Information systems are too important to be left to computer specialists. Do you agree? Why or why not?
The field of information systems is no longer the sole property of IT specialists. In fact, as discussed below, this field is so broad today, that it probably entails at least as much aspects at the individual users’ level than at the professional level. This is not to say that computer specialists are obsolete; on the contrary, they are needed more than ever before, but their profession becomes much more specific and so are their roles in organizations. A careful consideration of the contemporary meaning of the term “information systems” reveals several interesting insights:
- First, due to the popularity of computers and their relative safety and ease of use, computers replace the traditional paper-based documentation almost completely, especially in the organizational sector. This is mainly because decision-makers and home users find computers and computerized tools (from the Internet to digital cameras and cell phones) as much more reliable and economical than any other alternative. As a result, most of the information is stored today in digital format, and only part of it is also printed.
- Second, since people prefer (or are obliged) to use computers to most professional and personal purposes, there is a set of rules that guide them how to use software efficiently, effectively and with minimum mistakes. These rules are straightforward and rather intuitive, and drastically improve organizational performance. For example, physicians who used to work with paper-based patient logs are obliged to use computerized software for this purpose. Failure to follow the rules may cause confusion and, in some cases, pose actual risks to patient’s safety.
- Third, many maintenance tasks also start shifting to the user’s level. This is not only in regard to general hardware issues, but also to a wider array of tasks. These tasks include, among others, the performance of backups, solving user-level problems and synchronizing data with other computers. As noted earlier, most of the professional and private software are quite simple to handle, and thus there is no reason why employees will not perform them regularly.
If so, what is the role of computer specialists today? The answer leys once more in the changes that this term has undergone. In an organizational perspective, computer specialists, people who were trained to perform one or more of the tasks listed below, should not be employed to manage the users’ computer stations, Excel spreadsheets, or software installations.
Efficient use of computer specialists implies that IT experts should perform a much higher set of tasks, such as:
- Giving procurement recommendations to decision-makers
- Contract and handle business with suppliers of IT-related products and high-end services
- Programming software and websites, while delegating as many tasks as possible to end users
- Setting up servers and networks
In conclusion, the field of information systems is changing and so are the roles of the different players in it. Computer specialists should be reluctant to delegate some of their traditional roles to the others. Instead, they should deepen their understanding in their specific fields of computer sciences, and continue to lead the innovative spirit of the IT world.
As computers become faster and cheaper and the Internet becomes more widely used, most of the problems we have with information systems will disappear. Do you agree? Why or why not?
The modern computer is much more flawless than ever before but is probably not as good as computers in the near future. The rapid pace of innovation and progression in the field of information systems benefits first and foremost the consumer, who can use more opportunities and arguably bear fewer risks today compared to the past. Nevertheless, old problems often open the path for new problems, which may not be always simpler.
Consider, for example, the great improvement of the Internet throughout the past ten years. Not very long ago, the Internet was based on slow modems and narrow bandwidths, which were only good enough for sending and receiving text-only emails and for browsing very simple websites. Today, when most home networks have much higher capacities than what the users actually need, there are very few limitations for the Internet user. However, this improvement has also brought about considerable risks; some of the extra capacity is occupied by so-called malicious software, which uses the computer’s communication abilities to perform processes (e.g. attacking other computers) without the knowledge of the user. So, although the Internet is much better and attractive, it also became much more dangerous.
Moreover, the relative ease of use of computers for performing many daily tasks poses additional risks for users. Many of those risks arise from the fact that the more we use computers, the more we are dependent on it.
This statement has several implications:
- First, in case of severe technical failure, data that exists only in the computer may be utterly lost.
- Second, as software becomes constantly heavier, organizations and individuals find it almost obligatory to upgrade their computing systems once in every several years, posing considerable costs.
- Third, as the Internet became so dominant in life, many people can be described as “addicted” to the net. This addiction may be a real one (i.e. psychological), but more often it results from the habit to use the Internet in practically everything we do at work.
Finally, not only the software is more demanding, but also the amount of information it grasps. Current computer scientists face the same problem as the iPod user – how to put more data on less space and to find it easier and faster. This is a real challenge at all levels of the organization, which arguably grows in linear relation with the growing demand of those systems, and, as we often feel in our daily life and work, is not fully addressed. Real-life problems will continue to be a part of the IT world in the future; they do not disappear, but rather become much more complicated, challenging and influential.
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