Information Technology vs. Information Systems: What’s the Difference?
"IT and IS professionals are often tasked with solving complex problems related to technology, systems and data. This can be challenging, but it can also be very satisfying to find solutions to problems that others may not have been able to solve.” Michael Bleacher, Faculty, School of Information Systems
The terms information technology (IT) and information systems (IS) are often used interchangeably in everyday conversations. After all, both are related to computer data, right?
But while IT and IS are, in fact, related fields, there are some differences. IT consists of hardware, software and data. Hardware deals with physical equipment, like computers. Software refers to things like applications or “apps.” And data, like in other industries, comprises the facts, figures, information records and numbers generated by the activities of the organization. The IS field focuses on these same areas, but includes an emphasis on people and procedures.
So how do you choose the right field for you? That depends on your personality and interests.
Maintaining machines or managing people?
There’s an old stereotype that IT workers aren’t really “people persons.” And it’s true there are some IT jobs that may not require too much human interaction. But nowadays, many IT folks have to interact with other people. Because their work is often vital to business operations, they have to be able to explain how the software and hardware they purchase, maintain and develop can help meet business objectives.
Example of an IT position that requires good people skills is a helpdesk job. Michael Bleacher, Faculty, School of Information Systems, says, “These jobs are absolutely for gregarious and outgoing people who are proactive and patient with people who need support.” But since the scope of IT does remain very much centered on machines, hardware and software, people who prefer to work mostly by themselves may enjoy a career in IT over a career in IS.
People who work in IS have to be more attuned to organizational goals, colleagues and customers. IS professionals need to know how to manage a project and work with different stakeholders. Bleacher adds that you need to have the technical expertise required to do the job, but, in IS, you also need to have soft skills to be successful. Strong communication skills and strength in conflict management will go a long way in IS.
Who succeeds in information technology and information systems?
To succeed in IT or IS, you need to have systematic-logical process thinking. Bleacher notes that at Strayer, we teach all our IT students to take a methodical and systematic approach to problem solving. He jokes that the best IT or IS professional can think like a computer. “Technology does what we tell it to do, but sometimes we think we’re telling it one thing and it ‘hears’ something else from us. I would say thinking inside the box is the best way to function well. Inside the computer box that is.”
An ever-changing but fulfilling field
Professionals in information technology or information systems need to keep up with the constant advancements made in these fields. This offers plenty of learning opportunities and can keep things fresh. Additionally, Bleacher notes there’s a special sense of pride that comes with these fields. “IT and IS professionals are often tasked with solving complex problems related to technology, systems and data. This can be challenging, but it can also be very satisfying to find solutions to problems that others may not have been able to solve.”|
Learn more about Strayer University’s information technology degree offerings.
Category: Value of a Degree
Published Date: OCTOBER 5, 2023