From ensuring business continuity to implementing advanced communications solutions, the evolution of enterprise connectivity has accelerated rapidly. What solutions have come to the fore, what challenges must be overcome, and what trends are shaping the future? Heather Zhang, Country Business Leader for UK & Ireland, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, explains.
Enterprises of all shapes and sizes have been embracing digital transformation in their droves since the health crisis arrived in Spring 2020.
Even if they hadn’t already embarked on their digital transformation journey, the events of the last 18 months have driven many organisations to reorganise their priorities and put it firmly at the top of the list.
For many businesses, digital technologies have delivered a raft of benefits, from enabling them to maintain continuity and improve customer experience to increasing employee efficiency and accelerating decision making.
Digital age technologies are also more important than ever from a competitive standpoint. To remain successful, the majority of enterprises need to integrate the latest mobility, data analytics, cloud, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices into their operations, systems, and processes.
Fundamentally, harnessing the flexibility and agility of the cloud has helped many businesses maintain operations. The phrase ‘adapt or die’ could not be more relevant when it comes to the cloud’s power to help businesses adapt to a changing business environment. The cloud has enabled businesses to provide employees with the tools they need to work, communicate, and collaborate wherever they are, plus so much more.
Of course, embracing the cloud has created the demand for cloud-based services such as Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and Communication Platforms-as-a-Service (CPaaS). Both cloud-based technologies have seen a huge growth in response to the shift to remote working. UCaaS and CPaaS share a number of benefits including increased productivity, scalability and flexibility, and give businesses the opportunity to shift from CapEx to OpEx operating models, however, there are some distinctions between the two.
UCaaS platforms enable collaboration from anywhere, on any device, for employees and people outside a company and have become the norm. With seamless call, messaging, file sharing and conferencing abilities, UCaaS has been proven to be a vital asset to many businesses adopting remote and hybrid working models.
Combining CPaaS with UCaaS has, for some enterprise businesses, taken their communications experience to a whole new level. For example, maintaining high levels of customer service while employees, and perhaps even entire call centres, have been working from home has been a priority for many organisations. By bridging communications between people, objects, and processes, CPaaS ensures that when a customer gets in contact, they are provided with the information they need in a personalised way. Achieving such seamless, fast, efficient, and secure digital engagement is, without doubt, a boon from a customer service perspective.
Without connectivity, however, none of these technologies can be deployed. Connectivity is the key to unlocking digital transformation, and as such, networks are critical to success. However, to support digital advancement and the adoption of new technologies, they must evolve. Legacy networks were not designed to cater for the requirements of the digital enterprise.
By evolving to a network infrastructure that delivers connectivity for digital apps, IoT and user devices, while supporting workflow optimisation and process efficiency, both customer and employee satisfaction can be greatly improved.
Through investing in the network, enterprises are building a solid and future-proof platform on which to build and advance their digital transformation as the available technology continues to evolve.
Of course, as with any journey, there are obstacles to be overcome on the path to digital maturity.
From a digital perspective, security is one of the biggest challenges facing enterprises, especially now so many people are working from home. As with anything that is connected to the cloud, CPaaS, UCaaS and other digital platforms may be susceptible to breaches if the security is not up to scratch. It’s therefore important that security is planned into the digital transformation equation from the outset.
IoT is another area that has seen massive growth and has become a key component of many digital transformation strategies. It is helping organisations get back to some modicum of normality, from monitoring temperatures to controlling people density, there are many applications driving its phenomenal growth.
The integration and onboarding of a huge number of IoT devices enable enterprises to scale up their digitalisation. However, it is a double-edged sword because as the number of IoT devices increases, so too does the number of connected gateways which present entry points for hackers. The network, therefore, must be capable of handling many devices without its security being compromised.
In addition to improving user experience, high-performing autonomous networks can automatically provision services and automate mission-critical network operations. By taking the effort out of the labour-intensive or repetitive tasks involved with building and maintaining their infrastructure, businesses can instead focus on driving innovation.
The demand for autonomous networks in companies with teams working remotely is on the rise. Simplifying the deployment of the network by automatically and securely connecting people, processes, applications, and objects makes good business sense.
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Wherever you are on your digital transformation journey, it’s important to remember that it is an evolution and not something that can, or should, happen overnight. Requirements will change and new technologies will be introduced, but it is useful to reassess and ensure your business is ready to adapt to whatever changes or challenges arise in future.
Greater productivity, efficiency, and performance are all achievable with the right network, security, communications tools, and support.