When we look around, we can clearly see the journey covered by our businesses with IT over the last 3-4 decades. With a constantly changing market, IT has taken up different roles from value driver to enabler to business differentiator in various industries.
In the early days of technology adaptation, the use of IT was limited to automate standard processes and churn medium to large volumes of data minimizing manual intervention & hence, avoiding potential human error. In the next stage, technology was used to simplify complex processes and compute large & complex data sets which helped in converting data into meaningful information. This information was used for making business critical decisions. In the last few years, the use of technology has changed the way we do business. It actually changed business models, market segments, customer behaviour and what not. Even traditional businesses woke up to embrace IT to remain competitive and at times, even relevant.
Is IT so indispensable?
Let us try and identify any one function in any organization which touches every single other function. The answer is not very difficult. Finance – with diverse businesses, multiple entities in the ecosystem, complex tax structures, unending demand for real-time data, several variable factors, can we imagine running a finance function without automation.
Human resources - Hire to Retire, an entire lifecycle with regulations, performance management etc. without automation cannot be visualised by anyone.
Sales & Marketing – can we manage targets, sales & lead funnels, performances, campaigns, customer relationship, competition info without using IT tools & automation?
Operations on the shop floor or Supply Chain, even in traditional businesses, for workforce management, inventory & goods, logistics, delivery assurance, quality control cannot be achieved without using technology.
Security - technology for access management, surveillance & forensics.
Some cynics may have questions like – we are too small & niche, we can live without technology. Or we are huge & profitable, what more can technology bring to us! The answer for both of them is pretty simple – knowingly or unknowingly we all use technology starting from telephony, video conferences, and Office tools.
For small businesses, technology enables growth through diversification, reach & efficiency. Today, the world is becoming borderless. Designers in Mumbai would love to access insights and inventory from suppliers in Thailand & China. This is possible using technology which is creating a global marketplace. For the knowledge industry, the internet throws so much of information which was not possible just 20 years back. Even professionals like lawyers & consulting doctors use technology for better solutions & faster reach.
When we talk about bigger businesses, using technology results in the reduction of waste, costs lowered, reverse auction make pricing of material competitive, the supply chain is improved and new markets become accessible. Increased revenue or reduced cost, both add up to the bottom-line; something all shareholders want.
If we scan through some industries –
Airlines, Hospitality: Distribution, yield management, end to end fulfilment
Transport & Logistics: Efficiency, Service assurance, global reach
Entertainment & Media:
Distribution, reach through alternate medium
BFSI: Fulfilment, reach, transaction processing, risk management
Manufacturing: Buy to Sell, Supply chain, Shop floor
Retail: Marketing, Fulfilment, Customer Service
BPO & ITeS Online: Buying show tickets to ordering food and groceries to paying bills and organising travel Technology supports it all.
It is clearly evident that it’s not just our businesses but our lives that are IT enabled.
From the time we wake up, emails/messengers and social media updates connect us on real-time basis with people thousands of miles apart. Our app on smart phone monitors our health parameters and another app to remind us of our schedule. Gadgets in our kitchen, our smart Car and infotainment devices are taking charge over our regular routine.
Various technologies and tools are touching us all the time, many times without our knowledge. And we are still not talking about wearable devices or internet of things!
Your loyalty program with the online grocer, the airline of your choice, the hotel next door – is it not CRM? You google for a new car and when you visit Facebook or LinkedIn, you may be prompted with an advertisement featuring a premium car brand or offered a car loan from a leading bank …is this not big data and predictive analysis?
Your digital footprint is inevitable which makes for great business data used to strategise and innovate supporting a new kind of entrepreneurship and communication. It’s indispensable…! It’s available all around us! Differentiation comes from how a particular business uses it.