Just 25 years ago, most business offices would have been stocked with typewriters and carbon sheets, instead of computers and printers. Once computers became mainstream consumer items, the business world adopted the burgeoning technology at a dizzying pace. The modern economy places a premium on the acquisition, processing and proper use of information in all its forms and formats. Today, the sum of all computer-based and digital technology used for the management of information in both the public and private sectors is referred to as information technology, or IT. Information technology is responsible for innovative leaps and improvements to the workplace across multiple sectors of the market and plays a critical role in business organizations.
The systems that comprise information technology in a business today encompass a number of types of computers, storage and networking equipment. In fact, one definition of business information technology is: The use of any computers, storage, networking and other physical devices, infrastructure and processes to create, process, store, secure and exchange all forms of electronic data.
IT, therefore, includes any mechanical or digital method by which a business office collects, maintains, retrieves or uses information. In this context, information can mean written content, documents, databases, spreadsheets, emails, audio or video files, digital forms that are completed and submitted via the internet, and much more.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of information technology in today’s business climate. No matter what industry it belongs to, a business’ lifeblood in today’s economy is the information that makes it possible for it to conduct business.
Businesses utilize IT in a number of different contexts and for many different purposes. In other words, IT isn’t just computers. For example, telephones, radio equipment and VOIP services used for vocal communications are included under the IT umbrella. In the same way, peripherals such as printers, copiers, scanners and 3D printers are also considered part of a business’ IT systems.
Of course, when most people think IT, they think of computers: desktop machines, laptops and mobile devices used by individuals to input and manipulate data, create digital documents, conduct research, and more. IT also includes the applications and executable programs that are installed on these devices to enable the user to complete the task at hand. Somewhat less obviously, IT may also include the costs associated with purchasing, configuring and maintaining the necessary hardware and equipment to keep the company’s IT systems operating smoothly. In these ways, IT has become critical to the global business community.
The role of information technology in various sectors has evolved quickly since the last decade of the 20th century. Modern organizations use information technology throughout most, if not all, departments and across most functions. The obvious example is email. Email has become ubiquitous in connecting employees to each other, between departments and between locations or markets. This is true whether a business is entirely local with a single point of presence or maintains offices in multiple locations in multiple countries.
But IT goes far beyond mundane operations. The right IT systems give companies a competitive edge, enabling them to enter larger markets and expand products or service lines more efficiently, as well as keep tabs on competitors. IT has now become such a pervasive aspect of business operations that many employees and managers no longer see it as a separate function. Rather, IT has become an indispensable element of every corporate department and function, driving innovation and fostering growth throughout the entire organization.
Information technology in business helps a corporation maintain a watchful eye on expenses and profits, enabling management to act more nimbly to trim costs or to change the sales team’s focus when necessary. A strong IT system also helps all facets of a company work more productively. By enabling automation and digital tools, tasks that once took hours can now be performed in a matter of minutes. Today’s agile businesses weave IT into everything they do, enabling them to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.