Assignment: Across Hierarchical Levels
Assumptions about Information Systems Consider the components of an information system from the manager’s viewpoint rather than from the technolo- gist’s viewpoint. Both the nature of information (hierarchy and economics) and the context of an information system must be examined to understand the basic assumptions of this text.
Information Hierarchy The terms data, information, and knowledge are often used interchangeably, but have significant and discrete mean- ings within the knowledge management domain (and are more fully explored in Chapter 12). Tom Davenport, in his book Information Ecology, pointed out that getting everyone in any given organization to agree on common defi- nitions is difficult. However, his work (summarized in Figure I-6) provides a nice starting point for understanding the subtle but important differences.
The information hierarchy begins with data, or simple observations; data are sets of specific, objective facts or observations, such as “inventory contains 45 units.” Standing alone, such facts have no intrinsic meaning but can be easily captured, transmitted, and stored electronically.
Information is data endowed with relevance and purpose.6 People turn data into information by organizing data into some unit of analysis (e.g., dollars, dates, or customers). For example, a mashup of location data and housing prices adds something beyond what the data provide individually, and that makes it information. A mashup is the term used for applications that combine data from different sources to create a new application on the Web.
To be relevant and have a purpose, information must be considered within the context in which it is received and used. Because of differences in context, information needs vary across functions and hierarchical levels. For example, when considering functional differences related to a sales transaction, a marketing department manager may be interested in the demographic characteristics of buyers, such as their age, gender, and home address. A man- ager in the accounting department probably won’t be interested in any of these details, but instead wants to know details about the transaction itself, such as method of payment and date of payment.
Similarly, information needs may vary across hierarchical levels. These needs are summarized in Figure I-7 and reflect the different activities performed at each level. At the supervisory level, activities are narrow in scope and focused on the production or the execution of the business’s basic transactions.
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