IT changes rapidly, and organizations that want to stay competitive are adopting new technologies and approaches to improve their operations. However, most organizations merge new IT applications with existing operational and management information systems.
1. A NEW GENERATION OF IT
The force that is fueling growth on the Internet today isn’t a bunch of dot-com startups or even long-established companies making waves in the online world. Instead, power has shifted to the individual, with blogs and social networking becoming the most explosive outbreaks in the world of IT since the emergence of the Internet itself.88 A blog is a running Web log that allows an individual to post opinions and ideas about anything from the weather and dating relationships to a company’s products, management, or business practices. There were an estimated 60 million bloggers in mid-2006, and the number was growing.89 Smart managers are paying attention to the phenomenon. For example, before announcing a major investment in energy efficient technology, managers at General Electric engaged with environmental bloggers to build support. Companies such as Microsoft and Cingular Wireless have enlisted the aid of bloggers to spread the word about new products or services.90 An entire industry is springing up to help companies navigate the new world of blogs, such as monitoring what is being said about the company, implementing damage control strategies, and tracking what the majority of the world is thinking, minute by minute, to help the organization respond to emerging trends and opportunities.91
Social networking, also referred to as social media or user generated content, is an exten-sion of blogs.92 Sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster provide an unprecedented peer-to-peer communication channel, where people interact in an online community, shar- ing personal information and photos, producing and sharing all sorts of information and opinions, or unifying activists and raising funds. MySpace, now owned by News Corp., had 72 million members within only two years, with an estimated quarter of a million more signing up every day. A new social networking site, TagWorld, which is being referred to as the “MySpace killer” by bloggers, could grow even bigger. TagWorld offers an expanded range of services, including not only blogging but a multipage site, a gigabyte of storage, a music player, classifieds, and photo- and video-sharing capabilities. In addition, TagWorld gathers and provides real-time information, such as allowing a musician who posts his music online to see exactly who is listening and where. This real-time information and au- tomated feedback makes TagWorld especially valuable to businesses for spotting trends, marketing products and services, and other activities.
Single-use social networks, such as YouTube (video), Craigslist (classified ads), and Wikipedia (encyclopedia arti- cles) are also growing in popularity. On YouTube’s Web site, for example, indi- vidual users post more than 60,000 video clips a day, many of them home-shot, and consumers all over the world are viewing them at a rate of 70 million times a day.93
NBC Universal, which originally de- manded that YouTube take down clips of its programming, decided to join the trend rather than fight it, announcing that it would make promotional clips of popu- lar shows available on the site and holding contests for users to submit their own promotional videos for certain shows.94
Blogs and social networking sites have the potential to shake up every business, government, and nonprofit organization in the world, for good or ill. Smart man- agers and organizations are searching for ways to use the power of these innova- tions to their advantage and minimize the damage or disruptions they might bring.
2. DATA VERSUS INFORMATION
A central purpose of both operations information systems and management information systems is to translate data into information. Data are raw facts and figures that in and of themselves may not be useful. To be useful, data must be processed into finished information—that is, data that have been converted into a meaningful and useful context for specific users. New software and systems can help managers effectively identify and access useful information. For example, American Greetings Corporation, which sells greet- ing cards, might gather data about demographics in various parts of the country. These data are then translated into information; for example, stores in Florida require an enormous assortment of greeting cards directed at grandson, granddaughter, niece, and nephew, while stores in some other parts of the country might need a larger percentage of slightly irrever- ent, youth-oriented products.95
Source: Daft Richard L., Marcic Dorothy (2009), Understanding Management, South-Western College Pub; 8th edition.
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