Information technology can be roughly defined as using computers and telecommunication systems to store and share information. Businesses use information technology to automate many kinds of tasks, which can save both time and money. Businesses who successfully automate can then use that time and money for other business purposes.
Businesses use mass emails to disseminate information to employees. For example, the Mail Merge function in Microsoft Outlook can send an email to multiple recipients. Unlike a physical bulletin board in the workplace, businesses can use email to disseminate information to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. Mass emails also save time by avoiding the need to make phone calls on a one-on-one basis when employees are away from the office.
Some businesses set up an automated help desk to handle customer service. Online customer-service software saves time in much the same way as automated phone systems. However, you can create a complete Knowledge Base online that is often more helpful than an automated phone system, as there’s room to provide highly detailed instructions or tutorials on technical issues. Online customer-service software also typically has a system for submitting support tickets if a customer cannot find an answer in the Knowledge Base. Examples of software for online customer service include Kayako, Parature and Zoho. Prices, as of the date of publication, start at around $25 per month, though some have a free trial or a limited free version.
Online shopping carts automate the development of a customer database. When a visitor wants to purchase a product online, the shopping cart software automatically takes the order and asks for his personal information. The shopping cart aggregates all customer information into a database which the business can then manage as it sees fit. Web hosts typically provide a shopping cart as part of their hosting packages at no extra charge. Fees for hosting packages start at around $5 per month, as of the time of publication. Examples of shopping carts include CubeCart, Zen Cart and osCommerce.
Software for customer relationship management, or CRM, streamlines the sales process. For example, when a company puts a business prospect into the database, the software can automatically place the prospect into several different databases, such as a schedule for follow-up marketing calls. This saves time on data processing. A company can also provide access to the system to members of the sales staff and management team, which saves time on document sharing and administration. CRM examples include SugarCRM, Oracle’s Siebel and Microsoft Dynamics. Prices vary widely based on the size and needs of the company.
Large companies can purchase software for enterprise resource management, or ERP. This software contains different modules designed to handle a particular facet of the business. For example, CRM is one module in some ERP software products. Examples of other modules include human resources, accounting, inventory and distribution. Each module acts as a repository of information for the organization’s members. Like with sales data and CRM, this saves time normally spent on database management and information sharing. ERP examples include 3i Infotech, Oracle E-Business Suite and Sage ERP X3. Prices depend on factors such as how many modules are needed and the size of the organization.