What is MIS Anyway?

Note: this story began as a quora answer.

TL;DR
“What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds” — Steve Jobs

MIS = Management Information Systems

MIS is so interesting because it sits on the threshold of the business & technical worlds. It’s not about coding. It’s not about P&Ls. It’s about being able to speak the language of the coders and the accountants. It’s about translating “I want to be able to monitor our efficiency” to “We need tracking data, a dashboard and batch reporting mechanisms.”

But why does this Middleman Matter?

Today there isn’t a business that doesn’t have data needs. Software engineers are brilliant, but they don’t all understand business implications of their work. CEOs are awesome, but they don’t really have the time to learn about technical topics. Whether you’re a fortune 500 or a mom & pop shop, you can’t flourish without data.

It’s not all about analytics either (that’s just my personal bias) — how does the POS system work? How is the inventory control managed? How are external systems communications integrated? All these questions and more are best answered with the balanced understanding of the MIS Pro.

But, Really?

A lot of what you’re reading comes right from the spiel I’d give as president of the NEU MIS Club 🤓… Now though, somewhat removed from the classroom, I realize just how true this all is.

Working at Meerkat is the first job I’ve had where there’s really a separation between the business & the technical. I’m often asked by the business folks to design something analytical that achieves a certain goal. In the beginning I was accustomed to explaining my plans but I’ve gotten used to “I don’t care how, just figure it out.” It’s great! I stand at this translation layer, I am empowered to solve problems myself and know how to talk to the devs when necessary. I know when to push back on management on specifics. I know how to get to the results in a way that keeps business flowing.

MIS is Business

This all seems super technical still, and MIS should probably fall under a technical discipline, but it doesn’t. While MIS people know about technical things, their core focus should be on how their work impacts the business. How can the decisions they make and the systems they design be implemented to meet the business’s needs? It’s about information systems, but it’s more importantly about management. Management of the information architecture, management of the development resources and management of data processes. When combined, managing these three facets is crucial to having a successful, data-focused organization.


You like this? Lemme know (@jsneedles on twitter) Maybe I’ll write some more things.

You can find some things I’ve written before on my personal site too.