Joaquín Saldaña
Director of Strategy and Marketing
Expert Contributor

ICT As a Tool to Promote Change: Opportunity or Threat?

By Joaquin Saldaña | Mon, 06/21/2021 - 08:58

ICT (information and communication technologies) is disrupting many areas. New business models have emerged, supported by technology, communications and computing power that have allowed the development of innovative services and solutions and modifying existing value chains in certain industries. These changes may be seen as a threat or as the great opportunity for existing companies.

In recent years, ICT has become an important component of human life. While starting as a communications means, ICT became a tool to foster development for enterprises. Fortunately, it has become more powerful and less expensive through the years, and now it’s used by midsized and small companies and, most importantly, by individuals – the so-called democratization of technology.

Today, a small company or individual may get access to highly reliable telecommunications networks in the form of broadband access via fiber optics or wireless access (mobile phone), paying per use and with international coverage, without any capex investment. They also may have access to state-of-the-art IT resources in the form of cloud services, where they may find tools to develop big data and artificial intelligence-based solutions. On the other hand, consumers are equipped with powerful tools: smartphones, tablets and laptops that provide them access to the global market. Because high-tech is no longer in the hands of large corporations, it isn’t an entrance barrier to certain verticals, as it once was. The opportunity is in place, but how can we take advantage of it?

For existing companies, the opportunity is twofold: by improving their current operational processes and value chain with ICT or by improving the products and solutions for their “new” tech-based customers. But still, the question is how?

Historically, ICT has been a separate world within companies, automating many back-office processes. But that’s not enough. We are now looking for business transformation not only in automation via digital tools. The new buzzwords are “Digital Transformation.” Large and visionary corporations are making their CIOs or CTOs relevant elements in the business decision-making process, looking to incorporate innovation into their status quo.

For the medium and small companies, the challenge is different. The transformation is more likely to come from business processes owners; nobody has a better understanding of their business, but typically they lack an understanding of ICT. Let me highlight the word “understanding,” because no one should expect them to have a deep understanding of ICT, but they must have enough understanding of ICT to visualize how to use it to improve their processes. The alternative would be to bring ICT expertise from outside, but the question is whether or not those outsiders really know and understand the business processes that make actual companies successful.

Now is the time to retool organizations and reshape collaborators’ skills. Again, let me highlight the word “reshape.” The existing knowledge within organizations is extremely valuable and must be kept within the company; nevertheless, it has to be complemented with ICT skills at a level where they may visualize how to leverage on those skills. That is to say, the existing IT administrators now have to be act as Cloud administrators; legacy data base experts will need to be able to handle Python or Hadoop; and so on. The existing knowledge of the companies’ insights is valuable for all organizations, so working with HR to reshape or retool their current capabilities is essential.

It is also necessary to develop ICT skills to help us develop unique, transformational projects. In ending dependencies on external sources and transforming ourselves from users of technologies to developers of new ways of doing business based on technology, ICT skills are needed, mainly in communications, cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence. In this regard, small and midsized companies may outsource these skills, provided that they drive the transformation. Another alternative for those small and midsized companies will be to cooperate with digital native newcomers, with whom they may cooperate with their current strengths.

In the coming future, neither its development nor the impact of ICT will slow down. ICT will be boosted with 5G deployment and new-use cases, solutions and products will emerge. Let’s not forget how many use cases were just part of our imagination some years ago. Location-based services or products based on customer intentions, for example, were not feasible, but with 4G, Wi-Fi and fiber optics, many of them became possible.

What we can expect is that with 5G, new sets of solutions and products will emerge, some of them may be only in our imagination, but 5G will make them possible. Sensing devices, IoT and wearables will create a virtuous circle of innovation. New services for health, traditional manufacturing and services will be impacted. With this in mind, all companies and individuals need to embrace ICT and make it part of their current solutions.

Companies should not have any project without ICT embedded, particularly artificial intelligence. Projects must also consider transformation as part of the day-to-day business; all verticals have to evolve into this new world using ICT.

5G – or current 4G – plus fiber access and complementary technologies, such as Wi-Fi, cloud, big data and artificial intelligence, are already here. Let’s recognized their importance and impact in many aspects of our daily life. The challenge is to identify our respective window of opportunity and jump into our transformation based on ICT. If individuals and enterprises don’t do that, there will be newcomers in the market that will do it for them.

Photo by:   Joaquin Saldaña