7. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Knowledge Management
Exponential improvements in price-performance in computing, and network effects from growing connectivity, ICT hardware, software and services are impacting management in every function of the firm. Changes are constantly occurring in metrics, decision support, ERP, product management, design, procurement, sales, marketing, CRM, HR, knowledge management, learning and development, and ideation, to name a few business tasks impacted by ICT. The CTO, CIO, and CSO (chief security officer) are strategic leaders in most companies today.
Given what we’ve seen with information technology’s performance curves (Moore’s law, etc.) over the last sixty years, the ICT department’s impact will continue to become exponentially more powerful every year, unlike just about any other department in this list. ICT experiences constant waves of change, each of which introduces new efficiencies and/or capabilities. ICT innovations are usually overhyped and oversold at first, but some are eventually widely adopted and required by the firm in order to compete effectively. Today, cloud computing is rapidly displacing company hosted and downloadable software, which in turn displaced packaged software, and a wealth of new cloud apps offer substantial gains in ease of use, scale, or efficiency for the firm.
Smartphones are also seeing rapid (25%) annual global growth. Just one-quarter of the world’s population (1.76 billion) used smartphones by the end of 2014, and wearable smartphones are just now emerging, so we can expect continued rapid growth in mobile products and services, and service to the bottom three billion as companies like Xiaomi drive costs to new lows.
In the US, difficulties getting sufficient H-1B visas for immigrant ICT talent is leading ICT-immigration friendly neighboring countries (Canada, Mexico) to court US companies to do “nearshoring” of their ICT work, an interesting new opportunity for CTOs and CIOs contemplating establishing offshore divisions, but wishing to avoid time zone and culture conflicts and save on travel costs for local managers.
ICT is also enabling increasingly powerful knowledge management, collaboration and prediction platforms, including corporate wikis, CMS’s and social networks. Predictive analytics, data mining to find hidden predictive relationships, is now being applied in many marketing, strategy, security, human resources, education, health care, and other business domains. Eric Siegel’s Predictive Analytics (2013) offers a great survey of this latest example of ICT-driven foresight in the firm.
In most firms, ICT is a major component of product and service delivery, and for many digital, large, or global firms it can be the key component. After knowledge management, Product and Service Management may be its most commonly associated foresight function. But since the rise of the Web and embedded and mobile computing, ICT is increasingly a key tool of Top Management (think Databases, Business Intelligence, ERP, SCM, etc.) and of Marketing (CRM, etc.) in many firms.
Modern ICT can thus strongly aid all twenty foresight functions in the firm, though ICT departments often don’t have direct responsibility for any one function in the typical firm (there are of course many specialized exceptions). Second only to Top Management, ICT could be a great place for any foresight professional looking to have a broad and ever-growing set of career options and responsibilities across all the foresight functions discussed in this guide.