Three technology trends to note
THERE can be no doubt that businesses have to employ technology if they hope to compete. When it comes to investing in cloud computing and virtualisation, the return on investment may very well be the ability to remain in business.
According to a 2008 BMI-TechKnowledge study comparing South Africa’s telecoms and broadband performance (services and pricing) with five "peer" countries (Brazil, Chile, India, Malaysia and South Korea), South Africa’s fixed-line situation is similarly challenged. We’re seeing a demise in the number of landlines being installed, with big implications for telephony.
The trend is not alarming — in developed countries, landlines have decreased by almost 10% since 2001. In South Africa, there has been a 13.7% increase in ADSL subscribers to 795,000 — 19.5% of the fixed-line base (about 4-million).
By and large, the gap will be filled by mobile and wireless solutions, but also by networked voice over internet protocol (VoIP) offerings. VoIP is making increasing inroads, worldwide as well as in South Africa. The technology is strong in new companies or branches and as replacements of end-of-life analogue systems. Should public telecoms become more VoIP-centric, businesses might find themselves in the communication wilderness with outdated equipment and little support.
Virtualisation has meant that call centres are able to grow or shrink their agent pool according to demand, without resource concerns such as bandwidth and scale-of-application support. For call centres to be able to compete, changes must happen at the speed of business without them being charged for excess capacity. Business will have to access the elasticity provided by virtualisation to compete, partnering with companies that deliver bandwidth and application resources as a managed service.
Nonvirtualised call centres are by their very nature overprovisioned to cater for times of peak performance. The adverse effect of this is that they are often underutilised, as their spare capacity cannot be divorced from the underlying infrastructure to be put to better use elsewhere, which makes it even more difficult to compete with their cost-effective, on-demand counterparts.
This ties into the consolidation of data centre resources, allowing enterprises to take advantage of the ease of management and improved utilisation of standard, rationalised infrastructure. This has several spin-off advantages, including the ability to deploy a small IT team to manage the much smaller, standardised data centre footprint, as well as a smaller carbon footprint.
Virtualisation can further be deployed on the client’s premises by simply slotting into the client’s virtual environment, with the benefit of greater control over infrastructure. In the case of desktop virtualisation, call centres can make use of virtual agents, who can work from home in flexible arrangements that cut down on travel and base-camp real estate.
Technology enables companies to lower operational overheads, optimise capacity and control their existing resources more effectively. The question isn’t whether you should be investing in the technology, but when.
• Lith is a director of Connection-Telecom.