What Is the Role of Information Technology?

Strictly speaking, Information Technology (IT) has been influencing society for thousands of years. Smoke signals, the abacus, writing, paper, pens and the printing press were all once considered the forefront of IT because those technologies were the latest and greatest in communication.

But today it is widely accepted that the forefront of IT lies in digital communications. As with all historical Information Technology developments, digital communication technology is revolutionary in terms of society, business, defence and culture.

But what is it about digital communications that sets it apart from all other previous technological advances? What is the role that this technology can play in modern society?

Firstly, IT acts as a facilitator. It is a medium that permits large volumes of information to be stored, processed or transferred at lightning speed. This means that there is more information at hand to make decisions, maintain relationships, monitor markets or follow movements.

The power of this notion should not be underestimated, it allows people to make decisions based on masses of up to date information. The military, educational institutions and large business have long understood the power of this notion but it has only been in the last ten years that mainstream society has also embraced the power of information for both social movements and small business.

Secondly, Information Technology is an enabler. Only a select minority of specialized companies in the world can claim that IT is their business. Most corporations and institutions use Information Technology to enable functions that drive their core business. This may include better communication between staff, suppliers or customers or it may include better asset management. Whatever the function, digital communication makes the storage, processing or transfer of information more efficient than ever before. But it is important to note that in essence it does not change core businesses, ideals, ethics or movements. It just enables them to function at a greater scale much more efficiently.

Lastly, Information Technology assumes the role of custodian. As data and information is amassed on just about any subject you care to imagine, massive stores of data are emerging ready to service any new requests. And therein lies the security paradox that modern Information Technology presents. One can argue that more available information makes our lives more efficient, safer and richer. Whilst the other argument is that the very same information that provides these benefits is also our achilles heal due to the security implications of unauthorized infiltration.

There is little doubt that the role of information technology is directed and constrained by the very technology that defines it. Today, that technology allows us to collect, manipulate and communicate masses of information. As a consequence, the role of IT revolves around improving the efficiency, capacity, speed or accuracy of any elements that can benefit from the functions that modern Information Technology systems provide.

Data Arteries – Enabling Business Strategy Through Information Technology

Regardless of size and industry, every enterprise is dependent upon information technology, and must have a strategy for how to employ it, especially as the internet becomes more pervasive. Information technology strategy is an enabler of business strategy. Not only must an enterprise manage relationships with its constituencies, but it must be able to connect with them electronically through data arteries – information supply, value, and demand chains. The information supply and demand chains are external; the information value chains are internal.

An information technology strategy is a special case functional strategy because every function in the enterprise requires electronic information delivery capabilities, and many require electronic process control also. In very large enterprises, strategy may be formulated at both the enterprise and organizational unit levels.

As websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo, and Twitter become more pervasive in business, linkages between application systems and databases and social networking websites will be more important to enable constituencies to communicate both collaboratively and cooperatively. Just as email has become a primary method of communication between enterprises and their constituencies, so will social networking sites especially for advertising and ecommerce.

Business intelligence information can be used to identify opportunities for competitive advantage. However, information technology itself can be an enabler of competitive advantage, especially when there are opportunities to digitize products or deliver information products electronically. In such cases, business strategy is inseparable from information technology strategy.

Information technology comprises the analytical and operational application systems, databases, and technical infrastructure (hardware and networks) of an enterprise. Not all computer technologies are information based. Computer technology is used for process control applications in special purpose equipment. However, connectivity is essential as applications become more integrated. As digital construction and manufacturing practices develop through such technologies as computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), the processes, the control of processes, and the products and/or services delivered by processes all rely upon information technology for connectivity.

For example, in the manufacturing industry, not only can design and manufacturing work be conducted through integrated CAD/CAM processes with electronic linkages to carriers, such as FedEx and UPS, but the entire project and process management activities can be monitored electronically from ideation to product delivery.

Through technologies such as electronic data interchange and electronic funds transfer, data and both digital and information products flow through information supply and demand chains in parallel to material supply and product and/or service demand chains. Within the enterprise, data flows through information value chains from supply chains and to demand chains.

Developing an information technology strategy document is essential for describing the requirements and for educating users because:

  • The impact is enterprise or organizational unit wide and other elements of strategy cannot be implemented without it
  • Administrative activities, such as legal, finance, and human resources, and operational activities, such as research and development, procurement, manufacturing or equivalent, distribution, marketing, sales, and service depend on information technology – analytical and operational systems support both administrative and operational functions
  • The time frames, expenditures, risks, and magnitude of efforts are usually larger and more complicated than other initiatives and must be clearly understood; information technology projects have a tendency to go out of control and under deliver – therefore, contingency plans are always necessary
  • The subject matter can be complicated if not well explained

Information technology strategy is usually packaged as a separate but related document to the strategic plan. It is deployed and executed through specific programs and projects that develop new or enhance or maintain existing application systems, databases, and technical infrastructure.

Large information technology development projects are usually cross-functional, and may be part of a broader initiative sponsored by multiple functions collectively. Broader initiatives that have information technology components include:

  • Market research and development
  • Product research and development
  • Infrastructure research and development for processes and information delivery

For example – for the development of a:

  • Digital manufacturing system integrating both research and development and sales and production activities (sponsors: Manufacturing and Sales functions – impact is on Research and Development, Procurement, Manufacturing, Distribution, Sales, and Service functions)
  • Financial, managerial, and regulatory accounting and reporting system (sponsor: Finance function – impact is enterprise wide)
  • Human resource management system (sponsor: Human Resources function – impact is enterprise wide)
  • Sales tracking system (sponsor: Sales function – impact is on all salespeople enterprise wide)

Some projects can be solely for the Information Technology function, in which case it is a customer of itself.

Steering committees should be established for major programs and projects representing the various impacted functions in order to resolve cross-functional barriers. Major programs should come under the review of a planning and policy committee at the enterprise level.

Information technology strategy formulation is a project in its own right at the enterprise or organizational unit level. Very large projects are grouped as a program of inter-related components under a program manager. Projects can be stand alone also. A single project can deliver one or more application systems and related databases and technical infrastructure, or multiple projects may be required depending upon complexity.

For example, when launching a new product, it may be necessary to conduct marketing, product, and infrastructure development projects that include the delivery of new systems, and upgrades to existing systems. However, if an addition to the product line is launched at a later time, a new project or set of projects may be required to enhance or maintain the current systems, or even develop new ones.

The work breakdown structure for downstream development, enhancement, and maintenance projects decomposes into planning, analysis, design, construction, implementation, and performance measurement phases. The performance measurement phase can be conducted in parallel with the other phases, and each must end with a performance review. A feedback loop to future planning activities must be established so that lessons learned from the past can be reflected in future initiatives.

Meeting the cost and schedule requirements is always a major consideration. Hence, “meeting the date” is a frequent requirement for project success. However, after implementation, the scope of what was delivered and its quality is usually remembered more than when. In anticipation of the need to make changes after implementation, an adaption project may be necessary to tune, standardize, and integrate the deliverables.

The planning phase is conducted at the enterprise, organizational unit, or program levels for one or more projects depending upon size and complexity. However, each application system and related databases and technical infrastructure is delivered through a project with distinct analysis, design, construction, and implementation phases. Each phase always begins with a detailed planning activity to ensure that resources are allocated appropriately. The work breakdown structure does not preclude the use of iterative methodologies within each phase for rapid application development and prototyping. Development, enhancement, and maintenance of websites can be very rapid, and heavily interactive with user involvement, when the appropriate tools are used.

Key questions and deliverables by information technology strategy project and downstream phases include:

Strategy project (enterprise and organizational unit levels):

Key questions:

  • How does information technology enable business strategy?
  • What are the investment priorities?

Deliverables include:

  • Information technology architecture (applications, data and databases, and technical infrastructure)
  • High level project phasing and plans

Planning phase (enterprise, organizational unit, and program levels):

Key questions:

  • What are the administrative functions’ systems and information needs?
  • What are the operational functions’ systems and information needs?
  • What are the priorities for the candidate analytical systems?
  • What are the priorities for the candidate operational systems?

Deliverables include:

  • Process models
  • Function models
  • Data models
  • Information models
  • Economic evaluation
  • Scope of analysis projects and schedules

Analysis phase (project level):

Key questions:

  • How do processes, functions, and systems fit together?
  • How do systems processes and functions relate to enterprise processes and functions?
  • How do systems processes and functions and enterprise processes and functions fit together?

Deliverables include:

  • Functional requirements
  • Economic evaluation
  • Scope of design projects and schedules

Design phase (project level):

Key questions (by system):

  • What are the system’s functional requirements?
  • What are the system’s technical requirements?
  • What is the total cost of ownership and benefits (tangible and intangible)?

Deliverables include (by system):

  • Application system specifications
  • Data and database specifications
  • Technical infrastructure specifications
  • Scope of construction project and schedule
  • Total cost of ownership/benefit analysis

Construction phase (project level):

Key questions (by system):

  • Is the system being constructed according to design?
  • If not, what change orders are required, and why?

Deliverables include (by system):

  • Tested application system and interfaces, databases, and technical infrastructure
  • Trained users

Implementation phase (project level):

Key questions (by system):

  • What are the costs and schedule relative to plan?
  • What is the scope relative to plan?
  • What is the quality relative to plan
  • When will the benefits be realized relative to plan?
  • What adjustments for tuning, standardization, and integration are required relative to plan?
  • What are the current anticipated enhancement requests?
  • What are the current anticipated maintenance requests?
  • What are the lessons learned for the future?

Deliverables include (by system):

  • Working application system and interfaces, databases, and technical infrastructure
  • List of enhancement requests
  • List of maintenance requests
  • Performance measurement report

As enterprises become more dependent upon the internet for connectivity with constituencies, it is essential to develop, enhance, and maintain the information technology strategy on an ongoing basis. The strategy must emphasize connectivity through the data arteries as digital and information products become more pervasive.

Formulating information technology strategy is an enterpriship (entrepreneurship, leadership, and management) competency.

What Information Technology Management is About

The world is very much dependent on information technology because this is where businesses can get all of their information to customers or other consumers. Information technology is the study, development, and implementation with support of information systems. Information technology management is another step forward which takes the technology as a corporate resource where a company can organize it into an important tool to get their information to all targets. It can be used to help with business to gain new customers or to keep people abreast of all new things happening in the company.

Businesses who employ it must be in close relations with IT management in order for their businesses can use it to its optimum effectiveness. Topics that need to be understood to make information technology work is strategic planning, financial management, and risk analysis.

With this area of expertise becoming so much more important in this world, people can study this area at length. There are bachelor, masters, and doctorate degrees. There are many colleges who offer these courses. There are even courses online that allow some people with current jobs to take an online course at home. It helps people to accomplish a goal without adjusting their lifestyle too much.

To more closely look at the role of an IT manager, they must know how to plan, design, select, and use the new technologies that are coming out to integrate into the business that is employing them. Therefore, it is the ability of a person to effectively use the systems available to make it work for a business.

There are many resources online to find out more about this topic. There are schools who can help people decide if this is the career path that they would like to take. Businesses can get information on IT consultants who can help improve their businesses with setting up their system, and implementing the most economical system with up-to-date software.

There are journals available on all of the latest topics. They have some of the best people in the field keep other managers informed of new technologies being tested.

There can be specialists in different businesses who need information technology. Technology is advancing in every field, and it may take more expertise to implement information technology in certain fields because each field has its own specified systems.

Information technology management is a necessary field as our society continues to grow. Information technology are a set of technological systems which groups or businesses employ in order to spread the information which they produce or in turn, collect. Businesses may not be information technology businesses and need the assistance of those who are experts in the field to implement it into their business. IT managers are these people, and they can help to study a business and build the network of a business with the most economical and up-to-date systems. To become an IT manager, one can go to college advisors to find out if this is the field for them. There are many programs across the country.

How Much Is “Information Technology Debt” Hurting Your Bottom-Line?

Information Technology (IT) debt is basically the cost of maintenance needed to bring all applications up to date.

Shockingly, global “Information Technology (IT) debt” will reach $500 billion this year and could rise to $1 trillion by 2015!

But why should you take IT debt seriously and begin to take steps to eliminate this issue from your business?

According to Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company…

It will cost businesses world-wide 500 billion dollars to “clear the backlog of maintenance” and reach a fully supported current technology environment.

Gartner summarizes the problem best:

“The IT management team is simply never aware of the time scale of the problem.This problem, hidden from sight, is getting bigger every year and more difficult to deal with every year.”

The true danger is that systems get out of date which leads to all kinds of costly software and hardware inefficiencies.

Your tech support provider can most likely do a better job at staying current with your computer and network environment.

Have them start today by documenting the following:

  • The number of applications in use
  • The number purchased
  • The number failed
  • The current and projected costs of both operating and improving their reliability

Are you using this powerful formula to control your technology?

There’s a powerful formula I’ll share with you in a moment that will help you adopt new technology faster in your business.

In business, technology encompasses Information Technology (IT), Phone Systems and Web Development.

These three layers of technology form the backbone of your business’s technology environment. Why is technology adoption so important?

Without new technology adoption it’s impossible for businesses to be competitive in this economy. A major role of technology is to help businesses scale, design systems, and automate processes.

Studies recently have shown that adopting technology keeps businesses leaner because entrepreneurs can do more with less.

There’s evidence that new business start-ups are doing so with nearly half as many workers as they did a decade ago.

For example, Wall Street Journal’s Angus Loten reported that today’s start-ups are now being launched with an average of 4.9 employees.

Down from 7.5 in the 1990s, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City Research group.

In other words, technology allows businesses to expand quickly with less.

Researchers at Brandeirs University found that technology driven service businesses added jobs at a rate of 5.1% from 2001 to 2009; while employment overall dwindled by.5%.

These businesses save money, expand, and create jobs by adopting new technologies.

Are you adopting new technologies fast in your business?

Speed of technology adoption is critical to your business success.

Technology is changing the speed of business; now a whole industry might expand, mature, and die in months… not years.

There’s one formula that illustrates this marriage between adopting technology and business success the best… and that’s the “Optimal Technology Equation.”

I recommend you adopt this powerful “Optimal Technology Equation” in your business:

• Maintenance + Planning + Innovation (Adoption)=
• Enhanced Technology Capabilities=
• Reduced Costs + Increased Production=
• Increased Profitability.

Of course, this is only a brief explanation of this invaluable formula. Be one step ahead of the competition.