In the months leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government had all the necessary clues to stop the al Qaeda perpetrators. The attackers were from countries known to harbor terrorists, they entered the United States on temporary visas, they had trained to fly civilian airliners, and they purchased one-way airplane tickets on September 11.Unfortunately for thousands of workers in the World Trade Center, those clues were located in different databases scattered across many government agencies. Organizations like the CIA and the FBI maintain thousands of databases, each with its own data: financial records, DNA samples, voice and other sound samples, video clips, maps, floor plans, human intelligence reports from all over the world, and many other types of data. Integrating all of those data into a coherent whole is potentially overwhelming. In 2001 there was no tool available that would have enabled government analysts to integrate all of these different types of data that were dispersed across so many locations.In many cases, organizations achieve competitive advantage by managing their business processes more profitably than their competitors do. Therefore, you begin this chapter with an introduction to business processes and business process management. You will then see how information systems enable organizations to respond to business pressures. Next, you will learn how information systems help organizations gain competitive advantages in the marketplace. The chapter concludes by discussing business–IT alignment; in other words, how an organization’s IT function supports the organization’s strategy.
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