MT Expert - IT: Getting ahead of the curve

Cisco's Bernadette Wightman explains why SMEs should implement smart technology today...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In today’s tough economic climate, SMEs are quite rightly focussed on keeping their core business strong, increasing efficiency and cutting costs where they can. However, an understanding of new technology and what you need for your business will help you to develop the right IT infrastructure – thus ensuring that you’re ready to take advantage of the technology when it makes business sense to do so.

Many are talking about the benefits of unified communications (UC). While large enterprises have a high awareness of unified communications – a single network that carries video, voice and data to a business – SMEs across Europe are less informed.  According to a 2007 survey from the Enterprise VPN Users Association (EVUA), an independent, non-profit, global ICT network user group for multinational companies, nearly all large enterprises had ambitious plans for significant UC deployments. But SMEs are more circumspect: while nearly 30% are deploying UC in some form, another 30% have no plans at all – or have never even heard of the term UC before.

Large enterprises tend to see UC as a strategic move towards developing new workflow patterns, improving business processes and collaboration through virtual teams and reducing time costs, thanks to applications such as IM and presence. By contrast, SMBs are more tactical in their approach to the technology, focusing less on long-term technology strategies than they do on bottom line price and cost savings.  According to the EVUA survey, the SMB approach to UC is driven by short-term gains in how they can improve a business process.

But UC can unlock benefits for businesses of all sizes, allowing you to move your phone system and other communications services to a single Internet Protocol (IP) network.  The end result is that employees can use the network to work together more effectively, manage messages more easily and stay in touch anytime, anywhere.  For example, a typical UC platform can:

  • Bring together an organisation’s phone system and customer relationship management system (CRM).  When a customer calls, employees see a pop-up window with all the customer’s information on their phone or PC.
  • Have one phone number ring simultaneously on multiple phones, so employees never miss a call.
  • Allow employees to work from home or a different office yet keep the same phone number, so they can be easily reached.
  • Use an automated attendant to answer the company phone and intelligently route calls.  Employees can customise call screening and message handling.
  • Save time and money with videoconferencing and teleconferencing to let employees collaborate from anywhere.

There’s no doubt that technology is driving the future and all of our businesses, no matter how small, rely on technology to drive our businesses. The future of technology is no longer just about connecting networks; it’s about connecting people to build a smarter business future. 

While you may not be busy developing a Web 2.0 strategy for your business today, keeping an eye on new technology and allow yourself to imagine the long term benefits for your organisation may pay dividends and make you more competitive in the longer term. Preparing to lay the groundwork and ensuring your network infrastructure is adaptable for new technologies is a good first step and will ensure you are not left behind in the modern economy - whenever it does materialise for your business.

Bernadette Wightman is Cisco’s director for Small & Medium Business in the UK and Ireland.

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