An Executive Information System (EIS) is a type of management information system intended to facilitate and support the information and decision-making needs of senior executives by providing easy access to both internal and external information relevant to meeting the strategic goals of the organization. It is commonly considered as a specialized form of a Decision Support System (DSS) The emphasis of EIS is on graphical displays and easy-to-use user interfaces. They offer strong reporting and drill-down capabilities. In general, EIS are enterprise-wide DSS that help top-level executives analyze, compare, and highlight trends in important variables so that they can monitor performance and identify opportunities and problems. EIS and data warehousing technologies are converging in the marketplace. In recent years, the term EIS has lost popularity in favor of Business Intelligence (with the sub areas of reporting, analytics, and digital dashboards).
Traditionally, executive information systems were developed as mainframe computer-based programs. The purpose was to package a company’s data and to provide sales performance or market research statistics for decision makers, as such financial officers, marketing directors, and chief executive officers, who were not necessarily well acquainted with computers. The objective was to develop computer applications that would highlight information to satisfy senior executives’ needs. Typically, an EIS provides data that would only need to support executive level decisions instead of the data for all the company. Today, the application of EIS is not only in typical corporate hierarchies, but also at personal computers on a local area network. EIS now cross computer hardware platforms and integrate information stored on mainframes, personal computer systems, and minicomputers. As some client service companies adopt the latest enterprise information systems, employees can use their personal computers to get access to the company’s data and decide which data are relevant for their decision makings. This arrangement makes all users able to customize their access to the proper company’s data and provide relevant information to both upper and lower levels in companies.
The components of an EIS can typically be classified as:
When talking about hardware for an EIS environment, we should focus on the hardware that meet the executive’s needs. The executive must be put first and the executive’s needs must be defined before the hardware can be selected. The basic computer hardware needed for a typical EIS includes four components:
Input data-entry devices. These devices allow the executive to enter, verify, and update data immediately,
The central processing unit (CPU), which is the kernel because it controls the other computer system components,
Data storage files. The executive can use this part to save useful business information, and this part also help the executive to search historical business information easily,
Output devices, which provide a visual or permanent record for the executive to save or read. This device refers to the visual output device or printer.
In addition, with the advent of local area networks (LAN), several EIS products for networked workstations became available. These systems require less support and less expensive computer hardware. They also increase access of the EIS information to many more users within a company.
Choosing the appropriate software is vital to design an effective EIS, Therefore, the software components and how they integrate the data into one system are very important. The basic software needed for a typical EIS includes four components:
Text base software. The most common form of text is probably documents,
Database. Heterogeneous databases residing on a range of vendor-specific and open computer platforms help executives access both internal and external data,
Graphic base. Graphics can turn volumes of text and statistics into visual information for executives. Typical graphic types are: time series charts, scatter diagrams, maps, motion graphics, sequence charts, and comparison-oriented graphs (i.e., bar charts),
Model base. The EIS models contain routine and special statistical, financial, and other quantitative analysis.
Perhaps a more difficult problem for executives is choosing from a range of highly technical software packages. Ease of use, responsiveness to executives' requests, and price are all reasonable considerations. Further, it should be considered whether the package can run on existing hardware
An EIS needs to be efficient to retrieve relevant data for decision makers, so the user interface is very important. Several types of interfaces can be available to the EIS structure, such as scheduled reports, questions/answers, menu driven, command language, natural language, and input/output. It is crucial that the interface must fit the decision maker’s decision-making style. If the executive is not comfortable with the information questions/answers style, the EIS will not be fully utilized. The ideal interface for an EIS would be simple to use and highly flexible, providing consistent performance, reflecting the executive’s world, and containing help information.
As decentralizing is becoming the current trend in companies, telecommunications will play a pivotal role in networked information systems. Transmitting data from one place to another has become crucial for establishing a reliable network. In addition, telecommunications within an EIS can accelerate the need for access to distributed data.
EIS enables executives to find those data according to user-defined criteria and promote information-based insight and understanding. Unlike a traditional management information system presentation, EIS can distinguish between vital and seldom-used data, and track different key critical activities for executives, both which are helpful in evaluating if the company is meeting its corporate objectives. After realizing its advantages, people have applied EIS in many areas, especially, in manufacturing, marketing, and finance areas.
Basically, manufacturing is the transformation of raw materials into finished goods for sale, or intermediate processes involving the production or finishing of semi-manufactures. It is a large branch of industry and of secondary production. Manufacturing operational control focuses on day-to-day operations, and the central idea of this process is effectiveness and efficiency. To produce meaningful managerial and operational information for controlling manufacturing operations, the executive has to make changes in the decision processes. EIS provides the evaluation of vendors and buyers, the evaluation of purchased materials and parts, and analysis of critical purchasing areas. Therefore, the executive can oversee and review purchasing operations effectively with EIS. In addition, because production planning and control depends heavily on the plant’s data base and its communications with all manufacturing work centers, EIS also provides an approach to improve production planning and control
In an organization, marketing executives’ role is to create the future. Their main duty is managing available marketing resources to create a more effective future. For this, they need make judgments about risk and uncertainty of a project and its impact on the company in short term and long term. To assist marketing executives in making effective marketing decisions, an EIS can be applied. EIS provides an approach to sales forecasting, which can allow the market executive to compare sales forecast with past sales. EIS also offers an approach to product price, which is found in venture analysis. The market executive can evaluate pricing as related to competition along with the relationship of product quality with price charged. In summary, EIS software package enables marketing executives to manipulate the data by looking for trends, performing audits of the sales data, and calculating totals, averages, changes, variances, or ratios. All of these sales analysis functions help marketing executives to make final decisions.
A financial analysis is one of the most important steps to companies today. The executive needs to use financial ratios and cash flow analysis to estimate the trends and make capital investment decisions. An EIS is a responsibility-oriented approach that integrates planning or budgeting with control of performance reporting, and it can be extremely helpful to finance executives. Basically, EIS focuses on accountability of financial performance and it recognizes the importance of cost standards and flexible budgeting in developing the quality of information provided for all executive levels. EIS enables executives to focus more on the long-term basis of current year and beyond, which means that the executive not only can manage a sufficient flow to maintain current operations but also can figure out how to expand operations that are contemplated over the coming years. Also, the combination of EIS and EDI environment can help cash managers to review the company’s financial structure so that the best method of financing for an accepted capital project can be concluded. In addition, the EIS is a good tool to help the executive to review financial ratios, highlight financial trends and analyze a company’s performance and its competitors.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Easy for upper-level executives to use, extensive computer experience is not required in operations
Provides timely delivery of company summary information
Information that is provided is better understood
Filters data for management
Improves to tracking information
Offers efficiency to decision makers
Functions are limited, cannot perform complex calculations
Hard to quantify benefits and to justify implementation of an EIS
Executives may encounter information overload
System may become slow, large, and hard to manage
Difficult to keep current data
May lead to less reliable and insecure data
Small companies may encounter excessive costs for implementation
Too detailed Oriented
The future of executive info systems will not be bound by mainframe computer systems. This trend allows executives escaping from learning different computer operating systems and substantially decreases the implementation costs for companies. Because utilizing existing software applications lies in this trend, executives will also eliminate the need to learn a new or special language for the EIS package. Future executive information systems will not only provide a system that supports senior executives, but also contain the information needs for middle managers. The future executive information systems will become diverse because of integrating potential new applications and technology into the systems, such as incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and integrating multimedia characteristics and ISDN technology into an EIS