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The advent of the 21st century saw mass adoption of commercial electronics in various industries which led to the emergence of the digital age. While operational business computers were introduced as early as the 1970s, the devices everyone is familiar with today and can easily use for daily functions came in the late 1990s. With decades, computers have grown to be more complex but powerful, usable for a variety of purposes, and adaptable. As business massively adopted computers the very core nature of doing business and managing operations changed for all stakeholders (Petersen, 2019). This paper seeks to explore the impact of the computer and technology on the business world.
Data Storage and Manipulation
Prior to computers, all information was stored on paper. Information had to be written or typed and organized in complex bookkeeping in each business. This was ineffective, time-consuming, and took-up significant resources. Paper files could be easily misplaced, human error was prevalent, and it was costly. Computers allowed for digital file storage, which completely revamped how businesses collected, stored, and used data and information, both about their own business and outside contexts. Once the Internet arrived, data could be stored even more safely, in virtual clouds, while information was accessible at a moment’s notice (IBM, n.d.). Digital file storage presented many benefits, including organizing and storing data with greater ease, reducing human error, creating back-up copies, and allowing for search of that data to find the necessary information at a moment’s notice. Any given file can be retrieved, shared, and manipulated in any means needed for the business in a matter of seconds.
As it is well-known, the very concept of digitally collected data has fundamentally changed how businesses operate. While business decisions were reliant on empirical data in the past, it was rudimentary statistics based off data points collected and reported on paper. Digitization of data has now meant that data points from both historic and present operations could be used. First, the shift in various processes as discussed later had allowed for much more sophisticated data point gathering in both internal functions and commercial endeavors. At last, computers provided opportunities to perform highly complex manipulations, statistics, and calculations based on a range of algorithms (Leonard, 2018). Depending on the business, this could provide highly accurate and predicting data strategies in their enterprise decision-making and commercial success.
Job Functions and Processes
As mentioned, the digital transformation brought companies into a completely new space. Multiple business functions critically changed, redundant ones were removed, and new ones added. The core function of most businesses is now to operate within the digital realm whether through marketing, building logistics chains, e-commerce, and others. Work could be done much faster on computers and new programs were developed for various functions ranging from finance to HR to team management. Many corporations had to transition, with the majority of the global workforce now working from behind a computer. The computer age was one of the catalysts to bring about the white collar ‘revolution,’ essentially shifting many jobs from blue-collar industrial jobs or low-skilled labor into the office (Browne, 2017). This was especially relevant for highly developed countries, which then outsourced much of the manual labor to the developing world. Therefore, the computer not only brought changes to the companies and their processes but has fundamentally shifted the economy and ultimate geographical distribution of labor, essentially contributing to the globalization of business processes.
The foundation of all businesses from pre-digital times to modernity has been communication. Both internal communication among staff to external communication with stakeholders, clients, and consumers. The computer and digital tools have revolutionized the art of communication in business. Originally, when computers emerged, e-mail became the popular tool of communication, and still is highly used and effective. It allowed to quickly transmit written messages in a matter of seconds, distributing information to whomever and to as many people as needed (LaMarco, 2019). As technological solutions developed, various other tools emerged, such as corporate instant messaging services and the latest of which (under remote working), video conferencing to replace face-to-face meetings but being able to still discuss information in greater detail and human interaction than would be possible via written messages (Harris-Briggs, 2018). These digitally driven communication methods have impacted business structures and operations towards more effective information sharing and reduced inefficient face-to-face contact and meetings (Trint, 2021). Furthermore, the more effective and affordable communication is, which digital solutions are typically free or highly cost-efficient, the more businesses can save.
Mobility and Flexibility
Computers brought a certain level of freedom to many businesses. As discussed, the ability of one device to perform virtually all backend tasks to business operations has provided much greater flexibility. As computer technologies developed with powerful laptops, tablet PCs, and smartphones, it has given rise to what is known as IT mobility. An individual does not have to be physically present at the workplace to do their job or even monitor key aspects of manufacturing or other physical operations. This has given much social flexibility, as was demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic when people were forced to work from home (ColoradoSupport, n.d.). It also allowed for international business to develop as an employee could be halfway across the world fulfilling their duties.
Modern developments such as cloud computing allows to store information and even generate the computing power on remote servers, essentially streaming the data to any eligible device. This means that business employees can engage in virtually any task with a good internet connection, regardless the computing power of their respective device, because the computing power is done on the servers. In contemporary contexts, this IT mobility offers significant benefits to businesses in terms of flexibility and fulfilling their needs as any employee they need can be remotely found to fulfill tasks as needed.
The Internet of Things
The internet of things (IoT) is a web of physical electronic devices ranging from computers to sensors to other technologies which are interconnected within the same network, allowing to exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet and communication networks. It is estimated that by 2025, 55.7 billion connected devices will be in the marketplace, with 75% being part of an IoT platform (Consolidated Technologies Inc., 2021). IoT is a critical technological development in businesses across various industries. This can range from smart light bulbs to networks of industrial machines with oversee the manufacturing process and report data back. Using the series of devices and sensors, IoT allows to collect and then analyze massive amounts of data on behaviors, processes, environments, and other key points. The machines can then enact various forms of change, either under human direction or via artificial intelligence to self-correct and make processes more efficient (Zhang & Wen, 2016). This takes the components of data storage and analysis discussed earlier and takes to a new level.
IoT impacts businesses primary by offering accessibility to tremendous amounts of data in regard to their processes. As mentioned, it can track both physical performance of manufacturing, as well as digital characteristics such as customer behaviors and product sales. IoT allows for continuous optimization of business processes and can serve as a tool for strategic decision-making, improving key performance indicators, and even benefit in human resource management such as team engagement. The more complex and comprehensive the technology becomes, the more data points it can collect and greater range of uses that it can be applied to across industries. This represents computers taken to a new generation of computing devices.
E-commerce is the latest digital development of businesses, which has grown to a multi-billion-dollar market. E-commerce refers to the buying and selling goods over an electronic network, particularly the Internet. As e-commerce grew in popularity, driven in part by massive online retailers including Amazon and global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses began to shift their sales online virtually in any way possible. A business typically conducted three major elements online that were payment processing, website development, and advertising. E-commerce added on it, also simplifying the sale process significantly for both, the seller and the consumer. In both cases, business-to-consumer and business-to-business interactions, the buyers could list catalogs of available goods either on the seller’s website or through third party retailers. Upon selecting necessary goods, they can place the order with all necessary details, pay online which would immediately go through, and all would be left is for the seller to ship the goods or offer the service, with logistics costs often built-in to the price (Chai, n.d.).
E-commerce in its rudimentary forms was around as early as the 1990s, but it has had tremendous impact on businesses. In many cases, doing business online has shifted entire business models or led to the creation of new ones. Some examples are Netflix who transitioned from a physical media business into fully online streaming, as well as Paypal, a payment processing company which saw a gap in the market of digital payment systems which at the time was necessary since not every retailer could easily set up credit card processing. In 2022, e-commerce is one of the primary forces of the current market economy and the majority of business is done online via computers and smartphones. It has also shifted the way companies do business, in terms of advertising, ease of access to purchase products, and other means to make the experience for consumers smooth and flawless.
Computers are one of humanity’s most innovative inventions, significantly revolutionizing the world. The majority of systems, platforms, and processes that everyone is familiar with today came as a result of the computer and the subsequent digital and technological revolution. Businesses, which are commonly complex organizations, rely heavily on consistency, functionality, communications, and sales of goods and services. The computer was able to effectively combine, simplify, and multiply efficiency of all the core business processes. In turn, this has allowed for the development of ultra large corporations with global logistics and networks that can function to provide goods and services around the world.
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Chai, W. (n.d.). E-commerce.
ColoradoSupport. (n.d.). The importance of IT mobility for your small business.
Consolidated Technologies Inc. (2021). Internet of things in business.
Harris-Briggs, N. (2018). 7 advantages of technology in business communication.
IBM. (n.d.). What is data storage?
LaMarco, N. (2019). Uses for computers in business. Chron.
Petersen, L. (2019). Importance of computers in business. Chron.
Leonard, K. (2018). The role of data in business. Chron.
Trint. (2021). How digital communication has changed the world of business forever.
Zhang, Y., & Wen, J. (2016). The IoT electric business model: Using blockchain technology for the internet of things. Peer-To-Peer Networking and Applications, 10(4), 983–994.
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