Management information systems provide information that organizations need to manage themselves efficiently and effectively¹. Typically computer systems manage five components: hardware, software, data, procedures, and people. Management systems are different from information systems in that they are used to analyze strategic and operational activities. Academically, management information systems are used to refer to the study of how individuals, groups, and organizations evaluate, design, implement, manage, and utilize systems to generate information to improve efficiency and effectiveness².
Overall, a management information system gives business managers information to make decisions. Originally, business computers were used for simple operations; these included inventory, billing, sales, and payroll (3). Over time, the computer systems expanded and became more complex. The modern definition of management information systems includes: decision support systems, resource management, enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, and database retrieval application.
Kenneth and Jane Laudon identify five eras of MIS evolution that correspond to the five phases in the development of computing technology (4):
The first era is known as the mainframe and minicomputer-computing era. Originally, IBM dominated this era. Computers would usually take up an entire room. As the computers became more advanced they became less expensive and more accessible.
The second era is known as the personal computer era. The second era began in 1965 as computer power began to decentralize from data centers to smaller offices. This phase set the background for the upcoming Internet boom.
The third era is known as the client/server network era. This is the era where computers began to be attached on a common network where information is shared between the computers. This allowed thousands and millions of people to access the Internet and data at the same time.
The fourth era is known as the enterprise-computing era. High-speed networks that allowed access to information and management structure characterized this era.
The final era is called the cloud-computing era. This is the newest phase of management information systems and employs network technology to deliver applications and access to storage. Cellphone and Wi-Fi networks have led to even more mobility where managers can access MIS with any devices.
1. (May 1995). Management Information Systems. Retrieved from http://www.occ.gov/publications/publications-by-type/comptrollers-handbook/mis.pdf
2. O’Brien, J (1999). Management Information Systems – Managing Information Technology in the Internetworked Enterprise. Boston: Irwin McGraw-Hill.
3. Lucey, Terry (2005). Management Information Systems. London: Thomson. p. 336.
4. Laudon, Kenneth C.; Laudon, Jane P. (2009). Management Information Systems: Managing the Digital Firm (11 ed.). Prentice Hall/CourseSmart. p. 164.