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Connecting the dots

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:52 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi
Vimal Chander Joshi
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Mohammad Amir, an MIS (management information systems) professional, in a popular insurance company, does the number crunching to calculate the value addition to his company’s coffers by its fleet of sales professionals. For this he has to assess the quantum of sales they crack in a day and in a week to reach the monthly, quarterly and annual figures and compare those with the additional costs incurred by the team.

This data is collated and later analysed by the top management, and policy-level decisions are made on its basis. Such decisions might lead to hiring of new staff or firing of some of the existing workforce.

Crucial data collection and analysis, therefore, is the responsibility of an MIS professional. Amir has had previous work experience with the call centre of a travel portal and an infotech company. Though one job profile contrasted strikingly with the other, his work has required him to constantly use his skills in MS-office, Oracle, ERP software (SAP-BI) and PowerPoint to present the data gathered in a useable format.

At the call centre, Amir used to organise data related to the flow of phone calls, including the number of calls made in different time slots (morning, afternoon and evening), the average time taken by each employee on one call and the time taken by each employee to make notes after completion of a call.

After data collection comes analysis and forecasting of future trends – some of which is also handled by MIS professionals. “We compare the figures of two quarters or two financial years to reach certain conclusions as reflected by the figures,” says Amir.

MIS is critical to the performance of a company and each department hires at least one or two people to carry out this work. “It’s data crunching from different angles, which gives the true picture of a company graphically (read statistically). The MIS function throws up interesting findings. At times, the company might discover that the activity on which it allocates 70 per cent of its expenses, brings in just 20 per cent of revenues,” says Sunil Goel, director, Global Hunt India, an executive search company.

A company’s strategic decision-making team and MIS have a symbiotic relationship. No wonder these data organisers, at times, also rise to the senior ranks of planning and strategy. “Any graduate can become an MIS professional and what matters more than qualifications are the skills. Later they can also rise to managerial ranks if they have the right skills and abilities,” says Sanjeev Agrawal, VP, operations, heading the MIS team at Impetus Technologies, Inc.

One of the downsides of this profession is that it doesnot employ a huge number of people. “An organisation with 1000 employees typically would have four to five people working in the MIS function,” adds Agrawal.

Since MIS professionals employ IT tools to analyse data, they must have a working knowledge of computers and their applications. “Some profiles can be very technical so one should have an infotech background but normally one ought to have domain expertise in finance or marketing,” says Ashim Raj Singla, assistant professor teaching ERP (enterprise resource planning) at IIFT (Indian Institute of Foreign Trade), Delhi.

The job is very demandingbut can at times offer some scope for creativity. “There are certain standard processes but some applications are built internally within the organisation. The MIS professional must look for the smartest way to arrange the data which makes sense to the management,” says Padmaja Ravishankar, head of information systems, 24/7 Customer, a BPO.

The job comes with huge responsibilities. One small omission can distort all calculations, casting a shadow over the vital figures of a company. “Once, while I was calculating the projected sales of a certain month, I inadvertently, added the sales on a day that happened to be a gazetted holiday. That inflated the sales figures, sending the entire management into a tizzy,” says Akshay Bhatt, an MIS professional in a media company. “You need to have a sound analytical mind, it is not a vanilla job after all,” adds Sunil Goel.

What's it about?
A management information systems professional is someone who collects data from multiple sources in an organisation, compiles it, organises it in useable formats, and then does the calculations as per departmental needs

Clock Work
9 am: Compile all figures (sales/ HR/ marketing), depending on my domain
10 am: Sort out and arrange these
11 am: Do the calculations to compute monthly, weekly or quarterly figures
3 pm: Meet with the management to give presentation
6pm: Study the figures to look for eye-catching trends reflected by the figures

The Payoff
At an entry level, one can start anywhere between Rs3 to Rs4 lakh per annum. If you are a qualified CA or MBA from an institute of repute, you can earn about Rs6 lakh to Rs8 lakh per annum. With experience, your salary can rise depending on the company you work for

Skills
. You need sound analytical skills
. You have to have a good head for numbers
. You have to master the ability to stay calm and collected under pressure. Sometimes the work seems unending and no sooner have you finished pending tasks you discover more have piled up
. You have to be well versed with computer tools such as MS Office, ERP software (such as SAP-BI) and excel in power point presentations

How do i get there?
Graduation is mandatory. It is preferable to be well aware of matters related to finance, computer applications and business organisation. For business organisation, you can study BBA/ BBS before going in for MIS. For senior level MIS positions, you can enter the industry after a CA or MBA. Though these qualifications open many more doors for professionals, you can go in for MIS if you have an interest in data processing and analysis

Institutes & urls
. An MBA from a good B-school or CA qualifications help
. For a two-year fulltime postgraduate programme from any of the 10 IIMs, visit
www.catiim.in
. For a chartered accountancy course, visit
www.icai.org
. For a BBS from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, Delhi, visit
www.sscbsdu.ac.in
. For a BBA from GGSIP University, Delhi, visit
www.ipu.ac.in

Pros & cons
.

Work is satisfying because you directly contribute to the company’s decision-making process.


.

Life gets hectic in MIS. Work pressure can drain you at times.


.

You remain in constant touch with the top management, a privilege not every one gets in the company

Try to master multiple disciplines

A veteran talks about the responsibilities one has to handle in the MIS department

How important is the role of an MIS profes sional for any company?
The MIS function is to a company what a human heart is to a body. Information has to flow for an organisation's success.

The MIS official uses computer applications to make analogies, calculations and analysis. Is it desirable that s/he should be expert in management and IT both?
One needs to have a knowledge of both. But a functions person (who has the knowledge of the department he works in, such as sales, marketing or production) can be trained in technology and even a technology person can be trained in MIS functions. For any company, however, it’s easier to train a functions person in technology.

Do MIS officials play an important role in strategic decision-making and planning?
See, the business has several functions from marketing to production to sales. Just because you know how the information flows does not equip you to handle every other thing. So, I would not say that they run the business but, yes, they enable the management to run it (through the information they disseminate).

As every industry has its own its own special sets of needs related to data requirement and processing. Can one professional move from one industry to another?
Each company has different requirements, but the fact is that the process of formatting the data does not vary in different companies. Content, however, changes from one company to another.

Does the data have to be analysed in a set pattern or can it be done differently?
There are certain standard processes which govern the information flow but one has to see how that information can be put together in a meaningful way. This requires knowledge of many disciplines (and not only mathematics, finance and IT).

Professionals should also understand psychology; to gauge how other people think, how they look at data, and what they understand from the information sent.

There is a lot of scope beyond web technology and finance. You have to understand management.

Padmaja Ravishankar, head of information systems, 24/ 7 Customer Interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi

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