I enjoy giving advice to others about storing information for their business needs.
Information Systems and Their Features
Information systems look after, create, process, distribute, and review data to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organisation. Some examples of information systems include:
- Transaction processing system (TPS): Responsible for processing business transactions. The types of transactions vary between organisations, but some examples could be placing orders, billing, cheque deposits, payroll systems, reservation systems, and stock control. They help to maintain, add up, change, and remove data.
- Management information system: Helps with carrying out the tasks required for problem solving and decision making. They help management by monitoring performance, efficiency, accounting, and transactional data. Some examples include sales management systems, budgeting, personnel, and inventory control. This information needs to be accurate and relevant.
- Decision support systems: Assists managers in decision making. It uses internal and external resources to analyse existing information and project the effects. They help to summarise reports, forecasts, and graphs. Some examples include logistics systems and spread sheets.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: Business owners use customer relationship systems to accumulate and track customer activities, including purchases, product defects, and customer inquiries
- Business Intelligence Systems (BIS): Provide analyses that predict future sales patterns, summarise current costs, and forecast sales revenues.
Legal and Organisational Requirements of Information
It is important to have rules concerning the security and confidentiality of information, because it may contain sensitive data such as:
- Personal records
- Payroll records
- Human resources records
- Financial data
In the wrong hands, this information could pose a threat to the business and its customers or be used to commit fraud, discrimination, and other violations.
There are laws such as the 1998 Data Protection Act that, if not followed, could lead to legal action.
Choosing Which Information to Store
Organisations cannot keep all the information they obtain. Storing wrong or irrelevant information is of no use and takes up valuable space, making retrieving information more difficult.
When making decisions on which information should be stored, the decision will depend first and foremost on the legal requirements relating to each particular type of information. For example, legal requirements state that:
- Human resource records must be retained by an organisation for six years after the end of a staff member's employment
- Health and safety records must be retained permanently
- Accounts records must be kept for between three and six years, depending on the type of organisation
Information such as personal data relating to former customers must be disposed of once it is no longer being used. By following these guides, you can ensure only relevant information is stored, making it easier to find when needed.
Ensuring the Accuracy of Information
The 1998 Data Protection Act imposes obligations on businesses to ensure the accuracy of the personal data they hold. The information must always be kept up to date where necessary. Some ways of doing so include:
- Using regularly updated databases and spreadsheets
- Setting alerts on customer and employee information to make sure they are contacted when systems are updated
- Utilizing external and internal audits
- Reviewing and revising your methods of data collection
Formatting and Delivering Information on Time
Information that is not supplied in the correct format will need to be reformatted before being used, which causes a delay and creates the risk of the information being accidentally altered. Information that is not supplied within agreed time frames may be of no use, since there may not be enough time to interpret the data.
Choosing Which Information to Delete
Organisations set their own guidelines regarding when and what information may be deleted. These guidelines depend on the type and size of an organisation, the space available in the live or current filing system, and the type of information.
Information that is irrelevant, out of date, or inaccurate may be deleted.
Information in archived files may only be deleted when their retention period is up. Personal data shall be retained no longer than necessary. Disposing of personal data when no longer needed reduces the risk that it will become inaccurate, out of date, or irrelevant.
Addressing Problems With Information Systems
Problems that may occur in information systems and ways to resolve them include:
- Information not being stored in the correct way. For example: in the wrong order; unnecessary files being kept; duplicates being stored; and missing files. The way to overcome this problem is for an organisation to have set guidelines on how to store information, making it faster and easier to retrieve information when needed. Managers need to be notified when information is missing, as this could breach data protection laws. Another way to keep on top of information is to have a system that regularly checks and disposes of unnecessary information.
- Problems with computer systems such as viruses. These need to be reported to an IT manager or IT technicians.
- Within organisations, there can be communication breakdowns which result in information not being transfered in the correct way. These need to be resolved between the team or reported to a manager if they cannot be resolved immediately.
- Most organisations use transaction processing systems to collect, store, process, and output the functionalities of the core operations of a business. TPS information systems collect data from user inputs and then generate outputs based on data collected. These systems are used to handle hundreds of transactions and require many users to work on the same set of data at the same time. Sometimes, this causes the system to crash. In the event of a crash, it is vital that an organization has their system backed up so that information is not lost. It is important that rules are established and followed step-by-step for a transaction to be considered successful.
The purpose of storing information is so it is kept in a safe and secure environment, complying with data protection laws. It is also a legal requirement for organisations to store certain information.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.