IT enables SME business

We live in an era of unprecedented global economic expansion. Continuing gains in productivity and the ever-faster flow of goods and information have combined to bring new levels of prosperity to millions of people around the world. The result, as The Economist noted not too long ago, is that "the first decade of the 21st century could see the fastest growth in average world income in the whole of history."

We live in an era of unprecedented global economic expansion. Continuing gains in productivity and the ever-faster flow of goods and information have combined to bring new levels of prosperity to millions of people around the world. The result, as The Economist noted not too long ago, is that "the first decade of the 21st century could see the fastest growth in average world income in the whole of history."

One of the most interesting and important debates in the business world concerns the role that IT plays in creating economic opportunities and business success. There are almost as many positions in this debate as there are participants, ranging from those who claim that IT is the essential engine of progress at one end of the spectrum to those who insist that IT does not matter at the other end.

At Microsoft, we believe that IT does matter, but that it is a company's employees who ultimately determine whether a business thrives or fails. We have built our company and our products on an approach that recognizes that business success depends on the thousands of decisions employees make every day. Our business software is designed specifically to enable employees to use their knowledge of customers, markets, and operations to make informed decisions that create strategic business advantage.

A recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the business research and advisory organization founded by The Economist more than 60 years ago, provides new validation for this approach. Based on a survey of 1,351 senior executives from around the world, the study offers compelling evidence that there is a positive correlation between business success and the use of IT to enable employees to optimize decision-making and act autonomously.

Sponsored by Microsoft, the study set out to determine how "enablement" - which the Economist Business Unit defines as the "organizational structures, informational technologies, and other resources that let employees make decisions" - contributes to profitable growth.

In "Ready, Willing, and Enabled: A Formula for Performance," the report that summarizes the study's findings, the EIU concludes that "firms which embrace information technology to allow rapid collaboration can benefit from their employees' collective knowledge, improving the performance of individuals as well as that of the organization overall. For example, 58% of respondents who use collaborative software work for firms with revenue growth stronger than that of their competitors."

Although nearly two-thirds of the business executive surveyed reported that their organizations have a high degree of enablement, only 53% said they have the IT tools they need less than half have the information they require and only one-third make use of tools such as collaborative software.

I believe these numbers mean that we are really still in the early stages of the IT revolution. During the last 30 years, wave after wave of technology innovation has truly transformed the world of business. From e-mail to productivity software, enterprise resource planning systems, supply chain management software, and much more, business technology has provided new ways for companies and their employees to communicate, create and share information, manage operations, and respond to changing markets and new opportunities.

In many ways, we are just now beginning to unleash the real transformational power of information technology in the workplace. A new generation of software is making computing more powerful, more affordable, and much easier to use. At the same time businesses are improving their ability to use technology tools to make it easier for employees to use information to create business success. This will unleash new ideas that will create exciting new business and social opportunities for businesses and communities around the world.

For more information on how to create new opportunity for your business, visit www.microsoft.com/uk/peopleready.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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