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Information and communication technology (ICT)

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I'm a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they're interested in.

Bill Gates

S:\TripleA\DP_topic_packs\business management\student_packs\media_human_resources\images\communication_2_small.jpgThe significant and ongoing development in information and communication technology has created enormous potential for improving the way that organisations communicate.

The new technologies have made it quicker, simpler and cheaper to communicate and opened up new approaches to marketing, as well as personal, communication. It has also facilitated the increase in the number of flexible and home workers by providing the technology to work from a number of locations away from the organisation's main offices. Outsourcing and offshoring are now more viable options, because the new overseas provider can be held more accountable.

There are times when new technologies just seem to happen and shift the marketplace to a new level as if everyone had a new idea at the same time. Twitter is only a few years old, yet already permeates the heart and soul of social networking and communication and is providing opportunities for business to access markets and receive instant feedback on goods and services. Conference presenters are now working against a backdrop of 'tweets' from the audience they are addressing (back channelling) which can alter the nature of the presentation and communication, making it more dynamic and responsive to audience needs.

As equipment becomes more powerful and portable, so employees are able to become increasingly mobile. The latest trends involve the integration of technology functions. No longer is the main purpose of the mobile phones to make telephone calls. As smartphones evolve, so do the functions available from internet access to satellite navigation. In recent times there has been a raft of new e-reader devices potentially revolutionising the way that customers access media.

The message from the 2010 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was clear, that 'mobile is the future'. Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google used his keynote address to state that Google is now a 'mobile first' business, developing mobile applications and software before producing desktop versions. The phone, said Schmidt is no longer just a device, "it's your alter ego - it's fundamental to everything you do".

Other impressive smartphone features included in the handsets feature solar panels, pedometer and mapping software to support the obsessive exerciser. These devices are clearly pointing to new market developments which will lead to further business co-operations and integrations, as firm's battle for their share of the lucrative communications market.

There is a range of ICT types including:

  • Fax (facsimile)
  • Email (electronic mail)
  • Intranets
  • Video conferencing
  • Telephone conferencing
  • Mobile phones/Smartphone
  • World wide web

All of these technologies, individually or in combination, provide the opportunity for organisations to improve the effectiveness of their communications with their stakeholders. However, it is not always accurate to assume that the availability of a technology is automatically advantageous. For example:

  1. Organisations need to purchase new technologies, which are constantly being updated. The cost alone can be beyond the reach of small firms who may find themselves in an uncompetitive position.
  2. Even if the technologies are purchased there are issues of training personnel to use them appropriately and effectively. There are horror stories of new computer systems left in cupboards as staff lacked the expertise to set up and use them.
  3. Once purchased, new technologies need to be maintained and possibly repaired on a regular basis.
  4. There are additional costs around support services such as internet providers, anti-virus software and licence fees.
  5. There is always the risk of information overload.
  6. Personal use of ICT in work time e.g. Facebook, e-mail

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  • How many hits do you get if you put the simple term 'recruitment' into Google without the use of advanced search functions?
  • Can you find a 'word' that if you use a search engine will return fewer than 20 results?

The moral to the story based on the experience of firms over the last few decades is that the introduction of ICT needs to be carefully managed and budgeted for. Any gains must be carefully balanced against costs.

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Split into groups of approximately four people.

As a group consider the following questions about the Microsoft Office Suite:

  1. Do you know how to use all the programmes in the suite, e.g. Excel, Access, Publisher, PowerPoint, OneNote?
  2. What percentage of the functions of the Microsoft Word alone do you think you actually use, e.g. tables, charts, mail merge, track changes, cross-reference, compare and combine etc?

After you have considered this question, check your knowledge by using the menu buttons and drop down tool bars and commands in Word to go through all the available functions.

  1. If you carried out a survey of the employees of many firms what would you imagine would be the answer the first two questions?

Discuss your group's responses with the rest of your classmates.

Then analyse the following issues:

  1. The potential consequences of poor employee knowledge of available ICT.
  2. Cost-effective methods of improving employee knowledge and confidence.

The quality and security of communication is more important than the volume. Organisations need to guard themselves against attack from hackers and the consequent loss of confidential data.

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Discussion on ICT

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ICT? Discuss this with a partner and then follow the link below to compare your answers with ours.

Advantages and disadvantages of technology