Management Information Systems

The more complex organisation needs a finely tuned and efficient Management Information System (MIS). When it rejects a classical hierarchy in favour of a more flexible systemic approach or human relations approach it is vital that experts and managers can draw on the information system of the organisation, and that even workers with responsibilities and can take from it and input into it.

The central issue is how well data is inputted and how well this becomes usable information by the various levels of those with responsibility.

There are particular purposes of MIS:

  • Increase even maximise knowledge of anything to do with the business
  • Reduce uncertainty in operations

(Lucey, 1991, 13)

Management Information System (MIS) is indeed a system turning data into information:

  • Data is raw, comes by accident or intention, and involves counting, observing, and measuring - direct means and the sources may be good or doubtful
  • Information makes sense of data, sifting the good from the doubtful in source, by interpreting, understanding, aggregating, summarising, abstracting, and turning using these means into reports.

Data comes in from external and internal sources (external because the business interacts with its environment) and using the system set up becomes usable information in an appropriate form for use by managers. External source information includes competition (the market data, but even espionage!), consumer responses, political issues (local and wider); internal information is about all the working operations of the organisation.

A manager should never be data rich but information poor (see Lucey, 1991, 16)

The process of change may follow this path:

  1. Data capture
  2. Data storage (initial)
  3. Data communication
  4. Data storage
  5. Data interpretation
  6. Information production - first reports
  7. Information storage (initial)
  8. Feedback from data capture (checking)
  9. Information storage adjustments
  10. Information distribution
  11. Information discussion
  12. Information reinterpretations
  13. Information feedback from first reports (agreement?)
  14. Information storage (what it means)
  15. Information critical options of actions - possible reports with recommendations
  16. Information storage (what can be done)
  17. Information critical options feedback from reinterpretations
  18. Information storage (what can be done revised)
  19. Information action (decisions, various levels)
  20. Information decisions feedback from all affected

There should also be built in opportunities for feeding back and rechecking, and seeing if processed information is loyal to the data.

So the information processed has to relate to different levels of management. There is its functioning:

  • Planning
  • Decision making
  • Organising
  • Co-ordination
  • Motivation
  • Control

(Lucey, 1991, 7)

The levels of management are usually (though the most flexible and dynamic organisations can mix these to some extent):

Strategic Highest
Tactical Middle
Operational Junior

(Lucey, 1991, 7)

So, obviously, the relevance of information depends on the management levels and its purposes. Information in itself is of no point; its point is only in its effectiveness in decision making at all levels. Irrelevant information is always useless. The best information is always easy to follow and critical (that is processed with positives and negatives highlighted). MIS at the lowest level should be formal, regular and mainly internal where there are regular and repeat decisions being made; whereas at the top it should have the utmost flexibility and have an irregular character, and also here is where most external information is received. Flexibility also relates to planning, considering what should be done before deciding on how it is done (see 9).

There are ways to classify information, the first relating to the above:

Management Strategic, tactical, operational
Use Planning, control, operations
Type (Data rich raw), aggregated, summarised, abstract, informal
Place Internal, external
Source Primary, secondary
Time Contemporary, historical
Occurrence Planned, on demand, occasional, just in time
Frequency Annual, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly
Method Qualitative, quantitative
Form Word processed, spreadsheet, database, presentation, mind map, ideas connecting, expert, CAD, graphical (subclassifying below)

(Compare with Lucey, 1991, 13-14)

The ICT information can come in the forms of:

Office applications, which is the level of data producing and processing:
Networked spreadsheets
Shared word processing
Networked databases

In forming plans:
Expert systems
Mind mapping (e.g. eMindMaps, generating and organising hierarchical ideas and solutions for decisions)
Ideas connectors as in organising, recalling, and recombining text with "words", "concepts", and "ideas" (e.g. like Literary Machine - which is a multi-dimensional)

Communication information:
Intranet (internal Internet - usually very detailed and password based)
Internet (for public as well as internal consumption)
Electronic mail
Presentation (as in MS Powerpoint)

Organising (looking after appointments; co-ordinating communication):
Personal Information Manager (PIM)

People need to be able to pick up the ongoing production of information (raw data) and make it summarised and usable. For example emails may come to managers in high numbers, but staff reduce these to summaries of what is taking place making a more efficient use of management time. Spreadsheets need summarising into headline figures and graphical representation for easier consumption. Lower down or particular managers themselves or specialist staff may do this for handing on. Very important is to pass the communicated opinions of consumers and those in supply.

MIS, if it is integrated

  • Has to be sophisticated covering a whole range of information
  • Needs to connect with the characteristics and the objectives of the organisation and the working behaviour of its employees
  • Needs to involve everyone inputting information that is open and fearless
  • Needs to give access where needed
  • Needs to provide all information managers need that facilitates good decisions
  • Needs to reveal problem areas with the business as well as those showing high efficiency and profitability

Problems with MIS arise when:

  • It has been established without management involvment in its design (what they need to make good decisions)
  • Lack of understanding of management decisions by ICT specialists
  • When information is too basic and raw (the system needs to process data)
  • Lack of training in ICT among decision makers
  • Lack of management belief in the need to have integrated MIS
  • When some information is not available when it is found to be vital
  • When information is available which is superfluous (a good example being emails that are largely irrelevant to performance)
(see 3)

There are other problems with data and information:

  • Numeric and statistical information gives the illusion of objectivity, accuracy and sufficiency when its data is collected using assumptions
  • Numeric and statistical information can be miscalculated and cause loss of confidence in it
  • Numeric and statistical information can be misunderstood by the end user
  • Qualitative data may include the particular that is not the case in general
  • Qualitative information may use language that is misunderstood
  • Qualitative information may overstate the case
  • Qualitative information may contain confusing technical jargon

What is required is systems and people interaction to provide information that is:

Data source Was and remains reliable
Data accuracy As accurate as possible employing various sources: some judgment required here
Data completion Complete as available using other sources, other methods
Data and information transmission Sending by appropriate means along relevant channels via the proper means and forms of communication
Data and information timing Gets there on time (including for planning ahead)
Information frequency As suits the decision taking
Information accuracy Accurate as possible through removing bad data
Information relevance Relevant as possible but err on the side of generosity
Information comprehension Comprehensible as possible through the skills of sifting, editing, presenting but for the target user: who may want or want to avoid literate detail and may want graphical presentation
Information detail In necessary detail meaning more than bullet points and limited presentations
Information targets Reaches the right people - there may be confidentiality issues, but more likely irrelevance of information when in the wrong places

In the end all information goes through the medium of language and into individuals and collective groups. People are very much themselves and own group centred in how information is received. So it is vital that there is a further level of communication: discussion that puts differences to everyone so that they can be used towards common objectives in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. Formality must mix with informality. In the end MIS is people with technology in all its richness.



Lucey, T. (1991), Management Information Systems, 6th Edition, London: DP Publications, 1-32.


Adrian Worsfold