In an information-based economy, information must be available at the click of the mouse or the key on the keyboard. The ability to process information has increased dramatically over recent years due to advances in information technology and increased productivity. Information is now processed, organised, controlled and communicated in many ways. To ensure that the information system is robust and flexible enough to meet the new demands, organisations are increasingly hiring external consultants who specialise in information systems.
What is information technology? In its broadest sense, information technology is any technological system used to collect, process and transmit information. As such it encompasses a wide range of activities related to computer networks, databases, internet communication, digital media, telecommunications and much more. The term information technology is often used to refer to a generic approach to information systems, which includes business processes and approaches, but sometimes to specific applications. However the term information technology is usually used to refer to the entire discipline, which has become one of the biggest growing industries globally.
Why is information technology so important? There are many reasons why information systems are important. Firstly, they allow users to store and retrieve information whenever they need it. This greatly reduces wasted resources and increases efficiency. Information can also be shared and used to support strategic decisions. Finally, information systems create an informational equivalent of the scientific method – a process by which theory is tested against real-world observations and compared with predicted outcomes using the same statistical methods.
So why do organisations need information systems? Large organisations have traditionally had difficulty managing large amounts of information and storing it reliably and effectively. Modern computer systems, however, have increased the reliability of information systems by the use of protocols, security systems and application software. The increased reliability is made possible through the use of what is known as service oriented architecture (SOA). SOA uses well-designed and tightly coupled hardware and software solutions that allow applications and computer systems to communicate with each other and with external systems through servers and other network elements.
Information technology planning refers to the process of developing an information technology (IT) system that can effectively integrate the human resources, corporate information, employee files and other relevant human resources, and the operating system, networking, desktop environments, distribution tools, workstations and storage media. Information systems planning typically involves the process of defining and researching technology concepts and implementing those concepts into a usable information technology (IT) development environment. An IT development environment consists of the hardware, network and software requirements. Additionally it includes a standard operating system, computer-related software, database management systems, workstation configurations, and an information management system (IMS).
The most common type of IT development environment is the client/end user one. In this scenario, users access the IT development environment through a browser, interact with the application server and data management software, retrieve and save data, use application software, and make use of stored procedures and commands. Client/end users usually have limited knowledge of IT and are capable of performing basic functions, such as uploading and downloading files. With this type of development environment, information science is more involved and less involved with the design of the database management software or of the infrastructure.