These days, businesses are more reliant than ever before on technology, to help improve communications and to maximise efficiency in the workplace. The increased use of the internet, email and mobile technology has revolutionised the way companies operate and made IT a critical factor in building and maintaining a successful company. Yet still even today too many companies think of technology as a necessary evil rather than truly embracing all the opportunities it can bring to make organisations more efficient.
In the past companies may have been able to get away with paying lip service to IT but in the fast changing modern world this will no longer be possible. Now, with the convergence of voice and data and the much greater reliance of mobile communications, it is crucial for all businesses to urgently develop a coordinated IT Strategy.
Of course historically, companies tend to regard telecoms and data networking as being from separate budgets, but because of converging networks and the opportunities that VoIP can offer (Voice over Internet Protocol), it is no longer possible to look at them in isolation. In fact given the increased importance of remote working and the need to make sure all staff work as effectively as possible, these days companies really have no choice. The simple truth is if you don’t embrace change now, your competitors will.
The changes in business working we have seen over the last 10 years are very much only the beginning of what will happen over the next decade. At every level, faster and more accessible communication will be key. It is anticipated that in only a few years time approximately 75% of all phone calls will be made over an IP network. The converged network is here to stay and the only real choice is not if, but when you are going to embrace it. With globalisation, the increased use of home workers and the more flexible working environment; access to information needs to be seamless and instant.
Whilst the notion of the “paperless” office may not be a reality in the true sense, the need for electronic document systems (EDM) that can allow staff to access a wide range of documents wherever they may be in the world will only increase in the future. In an ever more competitive world, customers will be drawn to businesses that make communication with them (including buying and selling) as easy as possible. Good technology used properly will reflect well on your business and can help motivate your staff by taking some of the drudgery out of their day to day tasks.
Increasingly websites that used to be used merely as a “shop window” will now be more integrated with other back office systems. In the airline industry you don’t just book your flight online but also choose your seat, order your meal and even “check in”. In less than 5 years, airline tickets have become redundant and administrative processes have been radically streamlined to maximise efficiency.
This integration of the internet with other business processes will only become a lot more important as web use increases. Clients will want to have full visibility of every part of their interaction with your company. Once again easy access to information and the sharing of knowledge will be the key.
Of course with increased compliance legislation and the need for Business Continuity Planning, technology can also provide a crucial back up in the event of an unforeseen disaster. With the proper storage of electronic data and the rerouting of voice and data over the internet, many companies can in effect be lifted from one location and taken to another with minimal disruption. In the recent flooding in 2007, Disaster Recovery became not just an intellectual exercise but an unfortunate reality for hundreds of local businesses.
Technology therefore must be embraced by all of the decision makers in a company and their views properly coordinated to enjoy all the benefits it can offer. Don’t think of IT simply as a cost but more as a real opportunity to drive efficiency into your business. Currently many organisations are still too reactive and fail to think strategically enough about how the world is changing and how their business is changing with it. We are now ten years into the 21st century and the rate of change is only going to increase not slow down.
Maybe now you can see why getting a Strategic IT Road Map for your business is not a “nice to have” but in the modern day and age is simply a necessity. I suggest you review your company’s existing IT Support and maybe consider Outsourcing your IT as a cost saving exercise. There are many companies out there who offer a full Managed Service Provision who could potentially improve your business efficiency enormously. These days your systems can be monitored 24×7, 365 days a year with a much more proactive approach to IT management.
As a final example, think of the mobile phone you have today and compare it to the one you had 5 years ago. The functionality of that device will have changed enormously and emphasises again just how fast technology is moving. And by the way if your current “phone” still doesn’t allow you access to the internet and can’t push your emails to you automatically, you are now already several years behind the game!