Skip to main content
Engineering LibreTexts

1.1: Components of an Information System

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    The Components of Information Systems

    As we have learned in the previous section, Information systems deal with the overall combination of different parts that work together such as hardware, software, telecommunications technologies, and people to process data for, typically, organization needs or settings. Learning and having been taught that Information Systems deal with current technologies and software programs is one minor aspect of a bigger picture. Information systems deal with four major components: Technology, People, Data, and Process.


    Technology can be thought of as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. From the invention of the wheel to the harnessing of electricity for artificial lighting, technology is a part of our lives in so many ways that we tend to take it for granted. The development of Hardware & Software created brand new opportunities for organizations and clients to perform day-to-day tasks with ease.


    Hardware is the part of an information system you can touch – the physical components of the technology. Computers, keyboards, disk drives, iPads, and flash drives are all examples of information systems hardware. As a Project Manager or Systems Analyst, you will not be responsible for developing the hardware of systems or designing a brand new computer, but you will be expected to be familiar with computer hardware components and how they work. Computer Engineers will be responsible for developing these systems for the vendors from which you will choose to buy their systems.


    Figure 1: Computer with keyboard, Figure 2: Motherboard with other components.

    mouse, screen & chassis.


    Software is a set of instructions that tells the hardware what to do. Software is not tangible – it cannot be touched. Programmers create software that sends series of instructions for the computerfollow. There are several categories of software, with the two main categories being operating-system software, which makes the hardware usable, and application software, which does something useful. Examples of operating systems include Microsoft Windows on a personal computer and Google’s Android on a mobile phone. Examples of application software are Microsoft Excel and Angry Birds. Software will be explored more thoroughly in chapter 3.


    Figure 3: Windows 8 OS Software Figure 3: Audio Mixing application software

    with preinstalled application software

    Hardware and Software have come a really long way throughout time, thanks to the innovator and inventors of these two components. Communication and data transmission has been made possible. Computer networking, Networking, Or network communication is the concept of being able to connect with other individuals or organizations to share and communicate data over computer systems called a Computer network. Information systems in the present heavily rely on being able to communicate with other systems through this means. The concept of the internet was not always around, so computer systems were not always able to communicate with others in remote locations like we see today. Computer networking will be covered in greater detail in chapter 3.

    The development of Cloud Computing is another benefit that has emerged. Cloud computing is the use of IT resources of a vendor or company through the internet (also called “the cloud”) usually through a subscription-based model. These IT resources are not locally stored on the client’s premises and provide copious amounts of advantages as well as disadvantages. Cloud computing will be discussed in greater detail in chapter 3 as well.


    The second component is data. You can think of data as a collection of facts. For example, your street address, the city you live in, and your phone number are all pieces of data. Like software, data is also intangible. By themselves, pieces of data are not really very useful. But aggregated, indexed, and organized together into a database, data can become a powerful tool for businesses. In fact, all of the definitions presented at the beginning of this chapter focused on how information systems manage data. Organizations collect all kinds of data and use it to make decisions. These decisions can then be analyzed as to their effectiveness and the organization can be improved. Chapter 4 will focus on data and databases, and their uses in organizations.


    Where does the information come from? Is it from science? Or from computers? By no means! It comes from us! People!

    People have been the conveyors of creating information out of raw data. It is out of the data that people collect that we are able to get information that is used to develop useful tools and products that are used daily. It is people that create buildings, agricultural products, and so much more. From this, you can understand the crucial roles that people in your organization and in other parts affect the way you will manage or develop an information system

    Picture of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates together on stage at some conference. When thinking about information systems, it is easy to get focused on the technology components and forget that we must look beyond these tools to fully understand how they integrate into an organization. A focus on the people involved in information systems is the next step. From the front-line help-desk workers to systems analysts, to programmers, all the way up to the chief information officer (CIO), the people involved with information systems are an essential element that must not be overlooked.


    The last component of information systems is process. A process is a series of steps undertaken to achieve a desired outcome or goal. Information systems are becoming more and more integrated with organizational processes, bringing more productivity and better control to those processes. But simply automating activities using technology is not enough – businesses looking to effectively utilize information systems do more. Using technology to manage and improve processes, both within a company and externally with suppliers and customers is the ultimate goal. Technology buzzwords such as “business process reengineering,” “business process management,” and “enterprise resource planning” all have to do with the continued improvement of these business procedures and the integration of technology with them. Businesses hoping to gain an advantage over their competitors are highly focused on this component of information systems. We will discuss processes in greater detail in the second part of this chapter.


    Bourgeois, D., & Bourgeois, D. T. (2014, February 28). Chapter 2: Hardware. Retrieved from

    Management Information Systems (Business 206). (n.d.). Retrieved from

    Management Information Systems (Business 206). (n.d.). Retrieved from

    1.1: Components of an Information System is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.