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Current Business Issues Essay

Knowledge Worker
Any occupation or livelihood that is based on development or use of knowledge is referred to as knowledge work.  The workers in such a case can be referred to as knowledge workers.  The importance of knowledge in the modern world is such that opportunities and threats can easily be detected with knowledge hence it is an avenue for gain of competitive advantage.  The need for knowledge is not defined to some prescribed areas of practice as knowledge plays a role in nearly all areas of human interest.  Organization, searching, programming, distribution, storage and acquirement are just but a few of the processes that inherent of business operations that require knowledge.  The term was first used in academic field by Drucker in the late 1950s where he used it in reference to information experts (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  The relevance of the term and its scope of definition has developed with the role played by information in the development of operational strategies and in the current business environment the term can be used in reference to any professional worker.

Information Technology Vs Information Systems
Information technology and information systems are terms that find frequent use in the modern operational environment.  It is

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apparent that the role played by information in the formulation and implementation of business strategies has changed drastically and so has the role played by information technology and information systems.  Though information technology and information system are used interchangeably in professional circles, the terms have different meaning.  To understand the differences a thorough understanding of individual terms is necessary.  Information technology encompasses studying, designing, formulation, implementation, supporting and managing systems of information by aid of computers.  Information technology is therefore a platform for the management or implementation of an information system (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Information system on the other hand is a term used in reference to a combination of people, procedures, activities, data and organizational policies (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  The role of an information system is to ensure that information needs of an organization are met.  Information systems can be implemented either manually or with the aid of technology.  Due to the role played by technology in the modern operational environment most organizations implement an automated system that employs the aid of information technology.  In addition to the clear differences in definition of information system and information technology, it is quite clear that information technology can be considered part of information systems.  While IT is a platform for IS, IS is a mechanism that involves organizational resources, IT included, in ensuring that information needs of an entity are met.

Definition of Terms
Information being an important tool in the modern operational environment, all professionals must be aware of the terminologies used in information systems and ensure they are well informed on the implications of the terms in an information system setting.  Understanding differences in meaning of terms is important in studying information systems due to the importance that language has in understanding principles.  Transmission in any learning and application system is based on use of some predefined code of symbols and transference of meaning is only possible if the sender and receiver implement the same code.  Definition of terms and understanding differences in their meaning is therefore important in understanding the theories and principles that govern information systems thus application of theories and principles in real life information systems.  The following are some of the definitions that are important to any one interested in information systems:

l  Data: A collection of facts collected by a variety of methods which include experience, observation and use of experiments.  Data is sometimes considered structured information.

l  Information: Knowledge retrieved from experience, study or any other literature resources..

l  Knowledge: Expertise and skills that one gains through experience or learning.

l  Wisdom: Having wealth of knowledge, experience, intuition and the ability to apply these qualities in coming up with solutions to a problem is referred to as wisdom.

Wisdom is an individual ability while information, knowledge and data are all small components of the same system.  Knowledge makes information except for the expertise aspect and data is structured information.  Understanding this hierarchy is important in understanding information systems.

Websites
Information technology is a field that is fast evolving and it is upon managers and information specialists to keep in touch with developments in technology.  An information system that is technologically driven is only as relevant as the technology that it employs and therefore relevance to developments in technology must be ensured. Currently there are a number of issues hitting headlines with regards to technology.  Yahoo claims it can develop and internet TV (NewsFactor Network 2009).  This could be a major development with regards to dissemination of information and may have an effect on the cable television market.  On the other hand such a development could be positive in that it could increase availability of information thus reduce the costs associated with retrieving or mining information.  Intel’s target to the develop inexpensive portables with new chips is another interesting news (CIO 2009).  Mobile technology is first developing and such news could have an effect on operations of existing industry players and its good news for the technology market that has had to deal with unwelcoming global economic conditions.  LG getting a display contract from Apple is just a depiction of how outsourcing is fast being adopted with increase in pressure on IT sector players to meet the ever changing needs and expectation of their market (InformationWeek 2009).  An article on hackers having pulled of an attempt to hijack Obama’s and a pop sensation’s accounts shifts the focus to the reality that information technology and therefore information systems are far from being secure. (Computer World News 2009).

Business Intelligence
Operations in an environment require the development of strategies that will ensure organizational resources are optimally used in harnessing opportunities that exist in the operational environment.  To effectively harness  opportunities, threats should be identified in time and mechanisms developed to ensure that they are averted before they have an effect on achievement of set goals.  It is apparent that information is central to operations in any organization and without a proper information system there is no way an organization can even manage its operations.  However, gain of competitive advantage is important in developing an edge over other players in the same industry segment.  In industries characterized by high levels of competition, competitive advantage could be definitive of failure or success.  Business intelligence refers to a variety of practices ranging from technologies, skills, risks and practices used by businesses to gain a better understanding of the behavior of the market and industry.  Business intelligence is therefore central to the development of operational strategies which are often formulated with consideration on the nature of the macro and micro environment.  True competitive advantage is not gained from global resources rather from internal organizational dynamics.  Business intelligence helps an organization have a good understanding of market trends and industry dynamics in its current environment and in the future and therefore aids the development of strategies that put into consideration the opportunities and threats that exist.  It is noteworthy that competitive advantage is best gauged by the number of opportunities that an organization effectively harness and how effectively it deal with threats in its operational environment which are all made possible by business intelligence.

Autonomic Computing
Apart from the computer system being one of the greatest development in the history of man computing is one of the fastest evolving field of practice.  Single systems have been replaced by networks and centralized systems replaced by more complex distributed networks.  As the need for information and business intelligence goes up, the complexities of computing systems are bound to increase thus there is a high likelihood that professionals will be overwhelmed by the amount of work required of them.  It is also worth remembering that while computer systems increase in complexity there is an increase in the need for more user friendly systems.  One of the solution that has been developed to deal with these problems in implementation of information systems is autonomic computing.  IBM is on course to developing a computing system in a network setting that will manage themselves without need for direct human interaction.  It is quite possible that the development will soon be a reality with the developments that are being reported in areas of artificial intelligence. Autonomic computing systems are human like systems with the ability to self-regulate while  the needs of the network are continuously monitored and relevant changes made without necessarily having to be handled by a specialist (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  There are a number of key features that define an autonomic computing systems; the five essentials of an autonomic computing system include the following:

l  The definition of rules and policies that will govern self regulation is made by information technology or computer experts.

l  The computer system has an autoconfiguration capability of its component.  System setting will be automatically readjusted to meet the need of the system more accurately.

l  The system has the capability to automatically search, locate and correct faults.  This self healing property will improve the reliability and robustness of the system and reduce the amount of skill and resources required to maintain a system.

l  The system has the ability to monitor and control the use of resources to ensure that the system is functioning at an optimal level with regard to predefined measures.  This self optimization is important in an environment where conservation is increasingly becoming more prominent.

l  The system has the ability to identify and protect itself from attacks.  This ability is made possible by a proactive detection mechanism where changes in the environment are continuously being monitored and nature of attacks determined.

Outsourcing
Outsourcing can also be referred to as offshoring in an international context and its an approach to operation where some business processes or requirements are met or done by a third party entity (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Outsourcing is a growing area of business operations and its mainly influenced by availability of labor and an increase in the need for accuracy to the needs of the market.  Professionalism is required in nearly all areas of operation and in some cases a business entity may find itself in a position where it is better to outsource processes than do it themselves.  Increase in competition and the need to cut down costs are key driving factors to outsourcing.

Videoconferencing
Videoconferencing systems have been made possible by development of the internet technology (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  In fact, the entire system is based on the ability to conference across the internet. In developing a Videoconferencing system availability of internet and bandwidth of the system should be considered.  Fast and reliable internet is required for proper implementation of a video conferencing system.  Being a system that manages highly confidential information security is of importance.  Security in the end points and in the transmission media which is the internet should be considered.  Having a conferencing system that can be accessed by a majority of workers in an organization is desirable but most videoconferencing systems are developed for critical decisions making thus such an approach is not necessary.

Click and Mortar Vs Click-Only
E-commerce is one of the fastest growing field of business operations.  Technology is said to be a factor that defines the operations and kind of strategies that organizations adopt.  E-commerce as a segment of business operations has developed as result of developments in information systems.  Implementation of e-commerce takes on two approaches: Click and mortar which is used by stores that exist in both physical and virtual computing world.  Examples of click and mortar e-business enterprises include Barnes and Noble and Apple stores.  On the other hand, there are stores that exist in the virtual world and have no existence in the physical world.  They take on a completely impersonal approach to business and are only known in the virtual world.  Click only e-commerce sites include Amazon and iTune online store. Click and mortar and click only sites share the online aspect and differ in the physical aspect.

Revenue Model
There are a number of models that can be used to establish conceptual frameworks that will be used in development of business strategies.  A revenue model is mainly concerned with approaches that a business establishment will use in generating revenue (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  The key factor in the revenue model is generation of revenue and therefore the model and strategies adopted revolve around finances.  Charging customers and advertising often find mention in revenue models since they are some of the strategies that organizations can successfully implement to gain the most out of  their customers (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  A revenue model is part of what can be considered a business model which is concerned with ensuring that an organization remains operational and therefore deals with a large number of operational issues.  Identification of the market, generation of value, generation of revenue and development of a user base are some of the issues addressed by business models.

Threats to E-commerce
E-commerce is a fast growing industry and just like all other conventional areas of business practice it is affected by government policies.  Factors that have led to the development of e-commerce include availability of the internet technology and liberalization and freedom that users enjoys in using the internet.  The development of security protocols that ensure safe electronic money transfer have also played a great role in growth of internet technology (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Regulations that could slow down the development of e-commerce must therefore touch on advantages that e-commerce has enjoyed for a long time.  Some policies that could negatively affect the development of e-commerce include:

l  Regulations that make it mandatory for all e-businesses to implement standard protocols that make them prone to failure if the standards are cracked.

l  Regulations that make it difficult to enforce complex security protocols with regards to safe electronic money transfer.

l  Policies that directly affect the cost of using the internet.

l  Restrictions on the location of e-business entities that one is allowed to deal with.

l  Policies that allow the development of programs and applications that would limit the anonymity that internet users enjoy.

Forward Vs Reverse Auction
A business activity that makes the internet one of the busiest market is auction.  Auction over the net has grown with development of internet technology and applications that make it easy to bid and retrieve goods or service over the internet.  Forward auction is an approach to auction where the seller’s task is to just offer an item or service for bidding and the buyers bid for the price that the buyer will accept (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  The seller can choose to accept any of the bids though he has the option of refusing all of the bids.  Yankee, English, Japanese and Dutch auctions are some common auctioning approaches that implement this forward mechanism (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Reverse auction implements a system where the buyer must contract with a market maker who makes the necessarily preparation for the auction (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  The market maker’s system makes request for quotations on items or services and suppliers log onto the auction site and input a number of quotes.  The quotes under this system reflect the price at which they are willing to supply services that were requested.

Threats to IS security
Information systems are central to operations of business entities and it is only normal that they be developed with key consideration on security.  Information system security is a consideration that is given weight in the development of an information system.  Despite measures taken by organization to ensure that their information systems are developed to meet   security standards, threats are inherent of any information system.  The following are some of the most common primary threats to information systems:

l  Human Interference: Whether intentional or unintentional the human component of an information system has the ability to tamper with the functionality of an information system or its content.  Data can be altered or deleted, logic bombs developed to tamper with the system’s operations and hard disks and secondary storage device stolen or formatted.

l  Technological Attack: Worms, viruses and horses are some of the key threats under this consideration.  The media used by in the information system is the main avenue used in attacking the system under this approach.  Functionality of the system can be affected and in some cases sniffers can gain control of the entire systems thus be in a position to retrieve or alter information that is of importance to a business entity.  Failure of secondary devices due to crashes and effects of viruses are other key threats.

l  Natural Calamities: Earthquakes, floods, terrorists and fires are some key threats under this consideration.  Information systems implement physical media and any action that has an effect on this media has the ability to jeopardize the security and integrity of the entire information system.

Risk Analysis
The importance of the role played by information in the modern operational environment cannot be stressed enough.  Information in most occasion is given the same level of physical security as finance and servers kept in strongrooms with good physical security presence and at least an encryption mechanism and complex access code.  Information system security design is increasingly becoming a core process in the development of information systems.  Risk assessment in security design is important in determining the nature of threats that the system is gullible to and therefore the development of a mechanism that will ensure the nature of the threats is analyzed and corrective measures instituted (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Information security is highly dynamic and changes are prompted by technological advancement and therefore continuous assessment of risk that the information system is in by keeping in touch with technological developments is important.  Analysis of risks in the development of an information system plan is often the first step since the findings of the assessment sets the objectives that the plan will aim to achieve (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Without a thorough knowledge of threats that a system is faced with what would be the essence of the information security plan? Analysis of risks before developing a plan therefore goes in line with one of the most important business principle which is to ensure objectivity in formulation of operational strategies.

Technological and Human Safeguards
There are three primary threats to the security of an information system: Human, technology and natural disasters.  Safeguards or strategies that are developed to deal with the different type of threat vary considerably.  For an information system to be secure, technological and human safeguards must be in place and special measures taken to ensure that critical information on business operations are retrievable in case of disasters or calamities.  Technological safeguards which include use of antiviruses, antispyware, scanning the system to determine any threats that are lurking, use of firewalls that make it easy to enforce organizational security policies and use of gateways to deal with threats from outside networks are all used to ensure that technological threats are dealt with (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Human threats are dealt with mechanisms like increase in physical security presence, placing servers and offline storage devices or database physical level storage devices in a place that is highly secure, assignment of user accounts and passwords, assignment of priority for users which is made easy by use of a centralized database and the development of robust information strategies (Curtis & Cobham 2002).

Online and Batch Processing
Processing of information and data is a key functionality that makes the computer system.  Processing is central to the performance levels and throughput that will be got from a computer system.  Operating systems implement varied approaches to processing and this affect the nature of their operations and therefore the level of performance they will attain. Batch processing is one of the oldest approaches to computer processing and it is implemented by older operating systems like DOS (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Data and information is processed in group or batches and it is therefore a good approach to managing voluminous static data.  Online processing is the latest innovation with regards to the development of operating systems (Curtis & Cobham 2002).  Under this approach data is processed as it is received and updates to relevant fields made.  This approach to processing is quite resource intensive and is important in an environment characterized by high levels of concurrent data entry and management of data that is highly dynamic.  Recent versions of UNIX and Windows have this ability due to increase in minimum requirements set by application programs (Curtis & Cobham 2002).

Models
Decision making is one of the most important ability that any information system can have.  Decision support architectures are becoming more common with development of intelligent systems (Abramowicz & Zurada 2001).  There are a number of models that can be adopted in the development of decision support system architecture each of which has inherent advantages and cons.  The following are some of the models that are used in DSS architecture development:

l  Model Driven:  The task in this kind of architecture is coming up with a system that places more emphasis on the manipulation of models in areas of statistics, finance and simulation.  Data is used as a parameter that differentiate users and help decision makers in analysis of situations.

l  Communication Driven: A good example of this model is the NetMeeting Groove developed by Microsoft.  It supports sharing of tasks between different users.

l  Data Driven: Access to manipulation of data under this system is determined by time series method on internal company data or external data.

l  Document Driven:  Under this system unstructured information in a variety of  format is retrieved, managed and manipulated.

l  Knowledge Driven:  This model provides highly specialised problem solving capabilities.

Datamining and Visualization
Datamining in information sciences can also be referred to as knowledge mining and is a process through which hidden trends and patterns in data are determined.  Intelligent and decision making systems come in handy and so do data warehouses (Abramowicz & Zurada 2001).  Visualization in information technology is the use of intelligent systems to explore abstract data with the aim of transforming the normally voluminous data to a form that makes it easy for the human person to interact with the data and therefore derive meaning (Abramowicz & Zurada 2001).  Datamining and visualization which are made possible by availability of large volumes of abstract data are the ultimate tools used in gaining business intelligence.  Having the ability to use abstract data and not just structured data provides an organization with a wide range of data and therefore endless possibility with regards to identification of opportunities and threats to business operations.  Developing trends and pattern from large data is the ultimate research goal and being in possession of such data and patterns provide a business entity with good intelligence on industry and business dynamics thus threats and opportunities that could result from the nature of the operational environment are managed accordingly.

Knowledge Management System
A combination of tools, people, policies and strategies implemented by an organization that makes it easy to support creation, storage and dissemination of both structured and unstructured data (Abramowicz & Zurada 2001).  Knowledge management systems are mostly implemented by organizations that are concerned with the development of innovative approaches to operations and adoption of robust operational strategies.  Knowledge management systems are desirable in organizations that are committed to factual approaches to decision making and research oriented approaches to operations.  This is because knowledge management systems ensure the effective management and retrieval of information resource by providing functionalities that makes information accessible while ensuring security.  Proper management of information reduces the cost of research and reduces redundancy in information gathering.  To come up with a comprehensive knowledge management system a number of technologies are desirable notably: datamining, decision support systems, datawarehousing, visualization and enterprise systems.  A good knowledge management system is highly dynamic and in future Autonomic Computing could become a key requirement for good knowledge management system.  It is worth noting that security of information and data is of importance in knowledge management system and therefore a complex mix of human and technological security features are desirable of this system. This should also be coupled by a good recovery strategy in case of disaster or natural calamities.

Enterprise System
Computer system have developed in terms of capabilities and performance.  These developments have mainly been in response to changes in the role played by information in business operations.  From a single isolated unit, computers have developed a global networking capability and are now capable of integrating business processes seamlessly and making the resultant data available to different parts of the organization by the implementation of mealtime processors.  Enterprise systems are the ultimate information systems as they are highly effective and efficient.  Organizational information needs are addressed effectively and accurately under this system though the challenge is coming up with an effective enterprise system.  A good system is a result of a well organized and managed information system development effort.  An enterprise system is a definition of resource intensity and organizational commitment to the development of an information system that addresses its information needs to the dot (Abramowicz & Zurada 2001).  The achievement of an enterprise system should be the ultimate goal to any organization and though information systems will often have flaws it does pay to have an enterprise system as the mission in development or upgrade of an information system.

References
Abramowicz, W & Zurada, J 2001, Knowledge Discovery for Business Information Systems, New York, NY, Springer.

CIO (2009). Intel Target Inexpensive Portables [Internet]. <www.cio.com> [Accessed 14 Jan 2009]

ComputerWorld (2009) Obama and Britney Accounts Hacked [Internet]. Available: <www.computerworld.com> [Accessed 14 Jan 2009]

Curtis, G & Cobham, D 2002, Business Information Systems: Analysis, Design, and Practice, Upper Saddle Valley, Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

InformationWeek (2009) LG gets Apple Display Contract [Internet]. Available : <www.informationweek.com> [Accessed 14 Jan 2009]

NewsFactor Network (2009) Yahoo: Internet TV [Internet]. Available: <www.newsfactor.com> [Accessed 14 Jan 2009]

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