What are the principle types of information systems that support information activities in the organization?
There are various types of management information systems. Mason and Swanson (1981) describe four categories of management information systems:
(1) databank information system,
(2) predictive information system,
(3) decision-making information system, and
(4) decision-taking information system.
The classification is based on the level of support that the information system provides in the process of decision making and support information activities in the organization.
(1) Databank Information System. The responsibility of this information system is to observe, classify, and store any item of data which might be potentially useful to the decision maker. Examples of the kind of data that might be recorded in such a database for a given village, region, or area are as follows:
• Number of farms
• Number of units of arable land (hectares, fedans, acres)
• Average farm size
• Amounts of selected farm inputs applied annually
• Production per year on a unit of land for selected crops
(2) Predictive Information System. This system moves beyond pure data collection and the determination of trends over time. Predictive information systems provide for the drawing of inferences and predictions that are relevant to decision making. If data from the above examples were to be used in this way, it is possible to obtain information useful for making predictions or for drawing inferences. For example, tables containing the following information for a given village, region, or area might be produced:
• The ratio between the number of farms and the various categories of extension staff members
• The ratio between the amount of farmland and the various categories of extension staff members
• Amount of extension financial operating resources allocated per year to selected farmer problems or concerns
• Amount of extension financial resources, both salary and operating expenses, allocated per year to selected extension approaches to solving different farmer problems or concerns
Information obtained from these kinds of analyses is normally summarized in a two-way tabular format. And likewise, the information often is compared over time. Managers can then use such information to make predictions, for example to forecast costs of particular undertakings for budgeting purposes or as a basis for predicting results if a given change is made, such as change in the number of demonstrations with a given change in staffing.
(3) Decision-Making Information System. This system goes one step further in the process of decision making and incorporates the value system of the organization or its criteria for choosing among alternatives. An extension organization's values are many and varied. They include concerns for resolving farmer problems, increasing and providing for stability of farmer incomes, and improving the quality of farm life. But they also including and providing for stability of farmer incomes, and improving the quality of farm life. But they also include an intent to provide well for staff members (training, adequate salaries, etc.) and to aid in the process of bringing about rural economic development.
Information regarding these various attributes helps managers to make more enlightened decisions. Examples of ways that an extension organization uses information from a decision-making information system are as follows:
• Change in specific farm outputs (yields, practices) following selected extension activities
• Change in staff productivity following selected interventions (in-service training, better transport, etc)
• Comparison of relative costs and relative effectiveness of alternative extension delivery methods
• Analysis of economic returns to farmers who adopt recommended practices as compared to those who do not
(4) Decision-Taking Information System. Examples of decision-taking information systems are not usually found in an extension organization. This is a decision system in which the information system and the decision maker are one and the same. Management is so confident in the assumptions incorporated in the system that it basically relegates its power to initiate action to the system itself. Airplanes carry automatic pilot systems, which are an example of a decision-taking system. Once activated, the system itself keeps the plane on course and at the proper speed and altitude (according to parameters determined by the pilot). Another example of decision-taking information systems is found in modem factory production. In automobile production, continuous inventories of parts are maintained by computer as cars move down an assembly line. Orders are placed automatically by the computer when additional parts are needed. This is done without the intervention of a manager.