From the early mainframe servers to iPads, computers have become workplace mainstays. They play a role in how businesses communicate internally and externally, manage their employees, run their production lines and track their customers. Businesses have been able to justify their computer investments because of the positive effects on profitability, strategic and operational flexibility, employee productivity and organizational learning.
Computers increase business profitability. By computerizing data processing, invoicing, payroll and various other processes, businesses are able to reduce their cost structure. Computers are at the core of new distribution channels such as online stores, which have led to the creation of new market opportunities worldwide. Sales growth and reduced costs generally means higher profits, which is why businesses keep investing in computers. Information technology investment per employee has risen even though computers have become less expensive, according to analysis done by MIT principal scientist Andrew McAfee.
Computers facilitate strategic and operational flexibility. Computers make businesses nimble. Internet connectivity, high-speed data transmission and powerful databases have allowed senior management to make strategic decisions to outsource significant portions of their operations worldwide. Enterprise resource planning systems aggregate data from operational processes such as production and payroll, allowing managers to make real-time decisions on resource allocations for personnel, marketing and production. Computers have shortened the time-to-market for new products: Businesses can prototype new concepts using software and hardware simulation tools, conduct online focus groups on possible market appeal, make rapid product design adjustments and launch new products to keep pace with competitor product offerings.
Computers increase worker productivity. Employees are able to do more in less time. From software spreadsheet calculations to high-speed data communications to databases for storing and accessing vast amounts of data, computers allow employees to focus more on value-added tasks and less on routine tasks. This also means a more interesting work experience for employees, a fact confirmed for Canadian workers in a 2002 Human Resources and Skills Development Canada study. Employees who enjoy their work experience tend to stay with their employers longer and work harder.
Computers enhance organizational learning. The most significant contributor in this respect has been networking technologies that link together computers across geographical locations. Using corporate blogs, virtual meetings and social media, employees worldwide can share data, collaborate on projects and learn from each other in real time. There is no need to fly trainers from one part of the world to another to train salespeople on a new product because the information can be posted online and viewed 24/7. This saves time and money, while enhancing employee development and corporate learning.
Based in Ottawa, Canada, Chirantan Basu has been writing since 1995. His work has appeared in various publications and he has performed financial editing at a Wall Street firm. Basu holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Memorial University of Newfoundland, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Ottawa and holds the Canadian Investment Manager designation from the Canadian Securities Institute.