24 Mar WTN Visions: Convergence is changing business
Convergence, the architecture for voice, video and integrated data that combines business and technology strategies, is redefining the word virtual. It is no longer a murky technology concept – it is a leading-edge business solution. By eliminating boarders, physical boundaries, brick and mortar, convergence allows companies to communicate more completely and at a lower cost, thus increasing productivity as well as the bottom line.
In my own experience, convergence has provided Inacom Information Systems a smooth statewide expansion and is a key component in our regional expansion. The technology improves our break-even TCO timeframe, gives us a competitive advantage and increases our speed to market. It is also an important factor in meeting our primary goal: not to lose site of who and what we are while we grow and serve new markets. It seems strange that a technology can have such a great effect on a seemingly very human objective.
With the geographic expansion of Inacom, strong commitment to our current customer base and employees remained a top priority, along with developing hard-hitting initiatives within new markets. When Inacom expanding to Brookfield, Appleton and LaCrosse, I asked myself two questions, “How do I seamlessly expand the core of this company — the unique customer and employee-centric culture — over many miles and locations? And how do I integrate new people and facilities into our evolved processes and policies that have proven effective over these 20 years in business?” These are undoubtedly questions company presidents ask themselves when considering a geographical expansion.
Convergence was the answer and bandwidth was the enabler. The economics of the solution coupled with the productivity and mobility benefits, such as four-digit dialing across the state, one unified voice messaging system, streaming video and archiving capabilities, solidified our decision to continue with convergence initiatives. Now we are able to bring new employees into the team through technology as they are virtually transported to company meetings and training sessions held at our headquarters in Madison. Their productivity is up and travel and communication costs are down. This scenario is also enhanced by the fact all these business processes are run over a singular transport network, the cost of which Inacom would have even if we didn’t utilize convergence technology.
It’s always challenging to step out of the box and see the big picture and the potential value technology can bring to your business. Because of convergence Inacom has unique staffing options we would have otherwise not had. Employees can work from home with the same functionality as if they were working at headquarters. We can accommodate more family focus by utilizing part-time employees more effectively and efficiently. Our mobile workforce can listen to e-mail on their cell phones and listen to voicemails on their PC.
Cisco Systems has installed more than 45,000 IP phones in the state of Wisconsin alone, and because of advancements like these we are experiencing changes in the way we think of technology. It is also changing the way we staff our information systems departments, how we create policy, allocate budget dollars, as well as other technological implications like information security.
Convergence has created an additional need to secure our blended systems and it will take more than a firewall and default settings. Every instance of integration represents a new point of failure, especially as our mobile workforce moves toward completely wireless systems. New technology, like intrusion detection systems, are becoming commonplace and raise the bar for technology experts.
These blended systems are more complicated and, as we have seen first hand, have considerable effects on not only the technology, but people and processes. Convergence added the element of “policy” to securing our systems. It has merged physical and technology security, people and processes, changed job descriptions and simple administrative duties. Before convergence, businesses viewed their systems independently; the phone system was separate and secure from the data system, which was separate and secure from the video system, which had its own administrators, policies and security. Today, these people must work together for the common good of the information system. Convergence has created new departments, new technologies and new practices.
The significant time and money-saving benefits of this technology have been proven by adapters in health care, education, manufacturing, telecommunications and other fields. These companies are applying voice, data and video convergence in their mission critical operations to take advantage of increased employee productivity and improved systems manageability. These changes are freeing up budget dollars and employee time to address other business priorities. Confidence and satisfaction is high, costs of operations and transportation solutions are low — it’s a truly valuable business solution.
Frank Albi is the president of Inacom Information Systems. This commentary is part of WTN’s Vision Series.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.