Information and communications technology (ICT)? To illustrate the importance of Information and Communications technology (ICT) for the smooth running of a multi-site business.
Information and communications technology is a system used to control, manage, process and create information through telecommunications technology and computers. (Otherwise known as ICT). Although information and communications technology describes a large range of systems there are still some underlining common features.
An information system incorporates a group of people, equipment and procedures. It is there to collect, record, process, store, retrieve and present information.
The importance of ICT for the smooth running of a multi-site business is paramount, the following are a number of ways in which ICT can improve your company’s performance;
Þ Increased Efficiency: If programmed correctly, computers can monitor the data collection processes very efficiently, whilst also checking for human errors and providing help and guidance to the user. Most large scale organisations are using computer-assisted interviewing as standard in many of their surveys simply because of the remarkable achievements good data collection programs can make to reduce human error and speed processing in the collection of important information.
Þ Speed and Processing Power: Modern computers are fast. They are able to complete tasks 100’s of times faster then we would be able to. Most computers are now so powerful, that computer users rarely come even close to utilising their full potential.
Þ Cost Containment: ICT technology is an expensive thing to incorporate within your business however it will eventually create substantial cost savings through less time being wasted on laborious tasks and on recuperating human error.
Þ Versatility: As computers become more powerful and efficient, you are able to make them do more varied and creative tasks. The average PC can already perform most multimedia functions such as reproducing photographic pictures as sharp as any film. The advantages can range from being able to create advertisements for your company to monitoring stock controls.
Þ Departmental co-operation: With open and shared databases, it enables a company to remove barriers between departments giving staff more accurate information and greater competency to serve customers.
Þ Manage better: It enables you to spend more time where it counts, managing and co-ordinating jobs rather than manually creating files or ordering. EPOS ordering systems being an example of this, as a product is purchased an order is placed for more stock.
Þ Commerce opportunities: ICT can improve a company’s internal and external operations. Internally, a company can use ICT to streamline, integrate and synchronise key operating processes, (such as procurement, order fulfilment and customer service). Then it can extend these ICT enabled processes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of supply and distribution channels.
Þ Content opportunities: Benefits are achieved when a company harnesses information and knowledge located inside and outside the company to improve the performance of individuals and groups as they make decisions and take actions. The individuals and groups in question may belong to the same organisation or they may be customers, suppliers and business partners working with company employees to achieve common goals. As well as making people work “smarter”, information and knowledge can be used to create new products and services or to add value to existing ones, thus improving a company’s competitive position.
Þ Community Opportunities: Benefits can also be achieved when a company uses networked technologies to increase the commitment and loyalty of internal and external communities. Inside the company, e-mail, groupware and intranets can be used to link employees around the world to information resources, internal work groups and communities of interest. Outside the company, the same technologies can also be used to establish a position at the centre of an electronic market, around which a “virtual community” of stakeholders (for example, consumers, suppliers and business partners) can grow.
To briefly highlight methods and techniques, which could be incorporated into an overall business information system, in order to improve management communications and decision making.
There are a number of methods and techniques, which can be incorporated into an overall business information system, these are useful to develop and assist in management communications and decision making. Examples of techniques that will enhance a business are as follows:
Electronic Mail Contacts:
Electronic mail is a resource that can enhance the ability of management to make decisions. It is a fast and efficient way of sending letters and files to other enterprises and individuals on a global basis. In most cases the correspondence you send will reach the intended party within 4 seconds no matter where they are. The only necessity to achieve the dramatic saving of time is that the two intended parties are both connected to the Internet.
Voice Response System:
There are two types of voice-response systems. One uses a reproduction of a human voice and other sounds, and the other uses speech synthesis. Like monitors, voice-response systems provide temporary, soft-copy output.
The reproduction system selects output from user-recorded words, phrases, music, alarms, or anything you might record on audiotape, just as a printer would select characters. In these recorded response systems, the actual analog recording of sound are turned into digital data, then permanently stored on disc or in a memory chip. When this is converted back into output the data also reverts to analog and is then sent to a speaker.
This technique of data control can be beneficial to business in creating mass production applications such as automatic teller machines, smoke detectors, vehicle warning systems and vending machines to mention a few. When the sounds are stored on disc, it gives the user the flexibility to alter and update the sounds keep up and meet changing application needs.
Speech synthesis systems, on the other hand, covert raw data into electronically produced speech. This variety of voice response system tends to be more popular within the microcomputer environment. All you need to produce speech on a PC are a sound expansion board, speakers and the necessary software. This produces synthesised speech and can be used to help a visually impaired person to translate printed words into spoken words.
Translation systems offer one of the most beneficial applications of voice response systems to the business world. It enables conversations to occur among people who are speaking different languages. The process can deal with people from three different countries to carry on a computer aided conversation thus enabling businesses to communicate more readily and freely to save time and maximise its sales processing.
Telephone terminals and telephony:
The telephones wide spread availability lends itself to a new and useful form of ICT processing in the form of a terminal. You can enter alphanumeric data on the touch tone keypad of a telephone or by speaking into the receiver (voice input). You are then able to receive computer-generated output from a voice response system. Sales people use telephones as terminals on a daily basis to improve communications. It enables them to enter orders and enquires about certain products availability via their mainframe computers. Brokers are able to allow clients to access information by tapping into their companies computers through the telephone. After entering a password the customer can access a vast variety of resources and information by responding to voice activated requests. For example they can access bank balances and stock quotations. The facility is even there for specific company detailed files to be accessed and viewed via mediums such as the fax machine.
On its own the telephone is not a particularly spectacular resource, however, linked to your computer its potential is boundless. Telephony is the integration of computers and telephones, the combination of which is vital to most businesses in the market place today. The computer in this combination is able to analyse incoming telephone calls and take appropriate action i.e. take a message and route calls to necessary extensions.
A practical application of this technique for management would be through the introduction of the system into the work place. i.e.
Þ A mail order company that keeps records via customer telephone numbers. When a customer uses the phone to instigate an order the response system is activated.
Teleconferencing is an organised interaction, through a communication system or network, people who are at a distance from one another are able to communicate effectively. Managers are able to work with their peers, the people who report to them, and, indeed, even customers and clients with whom the business is dependent upon. In some teleconferences, it is possible for individuals to conduct the conference concurrently; in others the people involved have to take turns to log in, then review what has happened and then log out. The option is there to participate again at a later date. The benefits to a business are enormous no longer are sales people, manager constrained by the necessity of getting together for meetings. The conference can be held from one end of the earth to the other, if need be. The meeting can happen without people having to reschedule their lives.
ICT will have an impact on management as well as the office worker. Management works almost exclusively with information. Therefore, computerisation and networks are a necessity to the manager’s world.
The benefits are gained through things such as electronic fund transfers, a major application of special purpose, limited purpose, or general-purpose networks. Online financial services can save time and give up-to-date information. Inventory, ordering, production, pricing, and planning are all interrelated with the aid of networks and computer modelling.
Physical inventories are being replaced by information about the inventory, a change which is unleashing major restructuring of activities in the supply chain. A factor to enhance management success is its ability to have precise information about inventory in the pipeline without necessarily locking excess working capital in inventory. Companies in every industry are being forced to assess their supply chains with respect to business models that could be created by new entrants seeking to mimic successful management styles, incorporating best in-class inventory levels.
It makes it possible for companies’ business processes to cut across organisational boundaries and time zones. Companies are physically locating their critical processes around the world but linking them through common technology platforms. For example, major airlines’ reservation and customer service centres are distributed around the world. And pharmaceutical companies have research and development facilities scattered around the globe so they can work around the clock. Such capabilities are vital in markets in which speed is of the essence, this encompasses most companies nowadays.
Sourcing of business process capabilities, by management, is greatly helped by software and communications technologies. For example DirecTV, a US satellite television company, has integrated its processes with Matrixx, a telephone marketing company owned by Cincinnati Bell. From a dedicated facility in Salt Lake City, Matrixx acts as an extension of DirecTV operations by providing over 2,000 customer service representatives who handle about 20m calls a year. This is the first time that a company has integrated its ICT program with another company. The incorporation of this into the information system, serves to give the management of the companies an edge on their competitors by improving management communication and decision making.
Virtual integration is about more than just efficiently sourcing standard components and processes; it is about co-operating to create capabilities through the improved communications. The business platform should not only be designed to optimise internal operations but to facilitate the creation of capabilities through external relationships. An example of this is; Kraft foods is blending its marketing processes with data collection and analysis by A..C. Nielsen, one of the leading information providers in the consumer packaged goods industry. Process integration between these to organisations gives Kraft access to marketing data before competitors, giving it the ability to respond rapidly and ahead of its competitors.
ICT plays a role in creating business platforms that will enable companies to use knowledge assets more effectively then their competitors. The focus should be on expertise throughout the company rather than in the minds of a few individuals. The creation, nurture and leverage of enterprise expertise is gained thus, consequently improving the information flow and decision making of management.
To illustrate how networking systems link into the overall company management information system, using a suitable diagram with appropriate explanation.
The benefit of networking to business is immense. It opens up a whole ‘New World’ of information on a local level and on the international seen. There are now overwhelming amounts of information available to users of networks and from electronic mail to video information and its prevalence is creating a resource which is deemed common place.
The introduction of networking has created a less centralised role for computer processing along with improvements in communications between organisations and individuals. Computer networks can use dedicated intelligent terminals or microcomputer systems, which enable a limited amount of independent processing power from their host computers. An even greater amount of processing power can be gained from linking to microcomputers, minicomputers, mainframes and supercomputer systems otherwise known as distributed processing systems. Networking can, therefore, influence and benefit any organisation from banks to hospitals.
A network topology is the description of the various physical connections within the network. The topology is the formation of the hardware and shows which two elements can communicate. (The general forms of topologies are; star, ring and bus topology.
v Star Topology: The star topology entails a centralised server connected to a number of other computers, these computers are normally smaller than their host. The network functions by the small computers communicating to one another via the host. The databases within this network will be shared again via the host computer.
v Ring Topology: This network entails computers of approximately the same size. There consequently is no central or host computer within this network. For a message to pass from one node to another the message must pass by all the nodes, around the ring, between the receiver.
v Bus Topology: The bus topology allows for the connection of terminals, peripheral devices, and microcomputers, which are interconnected along a cable known as the network bus. In the bus topology the signal is transmitted to all of the nodes within the system, however the only node to respond will be that which requires contacting. The bus topology is also an easy system to increase and decrease the number of devices required, for it runs in a straight line.
v Hybrid Topology: A pure form of any of the above mentioned topology is very rare. The general requirements of an organisation is a combination of the, above-mentioned, which is known as the hybrid topology.
Managers consider those topological aspects of a network, which most greatly determine the economics of a network. Networks are ordered according to their topological features, i.e. centralised, decentralised and distributed. The classification stems from the likes of connection patterns of links and nodes in networks. The communication system within a network is known as the subnet. Data can be either transferred on a point to point bases or by a broadcasting channel.
Þ The topology is particularly useful for intercommunications between the individuals using the network. The network could incorporate large numbers of computer systems (the nodes), connected to a larger server, that switches data and programs between them.
Þ A decentralised network is an expanded centralised network it differs from the centralised network only in the way the switching functions are organised. The system allows for the processing capabilities to be distributed throughout the network, closer to the people who require them within the organisation.
Þ The distributed network consists of a mesh of subnetworks in which each node is connected to at least two other nodes this in total creates a topology which is extremely reliable.
Local and wide area networks: (LAN)& (WAN).
Computer networks can be classified according to their geographical spread. A network confined to a building with microcomputer workstations distributed in different rooms is known as a local area network. (LAN). One specific type of (LAN) that can span 5 miles is known as a ring network. A computer network that distributes data nationally and internationally makes use of telephones and sometimes satellite links this spread of system is known as a wide area network. (WAN). Due to its inherent reliability the distributed network is generally deemed the way forward in ICT technological systems set-ups.
Companies are incorporating more computers into their (LAN) networks to improve communications among knowledge workers and to enable their staff to better share their computing resources. This makes good business sense because these and other valuable information can be shared.
Þ Application software; the cost of a LAN-based word-processing program is far less then the cost for the program for an individual computer.
Þ Communication capabilities; A dedicated telephone or fax line can be a shared resource amongst its users.
Þ Links to mainframes; The mainframe becomes an accessible resource. It is easier to link the mainframe to a single LAN than to many individual computers.
Þ I/O devices; With a little planning, a single page printer, plotter, or scanner can support many users on the LAN with not much loss of office efficiency. In the normal office environment the LAN can support approximately 10 staff.
Þ Storage devices; Database on a LAN can be shared. The type of use possible is a shared CD-ROM based national telephone directory.
Þ Add-on boards. Add on boards can also be used by many within an organisation. Hardware such as fax modem boards.
The purpose of this report is to give the reader an insight into the practical applications of information and communication technology within an organisation.
ICT within an organisation has radically altered from the industrial era were the business systems were physical, they consisted of assets such as mines factories and mills which could be designed and managed in a simplistic way. The systems of today differ completely from that of the past, the new era is virtual, it is digital, global, interconnected, fast changing and chaotic. The process companies, management and business, in general, are going through, are creating major opportunities and challenges for the business world. Companies are becoming adept at using information systems and technology because their potential is becoming apparent to them. ICT should be thought of as an investment that will deliver the benefits today and in the future. These benefits are of two main types: Improvements in infrastructural efficiency, as information systems replace old ones with systems that are more flexible, have greater reach and cost less to run, and new business opportunities made possible by new information systems. These opportunities include improvements in external and internal processes, tapping employees’ and external knowledge, and the creation of networked communities of customers and staff. ICT should be able to streamline your business, produce measurable improvements, but most importantly managers need to use the resource to be on the lookout for new business opportunities.
1. Heathcote.M .P, (1998) ‘A’ Level Computing
2. Cushings.S. (1997) GCSE Information Technology
3. Bastin.C. (1997) Access 97 Basics Unveiled
1. Heathcote.M .P, (1998) ‘A’ Level Computing
2. Cushings.S. (1997) GCSE Information Technology
3. Bastin.C. (1997) Access 97 Basics Unveiled