So what is MIS anyway?
Well, when my wife describes it, she simply says “he does computer stuff.” While that is partly true, it doesn’t really capture what MIS is and it certainly does not differentiate it from computer science (CS) and information technology (IT). So this is my attempt to describe to my readers what MIS is and how it differs from CS and IT.
Let’s imagine for a second that computers don’t exist (I wonder if you can). Yeah, yeah…that will be my last John Lennon song reference for the post, I promise. So, back on track with the analogy. Imagine that computers don’t exist. Then, someone creates the processors, components, algorithms, and other things that make computers possible. This person is a computer scientist, and they are the creators of computing.
Now we have computers….yeah! So, what now? Are they useful? If so, how? Furthermore, if they are useful, how are they best used? This is where MIS comes in. They are problem solvers….part diagnostician, part explorer. In other words, the MIS professionals take the computing resources that are created by CS and look for new and novel ways to apply them to solve problems or to create new opportunities. MIS professionals can best be described as the people that apply computing.
So, now we have a computing resource that we have applied in some way to solve a problem. However, we aren’t quite there yet. Someone has to configure and maintain that computing resource that has been applied so that it will run smoothly. This is where IT comes in. IT professionals are best described as those that implement and maintain computing resources.
Now I can go on and on with what each discipline does in order to carry out their functions, but I think that you get the point. CS professionals create, MIS professionals apply, and IT professionals implement and maintain.
While I recognize that there are CS people that may apply computing resources and MIS professionals that may maintain them, I think that these categories best capture the general essence of what each discipline is concerned with. I am eager to hear what you think!