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Be prepared to be flexible
In challenging times, communications technology needs commercial flexibility
By: Quocirca
Published: June 2010
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Communications needs for many organisations are changing rapidly. Internally, there are always new technologies appearing and changes in working styles to deal with but there is now, increasingly, the influence of more social and consumer choices affecting the officially deployed systems.

However, unpredictable external factors are also having a significant effect. There are rapid fluctuations in financial and currency markets with ensuing fears of economic uncertainty and downturn. There is disruption to travel from industrial action, terrorism or freak natural events, which create sudden demands and loads on communications systems. Social and political pressures are causing governments to act quickly, sometimes making abrupt changes in legislation, which will have a further significant impact on organisations.

With so many options and diverse demands, it is even harder to make long term decisions about technology solutions. Organisations need to adopt a far more flexible approach to meeting their ongoing communications needs to ensure they have sufficient agility for dealing with shifting commercial, technical, environmental and social issues.

Most organisations are operating in an increasingly complex and challenging environment. All aspects of media and communications are becoming digital, shrinking the globe and introducing new competitors as well as new opportunities and new ways for individuals to work and collaborate. There is more change and a greater diversity of options in every aspect of ICT (Information and Communications Technology).

Inside and beyond the organisation, systems have become more streamlined, lacking slack or excess capacity; business cycles are more compressed, so disturbances have greater impact and everyone needs to be able to respond faster. This creates a mixture of pain points, but also opportunities for organisations in how they might address their communications needs:

  • Convergence - is an opportunity to bring multiple modes of communication together as different technologies become integrated and overlap around common standards. However, this creates some challenges as overall solution choices become more complex and specialist roles merge e.g. voice telephony becomes part of IT.
  • Flexible working - organisations face increasing workforce pressures as legislative and economic pressures demand more workplace flexibility, creating a diversity of working patterns. Managing employees that are frequently away from traditional business premises, but still need access to corporate IT and communications, drives up the requirement for well integrated mobile and remote access. However, this workplace dynamic brings an opportunity to be more flexible and resilient as environmental, weather and fuel pricing pressures affect travel and commuting.
  • Cost challenges - financial market woes and recessions have cut spending, putting all budgets under increasing scrutiny. Communications costs are under pressure as new applications emerge, usage soars and previously uncontained mobile data costs escalate. This is an opportunity for organisations to identify more flexible payment models and switch the emphasis from ‘lumpy' capital expenditure to more predictable operational expense.
  • Business driven ICT - technology investments are more closely scrutinised for quicker returns and immediate impact on the business. This is an opportunity to bring line of business and IT and communications groups closer together, but requires full and open dialogue or risks decisions being made on too narrow criteria rather than broader objectives.
  • User generated demands - consumer technology choices are influencing employee agendas from social networking and collaboration to communication preferences and device choices. This places new demands on IT and communications functions to use the latest technologies and offer a diversity of choices, yet still keep services under control and safeguard corporate assets.

This report looks at the impact of these issues and investigates the value of agile communications in addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by most organisations. To do this it takes a broader look by outlining a total value proposition (TVP) rather than simply using direct return on investment. The data used comes from recent Quocirca quantitative primary research and from interviews with managers of UK companies having to deal with communications challenges today.

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