Information Technology, or “IT” is now an essential segment of any business.
We rely on technology to keep us productive, whether it’s for data entry or product development.
Perhaps one of the biggest and most significant examples of IT’s impact on the business world is in the communication space. IT and communication are now so intertwined, that they have their own designation: ICT.
Information and Communications Technology is a concept identifying the many components that come together to make a successful communications stack in today’s business world. This includes not just networking components and systems for communication, but analytics tools as well.
Responsible for delivering the essentials of business communications, ICT transforms every professional conversation that we have.
What is information and communications technology?
ICT, or Information Communications Technology, describes the technologies that people use to share information and conversations. Similar to IT (Information Technology), the crux of the landscape is in information. However, with ICT, the focus is on communicating that information, rather than just collecting, storing, or leveraging it.
In the new, digital world, ICT doesn’t refer exclusively to telecommunications. Today, we have desktop applications and cloud-based tools that allow for communication via video, instant messaging, and even social networking. Modern business communications have created a massive landscape, where people can connect with each other in virtually any way that they choose.
As companies continue to discover the importance of communications in business, the opportunities of ICT are evolving. Today, with the right systems, it’s possible to build not only a better communication stack, but the tools required to understand that environment too.
The components of ICT
Because the communication and technology landscape is always evolving, it’s difficult to directly identify ICT as a single set of tools. Instead, ICT is becoming a broad umbrella term. This concept covers everything from internet-based chats that happen over a browser, to mobile connectivity, and landline telephones.
While it’s easy to pair ICT and IT together as the same thing, it’s important to remember that ICT focuses more heavily on components related to communication than IT. Just some of the components that might appear in an ICT stack.
Cloud computing solutions are often essential to modern ICT because they allow everyone in a company to communicate, regardless of location. With cloud technology, business users can access things like business phone numbers and instant messaging with nothing but a password and username.
In the cloud-computing communication world, software is becoming an increasingly essential part of the conversation. Software can unlock the door to everything from video conferencing, to file and screen sharing. Software can also include apps on a smartphone, or components for a contact centre.
The hardware components of ICT cover everything from desk phones, to mobile devices, room kits for meetings, and video cameras. As the communication options of the business landscape evolve, there may be more pieces of hardware to consider. In the future, we might even see the rise of AR and VR tools.
AI and analytics
Artificial intelligence and analytics are rapidly emerging as an essential part of business communications. AI can refer to a host of tools, from virtual assistants, to machine learning algorithms that analyse sentiment in a call. Analytics inform communication decisions by leveraging huge amounts of business data.
Voice and video
Voice has always been a strong part of the ICT communication landscape. However, it’s not the only way to pursue communications anymore. Businesses also have access to video, which helps with adding an extra layer to distance conversations.
Collaboration tools for file sharing, screen sharing, instant messaging and constant conversation are a rapidly growing aspect of ICT. Information and communication often revolves around a central collaborative hub in today’s transforming business environment.
ICT’s societal and economic impact
ICT and the changing nature of business communications has had a massive impact on the world around us. ICT has an impact for economic, interpersonal, and societal interactions on a massive scale. The way that we communicate, learn, and work have all changed. What’s more, ICT is constantly revolutionising the human experience as new technology emerges.
Not so long ago, when we used computers to answer calls, the functionality was basic. Your IVR system could answer a call and direct it to the first individual available to respond. However, today, robotic systems can not only answer calls, but handle questions, analyse sentiment, and deliver valuable information to businesses.
In the same vein, collaboration used to refer to the act of meeting in a room to work together on the same project. Now, collaboration can happen anywhere, on any platform, with tools that make employees feel as though they’re face-to-face.
Impact of ICT on business operations
The impact of ICT on business operations has been so significant, that it has helped to spark the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Still, it’s worth noting that ICT has had more of an impact on some environments than others. The world doesn’t distribute ICT resources evenly. Richer countries generally have more access to the benefits that this environment can offer. The discrepancies between who can access ICT and who can’t has created something called a “Digital Divide” in today’s world. Various government authorities and the World Bank have joined forces with non-government organisations to address this issue.
Bridging the digital divide means providing greater access to ICT to populations that would otherwise struggle to afford it. The United Nations considers one of its Sustainable Development Goals to be increasing the access that all societies have to ICT in less developed countries. After all, there are significant economic advantages found in the ICT market, and the larger areas of business and society too.
The importance of ICT in business communications
The new era of business communications relies heavily on the new and improved ICT environment. Advances in the way that we communicate have numerous benefits for companies. For instance, with things like cloud communication tools to support employees working from home, remote teams are possible. These remote teams benefit from greater productivity and improved satisfaction at work.
What’s more, because there’s less demand for in-office hardware and communication maintenance, businesses can cut the costs of running a successful communication system. These cloud connections have also opened the door to new kinds of customer service.
For instance, businesses can now respond rapidly to customer queries through new channels like social media and instant chat. Health companies can deliver support from doctors and nurses over video channels. The options for connectivity are endless.
What’s more, ICT in business communications is improving the way that companies collaborate too. It’s now possible to share everything from screens and files, to video online. This ensures that teams can work more effectively together, wherever they are.
The more that ICT opportunities evolve, the more benefits we discover in the form of:
Better customer service
Improved solutions for communication and communication management enhance CX significantly. Today’s businesses can respond to their customers on any channel. What’s more, it’s easier for companies to track the unique elements of the customer journey with a more digital ICT environment. Insights into this journey open the door for more personalised and relevant service.
Improved productivity and efficiency
Communication tools in the current business landscape don’t just refer to the tools we use to connect with customers. These solutions also include the services that businesses use to keep employees connected. With stronger platforms for collaboration and communication, it’s easier to share and leverage knowledge.
Massive cost savings
As mentioned above, ICT has the power to reduce costs in businesses in several ways. The right tools can eliminate the need for expensive travel and unlock new opportunities like remote work.
Digital communication technologies
Perhaps the biggest trend shaping the essentials of business communications today, is the rising growth of digital technology. Information technology in the communication stack means that we’ve gone beyond the basic PSTN telephone line. Conversations are delivered over the internet in VoIP packaged. Collaboration happens in networks that are connected by the cloud.
In the era of the Fourth Industrial revolution, digital communication means that we have access to endless new channels for communication and collaboration. Businesses are connecting with their customers through instant chat and delivering service over social meida. Teams are connecting on WhatsApp and collaboration tools, rather than communicating face-to-face.
For the most part, digital communication has a lot of benefits to offer. It makes conversations more searchable and drives new opportunities for collecting valuable data that can drive business decisions. In a digital landscape, companies can connect all of their communication points to create a single point of truth for essential information. It’s also possible to ensure that employees always have access to the right information, by linking all of the critical components a team needs in the same digital environment.
Digital communication also reduces the walls between geographies, allowing companies to spread more completely around the world. With digital communication, you can create an entire global infrastructure for your communication stack, complete with local numbers. However, you still have the power to control and provision everything remotely.
Addressing the challenges of ICT
However, it’s important to remember that the ICT world, and the digital landscape come with challenges to consider too. Information Communication Technology has led to a new selection of challenges for organisations to consider. For instance, the digitisation of data, and the rapid adoption of internet technology means that there are new risks in the world for security and privacy.
Criminals have almost limitless opportunities to attempt to gain access to systems and steal intellectual property. This has prompted customers and companies alike to be more concerned about the way that they manage data. At the same time, ICT has also prompted the rise of robots and artificial intelligence that many people are still concerned will replace human beings.
The important thing to remember when addressing these challenges, is that the impact of ICT on your business will always depend on the strategy you embrace. With the right vendor to guide you, everything from online contact centres to conference calls can take on an extra layer of security. It’s even possible to embrace digital technologies in security too, with things like biometric testing and AI-enhanced fraud detection.
Additionally, most experts agree that the role of the newest and most advanced systems in ICT technology isn’t to replace the human worker, but to empower them. As companies are already beginning to discover with their own digital transformation, advanced solutions in communication tools can strengthen the conversations that we have with our peers and allow for more immersive meetings.
With AI and analytics embedded into communication tools, businesses can unlock new levels of productivity, and deliver the kind of meaningful experiences that customers need during a call, video conference, or messaging discussion.
Embracing communication technology in business
Ultimately, ICT has a massive impact on the business landscape today. No matter how big your business is, or what industry you’re in, there’s no doubt that you’re leveraging some kind of ICT system. As with most things in the development of a successful business, the key to achieving excellent results, is having the right strategy in place.
Business leaders need to think carefully about the problem that they want to solve with their ICT solutions and work backwards from there. Addressing the issues that you want to overcome will help you to find the right vendor to work with. Once you have your vision in place, you can begin to build a system for better communication and collaboration that works for your company.