The Role of IT in the Business Process

Introduction

A business process can be defined as a set of activities that are implemented to ensure the provision of a product or service for an organization’s customers. Organizations implement a number of processes in order to ensure that their business is run successfully, however, there is always a need of refining those processes in order to make it efficient in order for a business to take on the challenge of increasing demand and shorter delivery times for the products.

The current age is information technology. Many businesses and organizations around the world, have accepted information technology with open hands, and have reaped its benefits by making their processes agile and precise. Information technology itself offers great flexibility and provides an advantage to any application it is used for. This flexibility has resulted in business organizations relying on IT heavily in order to survive and progress in an extremely competitive business environment.

These organizations tend to automate more and more of their processes with IT in order to make their businesses efficient as well as to add flexibility in order to meet the ever-changing customer needs. Currently, IT has automated a number of processes in various businesses, which range from business decision making to management or resources to automation of processes. The purpose of this paper is to look at various software and hardware trends that have been implemented by organizations in their processes. It discusses in detail various examples of how IT is helping these organizations in making these processes efficient and cost-effective (IBM Corporation 2007).

Hardware and Software Trends in Organizational Processes

Use of Robots in Automation of Manufacturing Process

The term Robot refers to a mechanical device that is capable of performing a variety of complex tasks quickly and is controlled either through remote control or through a series of scripted commands. Robots have found a strong use in the business related to the manufacturing industry. The use of the human workforce in manufacturing is often troublesome. Organizations have to deal with issues such as employee benefits, demands of increased wages, inefficiency as well as compromise on the quality of the manufactured products. In addition, the organization would also have to deal with employee union demands, which often tends to blackmail the higher management into fulfilling their demands, or the organization faces losses due to their reactive measures. Therefore, many organizations worldwide have tended to automate this process through the use of Robots.

The machines not only offer efficiency and precision, but they also work faster than a group of humans doing the same task, thus being much more cost-effective. An example of Robots used in the automating of the manufacturing process for various businesses is their use in Car Industries. Companies such as Toyota and Nissan, use robots in all phases of their car manufacturing which include manufacturing different car parts, welding them, and painting the car (Hinckley 2009).

Trends in Software Development

Analytical Software

Decision Support System

Today, the business organization deals with the needs of customers around the globe. This means that is they have a large structure and a number of processes that run in parallel. These processes generate a lot of data within these organizations. Businesses need to analyze this data to make critical decisions which only makes allow them to remain competitive but also create new business opportunities to further enhance their market.

Hence Decision Support Systems are used by higher management to assist them in making such decisions. Decision Support Systems are computer-based information systems that provide an interactive and easy way for decision-makers to analyze the trends within their organization, by extracting useful information from the data that is generated from various organizational processes. Decision Support Systems offer a number of advantages to organizational decision-making. By processing all data and extracting accurate and relevant information, a decision support system enhances the effectiveness of the decision that is taken by decision-makers.

It also provides a means of sharing facts and assumptions between the decision-makers, thereby improving interpersonal communications. Organizations use Decision Support systems to monitor the performance of their employees and systems and take a decision on labor and infrastructure and technology which eventually lead to significant cost reduction. The use of a Decision Support System for monitoring performance also increases organizational control (Hillstrom and Hillstrom 2006).

Management Software

Customer Relationship Management Software

Many organizations implement a separate process that is used to maintain their relationship with entities that they interact with. These customers not only include those individuals and organizations which purchase products or services from these organizations but also the vendors and suppliers of products and services that these organizations purchase from. Information Technology has also allowed for automation and facilitation of this process and this has been achieved by using Customer Relationship Management Software. The uses of CRM software by organizations allow them to address customer needs, especially when using an online or web-based application. It also allows them to make an informed decision by making use of the intelligence that they gather from their customer while interacting with them.

This intelligence is used to manage or improve customer performance as well as to predict customer retention and response rates. Furthermore, the use of CRM allows an organization to focus the delivery of customer intelligence to the right departments as well as enable them to better customer service delivery, which not only builds greater customer loyalty and satisfaction but also create stronger and intimate customer relationship. Within the organization, CRM software helps in the management of the sales force functions and reduces the time wasted on tasks such as scheduling an appointment with the customer (Injazz Popovich 2003).

Supply Chain Management Software

Another use of analytical software in various organizations is their use in the management of supply chains. A supply chain refers to a system of people, technological devices, business activities, and organizational resources that are involved in the movement of a service or product from the supplier to the end-user. Supply chain management software is a set of tools that are used in the execution of supply chain transactions, to manage the relationship of an organization with its suppliers as well as to control the business processes associated with it. These tools automate a number of processes within the organization such as supplier sourcing, management of inventory, processing of customer requirements and purchase orders as well as Warehouse management (NationMaster Encyclopedia 2005).

These tools can also minimize the disparity between the production and sales of products within an organization as well as forecast the future needs of the organization by using relevant algorithms and consumption analysis. The use of supply chain management software provides key business to an organization that employs its use. It allows complete visibility of the entire supply chain network, which is not easily possible through the use of disjointed processes. It also permits seamless coordination and execution of all supply chain activities, thereby playing a crucial role in reducing the delays presents in a supply chain.

Forecasts, trend reports, and other important information can be shared between supply chain partners through the use of supply chain software, which provides for enhanced collaboration between otherwise disparate units. By improving relationships with vendors and distributors, effective demand planning, and improving inventory management achieved through the use of supply chain management software, the organization can also significantly reduce various overhead costs involved in the management of the supply chain (Business Software Website 2009).

Use of the Internet in Software

E-Commerce

The Internet has made it possible for business organizations to conduct their business in the room of the customer, interacting with him while offering a more complete range of products and offers than is possible otherwise. More and more organizations are choosing to do their business online, as it allows them to increase their customer base while offering security, wider choices, and peace of mind to them.

This has been made possible through E-Commerce. E-Commerce refers to the process of conducting sales and purchase over electronic systems such as the Internet. It offers organizations several advantages over conducting business in other mediums. For example, E-commerce allows them to offer their products and services directly to the customer at his premises while providing a number of methods for payments.

This gives the customer more security and allows for more comprehensive decision-making by avoiding the hassle of visiting markets as well as haggling over price and mode of payment. Furthermore, E-Commerce is also used by business to gather information related to customer habits which also allow them to align their business accordingly. Furthermore, organizations also use E-Commerce to conduct business with other organization, which speed up the process of quotation, vendor selection as well as billing (Goel 2007).

Use of UNIX Operating Systems

Organizations have also been readily adopting the use of UNIX-based operating systems for running the software that they use for the automation of their processes. These operating systems are built upon an open-source code that allows the user to modify their core functionalities. UNIX-based operating systems offer several benefits to organizations, such as performance, stability, and security, three of the most important feature needed to run process automation software in an organization.

Furthermore, since much of the source code is distributed free of cost, it allows the developers of the process automation application to precisely design and develops software, as well as modify the functionality of the operating system to suit the requirement of the application that they are developing. The preference given to these operating systems is also because other operating systems such as Windows are much more vulnerable to security attacks originating from within or outside the organization as also because these operating systems require a significant budget for their purchase (Diaz 2008).

Use of Collaborative Software

One of the key factors in successful process implementation is the coordination between participants of a process. In order to ensure proper communication, sharing of ideas as well as positive discussion on those ideas, a number of organizations allow the use of collaborative software for their employees. This collaborative software ranges from simple instant messengers to complex employee networking sites which permit the use of multimedia for conveying messages.

Through the use of collaborative software, the employees of an organization are not only able to update themselves with current information regarding the activities involves in a process, but can also participate in a discussion of various ideas to enhance the process while building a strong team relationship. Through this improved team understanding and coordination achieved by the use of collaborative software, organizations improve process efficiency which enhances productivity and thus also serves as a cost-saving measure (OpenTeams 2009).

Outsourcing

One of the practices that have gained popularity among software designers is outsourcing. Software developing companies follow a trend in which they outsource part of the software development process (such as design, testing, or implementation) to a third-party service provider. This practice concentrates the activities of these companies to fewer functions allowing to them excel in services that are critical to companies’ success while creating less burden on their budget. A similar practice has also been followed by business organizations around the world that outsource the non-critical functions of their businesses to a third-party service provider. This allows organizations to simplify their daily business running activities while allowing them to excel in their core competencies which are based on their position in the market (Carbaugh 2008).

Hardware Trends

Reduced Instruction Set Computers

Reduced Instruction Set Computers (RISC) refers to small computer devices which operate using a simplified set of instructions, than an average PC. This leverages them to be much more mobile and small, and hence they are preferred to be used for purposes where the use of larger information systems is difficult. These devices have found their use in many organizations worldwide, which use them to bring automation to processes such as sales, purchase and inventory management.

These devices provide a low cost, cost effective platform which the businesses use to speed up the process of sales and purchase order processing as well as stock management within the warehouse and distribution centre. These organizations provide their Sales, Marketing, Procurement and Warehouse teams with these handheld devices, which are then used to record the information from their activities. These devices allow for wireless connectivity for transportation of the recorded data to information system, where the data is processed and stored for future use (Yacano 2009).

Use of Identification Systems

Many organizations worldwide have already implemented newer measures in order to monitor the performance of their employees as well as to control their access the various resources. These measures include the use of Biometric Identification System. A Biometric Identification system works by making decision on biometric characteristic matching. By matching the biometric characteristic, such as voice or fingerprint of an employee, a Biometric system take decision to allow or deny the access of a particular resource for that employee.

The concept behind biometric identification system is that human characteristics such as fingerprints can hardly be duplicated and therefore only the person having those characteristics should be present in order for a biometric system to allow access. The organization also use the biometrics system to automate human resource processes such as attendance as well as to implement a cost-effective enhanced security process with no human involvement (Aditech Infotect 2009).

Use of Video Conferencing Devices

Business decisions play a key role in setting the direction of an organization as well as making effective use of the resources of an organization. While analysis of data and understanding of the information regarding the previous years of the organization are critical, business decision are often made by a group of people from higher management. Large organizations often face the problem that when it comes to business decision making, much of their top hierarchy is geographically separated and hence it becomes difficult for them to share information, argue on points and come to a decision at the same time.

Therefore, many organizations makes use of video conferencing technologies, which allow for virtual gathering of people involved in decision making, remotely separated from each other. Video Conferencing makes used of advanced image and voice processing as well as communication devices to provide remote connectivity to multiple participants through a high-speed data connection. Each participant is able to hear and see all other participants as they were really in the same room. This allows for better discussion, sharing of information as well as a creation of virtual meeting environment where all participants give their perspective and come to know of any taken decision at the same time, thereby increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of business decision-making process (Spiderbox 2009).

Conclusion

In order to meet the ever-changing trends in business environments and to cater to customer needs, organizations have adopted various trends in hardware and software technologies. These trends have enhanced the efficiency of processes to which they have been applied, benefiting the organization through increase productivity and cost-effectiveness. Businesses have benefited from trends in software development by using various types of software to facilitate or automate processing.

Analytical tools such as Decision Support System assist the decision-makers in understanding the performance of processes in their organization as well as evaluating the use of resources within the organization by providing them with relevant and precise information. The use of management software allows organization to effectively manage various processes in the organization, gaining benefit from automation of various activities within these processes.

Through the use of collaborative software, organization increase the coordination between its employees involved in a process while outsourcing allows it to concentrate on its core competencies while providing a cost effective way to perform supporting processes. A number of hardware trends have also been adopted by organizations. Robots have been actively used by businesses particularly related to automotive industries, to automate their manufacturing process. Identification devices such as Biometrics systems are also used by businesses to increase the effectiveness of human resources and administration processes, by automating tasks such as authentication and attendance.

In addition, devices providing high-speed multimedia services are used to implement video conferencing which enhances the business decision-making process by providing a means for effective communication and understanding between the geographically separated decision-makers. It is, therefore, safe to assume that these software and hardware trends have played a positive role in making a business organization more productive and efficient, thus making them more competitive in today’s challenging business environment.

References

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