Productivity and IT

Technology's role in boosting productivity and the resulting beneficial effects on the economy are hardly news to IT professionals and technology-savvy managers.

Today there is a range of technological innovations. including the ongoing surge to electronic business, for improving productivity and allowing businesses to grow their profits without necessarily raising their prices.

There has been lively debate amongst economists and policy analysts over the past 20 years or so about the impact of IT and its effect on productivity. Usually the boffins are, in their typical way, trying to figure things out after the fact and thus spend most of their time explaining the phenomena after it's bolted.

Aberdeen Research reports that the next generation of electronic markets will enable multiple buyers and suppliers worldwide to conduct automated transactions, business processes, information exchange, planning analysis and collaboration on a single integrated Web-based platform. "Imagine the economists trying to get their arms around that lot"!

This "e-business era" will assist businesses wherever they maybe in taming the variances in supply and demand, in reducing inventories, and in streamlining business processes by delivering transparent views of demands, production plans and supply and capacity status to all the supply chain participants.

Day by day

The IT future keeps revealing itself one day at a time and with every minor or major change, yesterday's assumptions are no longer entirely valid. One consequence of this is that no single bolt of lightning can suddenly create a lasting reality in which organisations can gain a permanent competitive advantage.

Making sound decisions, however, is only half the story. To be successful, organisations must also be adept at implementing systems swiftly and effectively. This puts information technology right bang at the heart of the organisations' competitiveness.

IT performance, availability, distribution of information, and productivity have frustrated management in their efforts to develop a "complete" system in the past. But in this era of globalisation with stiffer competition and continuing change, climbing to new heights of success requires different approaches. It was Albert Einstein who said "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them". He also said: "The faster you move, the longer you will live".

In spite of the many managerial suspicions and the various research reports exposing the perils of IT, today's executives can't simply opt out of the technological revolution. In this increasingly complex and competitive world today, information knowledge and wisdom are strategic resources that will make the difference between winning and losing.

Information and production

Like human resources, capital and raw material, information has taken its place as a factor of production with its usefulness only being limited by the ways it is managed and used.

There is also today a far more sophisticated set of customers and prospects. Business leaders will need to develop mobile applications to increase productivity, competitiveness and customer satisfaction. Companies will be creating completely new ways of staying in touch. IT for the masses, IT for the government, IT in support of industry, and IT as an exporter are major thrust areas where Australia must capitalise to enhance the competitiveness of individuals, businesses and Australia as a whole.

The abundance of opportunities brought about by technology is boundless. It's no longer a case of "being in the right place at the right time". It is more about being in the world market at the right time, which is now.

Heads down

Until recently most of the "old guard" in Australian business took an ostrich-like view of IT, often pretending it was not. all that big a deal. But now, with an Internet-enamored stock market and some incredibly fast online brand building, willful ignorance has quickly turned into something resembling panic in the ranks.

Tomorrow's business battlefield will continue to be widely contested between the electronic and physical worlds, but when you put these two together into something more seamless, combining technology and people, you can do things for customers that online-only business can't match.

The pressure will be on IT departments to deliver strategic business advantage and the heightened awareness in the boardroom is going to shine the spotlight on CIOs a lot brighter.

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