Businesses no longer use messengers, tickertape, telegraph, telegrams, Telex, and rely less on fax, dial-up modems, pagers, and conventional POTS wired landlines to work effectively. The trend has been to migrate to a “Unified Communications” model of Internet technologies. In preparing for this article it was amazing to note the changes in business telecommunications over the last 30 years and its impact on how we all do business. Gone are separate telecommunications managers and large PBX rooms as telecom has merged into IT.
Some telecom companies no longer even sell conventional copper phone lines — it’s either some flavor of VoIP or mobile services. What is unified communications and how can you profit from it?
Today there are nearly as many mobile phones as people on the planet. From the poorest developing countries to the most cutting-edge, mobile computing is the norm. At one time clients would contact me to order additional phone lines as their business grew. Now I help them reduce costs by eliminating their phone systems completely and migrating them to VoIP, mobile devices, and smart phones with equipment and data in the cloud. This trend to mobile communications is changing the way people interact as they talk less and text/email more. According to Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, “In the not too distant future, wireless communications will connect not just everyone, but everything. When 50 billion inanimate devices are talking to each other (Cisco’s forecast for 2020), information will flow like the breeze among sensors and databases.” This rise of mobility also continues to blur the line between personal and professional communications. No longer are our clients using Blackberries for business and iPhones or Androids for personal use, but are using one device for everything.
The Internet of things, faster speeds, larger capacity
While net neutrality encourages “innovation without permission,” a real game-changer is the worldwide move to IPv6 from IPv4 which will supply massively more IP addresses to allow the “Internet of things” to accelerate. Now we can communicate not just with other mobile users and computer databases, but with sensors, and apps which can control business and personal functions (security, financial services, logistics, sales, climate control, health, energy use — everything). Voice calls are just one part of broadband, along with data, video and other multi-media functions. While awaiting faster broadband speeds and feeds from traditional providers, pioneering organizations have utilized “dark fiber” to dramatically increase connectivity, speed, capacity, and security, and even to reduce overall costs, to achieve significant competitive advantages.
Buying telephony services
No longer measured in cents per minute, voice services are purchased in fixed price packages based upon service level agreements (SLAs), the amount and types of services needed, and the number of users — similar to today’s cell phone plans, with unlimited calls and texting. (Remember the days when the average cost of a daytime coast-to-coast business long distance call was about 37 cents per minute, and a cell phone call was 60 cents per minute to initiate or receive?) Now these services are basically “all you can eat” for one monthly price.
One colleague has suggested that current telecom companies will either merge/morph into data carriers or go the way of the Western Union telegram.
How we interact
More professionals are knowledge workers and collaborate on projects. In many cases this has made webinars, whiteboards and web-based meetings more efficient than travel, for the exchange of ideas and information. Some buildings are being designed without traditional offices, cubicles, desks, and phones, but with lots of open, flexible work spaces with lockers for your personal “stuff.”
When you get to work, you drop off your stuff in your locker, pick up your tools (laptop, tablet, mobile phone, headset, supplies, etc.) and proceed to creative areas with comfortable furniture for individual work, baristas for coffee and snacks, meeting rooms with print, media, audio visual and conference facilities, libraries, galleries, and game rooms, and even enclosed phone booths to make confidential calls or for quiet think-time! Incoming calls can be routed to individual staff or to customer service reps working from home or even in their car.
As with all technology, when you gain something, you lose something. In this age of ubiquitous data and image collection into large datasets, privacy will continue to be a major concern. However, successful organizations understand that maintaining old technology will not allow them to survive in the future.
As always, the rewards of innovation go to those who constantly move past the old and comfortable and embrace and exploit opportunities and challenges that the new technologies make possible.