A management information system (MIS) is an organized combination of people, hardware, communication networks and data sources that collects, transforms and distributes information in an organization. An MIS helps decision making by providing timely, relevant and accurate information to managers. The physical components of an MIS include hardware, software, database, personnel and procedures.
All physical components of a computer system compose the computer hardware. Important components include the central processing unit, input/output devices, storage units and communication devices. Communication can be over fiber-optic cables or wireless networks.
Software provides the interface between users and the information system. Software can be divided into two generic types: system software and applications. The system software comprises of the operating system, utility programs and special purpose programs. Applications are developed to accomplish a specific task. For users of MIS it is much more important to understand the software than the hardware. Software maintenance can take 50 to 70 percent of all personnel activity in the MIS function. When the organization moves to implement an advanced information system the hardware and software environment becomes more complex.
A database is a centrally controlled collection of organized data. Central control reduces redundancy and duplication of data. Data is stored in an organized and structured way to facilitate sharing and improve availability to those who need it. The database improves efficiency of storage by elimination of redundant files and improves efficiency of processing by providing all required data in a single file rather than separate files. This also improves efficiency of information retrieval.
Three types of procedures are required for an MIS to operate effectively: user instructions, instructions for input preparation and operating instructions for MIS personnel who maintain the MIS.
The personnel in the MIS function include computer operators, programmers, systems analysts and managers. Human resource requirements should be assessed by considering both the present system needs and the future system growth. The quality of MIS personnel is a key factor in its effectiveness. An MIS manager needs a combination of both managerial and technical skills.
Alfred Sarkissian holds a master’s degree in industrial management. With experience in business and public policy, he has covered intellectual property rights, industrial policy and technology policy for various publications.