Friday, May 22, 2015

Is IT a System

IT is a system which has an emergent property of individual human beings making sense of experiences in time and place.
A system is the part of the world which has to be of interest to us on the basis of a certain purpose. Only then you think about the other properties (interaction of elements, environment, etc.). A subsystem correctly defined is, in any case, a system. A model is something different though and has to do with our knowledge about a system and its functioning. Is IT (Information & Technology) a system, though?

An information System (IS) is "a system" that deals with information management: collecting, storing, and processing data and delivering information, knowledge, and digital products. Sometimes people equated Information System with Computer System, an amalgamation of computer programs and software. Some IT systems probably are just glorified computer programs. Real information systems are designed by systems analysts and other qualified specialists, including business area experts, to integrate computer programs, databases, and other pieces of IT components, with how users go about accomplishing objectives. Does it mean that the system is more than the sum of its parts?
(a) IS is a kind of systems, thus, a general definition of a system applies.
(b) Its exchange with the environment is limited to the information exchange.
(c) The exchange between its components is also limited to information exchange which is a bit implicit.

The “T” (technology or a computer system) part of IT is an enabling system for an “I” driven - information System (IS). As for IS, it's a system that manages information, which is a pretty pervasive concept and mostly depends on humans to define which kind of information that is relevant. So it's up to *someone* to draw the boundary and it probably too depends on the purpose of your thinking about that system. Of course, various people are influenced by the system assets they have available and utilize. What can be unifying is looking at each function in the enterprise as a system and then finding a unified means of looking at the essence. Further finding useful unification of information structures that are system oriented (thus similar to all types of systems assets). This would increase common understanding and communication in the enterprise. It is fundamentally dependent on the definitions if the two concepts which are combined. 'Information' and 'System.' If 'Information' is defined as objective and externally accessible - 'IS' can be used to describe IT based systems. If however, Information is defined as the result of subjective interpretation of data, and thus, it is not accessible from an objective point of view and also is not externalized.

The question of whether people are in the system or out of the system is a very important question. Too often the boundary or definition of the 'system-of-interest' can be different depending on the particular problem being addressed, adding people to a system changes the characteristics of the system. Components are different and the interactions are different. On the other hand, people are the important element in the environment, and the information system as pure technology elements (processor, software / firmware, power, enclosure, I/O). By keeping the organization (people, process, facilities, rewards, etc) separate from the interaction and the properties of the information system become much clearer. And a better environment for the information system can be created, an organizational system. For example, if you define an IS just as the right people accessing the right information, you don't need much GRC. But if you draw a boundary that encompasses all people that could or want to access information, then you'd need to take care of risk management. That would mean you must take care of both IT and People. The key point  is to make sure the 'system-of-interest' is defined to establish the boundary and the properties that interact with the environment. Then to understand the elements that interact with each other and the environment.

IT is a system which has an emergent property of individual human beings making sense of experiences in time and place. In Systems thinking, until the 'system' has characteristics which are called as emerging characteristics than its interacting 'components,' it is not a system. Take the verbs and see interactions with the environment: collecting, storing, processing and delivering information. These verbs (behaviors) imply some interaction with an environment or other elements of the system.


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