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The importance of flexibility in modern business

In our fast-paced, increasingly technological world, it is becoming more and more important for businesses to ensure that they are as flexible as possible in every area of their work, from their employment policies to their network management.

We at VC4 are of course most interested in how our Inventory & Management System (IMS) can help businesses to achieve flexibility, but this piece will also touch on how technology can be embraced for flexible working, allowing employees all over the world to stay connected with their business, wherever they may be based.

What is flexibility in business terms?

While we all know flexibility is the ability to adapt easily to different scenarios, how exactly can this be applied to modern business?

In a guest blog post for PR In Your Pajamas, co-author of Small Business, BIG Vision Matthew Toren wrote: "I define flexibility in business as the ability for a company to make whatever internal changes are necessary to respond effectively to the changing outward environment, as quickly as possible.

"In other words, you're ready for whatever happens in the market and you're able to turn it into opportunity by adjusting to the new paradigm almost immediately."

Therefore, in the telecoms industry, with ever-changing networks and modes of communication, it is important that firms are as well-equipped as possible to adopt a flexible approach and deal with changes.

Network flexibility

One way in which telecom service providers can do this is by embracing VC4's innovative IMS product, which allows employees of such firms to manage changes relating to their networks, meaning they can improve their technical flexibility.

The network planning and change management features of IMS include its ability to copy equipment, carry out overviews of networks, draw up equipment templates and seek out available routes for network connections and customer services.

As all of these functions can be carried out in one single system, problems can be resolved quicker and lead times can potentially be reduced, meaning flexibility can in turn be improved.

However, it is not just the network planning and change management aspects of IMS that can improve a company's flexibility, but also its ability to manage workflow, warehouse operations, spares and even floor plans.

The inventory solution is extremely collaborative, allowing all employees of a firm to access it, meaning they can work in sync to strive towards improving a company's performance.

This multi-user approach and high level of accessibility once again contributes towards a firm's flexibility, as centrally-stored files and data can be found quickly and easily.

Flexible working

It is not only in relation to technology that telecom service providers need to adopt a flexible approach, but also with regard to their employees and the way in which they work on a day-to-day basis.

Although some of the technology a telecom service provider is using may only be able to be accessed in the office or at the company's headquarters, other tasks should be doable from home or another remote location, further improving flexibility.

For instance, field engineers working on site with a tablet, or sales personnel checking the best-selling areas close to the network of the service provider. 

The true cost of downtime

Downtime – a period in which a company cannot operate to its normal capacity due to a technological failure – is not only an annoyance, but can also be extremely costly.

Here, we're going to look at the true cost of downtime for firms, while detailing how our Inventory & Management System (IMS) could help this to be reduced significantly for telecom service providers in the future.

Many reports into the financial implications of downtime have been carried out in recent years, all with slightly different conclusions, but one thing they do all agree on is that it needs to become a notion of the past sooner rather than later to prevent firms from losing money, especially in a tough economic climate.

The results of a study carried out in late 2013 by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Emerson Network Power priced the cost of downtime for US companies at $7,900 (€6,134 or £4,762) per minute, which is not only a significant sum, but also indicates a rise of 41 per cent from just three years earlier.

Chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute Larry Ponemon commented: "Given the fact that today's data centers support more critical, interdependent devices and IT systems than ever before, most would expect a rise in the cost of an unplanned data center outage compared to 2010. However, the 41 per cent increase was higher than expected.

"This increase in cost underscores the importance for organizations to make it a priority to minimize the risk of downtime that can potentially cost thousands of dollars per minute."

CA Technologies also attempted to calculate the financial implications of downtime in its own report, carrying out a survey that found companies in the US experienced an average of 14 hours of downtime each year, with 18 per cent describing this as "very damaging" for their reputation.

Vice-president of product management at CA Technologies Steve Fairbanks explained: "A lot of times, companies don't fully understand the cost of not preparing, so as a result, they are not willing to spend dollars to ensure disaster doesn't occur, or they can recover quickly from a disaster."

Therefore, in light of the findings of both of these investigations into downtime and its implications, it is clear that firms relying on technology need to make sure they are adequately prepared should a technical disaster strike.

Here at VC4, our IMS product can help to reduce costly downtime for businesses, as its Single Point of Failure (SPOF) calculation assesses the network to identify part(s) of a network which, if it fails, will stop one or multiple (customer) services from working. In addition, its fault-handling and trouble ticket capabilities mean issues can be dealt with quicker within the system, before they manifest into bigger, more expensive problems. 

IMS has the ability to automatically carry out a variety of tasks, with SPOF analysis one of the most important in relation to preventing downtime. 

Users of the software can properly plan network changes in the system in combination with Automatic Planned Work Analysis to verify which customer services will be affected, once again helping to stop costly downtime from occurring.

How has du contributed to the success of the UAE’s technological sector?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) telecommunications sector has been experiencing some exciting developments over the past month, with many of these relating to the second biggest of the region's leading operators, du.

Firstly, the recently published 2014 Global Innovation Index from Cornell University, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the European Institute for Business Administration ranked Dubai and the rest of the UAE in first place regarding overall performance, with the country's telecommunications sector potentially playing a part in this.

Commenting on the announcement, minister of state for cabinet affairs Mohammed Al Gergawi stated: "The UAE encourages innovation in the fields of internet, media, renewable energy and industries and our economy is one of knowledge and innovation-based economies as classified by the World Economic Forum, while our technological infrastructure is among the best in the world. And above all, our leadership believes that innovation is the asset of the future."

Contributing to the country's growth in part was telecoms operator du, which reported a significant increase in revenues for the second quarter of the year (Q2) during July. Revenue grew by 13.7 per cent for the firm during the three-month period, reaching AED – United Arab Emirates Dirham – 3.02 billion. This is the equivalent of $822,193 dollars, or £484,298.

When compared to the recorded figure for the same quarter last year, this is once again a dramatic increase, as in 2013 revenue was AED 2.66 million. 

Regarding mobile revenue, this rose by 9.5 per cent in Q2 to AED 2.26 billion, which was largely due to an increase of 18.6 per cent – or AED 680 million – relating to data revenue. In addition, fixed revenue grew by an impressive 30 per cent during the quarter, reaching AED 541 million.

In another exciting development for du, the telecoms operator has announced it will begin offering broadband and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – internet-based phone calls – services to its UAE customers as of October. Following this, IPTV – the ability to access the internet via the television – will be explored as another option to offer to customers.

This is being made possible due to a network-sharing deal with fellow telecommunications company Etisalat, with which it has been negotiating for five years. 

Reuters reports du is largely confined to offering its services in newer parts of Dubai, while rival Etisalat serves customers elsewhere within the region. 

The news provider quotes chief executive of du Osman Sultan to have told the media: "In the fixed segment, competition did not play, so strategically, going forward, this will be a very interesting platform of revenue growth for us."

Not only has it been an exciting July for du, but it also looks to be an exciting future, with Mr Sultan predicting the company's revenue growth for the whole of 2014 to be in the region of eight to ten per cent. 

While this is slightly lower than previous estimates of double-digit growth, the investment in expanding into new services will of course require some of the firm's revenue to be spent on these.

Global revenue of supply chain management software to reach $10 billion

The global revenue for supply chain management software is on track to reach in the region of $10 billion (£5.8 billion) before the end of 2014, according to a new report.

Results of a survey conducted by technology research giant Gartner have led to this conclusion, following the questioning of 447 individuals working within the industry.

The results

According to data from the company, revenue from this type of software is expected to grow by 12.2 per cent over the course of 2014 to reach the significant sum of $10 million, which would indicate its highest annual growth rate in three years. 

Research vice-president at Gartner Chad Eschinger commented: "Both supply chain execution and supply chain planning revenues are on course to grow at double-digit rates in 2014."

Looking at the survey results in more detail, 43 per cent of respondents stated they were committed to finding one technology platform that would make internal operations smoother, while also allowing for improved communications with other parties involved in the chain, such as suppliers and buyers.

In light of this, Gartner believes almost 70 per cent of businesses will adopt such a strategy to integrate networks and systems in a bid to improve visibility regarding their supply chain.

According to the research specialist, almost 60 per cent of this revenue will come from software that is already being utilised by firms, but in 2013 around 16 per cent of investments in supply chain management were from companies using such technology for the very first time.

However, by 2018 these figures are expected to change significantly, with less than ten per cent of investment in the software coming from new clients, but the majority instead relating to the purchase of 'add-ons'.

What does this mean?

Mr Eschinger explained: "The market for supply chain management solutions is influenced by a climate that continues to make large capital expenditure difficult for many organisations. 

"This environment will drive many organisations to adopt solutions that are deemed 'best of breed' and often delivered as a subscription, which provides more focused capabilities and typically enables less expensive and quicker deployments."

VC4's IMS 

Mr Eschinger added that the trend towards companies using unifying application platforms is rapidly growing. He said this "will further drive sales of supply chain solutions as more companies adhere to a platform strategy".

Therefore, VC4's innovative product the Inventory & Management System (IMS) would be of great benefit to firms within the telecommunications industry looking to manage their networks and operations in one central location, as it has the capacity to register and integrate all those that a company is using.

As it can be used by all departments within an organisation, it can help to make every aspect of a business run more smoothly – whether that be across the supply chain or keeping track of what is going on within the networks.

IMS has been designed by telecoms engineers for others working within the industry, so is extremely sympathetic to the needs of its users.

How can IMS make a CEO’s life easier?

A chief executive officer's (CEO's) life is a busy one, involving many requirements, including management skills, a keen eye for recruitment, quick decision-making abilities and the capacity to deal with staff problems.

Therefore, anything that's designed to make a CEO's life easier is bound to be welcome news and we at VC4 believe we have just the thing that could help to ease stress levels for bosses, while also ensuring a company continues to perform to a high standard – the Inventory & Management System (IMS).

What is IMS?

IMS is a specialist solution designed to help a business to manage its telecommunications networks and platforms in one central, easy-to-access location. 

There are countless features and benefits to installing IMS within a business, with its primary aim being to make life simpler for both management and members of staff lower down the rankings.

To highlight just a few of its features, IMS can register and manage several telecommunications networks at one time, while consolidating significant amounts of information within them.

Holding the position of CEO involves numerous management tasks, but IMS can take many of these away from a boss and their current software, providing them with a much more adequate solution.

For instance, IMS can manage the IP networks and keep track of orders and details relating to output productivity and workflow.

Updates can be automatically processed through the system, taking away admin tasks for network engineers and stopping the need to wait for slow, outdated programs to upload new information.

IMS has the ability to keep track of all operations across a business, including sales and even the goings-on in the warehouse, meaning CEOs don't need to worry about trying to achieve the impossible task of placing themselves in more than one place at a time.

As well as floor and department management, IMS can look after data relating to staff and their contracts and terms of employment too, providing CEOs with peace of mind that all this information is being stored in a safe and secure manner.

If bosses struggle to keep track of contractors carrying out tasks, IMS can look after information regarding these too, meaning they'll easily be able to track performance based on KPI reporting.

What problems do CEOs face?

In a blog published in March 2014, the Wall Street Journal interviewed a number of CEOs from a variety of businesses to find out what the most common problems they face on a day-to-day basis are.

Many of the answers were centred around concerns relating to providing a high-quality service, managing staff and remaining at the forefront of the technological age.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a strategy, innovation and leadership specialist at the Harvard Business School, explained: "CEOs worry about innovation – their own and others'. They want their company to be well along with the next game-changing blockbuster before competitors catch up, which makes them worry about what the competition is doing."

Chairman, president and chief executive of State Street Corp Jay Hooley added: "If you aren't harnessing the power of data, you're almost certain to end up falling behind."

How could IMS help?

In light of these findings by the Wall Street Journal, using an innovative system such as IMS could help to significantly reduce some of these concerns, consolidate data and centralise network management software into a single, easy-to-use platform.

As a tried-and-tested – but highly innovative – product, IMS is at the forefront of advances in technology, helping CEOs to ensure their firms are remaining competitive in our increasingly digital age.

It is not just data relating to the networks that can be consolidated in the inventory system, as it can be used in conjunction with other programs your firm may already be using – such as customer relationship management (CRM) – to allow you to keep track of information regarding your clients and consumer market.

IMS has the ability to integrate data from these other systems, not only making life easier for you, but also ensuring you can continue to deliver the best possible service to your clients, which is something VC4 feels extremely passionate about and is more than happy to help with.

Predicted growth of the Middle Eastern telecoms market – is it achievable?

The telecommunications market in the Middle East is expected to reach a value of $96 billion (£56 billion) by 2018, according to a report published earlier this spring.

But how could this growth be achieved? Is this a realistic target? How might current industry factors affect this? Could VC4's Inventory Management System (IMS) help? 

The situation in the Middle East

Industry expert Analysys Mason's report entitled The Middle East and North Africa Telecoms Market: 2014 Interim Forecast Update was published in late April and shows significant growth in relation to telecommunications in the region. This is particularly with regard to mobile technology, which is becoming an increasingly prevalent part of modern life.

In light of this, it has been predicted the market in the Middle East could grow significantly in value, with this potentially reaching $96 billion within the next four years. 

Analysys Mason predicts the most notable growth will be seen in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the latter increasing in value at the fastest rate.

How could this growth be achieved?

Like in any industry, there could be potential barriers to this growth, such as technical or data consolidation issues.

Therefore, communications providers should have business management models in place to help them to effectively meet changing market needs and remain competitive in an increasingly digital world – an issue that industry body Gartner highlighted in a statement on Monday June 16th.

It stated companies need to ensure the system they are using meets their specific needs, is centralised to the right level and isn't too industrialised or customised to make sure it is effective in enabling business growth and productivity, which is something firms within the Middle Eastern telecoms market – and elsewhere – should bear in mind.

Research vice-president at Gartner Susan Tan explained: "Businesses are embracing adaptive sourcing, which addresses shortcomings in existing traditional sourcing strategies and management with a three-layer approach to services – innovative, differentiate and run – each with different service requirements, value expectations, governance, architecture and vendor and risk management."

How could IMS help?

Here at VC4, we offer a specialist business model that is designed to help telecommunications businesses throughout the world to manage their company and data more effectively, enabling them to spend more time focusing on other aspects of their firm instead, such as growth and productivity.

IMS enables telecoms companies to organise their proceedings in one central system, which can register and manage multiple networks at any one time, with numerous benefits to doing so.

The management solution can be integrated with other systems and, as it is has been designed by telecoms engineers, is sympathetic to the needs of the industry.

IMS could be of particular benefit to the chief experience officers (CxOs) of mobile operators who are upgrading their current technology to 4G LTE (long-term evolution). In addition, IMS would help those working for fixed-line operators replacing the existing legacy networks or rolling out the FTTX projects.

Therefore, IMS can help to increase the data quality of an organisation, helping the CxO to quickly make accurate decisions and reduce both capital and operational expenditure costs, putting the company in a solid position for future expansion.

All communication service providers have to deal with reductions in their sales margins with regard to both other businesses and consumers, but IMS can help to lower the cost involved through network optimisation. 

What's next?

It will certainly be interesting to see how the Middle Eastern telecommunications market develops over the coming few years, especially in light of advances in mobile technology and the continued growth of the UAE.
 
With the number of innovative business models available, as long as companies ensure they are using the right one for their needs, the predicted $96 billion may well become a reality in just a few short years.