In the same way that the industrial revolution forever changed the way people lived and business was done, the digital revolution that began with the microchip has fundamentally changed the world and the way we interact with each other. This is equally true of both business and personal relationships as the rapid growth of global communications and networks has shaped modern society into the age of information.
In an economic context the idea is that the digital revolution has allowed information to flow freely between people and organisations, so that a new economy based on the flows of and values attributed to information has evolved. This has precipitated a shift away from an industry based economy that was born from the industrial revolution. The challenge for many businesses today is how to manage information rather than raw materials.
In the information age we create 2.5 quintillion (1018) bytes of data every single day, and over 3 zettabytes (1021) were created last year alone. But what does this actually mean? Zettabytes are so vast that comprehension is impossible so to put it in more tangible terms it is estimated that 90% of all electronic data ever produced was created in the last 2 years. Or more than 10% of all photos ever taken were shot digitally in the last 12 months.
What this means in a business environment is that in the same way as businesses managed resources and production processes in an industrial society, modern businesses must manage information as efficiently and effectively as possible using information technology systems. Different systems perform different functions just like different machinery does in a manufacturing business. There must also be suitable IT infrastructure within which a company’s systems are housed. Here speed and stability are the key performance indicators. Therefore, organising compatible systems coherently within a high speed, robust environment to allow the flow of information is essential, as is training the users to operate the systems. This requires careful design of processes and employment of systems to reduce waste, improve decision making, increase speed of delivery, optimise the customer experience and sustain a competitive advantage.
This is true for almost all businesses in todays’ world as even traditional manufacturing industries often use IT systems for functions such as design, procurement, logistics, sales and customer communication. However, systems alone are rarely the complete solution; rather they are one key part of a business, enabling strategy and serving both employees and customers. An appropriate system strategy deployed effectively can be the differentiating factor between business success and failure in the age of information.