Cross-discipline research requires researchers to understand many concepts outside their own discipline. Computing has increased in our everyday lives to the point that “ubiquitous computing” has become an entry in the Wikipedia (Wikepedia). Research is no different. Researchers outside of computer networkrelated disciplines must account for the effects of network-based information systems on their research. This article presents a model to aid researchers with the tasks of properly identifying the elements and effects of a network-based information system within their studies. The complexity associated with network-based information systems may be seen by considering a study involving the effectiveness of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system on a mid-sized company. A study becomes muddled when it fails to recognize the differences between the myriad of people, procedures, data, software, and hardware involved in the development, implementation, security, use, and support of an ERP system. If a researcher confuses network security with ERP configuration limitations, then two important aspects of the information system are obscured. Networks limit access to network resources so that only authorized users have access to their data. ERP applications allow an organization to restrict access to data to safeguard the data (Colt & Yang, 2004). Both aspects relate to the availability of data, but they come from different parts of the system. The two aspects should not be addressed as if both are attributable to the same source. Misidentifying network-based information system elements reflects negatively upon the legitimacy of an entire study.
Management information systems, applications systems development, and data communications each have contributed models that may be useful in categorizing network-based information system elements of a study. Kroenke (1981) offered a five-component model for planning business computer systems. Willis, Wilton, Brown, Reynolds, Lane Thomas, Carison, Hasan, Barnaby, Boutquin, Ablan, Harrison, Shlosberg, and Waters (1999) discussed several client/server architectures for network-based applications. Deitel, Deitel, and Steinbuhler (2001) presented a three-tier client/server architecture for network-based applications. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) created the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI, 1994) Model for network communications. Zachman (2004) proposes a 30-cell matrix for managing an enterprise.
Kroenke’s (1981) five components are: people, procedures, data, software, and hardware. Procedures refer to the tasks that people perform. Data includes a wide range of data from users’ data to the data necessary for network configuration. Data forms the bridge between procedures and software. Software consists of programs, scripts, utilities, and applications that provide the ordered lists of instructions that direct the operation of the hardware. The hardware is the equipment used by users, applications, and networks. Although Kroenke’s five components are decades old, recent publications still cite the model including Pudyastuti, Mulyono, Fayakun, and Sudarman (2000), Wall (2001), Spencer and Johnston (2002), and Kamel (2002).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Server: A server is a computer or application that provides services to a client.
Operator: An operator is a person who tends to the workings of network equipment.
User: A user is a person who operates a workstation for one’s own benefit or for the benefit of one’s customer.
Device: A device is a piece of equipment used in a network. Devices include, but are not limited to, workstations, servers, data storage equipment, printers, routers, switches, hubs, machinery or appliances with network adapters, and punch-down panels.
Workstation: A workstation is a computer that performs tasks for an individual.
Record: A record is composed of fields that contain facts about something, such as an item sold. Records are stored in files.
Network: A network consists of two or more devices with processors functioning in such a way that the devices can communicate and share resources.
Application: An application is a program, script, or other collection of instructions that direct the operation of a processor. This is a wide definition of “application.” It does not distinguish Web-based software from standalone software. Nor does this definition distinguish system software from goal-specific software.
Client: A client is a computer, other device, or application that receives services from a server.