The traditional workspace is evolving through unified communications
Travel disruptions in the last year has introduced Irish businesses to the real benefits of mobile working and unified communications. Mary Bradshaw is the managing director at Damovo.
Are we looking at one of the most transitional years for communications in a long time?
This year has been about tackling communications from a business continuity perspective. We've had heavy snow, a period of flooding and the volcanic ash clouds, which have all disrupted travel and prevented workers from being present in the office.
When you look at all of those factors it is interesting that we as a country have not measured the impact all of this has had on the way we've done business in the last year.
What kind of impact has this had? There is no doubt that the travel disruptions as a result of the volcanic ash cloud and indeed incidents of H1N1 in 2009 have both made us think about the way we do business.
How has this actually changed the way we do business?
Instead of being solely on the chief technical officer's agenda, it is now entering the business arena and the domain of the CEO and chief financial officer. The IT budget and unified communications (UC) are important to them.
The message needs to be very clear. From the IT perspective, we talk about the technology behind this but I'm a businessperson and not a technologist.
I don't need to have a deep understanding of what goes into every application but what I do know is how it helps my business to continue when there's a disruption or how it is going to help me transform my business.
If there are CEOs out there now that are not transforming their business they are very lucky because in this economy most of us are in this position.
Can you give me concrete examples of the way UC benefit business?
I had a business meeting in recently in London around the time of the volcanic ash cloud and about eight of my colleagues - some from Brazil and some from Mexico - were stuck in London for one week. Because we use UC technology, they were able to access all of their work applications and virtually attend all of their internal meetings.
We are truly using unified communications. Significantly, there was absolutely no business loss whatsoever. The only thing you can say is that there is nothing technology can do about the time zones!
Equally relevant was the time we had a colleague due to give a client presentation on the benefits of UC. Everything was set up for the meeting in the office when he found out that his wife had contracted swine flu so he couldn't possibly risk infecting anyone in work.
The solution was simple: he used UC technology to make his presentation on its benefits. He had his laptop, access to the system and the call was put through from his home into the office.
What does this mean for the office as we know it?
With that client presentation we were able to show that there is no such thing as going into the office anymore. I sincerely believe that in the near future we will not be talking about going to work; we will be talking about what we do and not where we go.
Our job is to help our customers understand the impact of spending a few bob on OCS (Office Communication Server) and see the effect a truly unified communications has on your business. Any time, anywhere, you're never, never off.
But at the end of the day don't company budgets have the final say?
In terms of budget, companies do have to realistically assess the return on investment. During a recession this is examined more closely. It is a case of instant gratification as companies look at what they can get immediately for their money.
Right now, we're still in a downturn. Customers are not spending very much money so companies need to know what they can do now that will instantly improve business performance and this is where OCS and unified communications can help people.
In terms of standalone communications systems, this can be quite costly but what organisations like us can do is to put OCS or some element of UC onto an existing infrastructure. We can put on a full suite of UC on any existing PABX (private automatic branch exchange).
It's important to be able to look at what you already have in place, what you have to spend and where you want to get to and have someone help you tie all of these ends together.
To the benefit of customers, the technology has become much more open in the last few years and platforms are more open.