Strategic Uses of Information Systems

This week we examine the strategic uses of information systems, primarily as a tool for gaining competitive advantage. The outline presented here is intended to help point out important topics and terms. It is not intended to replace lecture (or reading the chapter). If you are following along in the text, this topic is covered in chapter two.


Terms used in chapter 2

These terms are listed in roughly the order encountered in the text.

Strategic Information Systems (SIS)

SIS are generally differentiated from other BIS because they are used to seize opportunities rather than just solve problems. SIS are often used to try to gain a strategic advantage over rivals, leading to a competitive advantage in the market. SIS may also be used to enter new markets. It is also important to remember that gaining a competitive advantage is not a static, unchanging event. Competitors will almost certainly seek to reduce, eliminate, or reverse any competitive advantage you have. Maintaining a competitive advantage is an ongoing process.

Eight ways to gain competitive advantage

Questions involving development of an SIS

Copyrights, patents, and the DMCA

Competitive advantage is a moving target. Once a competitive advantage has been achieved, action must be taken to maintain it or competitors will quickly try to eliminate it. One of the techniques used by organizations to prevent competitors from catching up is to protect what is know as "intellectual property". The primary vehicles for such protection are trade secrets, copyrights, and patents. Copyrights and patents give the claim holder exclusive rights to a concept, idea, or product for a length of time. During that time, the claim holder can prevent competitors from using the protected concepts, ideas, or products.

Copyrights and patents have become a controversial subject in recent years. Governments have been increasingly strengthening copyrights and patents. At the same time it has become clear that many copyrights and patents have suppressed innovation. This has led many to question what the real purpose of "intellectual property" laws are and should be. The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) has become a focal point of this argument by making many formerly legal activities involving copyrights into criminal acts. Expect to see questions on this topic in the discussion forums.

Design by buzzword

If you stay in the IT field you will always hear about the latest and greatest trends. Just as in retail, "new" sells. That's one reason why it is easy to get everyone excited about being up-to-date and using all the new "buzzword" technologies. Unfortunately, it is also often the case that tried-and-true older technologies are a better choice for many solutions. Beware of the "buzzwords".

Closely associated with such buzzwords are jargon. Jargon is used in most professions for a few reasons. First, jargon helps to communicate ideas very quickly and accurately without the need for going into detail. Second, jargon signals that the people engaged in discussion are fluent enough in the given field to use jargon. Third, jargon is sometimes used by people in the field to discourage outsiders from asking questions. This may be due to annoyance, or sometimes because the outsider has asked a question the "expert" should know but doesn't. In this case the use of jargon is a defensive measure by the expert.

Rockwell Automation's Retroencabulator sales video is a good example of the use of jargon.