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We should note that action does not necessarily mean a physical act. For instance, a purchasing agent who receives a report showing that inventory levels are adequate will respond by ordering nothing. The agent’s action to do nothing is a conscious decision, triggered by information and different from doing nothing because of being uninformed. The distinction between data and information has pervasive implications for the study of information systems. If output from the information system fails to cause users to act, the system serves no purpose and has failed in its primary objective.

In the past, achieving economies of scale was the principal justification for the centralized approach. The economics of data processing favored large, expensive, powerful computers. The wide variety of needs that such centralized systems had to satisfy called for computers that were highly generalized and employed complex operating systems. Powerful yet inexpensive small-scale computer systems, which can cost-effectively perform specialized functions, have changed the economics of data processing dramatically.

This approach can produce satisfactory results, but customizing the system is costly. Vendor-supported systems are custom (or customized) systems that client organizations purchase commercially rather than develop in-house. Under this approach, the software vendor designs, implements, and maintains the system for its client. This is a popular option with health care and legal services organizations that have complex systems requirements but are not of sufficient magnitude to justify retaining an in-house systems development staff.

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Accounting Information Systems by J. Hall


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