What is an Information System?

We use them all the time, but what exactly is an “Information System”? Let’s break down the words…

A System is “a collection of components organized to meet an objective.” What kind of components? What ever components are needed to meet the objective! Traditionally, that means “people, processes, and technologies.” And, what is the objective of an Information System?

The objective of an Information System is “to transfer, process, store, and manage” information. But, what is information?

Information is data that is relevant and has meaning in a context. So, the numbers 7155551212 are not information; they are data. But, if I ask you to call Linda at 715-555-1212, those numbers become information in the context of making a telephone call.

Now, our definition of an Information System is more complete. Let’s put it all together: An Information System is a collection of people, processes, and technologies organized to transfer, process, store and manage data that is relevant and has meaning in a context.

It’s quite interesting because data are only representations of aspects of the real-world and of our ideas. There really is no physical thing that is the letter “A”. “A” is just a symbol to represent something in the real-world (perhaps the sound we make when we say the letter “A”), or an idea (what ever that “A” sound represented long ago).

An Information System (such as a computer) is just a collection of components organized to transfer, process, and store relevant and meaningful representations of the real-world and our ideas. Simple enough. But, take that collection of components and make them operate very, very fast, and now you have something that can really transform our world and our ideas.

This article was originally published as on July 24, 2008, as a Google Knol. See http://knol.google.com/k/clint-laskowski/what-is-an-information-system/3v4qe269ituzc/2.

UV Outliner

OMG! A modern single pane outliner for Windows! I’ve been looking for one so long that I seriously considered coding one myself. I don’t know how good it is yet, but the screenshots look fantastic.

UV Outliner is by Fedir Nepyivoda (Kiev, Ukraine).

 

My First Computer

In 1979, at age 16, I saved money from my paper route and purchased my first computer – an Ohio Scientific (OSI) C2-4P – from Allied Electronics in West Allis, Wisconsin. It had a 6502 microprocessor and 4K(!) of RAM. I used a cassette tape recorder for mass storage (transfer rate was 300 baud), and an RF converter and a television set as my video monitor. This provided a stunning monochrome 80×40 character display!

Within a few months I grew tired of the 15+ minutes it took to load BASIC into RAM from cassette and decided to learn assembly language. This was better since there was a “monitor” program in ROM and therefore always available immediately.

Today, I flip-flop back and forth between thinking, “Those were the days!” and “How could 30 years have gone by so quickly?”

Ohio Scientific C2-4P

Social Media and the Job Search

I was just talking to my neighbor and friend, Phil Gerbyshak – The Make It Great Guy, about using social media when looking for new work. I have friend who has been looking for new work in IT for quite a few months. Here are some ideas Phil suggested:

1. Make sure your profile on LinkedIn is complete and up-to-date.

2. Make sure you have plenty of positive recommendations. If you feel you did a good job, you should not hesitate to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation for every project and every manager you’ve worked for.

3. Make time during your job search to join and participate in discussions in LinkedIn Groups, and to answer questions posted to LinkedIn Answers. The goal is to present yourself as an expert in your domain(s).

4. Use TweetDeck to follow JobAngels (@jobangels). Filter by tags if needed (i.e., #milwaukee if you are in Milwaukee, WI).

5. Join one of the professional organizations in your field and help them get up-and-running on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Phil’s last suggestion was his best:

6. Read Phil Gerbyshak‘s blog. He covers real-world use of social media – including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter – every day.

How about it? What are your tips for using social media when looking for a new job in IT in 2009?

Security in a Down Economy – Tip # 1

Take Care When Adding to an Employee’s Responsibilities

During a down economy, management may temporarily move employees from one role to another, or have one employee cover two or more roles. This can be an important step in reducing costs and keeping a business viable. However, as roles and responsibilities change, it is not uncommon for employees to gain new information systems privileges while still keeping their old privileges. This can create situations where employees have excessive privileges and can therefore easily commit fraud or conduct other malicious activities. When an employee is transferred to a new role or takes on new responsibilities – even temporarily – it is important to ask questions such as:

Which of the employee’s information systems privileges can be reduced or eliminated because they are no longer needed to fulfill his/her job duties?

These should be immediately reduced or eliminated.

Which of the employee’s information systems privileges, when combined with the employee’s other privileges, create a potential for fraud or other malicious activities?

These should be immediately segregated by transferring incompatible responsibilities and activities to other employees (but be sure to ask these same questions about those employees before transferring).

Of course, these questions should be asked when ever an employee changes roles or has changes in his/her responsibilities or his/her systems privileges.

Watch for another Security in a Down Economy tip soon!

GUI Mockup Tools

For future reference: