A management information system (MIS) provides information which is needed to manage organizations efficiently and effectively. Management information systems involve three primary resources: people, technology, and information or decision making. Management information systems are distinct from other information systems in that they are used to analyze operational activities in the organization. Academically, the term is commonly used to refer to the group of information management methods tied to the automation or support of human decision making, e. g. decision support systems, expert systems, and executive information systems.
Kenneth and Jane Laudon identify five eras of MIS evolution corresponding to five phases in the development of computing technology: 1) mainframe and minicomputer computing, 2) personal computers, 3) client/server networks, 4) enterprise computing, and 5) cloud computing. The first (mainframe and minicomputer) era was ruled by IBM and their mainframe computers, these computers would often take up whole rooms and require teams to run them, IBM supplied the hardware and the software. As technology advanced these computers were able to handle greater capacities and therefore reduce their cost.
Smaller, more affordable minicomputers allowed larger businesses to run their own computing centers in-house. The second (personal computer) era began in 1965 as microprocessors started to compete with mainframes and minicomputers and accelerated the process of decentralizing computing power from large data centers to smaller offices. In the late 1970s minicomputer technology gave way to personal computers and relatively low cost computers were becoming mass market commodities, allowing businesses to provide their employees access to computing power that ten years before would have cost tens of thousands of dollars.
This proliferation of computers created a ready market for interconnecting networks and the popularization of the Internet. As the complexity of the technology increased and the costs decreased, the need to share information within an enterprise also grew, giving rise to the third (client/server) era in which computers on a common network were able to access shared information on a server. This allowed for large amounts of data to be accessed by thousands and even millions of people simultaneously.
The fourth (enterprise) era enabled by high speed networks, tied all aspects of the business enterprise together offering rich information access encompassing the complete management structure. The fifth and latest (cloud computing) era of information systems employs networking technology to deliver applications as well as data storage independent of the configuration, location or nature of the hardware. This, along with high speed cellphone and wifi networks, led to new levels of mobility in which managers access the MIS remotely with laptops, tablet pcs, and smartphones.