Information systems can be classified by the specific organizational function they serve, as well as by organizational level. We now describe typical information systems that support each of the major business functions and provide examples of functional applications for each organizational level.
SALES AND MARKETING SYSTEMS
The sales and marketing function is responsible for selling the organization’s product or service. Marketing is concerned with identifying the customers for the firm’s products or services, determining what they need or want, planning and developing products and services to meet their needs, and advertising and promoting these products and services. Sales is concerned with contacting customers, selling the products and services, taking orders, and following up on sales. Sales and marketing information systems support these activities.
MANUFACTURING AND PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
The manufacturing and production function is responsible for actually producing the firm’s goods and services. Manufacturing and production systems deal with the planning, development, and maintenance of production facilities; the establishment of production goals; the acquisition, storage, and availability of production materials; and the scheduling of equipment, facilities, materials, and labour required to fashion finished products. Manufacturing and production information systems support these activities.
FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING SYSTEMS
The finance function is responsible for managing the firm’s financial assets, such as cash, stocks, bonds, and other investments in order to maximize the return on these financial assets. The finance function is also in charge of managing the capitalization of the firm (finding new financial assets in stocks, bonds, or other forms of debt). In order to determine whether the firm is getting the best return on its investments, the finance function must obtain a considerable amount of information from sources external to the firm. The accounting function is responsible for maintaining and managing the firm’s financial records— receipts, disbursements, depreciation, payroll—to account for the flow of funds in a firm. Finance and accounting share related problems—how to keep track of a firm’s financial assets and fund flows. They provide answers to questions such as these: What is the current inventory of financial assets? What records exist for disbursements, receipts, payroll, and other fund flows?
HUMAN RESOURCES SYSTEMS
The human resources function is responsible for attracting, developing, and maintaining the firm’s work force. Human resources information systems support activities such as identifying potential employees, maintaining complete records on existing employees, and creating programs to develop employees’ talents and skills. Strategic-level human resources systems identify the manpower requirements (skills, educational level, types of positions, number of positions, and cost) for meeting the firm’s long-term business plans. At the management level, human resources systems help managers monitor and analyze the recruitment, allocation, and compensation of employees. Knowledge systems for human resources support analysis activities related to job design, training, and the modelling of employee career paths and reporting relationships. Human resources operational systems track the recruitment and placement of the firm’s employees.