information System

Ultimately an Information System (IS) exists to help an organization accomplish its objectives. An IS takes raw facts, known as data, and integrates, massages, compiles and collapses that data into something that has meaning for a manager or operator. An IS should provide guidance to the organizations employees to better assist them in the accomplishment of those objectives.  Information Systems impact all levels of the organization - operational, tactical, and strategic. They also impact all functional areas – finance, operations, marketing, strategic planning, personnel, and even the information technology function itself. The following table provides examples of where that guidance might be provided. The IS would in some form assist  by answering the posed questions.
Organization  Operational  Tactical  Strategic
Power Company What are the current “spot” power prices available from the other utilities in our region on a minute by minute basis What trends in customer peak and idle period consumption would allow us to negotiate contracts with certain customers to smooth out the load on our generators  What information do we know about our customers or what info can we buy from other utilities to give us competitive advantage in offering niche services during the deregulation of our industry  
Package Delivery How long does it take, on average, to deliver class 1 packages from Houston to Boston    Should we lease additional trucks in the Pittsburgh area for the upcoming Olympic event. Is there a pattern in our customer demand that demonstrates a likely acceptance of a new product line, especially one where our competitors provide no service.
Government  How many calls are being handled by the clerks and is the incoming volume increasing  Is there a pattern in sick leave that might be modified by changing schedules or instituting a stress reduction program What measures of effectiveness will allow senior members of the executive or legislative branches to insure that they are getting an effective return on taxpayer's dollars 
If you are employed, what operational, tactical and strategic information does your organization require (or lack) to be an effective competitor? What information might a college require on the different levels to be effective?
In your text Laudon and Laudon listed six major types of systems from transaction processing to executive support systems.  It is however, becoming more and more difficult to differentiate these systems.  We could draw an analogy to the six blind men and the elephant.  The elephant is all one system, interrelated and interdependent. But each of the blind men see it from different angles. To them it is a snake, a tree trunk, or a water hose.  It is important for us to be able to see the entire elephant, not just the ESS, the MIS or the DSS, but the entire system. As such it is important for us to become “systems thinkers.”  We will start down this track in the next lesson.

Assignment (due by midnight, Saturday, 01/29/2000):

 1. Post, in the "Introductions" Conference, an introduction to yourself. Tell us your name, for whom you work, what you do, what degree program and track you are in, how many masters courses you have completed, why you are interested in this course and something about your background, especially in the computing arena.

2. Post, in the "Computer Effects" Conference, a short list of ways that computers effect you (positively and negatively; professionally and personally).

3. Post, separately but also in the “Computer Effects” Conference a short 1 or 2 sentence description and a link to a humorous or bizarre story about how computers have affected someone's life. You should be able to find something through a search engine. An interesting new engine may be found at

(c) John H. Saunders 1998. Permission granted for use in courses at the University of Maryland