The world we’re living in is changing. What we used to think of as ‘normal’ is continually being challenged, once rigid boundaries are crumbling and elements of life are merging, both at home and in the workplace.
The driving force behind these changes is technology – it’s evolving faster than ever before. A book published on the Gutenberg Press isn’t a million miles apart from a 1960s Ian Fleming novel, compare both to reading a book on a beach on your Kindle Fire just 50 years later … well, you get my point. It’s not what technology looks like that’s having the impact – it’s our changing expectations of what it means to our lives as consumers. And for business these expectations are shaping the way we operate.
Phones, Tablets, laptops, wearable technology and cloud-based services can now all be integrated into powerful IT networks to enhance the way organisations work. This shift in the way we deploy technology is about much more than simply combining fixed and mobile infrastructure. It’s about everything from delivering seamless access to cloud services for a unified customer experience, to rolling out innovative machine-to-machine capabilities.
It’s not only your customers’ expectations that have changed – your employees have too. They want more flexibility and choice in not only where, but also how they work. With 47%* of organisational leaders reporting that their employees have become more interested in their work-life balance, employers are quickly realising the value in terms of employee productivity and talent retention. What’s more, the recent RSA/Vodafone Flex Report research identified £8.1 billion of savings available to UK business from working flexibly.
Preparing for the future
If these changes have predominantly happened over the last 10 years, imagine what the next 10 years will bring. More ways to connect, more powerful devices and fast, effective communications on a global scale.
So, how prepared is your business? A strategic approach to technology will mean a co-ordinated workforce communicating seamlessly towards common targets regardless of location or device. Organisations that get it right will benefit through greater efficiency and an empowered and stimulated workforce. Those that don’t face the prospect of falling behind.
Put simply, communications are inseparable from now on.
Introducing the (new) IT Crowd
If technology is the new backbone of business, it’s no surprise that the role of the IT manager is changing. Increasingly, they are expected to be more involved in the running and future of the business. Where once IT’s role was to backup data and mend misfiring computers, Chief Information Officers now have a strategic role in determining how teams work together.
The forthcoming Perspective series report shows that 86%** of IT directors feel that they need to think more about the strategic and transformational role that technology plays within their business. They understand that IT is no longer seen as separate to the operation of a business – they are increasingly being urged by other departments to get more involved and collaborate more effectively.
But at the same time, the range of devices, apps, tariffs and contracts that IT managers have to deal with has exploded. Nearly 55%** of IT directors say they’ve seen their communications estate become more complex over the last two to three years. They face three key challenges: supporting a wider range of devices; fully integrating communications with IT; and the need to pay greater attention to communications security.
As the only truly integrated supplier of fixed and mobile unified communications, Vodafone is an example of how an organisation can be truly technology-agnostic, as demonstrated in working with customers such as the Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), to develop solutions across their whole estate.
With 12,000 staff in 120-plus countries, HRG books, manages and analyses the travel requirements of hundreds of corporate clients. All day, every day. To do this, HRG has developed its own state-of-the-art back end systems. But while new technology can make clients’ travel management easier, there is no escaping the importance of the human touch.
“People make and maintain relationships; technology assists them,” says Neil Kirk, HRG’s Head of Unified Communications.
One of HRG’s challenges is to make sure that when issues arise, its staff are always available to offer their expertise. “If there is an airline strike, or another Icelandic ash cloud, our guys will know about it before our clients,” says Kirk. “We can see how many of our clients’ staff will be affected, and we can be working on solutions.”
To achieve this, they needed to create a more flexible work environment. If staff were going to be able to respond to calls from New York, Berlin and Johannesburg at all hours, they needed to be able work remotely rather than being bound to the office. “We needed to give our staff the tools they needed to do their jobs,” says Kirk.
Today Vodafone are all about helping people understand how good communications can contribute to the success of their business. Combined capabilities in both fixed and mobile communications enable Vodafone to innovate continually and bring new applications on stream to make their customers’ lives easier.
It is clear to see, to succeed in this changing landscape requires a strategic approach to communications. Organisations that get it right will thrive and those that don’t simply won’t be able to keep up.
*Source: Forthcoming Perspectives Series report, Fluid thinking: Working without boundaries, www.yourreadybusiness.co.uk – Circle Research, November 2013
**Source: Forthcoming Perspectives Series report, The New IT Crowd, www.yourreadybusiness.co.uk – – Circle Research, December 2013