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information managementthe process of gathering, processing and interpreting data both from the firm's external environment and from inside the firm, generally using the information technology provided by COMPUTERS.
All business functions such as production, marketing and distribution involve both physical tasks and parallel information-processing activities. Computers, communications devices and other information technology hardware can be deployed to perform routine accounting, record keeping and order processing functions cheaply and efficiently In addition to these basic data-processing tasks, information technology has enabled firms to collect more data than previously could be handled by the firm and subject it to more detailed analysis. This has the advantage of dovetailing production, marketing and distribution activities within the firm. In addition, greater communication with customers and suppliers through their computers facilitates closer relationships with these customers and suppliers, leading to, for example, just-in-time production and supply (see JUST-IN-TIME (JIT) SYSTEM). Such information technologies as COMPUTER-AIDED DESIGN and COMPUTER-AIDED MANUFACTURE facilitate the rapid development of new products or modification of existing products and the prompt production of such products through FLEXIBLE MANUFACTURING SYSTEMS, thereby allowing the firm to gain a COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE by responding rapidly to changing customer requirements. See COMMUNICATION, BUSINESS PROCESS RE-ENGINEERING, INTERNET, ECOMMERCE, WORLD WIDE WEB, CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT.