Information Is Power: Role of Information in Business

Introduction

Information is more powerful than ever before, because information technology, especially the network of communications technologies, has made it more accessible than ever before. Organizations depend upon the organizational knowledge that they have acquired over the years to support the strategic decisions necessary to compete in today’s global marketplace. Knowledge which can be stored in written form can now be contained in organizational databases and made accessible to anyone in the organization at any time anywhere in the world. More importantly, the people who provided that knowledge are also instantly available anywhere in the world via information technology. This type of communications network is what is driving innovation and industry today everywhere.

Main Text

Economies in developed countries have shifted into knowledge work and firms attempt to retain that knowledge and share it across the organization in order to create a competitive advantage. Organizational learning requires that the learning be shared across the organization, and this is pushing the communications technology. The triangle of communications, learning organizations and information technology is driving the globalization of business around the world. Organizations are doing just that as they try to maximize their intellectual capital and develop new innovative methods for business development, and more practical solutions to the problems of doing business in a multicultural global environment. Instant communications, instantly accessible information and shared knowledge are key ingredients which CEOs use to leverage global partnerships. In addition, more is dome, since the technology does not requires the top management ot travel extensively. Generally, one visit is made by each company to the other, and then they continue by communicating over VOIP networks and telephone.

Hanvanich et al (2003) made it clear that organizations depend upon their learning to create the flexibility necessary in order to react dynamically to environmental turbulence. Druker (1964) suggested considering three key business strategies for the future: (1) projection, (2) anticipation, and (3) innovation. Organizations should extrapolate the possibilities of the future, anticipate possible changes and promote innovative solutions in order to keep up. IN order to do this, executives need up to date information available at their fingertips. The days of commissioning studies and waiting weeks or months for the results are gone with the last century.

In other words, good strategic managers know that they cannot operate in a vacuum, so they depend upon the organization’s knowledge in times of high market turbulence, as defined by Teece, Pisano, and Shuen (1997). Without information technology and the instant communication and provides this process would be far too slow to be of any use in the current global market.

Communication is pivotal to the spread and sharing ability of any organization’s learning. Instant access to contact information across the organization, and communications hardware via an intranet, possibly a VPN or company website connects all the knowledgeable people of the organization. In addition, data storage hardware, plus document management and tracking provides a method of archiving organizational knowledge, while keeping it instantly accessible via the search function of the databases containing it. If information cannot be found quickly when needed, it cannot be applied, and is, therefore, merely lost and useless data.

A strong social culture within the company promotes communication across the organization and across levels within. This aspect of internal communication is a critical part of the sharing mechanism for organizations. The access to key people is a driving factor in the company’s learning orientation, making learning opportunities available and resulting in widespread availability of the company’s organizational knowledge. If access to the right people within the organization is not available to all employees, opportunities will be missed. Management has reacted by adjusting the communications protocols within the organization to make the key people accessible to all employees. Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota eliminated management offices, forcing mangers to work at conference tables placed throughout the company, and putting them in constant contact with the workers.

Technology can be a key factor here also. Video and Voice over IP and even 3D modeling technology and process simulations can all be used in place of face to face sessions. This overcomes barriers of distance and enables the exchange of information and cross fertilization of new ideas even across global distances. Using this technology freely and often can help to create a global team or a series of global teams, all available instantly to work on any problems any other part of the organization may encounter. Organizations which promote the use of technology to create their own global learning community stay ahead. Most of the issues concerning communication in larger companies are the reorganization and security issues and justifying the ROI. This is hard to do, because the return on the investment is often not immediate and not always directly traceable to information and communications technology.

Ernst & Young’s business is mostly financial products, and a comprehensive website, which is accessible and useful to the public, is used to cultivate new business, serve and communicate with current customers and share organizational knowledge across the company. Their website offers education, customer support and an infrastructure which facilitates both business to customers (B2C) and business to business (B2B) sales. Also found on the website are both highly informational podcasts, free information MP3 files, which download automatically for use at a convenient time, and RSS feeds, news and articles which can be automatically downloaded to an RSS reader on computers or PDAs. They cover many different platforms, including mobile phones and are accessible by any interested person (including their own employees). In this way they communicate with users in an unobtrusive way. Internal knowledge is also available to any employee via the same access, though it is encrypted and password protected to ensure security against outside access. (Ernst & Young website 2008)

Tools used for storing and distribution and the development and management of knowledge networks at Ernst & Young include Lotus Notes, Microsoft Office software, and a browser for the World Wide Web on all PDAs issued to employees. All of these connect instantly to company information and databases from anywhere in the world. All employees are expected to download to their laptop, and master the contents of, at least two of 80 available ‘‘power packs’’—databases containing information on particular areas of the firm’s practice. Each of the power packs includes contact information for the firm’s ‘‘subject-matter, client information, industry background, and presentation templates.” (Thierauf 35) These are added to and updated regularly. On both the public site and their own intranet available globally to employees via Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology, Ernst & Young uses Verity’s (Sunnyvale, California) Intelliserve search engine. All of these tools are protected by Cisco security measures, but care is taken to make sure that no employee finds that they cannot access needed information. As a result, Ernst & Young has a well deserved reputation for being on the cutting edge of whatever is happening in the world of global finance and markets.

Other companies which compete successfully in the global marketplace are using different configurations, but much the same communications network tools to make information easily available and to facilitate communication among employees and managers. Hewlett Packard is another company leveraging communications technology in this way. It is these kinds of organizations which will stay at the forefront of global innovation, because they have made the investment to create a learning organization can make that organizational learning available via technology to all employees around the globe. Knowledge is driving the new global economy, and that is driving the technological innovation within companies to provide that knowledge to all of their employees. In this new global economy knowledge is power, communications makes it available and technology is the engine.

References

Drucker, Peter F.. 1964. Managing For Results Economic Tasks And Risk-Taking Decisions, Harper and Row.

Ernst & young website2006-last update [Homepage of Ernst & Young], [Online]. Web.

Hanvanich, Sangphet, Sivakumar, K., Hult, G, Tomas M. 2003. The Relationship of Learning and Memory With Organizational Performance: The Moderating Role of Turbulence.

Teece, Pisano and Shuen, 1997, Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management, Strategic Management Journal [SMJ], 18(7), 509 – 533.

THIERAUF, R.J., 1999. Knowledge Management Systems for Business. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.