• Course Introduction

        Today, the management of information systems is mostly associated with databases, the Internet, and server rooms. However, "information management" has been around since before the invention of these tools. It is as old as commerce itself, as traders, bankers, and merchants have always had reason to track sales and inventory. Creditors must be aware of how much capital has been lent to borrowers and how much money has been deposited at banks. Long before humans harnessed electricity, there was a need for information systems. But currently almost all management of information systems is done electronically.

        Management Information Systems (MIS) is a formal discipline within business education that bridges the gap between computer science and the well-known business disciplines of finance, marketing, and management. However, most students will only take one or two MIS courses in their undergraduate programs.

        You may not know it, but you use MIS every day. If you use email, you are using MIS, as email is an information system (you just only see one end of it). If you log into a computer every morning and access or edit data in corporate systems and databases, you are using information systems. In its most general terms, information systems encompass any interactions between organized data and people. MIS can be the means by which information is transmitted (such as the Internet), the software that displays the information (such as Microsoft Excel), or the systems that manage the data. In this course, you will learn about the various components of information systems and how to leverage them in business.

      • Unit 1: Introduction to Management Information Systems

        Information systems are designed to collect data and turn it into information. These systems process information by gathering and organizing data so it can be distributed in an understandable format. Information systems processing includes data retrieval, data storage, and the execution of transactions utilizing data. If you were given a list of home prices in various zip codes and needed to report on which regions were experiencing price increases and decreases, how would you do it? Without having information about past prices (e.g., dates of sale) or the homes themselves (e.g., square footage), this would be a difficult task. However, if the data had been entered into a database with all of this information, it could be called upon quickly, and you would have your report ready in seconds. In the past, such a report on home prices could take days to compile. Thanks to modern information systems, it can take a few minutes.

        Much of MIS is driven by innovation. The right technology, processes, people, and structures come together to solve problems utilizing new techniques and strategies. In this unit, we will look at the applications of MIS in business and learn how far MIS has come since the inception of the information age.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 15 hours.

        • Unit 2: Information Systems Development

          Businesses have diverse needs. While software packages for managing information exist, most software is not "plug and play” ready for most business applications. IT departments, in conjunction with representatives from all lines of business, must work together to develop and implement information system solutions. The IS development process can range from the simple to the extremely complicated. Managers often find themselves disagreeing about which information is most important and what is worth developing. The tradeoffs between financial resources, time, and the capabilities of current information systems can lead to frustration; for this reason, IS development is a very important function within a business.

          This unit begins by describing the elements of the IS development process, which includes requirements, architecture, design, coding, testing, and maintenance. Next, some of the main issues inherent in IS development will be explored, such as cost, speed, complexity, and user adoption. The unit ends with a discussion of other IS development methodologies such as iterative, big bang, and prototyping.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 16 hours.

        • Unit 3: Hardware and Software of Information Systems

          As mentioned in the course introduction, much of IS is now centered on technology. Accordingly, IS capabilities are mostly limited to the hardware and software capabilities of a given system. Ten years ago, the average Internet user could download an MP3 music file in a few minutes over a cable. This can now be done in seconds wirelessly from just about anywhere in the developed world thanks to improvements in hardware and software. While it is nearly impossible to remain in front of technology developments, it is possible to analyze trends in technology advancements and identify what hardware and software may give you a competitive advantage.

          This unit will first discuss the hardware component of technology, followed by software. The unit finishes with a discussion of networking as a component of technology. 

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 18 hours.

        • Unit 4: Data Management

          Data is a collection of facts. For example, the population estimates for China and the United States are "data." Information is the presentation of these facts in an organized manner, that is, the presentation of these population counts side-by-side with other facts like per-capita income. Knowledge refers to the use of information to make informed decisions -- in this case, policy decisions about China and the United States. Managing data allows the government, corporations, and even individuals to apply this knowledge to their everyday lives. Managing data can be difficult because databases are often filled with more information than you need. In this unit, you will explore the challenges of data management and learn how to take data and turn it into knowledge.

          We have used the word "database" a number of times in this course. We will now define and study databases in detail. Entire courses are devoted to this subject, as the uses and types of databases are as varied as the number of businesses that need them. However, you can expect to leave this section with enough of an understanding of databases to have a conversation with any database administrator about the needs of your team or department. This course focuses on relational databases.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 12 hours.

        • Unit 5: Strategic Management Information Systems

          Strategic MIS is the application of information management in the overall strategy of a business. Many corporations include a Chief Information Officer (CIO) in senior management to ensure that corporate strategies can be effectively implemented to be more competitive. What good would it do for Apple to create an iPhone application that can tell where you are and serve you ads based on location if it isn't technically feasible? Part of the role of the CIO would be to figure out if it is possible to do this now -- and if not now, when.

          This unit will examine how information technology and systems are changing the way organizations operate. The unit starts with an examination of some of the key technological forces that characterize the information age that all firms must consider in their strategic planning. Next, the special characteristics and challenges faced by "business-to-business" operations are described. The unit concludes with an examination of the impact of information technology on organizations and the means by which they are adapting to changes in technology.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 18 hours.

        • Unit 6: Security Failures and the Future of MIS

          Even though most businesses use similar software to manage information, the information itself is usually kept secret and considered vital to the success of the firm. Security is particularly important in a "flattening world,” where information now travels internationally. A manager working from home in Florida talks to a programmer in India who, in turn, sends data to another manager working in an office in Berlin. Preventing competitors from seeing or stealing this information has become important to business success. 

          Of course, as information systems become increasingly sophisticated and complicated, without the proper precautions the chances of a failure increase. Data center backups, emergency power, and software failures can all cripple or close an ill-prepared business.

          This unit concludes with a look at the future of MIS. After studying the security issues and failures of various systems, the outlook can seem bleak. Wherever there is a problem in MIS, there are new dot com and/or employment/career opportunities to find profitable solutions.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 16 hours.

        • Course Evaluation Survey

          Please take a few moments to provide some feedback about this course at the link below. Consider completing the survey whether you have completed the course, you are nearly at that point, or you have just come to study one unit or a few units of this course.

          Link: Course Evaluation Survey (HTML)

          Your feedback will focus our efforts to continually improve our course design, content, technology, and general ease-of-use. Additionally, your input will be considered alongside our consulting professors' evaluation of the course during its next round of peer review. As always, please report urgent course experience concerns to contact@saylor.org and/or our Discourse forums.