Communication needs are changing, and if businesses don’t keep up with new and emerging technologies, they could quickly be left in the dust by their competitors.
But with new technologies launching almost every day, it can often be difficult to know if the latest “next big thing” will actually help your business or just be a waste of money.
While there are many buzzed-about technologies being pitched to business owners, there are certain technologies that, if properly implemented and maintained, can really change the way a company carries on day-to-day operations and interacts with its customers.
“The business world is always changing and, with the proliferation of new technologies, that change is exacerbated,” says Kurt Fennell, vice president of product management for Time Warner Cable Business Class. “You don’t need every new technology that comes out, but there are things that can really make a difference for businesses of all sizes.”
Smart Business spoke with Fennell about current technology trends and what businesses should be paying attention to.
What current technology trends should business owners be most aware of?
There are three main technology trends right now that business owners would be wise to pay attention to:
• The migration from TDM to IP. Businesses are looking for increased flexibility, scalability and value, and moving from time-division multiplexing (TDM) to Initiation Protocol (IP) applications helps them achieve that. Traditional services such as voice and conferencing can now be run over IP infrastructures, thus simplifying integration, enhancing communication and improving interactions.
• An increase in mobility. With more companies employing mobile workers (people who work on the road) and teleworkers (people who work from home or some other remote location), there has been an increase in wireless applications. These applications allow employees to be more productive and more collaborative, regardless of where they may be working.
• The emergence of managed services. With companies now able to get more bandwidth, flexibility and scalability due to the migration from TDM to IP, we’re seeing an increase in mobile managed services, such as storage, messaging and security.
How are the phone needs of businesses changing?
There are two key things that today’s businesses want: the ability to self-manage and the ability to utilize more advanced features.
Self-managing means that a business has remote access to things such as call forwarding or hunt group configuration. A hunt group is the ability for a call to be routed to a station or person based on a set of rules. For example, you could have one telephone number for your sales department. If a call comes in to one of your phones and that salesperson can’t answer it, the hunt group will route the call to another salesperson who is available to take the call.
Advanced features include capabilities that allow your people to interact with customers in the way they want to — like having an auto attendant or Web access for live chats.
How are Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) changing the way employees do their jobs?
A VPN enables two locations to be connected together on the same network, so you can transparently and securely share information between those two locations, as if they were existing on one network. An example of this would be a company’s headquarters connecting to its branch offices, so that employees in the branches could access the file server, e-mail server and/or Internet connection of the headquarters.
Another aspect of a VPN is the ability to tie in mobile or remote workers to that network environment. Normally, this is done through software components that talk back to the VPN, connecting the remote or mobile workers to the network. This offers increased mobility and the ability to access company resources in a secure fashion. Secure remote capability is vital to doing business in today’s technological business world.
How does mobile Internet tie in to all of this?
With a large increase in mobility and the need for employees to be connected while on the go, applications such as productivity tools, messaging systems, video, etc., need to be always available and as fast as possible. Whether employees are connecting their laptops or smartphones with USB cards or Wi-Fi devices, they need to be able to access the applications they need to do their jobs. They also need to be able to connect and interact with colleagues and customers across the country. With the proliferation of 3G and now 4G networks, the mobile Internet allows workers to always be connected.
What would you say to business owners who don’t think they need all this new technology?
There are more traditional businesses that are not on the forefront of the adoption of technologies, and there are other more tech-savvy companies that always adopt technologies early on. There’s no hard-and-fast rule as to when to adopt a new technology, but it does make sense for a business to take advantage of those technologies that could improve productivity, enhance operations and save money.
If you have a business that has employees who need to collaborate in any way, or need to maintain a flexible work environment, you should look at what these technologies can do for you. Doing so can not only help you attract and retain the best and brightest employees, it can also help you remain competitive with other businesses that may have more resources than you do.
Kurt Fennell is the vice president of product management for Time Warner Cable Business Class. Reach him at (703) 345-2443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.