Companies rely on IT for fast communications, data processing and market intelligence. IT plays an integral role in every industry, helping companies improve business processes, achieve cost efficiencies, drive revenue growth and maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Information technology can speed up the time taken for launching the product in the market. Companies can write product requirement documents by market research, from proprietary databases, target customers and sales representatives. Computer-based design and development software speed up decision making, while collaborative technologies gives global sources to work on different aspects of a product simultaneously. From innovations in microprocessors to efficient drug delivery systems, information technology helps businesses respond quickly to changing customer requirements.
Stakeholder integration is another important objective of information technology. Using global 24/7 interconnectivity, a customer service call originating in Des Moines, Iowa, ends up in a call center in Manila, Philippines, where a service agent could look up the relevant information on severs based in corporate headquarters in Dallas, Texas, or in Frankfurt, Germany. Public companies use their investor relations websites to communicate with shareholders, research analysts and other market participants.
Process improvement is another key IT business objective. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems allow managers to review sales, costs and other operating metrics on one integrated software platform, usually in real time. An ERP system may replace dozens of legacy systems for finance, human resources and other functional areas, thus making internal processes more efficient and cost-effective.
Although the initial IT implementation costs can be substantial, the resulting long-term cost savings are usually worth the investment. IT allows companies to reduce transaction and implementation costs. For example, the cost of a desktop computer today is a fraction of what it was in the early 1980s, and yet the computers are considerably more powerful. IT-based productivity solutions, from word processing to email, have allowed companies to save on the costs of duplication and postage, while maintaining and improving product quality and customer service.
Cost savings, rapid product development and process improvements help companies gain and maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. If a smartphone competitor announces a new device with innovative touch-screen features, the competitors must quickly follow suit with similar products or risk losing market share. Companies can use rapid prototyping, software simulations and other IT-based systems to bring a product to market cost effectively and quickly.
Companies that survive in a competitive environment usually have the operational and financial flexibility to grow locally and then internationally. IT is at the core of operating models essential for globalization, such as telecommuting and outsourcing. A company can outsource most of its noncore functions, such as human resources and finances, to offshore companies and use network technologies to stay in contact with its overseas employees, customers and suppliers.