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Two Innovative Ways That ICT Can Create Value

by David Wittenberg, CEO, The Innovation Workgroup June-2016

Computers have done more to transform work than any other innovation of the last 100 years. The raw power of the microprocessor harnessed to the global reach of the ICT network has produced gains in productivity that would have astounded our great grandparents.

While incremental gains are still available from wider implementation of ICT and from existing categories of software, the next wave of productivity breakthroughs will come from new segments of the information technology industry, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and sensor-based systems. The IT department of the future will contribute directly to the corporate bottom line through IT-based marketing and IT-based process automation.

Historic Value Addition of Computers

To understand how the value proposition of IT will change, compare what computers have traditionally been used to accomplish with the new capabilities that are now being developed. The earliest computers were crude calculators placed atop simple databases. The only advantage of these machines over human brainpower was in applications where brute force was required, such as processing all of the tax returns filed in the USA or calculating all of the inter-carrier revenue splits for airline passengers.

Gradually, as the power of processors increased and their cost decreased in accordance with Miller’s Law, tools for productivity became viable, first for transaction processing activities and then, with the advent of the personal computer, for employees across the enterprise. In addition to math-based tasks, computers could handle text effectively. Not long thereafter, software was developed to create and manage images, including designs and photos.

It was followed by the advent of Internet which enabled transmission and retrieval of data around the globe. The computer became a tool for individuals to communicate and to do research. Managers used ICT to monitor and control far-flung factories, offices and personnel.

The state of the art in corporate computing is now cloud-based applications that work on multiple devices. Miniaturization and wireless connectivity allow ubiquitous computing so that productivity can be increased anytime and anywhere.

New Value Source Number 1, Revenue Generation through Marketing Automation

Looking ahead, IT is poised to contribute much more in the area of marketing. In the search for opportunities to harvest value for their organizations, CIOs will find much low-hanging fruit in the marketing and sales function.

The most obvious opportunity is in e-commerce. Although Amazon and its fellow shopping sites have usurped the role of the IT department in basic, online catalog sales, there is plenty of additional space for corporations to enable specialized commerce with their customers directly. Areas to examine include enhanced online shopping experiences and customer-driven personalization of products, services and commercial terms.

Sales force automation is another area where generic applications are fairly mature and robust, but adoption is not yet widespread. CIOs can look for ways to empower outside, inside and retail sales persons to respond faster and with more complete information to customer requests, to personalize their approaches based on predictive analytics, to delight customers with seamless interactions, and to automate transactions that once required human interaction and judgment. 

Customer relationship management (CRM) throughout the sales cycle can benefit from the smart application of AI. Apart from the actual sale, many aspects of lead generation, communication with prospects, and after-sales service can be optimized through automation that is based on careful analysis of historical data.

Social networking sites (SNS) provide a marketing challenge that CIOs are well placed to address. The marketing potential of SNS has only begun to be tapped. The effectiveness of SNS as a marketing channel should multiply as IT and knowledge management professionals find ways to process large volumes of unstructured data from a myriad of sources in real time and apply the resulting information in a targeted manner.

Value Source Number 2, Cost Reduction through Automated Processing

Just as microprocessors have replaced manpower for mathematical calculations, and just as robotics are replacing manpower in assembly lines, the ICT network will replace human work in new and diverse areas in coming years. CIOs should look for opportunities to apply sensor technology and AI to automate more business processes and even managerial decisions in their organizations.