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Business Communications: New-age technologies drive operational efficiency

February 09, 2016
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Enterprises across all business verticals recognise the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in their day-to-day functioning. They require robust infrastructure for communications, IT and telecom to communicate with customers as well as within the organisation. Driven by the need to ensure effective communication, lower downtimes, better productivity and increased efficiency, enterprises are stepping up investments in ICT infrastructure upgrades. With the rapid proliferation of smart devices and the launch of faster networks, the most significant factor is the emergence of social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies. These are being leveraged to increase customer engagement, tap emerging opportunities and enhance productivity.

A look at the trends in enterprise communications solutions over the past year…

Adoption of cloud

Cloud is changing the way Indian enterprises operate by influencing the manner in which technology is delivered and consumed. Its adoption has helped reduce the costs of maintaining IT infrastructure and running enterprise applications. According to a survey by Ernst & Young, Indian companies are saving an estimated 30 per cent of their operational costs, especially power consumption costs, by deploying cloud technologies. They prefer private cloud solutions over public ones, mainly because the technology is still new and needs to be more widely adopted with an increased number of security solutions before companies feel comfortable uploading proprietary data.

Though the interest in cloud is increasing, businesses are following a cautious approach. Most would rather migrate a specific business application to the cloud rather than undertake the full-fledged migration of enterprise applications. The management and governance of sensitive data between various cloud platforms and on-premises applications is a critical issue. This problem is more acute in a public cloud environment than in a private cloud where information and applications are still under the direct control of enterprise IT teams.

The adoption of cloud differs across verticals and company sizes. In the past couple of years, small and medium enterprises have become its main adopters, primarily because the cost of setting up physical data centres is so high. However, despite the benefits, security, data management and integration concerns serve as deterrents. Most clouds leverage different interfaces to access data and different cloud vendors can have their own approach towards data storage and access. To ensure wide-ranging benefits, cloud service providers need to move beyond merely delivering IT at low costs to delivering tangible business benefits. To help enterprises realise the benefits of cloud, they need to be involved in choosing services relevant to their organisations.

Enterprise mobility solutions

While enterprise mobility solutions are not new to the Indian landscape, the focus is now shifting to voice communications and email access through mobile handsets. Given their increasing popularity, smartphones have now been incorporated into the workplace, replacing desk phones to a large extent. With employees demanding anytime, anywhere access to corporate data, mobility devices and solutions have become integral to overall technology strategies.

Since business communications have shifted to mobile devices, there is also a move towards web-based communication services in enterprises as opposed to traditional on-premises solutions like PBX systems and hardware-based videoconferencing set-ups. Users of web-based systems are increasing as all employees in an enterprise do not necessarily have access to the same hardware, neither do they all work at the same location. In such a scenario, systems like those hosted by business VoIP and cloud-based email servers are better options as they require only a web browser. In addition to email and phone communications, businesses across industry verticals have begun to embrace texts, chats, videos, file sharing, and screen sharing. This has led to the increasing uptake of unified communications, which has emerged as an effective solution for managing the overload created by multiple mediums.

Big data analytics and IoT

Data proliferation is continuing at a rapid pace across all sectors as businesses become increasingly data driven. This has made big data and data analytics the key to success for enterprises. Business leaders are investing in this segment as it helps them gain insights into customer preferences and allows them to make informed decisions for streamlining operations.

However, the uptake of big data analytics in India has been limited due to high costs, the lack of standardisation, interoperability issues, and limited awareness about its potential advantages. Its impact on the functioning of enterprises is being felt only of late.

Industry experts believe that big data analytics will gain momentum in the coming years as enterprises move towards personalised customer management. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets, the implementation of government projects like the Smart Cities Mission and Digital India, and the increasing use of online retail, travel and banking services are expected to fuel big data adoption.

Meanwhile, the internet of things (IoT) is slowly catching up with the growth in the number of connected devices, which are starting to transmit real-time business data used by employees through the day. As systems continue developing, there will be more interactive communication involving these devices rather than just one-way communication.

Applications and last mile connectivity

Businesses are increasingly adopting software applications to simplify a wide range of operations. For instance, customer relationship management applications keep track of customers and prospects; enterprise resource planning, logistics and point-of-sale applications keep track of inventory and product locations; electronic health record applications track patient care; learning management systems manage educational experiences; and collaborative workspace products boost the output of development, marketing and professional services. Applications are fast substituting traditional means of communication – for instance, logistics firms have applications that allow users to track shipments online without requiring them to call the agency’s desk.

For last mile connectivity, enterprises are largely moving away from DSL and deploying technologies that future-proof their networks. Optical fibre has emerged as the dominant technology for most companies, given the theoretically unlimited capacity of carrying bandwidth. Many firms are also using Wi-Fi to ensure high speed broadband access at all locations within their organisations. Moreover, optical fibre and wireless networks are safer in comparison with traditional copper wire-based networks.

Future outlook

As communication becomes increasingly digital, concerns are growing around the security of business data. Protecting business communications has emerged as a priority for enterprises investing in telecom infrastructure. The shift towards better security can be seen in the adoption of communications standards like WebRTC, which offers secure VoIP and unified communications connectivity for enterprises. Businesses are expected to invest more in securing their communication networks, marking a shift from earlier technologies that did not consider security as the foundation of any solution.

Going forward, enterprises are likely to invest even more in IT and telecom. Despite the potential cost savings of web-based communication solutions, their implementation and security infrastructure requirements will contribute to an increase in overall IT spends. In addition, the maintenance of new technologies and the increased number of connected devices will require increased IT support at the enterprise level to ensure a consistent experience for employees and customers.

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