A management information system (MIS) is an information system used for decision-making, and for the coordination, control, analysis, and visualization of information in an organization. The study of the management information systems involves people, processes and technology in an organizational context.
In a corporate setting, the ultimate goal of the use of a management information system is to increase the value and profits of the business. This is done by providing managers with timely and appropriate information allowing them to make effective decisions within a shorter period of time.
While it can be contested that the history of management information systems date as far back as companies using ledgers to keep track of accounting, the modern history of MIS can be divided into five eras originally identified by Kenneth C. Laudon and Jane Laudon in their seminal textbook Management Information Systems.
The first era (mainframe and minicomputer computing) was ruled by IBM and their mainframe computers for which they supplied both the hardware and software. These computers would often take up whole rooms and require teams to run them. As technology advanced, these computers were able to handle greater capacities and therefore reduce their cost. Smaller, more affordable minicomputers allowed larger businesses to run their own computing centers in-house / on-site / on-premises.
The second era (personal computers) began in 1965 as microprocessors started to compete with mainframes and minicomputers and accelerated the process of decentralizing computing power from large data centers to smaller offices. In the late 1970s, minicomputer technology gave way to personal computers and relatively low-cost computers were becoming mass market commodities, allowing businesses to provide their employees access to computing power that ten years before would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. This proliferation of computers created a ready market for interconnecting networks and the popularization of the Internet. (The first microprocessor—a four-bit device intended for a programmable calculator—was introduced in 1971, and microprocessor-based systems were not readily available for several years. The MITS Altair 8800 was the first commonly known microprocessor-based system, followed closely by the Apple I and II. It is arguable that the microprocessor-based system did not make significant inroads into minicomputer use until 1979, when VisiCalc prompted record sales of the Apple II on which it ran. The IBM PC introduced in 1981 was more broadly palatable to business, but its limitations gated its ability to challenge minicomputer systems until perhaps the late 1980s to early 1990s.)
The third era (client/server networks) arose as technological complexity increased, costs decreased, and the end-user (now the ordinary employee) required a system to share information with other employees within an enterprise. Computers on a common network shared information on a server. This lets thousands and even millions of people access data simultaneously on networks referred to as Intranets.
The fourth era (enterprise computing) enabled by high speed networks, consolidated the original department specific software applications into integrated software platforms referred to as enterprise software. This new platform tied all aspects of the business enterprise together offering rich information access encompassing the complete management structure.
The terms management information system (MIS), Information management system (IMS), information system (IS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), computer science, electrical computer engineering, and information technology management (IT) are often confused. MIS is a hierarchical subset of information systems. MIS are more organization-focused narrowing in on leveraging information technology to increase business value. Computer science is more software-focused dealing with the applications that may be used in MIS. Electrical computer engineering is product-focused mainly dealing with the hardware architecture behind computer systems. ERP software is a subset of MIS and IT management refers to the technical management of an IT department which may include MIS.
A career in MIS focuses on understanding and projecting the practical use of management information systems. It studies the interaction, organization and processes among technology, people and information to solve problems.
While management information systems can be used by any and every level of management, the decision of which systems to implement generally falls upon the chief information officers (CIO) and chief technology officers (CTO). These officers are generally responsible for the overall technology strategy of an organization including evaluating how new technology can help their organization. They act as decision-makers in the implementation process of new MIS.
Once decisions have been made, IT directors, including MIS directors, are in charge of the technical implementation of the system. They are also in charge of implementing the policies affecting the MIS (either new specific policies passed down by the CIOs or CTOs or policies that align the new systems with the organization's overall IT policy). It is also their role to ensure the availability of data and network services as well as the security of the data involved by coordinating IT activities.
Upon implementation, the assigned users will have the appropriate access to relevant information. It is important to note that not everyone inputting data into MIS need necessarily be management level. It is common practice to have inputs to MIS be inputted by non-managerial employees though they rarely have access to the reports and decision support platforms offered by these systems.
The following are types of information systems used to create reports, extract data, and assist in the decision making processes of middle and operational level managers.
The following are some of the benefits that can be attained using MIS:
Some of the disadvantages of MIS systems:
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