In the current environment, knowledge constitutes the starting point for the development of all economic and social agents’ activities and behaviors (Castells, 2000). Knowledge, as an internal resource, can be used intensively, which makes it possible to consider it as a productive factor as well as an important strategic element for obtaining a key source of competitive advantages (Vilaseca, Torrent-Sellens, & Jiménez Zarco, 2007). Certain works, such as the ones developed by Vilaseca et al. (2007) and others, consider the process of economic globalization, the demand changes, and the intensive use of ICT responsible for the emergence of an economy based on knowledge. Nevertheless, from a business point of view, the intensive use of ICT can be regarded as the most important factor. Thus, the globalization of markets together with the changes in demand are challenges, although the intensive use of ICT provides strength for responding to the new environmental changes and even transforming them into opportunities. Depending on the ability of firms to transform challenges into opportunities—which can be sometimes achieved through a systematic use of ICT—good results can be achieved. In order to face the growing complexity and competitiveness of the environment as well as give quick and suitable responses, the firm must consider ICT as an internal strategic factor (Bond & Houston. 2003). Hence, by favoring the accumulation and use of knowledge in all organizational activities and encouraging the organization’s flexibility, the use of ICT permits a quick adaptation of the organization to this new context as well as the development of customized competitive strategies. In contrast, the intensive use of ICT in organizations will not only influence the marketing, post-sales, and human resources departments (Vilaseca & Torrent, 2003), but also induce the development of new organizational, productive, strategic and managerial models. Thus, the intensive use of ICT facilitates both in the mmedium-and-long run the generation of more flexible schemes, more efficient and economical productive processes as well as strategic models based on the generation, processing, and use of information and knowledge (Johnson, Sohi, & Grewal, 2004).
Changes in the environment lead the firm to be aware not only of its situation as a social agent but also of the importance of every environmental issue. As a result, organizational culture undergoes a key change, and thee organizational values, the mission and the strategic goals are modified (Dyer & Nebeoka, 2000). From a strategy based on production (the product itself) the firm evolves toward a market and learning orientation (Wei & Morgan, 2004); organizational goals begin to be established in terms of survival and long-term growth; and the consumer is considered as the central point of the organizational strategy (Grönroos, 2000).
Understanding the environment and all its relevant elements becomes a priority for the organization, but anticipating and responding to changes requires the acquisition of a perfect knowledge of every agent integrated in the environment (De Luca & Atuahene-Gima, 2007). Thus, in order to foresee the most suitable potential actions, strategies and behaviors regarding the new scenario, the organization begins to develop processes and systems based on the direct and indirect use of ICTs orientated to:
Obtain, generate, and disseminate knowledge (Tzokas & Saren, 2004).
Increase communication and cooperation behavior inside and outside companies (Chua, 2001; Kahn, 2001; Sorensen & Lundh-Snis, 2001).
Key Terms in this Chapter
ICT (Information and Communication Technology): A broad term to encompass the information that businesses create and use, as well as the wide spectrum of increasingly convergent and linked technologies that process that information. Therefore, ICT can be viewed as a collective term for a wide range of software, hardware, telecommunications, and information management techniques, applications, and devices.
Organizational Culture: This identifies the character of the firm. The organizational culture is manifested in the operational ways the firm uses to confront problems and management opportunities, as well as in the way the firm adapts to changes and external and internal requirements. The culture is interiorized in beliefs, collective manners and so forth, which are transmitted and learned by new members as a new way of thinking, living and operating.
Cooperation: A non-structured process, volatile and affective in nature, which establishes itself among members of a relationship. Within the process, various agents with values, visions, or culture agree to work together and share resources with the aim of reaching a common objective. These types of activities are intangible, not easy to regulate and difficult to achieve without a joint effort that requires a high degree of interrelation. Collaborative behavior offers flexibility when problem solving, improves communication between members of the relationship, foments understanding between different cultures, and enables the development of good will when faced with problem-solving.
Market Orientation: Business philosophy that opts for upgrading the interaction of the firm with the environment in order to improve the firm’s profitability, productivity and competitively in the markets.