The Information Professional's Role in Creating Business Management Systems

Article excerpt

"Although the core of the profession remains the same, the methods and tools for information delivery and the scope of the enterprise continue to grow and change dramatically. While maintaining their client- and content-centered approach, practitioners increasingly require advanced knowledge of information technology to realize their full potential. Continually emerging opportunities will propel the prepared professional into as yet unseen realms of advanced information retrieval, interpretation, synthesis, product development and virtual services on a global scale" (Abels et al., 2003).

In the new millennium, the ability to unify information and processes has caused a paradigm shift in information management, fueling an explosion in the business marketplace. Data that formerly were collected and managed within the confines of an management information systems (MIS) department now reside in Web-based management systems, where end-users and nontechnical managers can directly access, create, modify, and implement them.

For years, information professionals (IPs) have created Web-based systems to collect, organize, and distribute information. The skills of the IP are transferable to a broad spectrum of new endeavors that unify people, content, processes, and systems. The paradigm shift has affected the role of the IP--the intellectual and technical skills previously used to create information systems can now be applied to building Web-based business management systems.

Here, we present historical and current perspectives on the IP's role and offer a case study to illustrate the use of IP competencies in building business management systems. We delineate design and development core processes, including team roles, and describe how an IP's knowledge and skills are used to develop a Web-based business management portal for the California Department of Health Services, Bureau of Local and Statewide Programs, Tobacco Control Section (TCS). We also discuss how the portal facilitates the client's ability to harness the distributed knowledge of its partners and put that knowledge to work in coordinated, systematic ways. We describe the ways in which the portal has increased efficiency and productivity.

How the Web Changed Everything

The debut of the World Wide Web changed the landscape of business processes and operations. Before the Web, the traditional role of the MIS professional was to collect, store, and output data for internal consumption. The traditional role of the IP working in an information center (IC) was to identify, collect, organize, synthesize, repackage, and distribute information for both internal and external consumption.

The two roles seldom overlapped in mission or responsibilities. Generally, neither department had a central interface to access data and information; instead, data existed in separate silos without an enterprise search capability. The Web allowed the merger of business management and information management, thereby integrating systems and providing end-users with easy access to personal and shared information.

The traditional mission of an MIS department was to provide technology-oriented support to business endeavors. The MIS mission generally included the following:

* Supporting the goals of the organization.

* Collecting and storing large structured data sets.

* Building and maintaining reliable and secure systems.

* Providing data reports for internal customers to support decision making.

* Providing selective access to information (easily anticipated, well-defined reports).

Generally, MIS departments were responsible for collecting and storing large sets of structured data used in business processes. Some typical MIS functions were data system planning, design, and security; and information technology infrastructure management. The MIS department might have supported the following business processes: inventory control, finance, production, and marketing. …