Departments that Generate Obligations
Functional View The classical view of a business is based on the functions that people perform, such as accounting, finance, marketing, operations, and human resources. The business organizes around these functions to coordinate them and to gain economies of scale within specialized sets of tasks. Information first flows vertically up and down between line positions and management; after analysis, it may be transmitted across other functions for use elsewhere in the company (see Figure I-4).
Process View Michael Porter of Harvard Business School describes a business in terms of the primary and support activities that are performed to create, deliver, and support a product or service. The primary activities are not limited to specific functions, but rather are cross‐functional processes (see Figure I-5). For example, an accounts payable process
might involve steps taken by other departments that generate obligations, which the accounting department pays. Likewise, the product creation process might begin with an idea from R&D, which is transferred to an operations organization that builds the actual product and involves marketing to get the word out, sales to sell and deliver the product, and support to provide customer assistance as needed. This view takes into account the activities in each functional area that are needed to complete a process, and any organization can be described by the processes it performs. Improving coordination among activities increases business profit. Organizations that effectively manage core processes across functional boundaries are often the industry leaders because they have made efficiencies that are not visible from the functional viewpoint. IS are often the key to process improvement and cross‐functional coordination.
Both the process and functional views are important to understanding IS. The functional view is useful when sim- ilar activities must be explained, coordinated, executed, or communicated. For example, understanding a marketing information system means understanding the functional approach to business in general and the marketing function in particular. The process view, on the other hand, is useful when examining the flow of information throughout a business. For example, understanding the information associated with order fulfillment, product development, or customer service means taking a process view of the business. This text assumes that both views are important for participating in IS decisions.
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