Giant companies like Apple, Google, Facebook use information systems to provide high-quality goods and services and to gain or sustain competitive advantage over rivals companies such as FedEx and UPS use information systems to route trucks and track packages. Wallgreens and Wallmart use information systems for everything from optimizing supply chains to recording purchases and analyzing customer tastes and preferences, optimizing supply chains to recording purchases and analyzing customer tastes and preferences. Cities use information systems for adaptive traffic control systems or variable speed limits. Cars use information systems for everything from ignition control to airbags to distance control and park assist systems. Many innovative business models, ranging from Airbnb to Uber, are built on or around information systems.
Alternatively, just look around your school or place of work. At your school, you register for classes online; use e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook to communicate with fellow students and your instructors; access e-books from your library; and complete or submit assignments on online learning platforms such as Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, or Sakai. At work, you may use a PC for e-mail and many other tasks. Your paychecks are probably generated by computer and automatically deposited into your bank account via high-speed networks. Even in your spare time, information systems are ubiquitous: You use social networking sites like Facebook to stay connected with your friends and family, you watch videos on YouTube, you upload pictures taken with your smartphone to picture-sharing sites like Instagram, you listen to music on Pandora or Spotify, and you use your smartphone for playing games, sending e-mails, or reading books. Chances are that each year you see more information systems than you did the year before, and these systems are a more fundamental and important part of your social, academic, and work life than ever before.
Changes in technology have enabled new ways of working and socializing; whereas traditionally, people were bound to a stationary PC to do essential tasks, they can now perform such tasks from almost anywhere they have a cell phone signal. Likewise, workdays traditionally had a clear beginning and a clear end—from when you powered your computer on to when you turned it off at night. Today, many tasks (especially more casual tasks such as reading or sending e-mails) can be done at any time, often in small chunks in between other tasks, such as when waiting in line at the supermarket cashier. Computing has changed from an activity primarily focused on automating work to encompass various social and casual activities. Devices such as smartphones or tablets, paired with mobile broadband networks, allow for instant-on computing experiences, whenever and wherever; advances in cloud computing (think Gmail, Office Online, or Dropbox) allow for accessing e-mails, files, notes, and the like, from different devices, further enhancing portability and mobility.
In effect, we are in a virtuous cycle (or in a vicious cycle, considering the creep of work life into people’s leisure time and the increasing fixation on being permanently “on call”), where changes in technology lead to social changes and social changes shape technological changes. For example, communication, social networking, and online investing almost necessitate mobility and connectivity, as people have grown accustomed to checking e-mails, posting status updates, or checking on real-time stock quotes while on the go. In addition, the boundaries between work and leisure time are blurring, so that employees increasingly demand devices that can support both and often bring their own devices into the workplace.