If there is one word that is the key to getting through this current economic climate and to enable taking advantage of opportunities when conditions turn brighter and that is flexibility.
Call it the 'Flexible Revolution' if you like. With a recovery that promises to be slow and painful firms that are encumbered by expensive fixed objects: buildings or hardware, processes, and thinking are unlikely to make it and if they do they will struggle. Companies that have embraced flexibility: opex not capex, leasing and hosting software, hardware, and hardware only if necessary, video/web conferencing not travel, and telework not bricks-and-mortar, are more likely to shine through.
Why? Flexible solutions and techniques are less expensive, more adaptable to changing conditions, and provide greater disaster survivability than hardware/infrastructure-intensive products and methods.
The past boom and the milder miasma preceding it but punctuated by tragic events set the stage for the Flexible Revolution. The dot-com blowout followed by the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks began waking up organizations to the harsh reality that rigid assets and approaches sometimes literally crumble in a world of rapid change, upheavals, and disasters.
In the rebound that followed smart entrepreneurs, firms, and management began developing and implementing flexible tools and methods that are now becoming popular. Witness the hosted/software-as-a-service (SaaS) boom as exemplified and evangelized in the CRM space by Salesforce.com and which has attracted me-tooers. This heightened awareness opened customers' eyes to other on-demand offerings such as IVR and routing platforms. A similar evangelism by Cisco with telepresence is doing likewise for videoconferencing where the major stumbling block is less technical and cost but that everyone wants to use these tools rather than travel.
At the same time teleworking, led by adoption in contact centers is finally reaching critical mass to where it is now setting off a chain reaction throughout corporations. There are more teleservices companies that offer home working and more companies that are enabling it for their internal staff than ever before.
Yes the percentages of telecommuters are small--10 percent to 15 percent at best--compared to those who must squeeze themselves into tax-subsidized environment-killing cars and lesser-evil mass transit to accomplish the same tasks in organization-subsidized offices that they can done at home. Yet as any revolutionary will tell you, such numbers are sufficient to build momentum. That also goes for software and videoconferencing.
None of these flexibility-enabling products and techniques is exactly new. Phone companies have long offered hosting switching i.e. Centrex. Journalists like me have teleworked for years. My first computer was ahead-of-its-time Tandy TRS-80/T200 fully loaded (with built-in modem) clamshell laptop supplied to me in 1988 by my newspaper so I could work remotely. And videoconferencing has long been touted as a tomorrow technology that never seems to have arrived.
Making the difference for hosting, conferencing, and teleworking have been a coming together of technology, experience, and awareness. The rapid evolution of voice over IP/SIP and the commercial and residential broadband boom have given employees and managers access to the same capabilities, processes, and internal compliance via hosting and teleworking as they had enjoyed with premises-based products and in offices. These include app-sharing, instant messaging, monitoring, staffing/training, presence/unified communications, and workforce management. Fewer tasks therefore need to be done by having people physically present.
These solutions also give firms, customers, and users peace of mind. Broadband-enabled remote control tools such as West's Locked-Down Desktop that is used by its home agents prevent access to non-work applications, thereby providing greater security.
In turn experience with hosting, conferencing, and telework leads to more of it deployed and more effectively. And as others see what those who have used them have achieved in way of greater results the smart ones will likely adopt these methods.
The case for joining the Flexible Revolution is there, in your bottom line now and going forward. The question that remains: for organizations and suppliers alike is this: are you going to climb aboard or do you want risk being left behind?