Information Technology refers to the specific technical components, normally organised as "hardware", "software" and "communications", which are used to make up an information system.
We often say "IT", without thinking about what it really means. For many years "Information Technology" was a phrase that was used to refer to almost everything in the realm of computers and systems in business. As the IMBOK makes very clear, it is a long management journey from investing in raw information technology components to delivering the benefits of that investment, and by themselves information technology components may have no useful function at all. They need to be engineered into usable and useful systems that serve a real need.
An information system is not the same as the technology upon which it is based: it is the totality of technological and human components that work together to produce the information systems and services that a business needs, and that processes information for some organisational purpose.
We usually use the words "information" and "system" without thinking what they might mean. Just take the word "system" alone - it has many uses and many nuances, from talking about national politics ("political system") to obscure aspects of science ("eco-technology systems"). And then, "information" is one of those words that sometimes make less and less sense the more you think about them. The combination of the two words - "information" and "system" - is often seen as synonymous with "information technology" or just "IT", but here we will make a very clear distinction between the two.
A business process is a logical envelope that co-ordinates and gives purpose to business activities; generally where an activity delivers an output, a process delivers an outcome - a result that is evident to stakeholders outside the business as well as those within.
Of all the concepts that we are exercising here the business process is, for some people, the most difficult to embrace. We are all familiar with where we fit into the organisation from the point of view of the organisation chart, but when it comes to seeing our work in the context of the total effort that our employing organisation undertakes we have great difficulty. We all know who we work for, but we are not clear how our contribution combines with the work of others to deliver an outcome to the outside world.
The outcome of an information technology or information system investment, be it tangible or intangible, financial or non-financial, measureable or immeasureable.
In many places in the IMBOK text there are references to the benefits that we might expect from an information systems investment, and there is much evidence of the complications that surround the successful delivery of such benefits. The problem is not so much understanding what a benefit is, rather understanding the management processes and activities that will deliver it.
Strategy is about change. Without change, there is no real need for strategy. With change in mind, we can argue that the simplest definition of strategy is: knowing where you are, knowing where you would like to be, and knowing roughly how you intend to get there.
In line with this simple definition, developing new strategies can be quite straightforward and quite fulfilling. With basic strategic analysis tools at hand strategy formulation is not too difficult: it's just a matter of talking to the key players, applying the tools, and summarising what must be done (Oh, and you have to get the whole management team to agree, of course! That might be a problem). If strategy formulation is relatively simple, delivering a strategy is not simple - it can be a nightmare of confusion and difficulty. There are no tools that will guarantee the easy implementation of a strategy - just persistent effort to communicate ideas, motivate action, and manage change.
The IMBOK was a major
deliverable from the "HictE" (ICT in Higher Education) project