When thinking about managing electronic information, many people first think about an electronic analogy of conventional business processes. However, information technology also helps businesses transform their processes and perform tasks in new ways. To be effective, information systems need to manage both content and data. Content management systems manage entire documents or parts of documents. Database management systems deal with a much finer level of granulation than content management systems. Database management systems are software programs that allow users to manage the data in a database. These systems allow users to share data, thereby cutting down on costs and improving consistency across the organization.
The advent of computers and the ensuing Information Age has changed the way that many of people live their lives and do business in the twenty-first century. At home, technology cooks the TV dinner in the microwave and automatically turns on the porch lights at dusk. At the office, the ubiquitous computer workstation on the desktop allows employees to write and distribute documents and communicate not only with those across the street, but across the globe. Many tasks that were previously done by hand -- writing letters, balancing the monthly books, inputting time card information -- have been automated. However, these are not just cosmetic changes that allow people to do the same things with different technology. In many cases, the very business processes that an organization uses have been transformed through the application of information technology. For example, producing a document no longer requires handwritten drafts and multiple submissions to a typing pool for changes. Today, the pencils often stay in the drawer and composition and correction of documents is done directly on the computer, bypassing the need for the secretary or typist. Further, documents no longer need to be printed out for distribution, but can be electronically transmitted to whomever needs them. Comments can be made and tracked electronically then returned electronically to the original author for coordination and finalization. Document storage and retrieval have also been made easier through technology. No longer does one have to search through piles of documents, file drawers, or dusty cardboard boxes, but one can easily retrieve documents off of a hard drive, the cloud, or other storage device.
Information technology allows organizations to do all this and more. Information technology includes the use of computers, communications networks, and knowledge in the creation, storage, and dispersal of data and information. Information technology comprises a wide range of items and abilities for use in the creation, storage, and distribution of information. Information technology can be linked together into an information system that facilitates the flow of information and data between people or departments. However, as anyone who has ever experienced a computer crash knows, these technologies are only useful to the extent that they allow one to actually retrieve the data that is stored within them.
Functions of Information Technology
As shown in Figure 1, information technology has several basic functions that may occur sequentially or simultaneously. First, the information system captures data by compiling detailed records of activities for later analysis or processing. For example, data capture might include the collection of patron information and book information when a book is checked out of the library, the assignment of seats on an airplane or in a theatre, or the collection of customer information for orders taken over the Internet. These data are then processed by converting, analyzing, or synthesizing them into information that can be used by the organization and its employees. This function includes handling and transforming data into information. For example, word processing allows users to create documents and other text-based documents and image processing converts visual information such as graphics and photographs into a format that can be stored or manipulated in the information system and/or transmitted across the network. Information technology can also be used to generate data through processing by organizing data and information into a useful form such as in the generation of a document or multimedia presentation. In addition, data and information must also be stored on a computer so that they can be retrieved and processed at a later time. They can also be transmitted by information systems and distributed to other parties via a communications network.
When thinking about managing electronic information, many people first think about an electronic analogy of conventional business processes. For example, most businesses need to generate, store, and access various documents (e.g., word processing documents, spreadsheets, images and graphics). In the past, this would be done through manual means: a document might be typed, a ledger might be handwritten and manually computed, and photographs might be available as negative or positive images. These documents would then be stored in various physical filing systems and retrieved by hand. However, information technology allows people to perform these tasks using computers and other mobile devices. Information also allows the electronic storage and retrieval of these items. These processes are handled by electronic document management systems that track and store electronic documents and/or images of paper documents or by content management systems that allows users to manage the content of a collection of data including computer files, audio files, graphics and images, electronic documents, and web content.
Data Management Systems vs. Content Management Systems
In addition to managing documents, most information systems also have data that need to be managed. Data management systems allow the management of the data housed in an information system at a more granular level. As shown in Table 1, there are a number of parameters on which data management systems and content management systems differ. Content management systems manage items on a high level and are used both as electronic repositories for operational data and as archives for long-term data storage. Historically, these tasks were performed using a library (card catalogs, for example, are a non-electronic type of content management system) or filing cabinet or system. The goal of content management systems is to respond to user queries by identifying documents that may contain information of interest and presenting a list of these documents to the user. This information is readable and accessible by humans and includes various documents such as files used for business that are primarily text or image-based. An example of an item managed by a content management system would be a document such as a memo or report that contains text,...
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