Who has the biggest impact on today's business leaders? Without a doubt, the CIO and his IT teams.

As innovation’s trajectory grows unabated, it has become impossible to see over the horizon into the future. There are five communications technology realities that every enterprise must proactively address in order to grow their business while positioning themselves to capitalize on new emerging technologies:

1. Great digital collaboration starts with Unified Communications
2. Cloud computing will be a part of your strategy, sooner or later
3. Outdated IT systems will be your biggest Achilles heel
4. Data and analytics will improve business performance
5. Inadequate security is putting your network - and your business - at risk

We explore these 5 challenges and have created a free (no registration required) summary infographic on these 5 communications trends.

Great digital collaboration starts with Unified Communications

Collaboration has always been key to the success of any team, and unified communications is the virtual meeting room for distributed digital teams. It’s clear that leaders understand this, because 62% of organizations surveyed by InformationWeek cite improved employee collaboration as the top business driver for UC.

While vendors and businesses alike have talked about unified communications for over a decade, in reality, penetration remains low – only 25% of organizations have fully deployed UC across their entire organization. That number is growing though for many reasons, one of which is the cloud and emerging everything-as-a-service technology options.

Cloud computing will be a part of your strategy, sooner or later

As organizations look to the future, a cloud strategy will be an essential component of not only business IT strategies, but line-of-business operational models as well. A 2014 Oxford Economics survey of 350 executives found that “over half (53%) of the respondents said cloud was key to their innovation strategy, and nearly three-quarters (71%) expected the cloud to be part of the long-range vision for their business in two years.”

But the cloud is a very large umbrella and can be complex. In fact, many IT leaders (56%) surveyed by Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise believe they need help in moving to the cloud.

Migrating to the cloud presents challenges but doing so, even moving only a few functions, can be rewarding. Technology as a service is maturing and brings advantages of scale, expertise and financial flexibility. The other good news is that it can be done incrementally, even replacing legacy infrastructure applications and components. Today the majority of business clouds are hybrid models and the APIs needed to interconnect applications and networks have matured.

Outdated IT systems will be your biggest Achilles heel

Speaking of legacy infrastructure, according to Zeus Kerravala and TechTarget, 83% of network budgets are consumed just maintaining the network infrastructure. As alarming as that rate is, it’s not the only notable benchmark uncovered in their research.

On average, it takes IT four months to provision new services. That’s assuming the project reaches fruition at all, as 90% of IT projects are delivered late or are cancelled. This data suggest that the average network is NOT the agile, scalable infrastructure required to support a digital business.

In contrast, new Intelligent Fabric technologies can automate and deploy a new data center in minutes rather than days, and new OPEX models can shift the burden of purchase, deployment, and maintenance to a managed service vendor. Today’s intelligent network architectures yield benefits well beyond the performance of the applications running on them.

Data and analytics will improve business performance

We are witnessing the rise of the Internet of Things and big data. Both are rapidly gaining traction across enterprises, cities and industries, while mobility continues to disrupt early concepts of how technology is used. Wearable personal technology illustrates how highly personalized technology is becoming, while yielding actionable data for businesses. Can your organization support the tidal wave of emerging data? More importantly, is your business capable of capitalizing on that data?

For many organizations, it is a race against time. The challenge facing many organizations is not just the collection of data, but re-evaluating the definition of value from that data. According to research from BPI network, traditional IT success metrics still dominate business today. 46% still measure performance based on infrastructure reliability, scalability and security, but transactional IT measures are no longer sufficient. Predictive, smart analytics are what keep communications optimized and customers satisfied, which is where a new business IT objective scorecard becomes pertinent.

Inadequate security is putting your network - and your business - at risk

According to another InformationWeek survey, 60% of business leaders believe they are more vulnerable to security breaches because of the increased number of ways they can be attacked. The same report makes important points about “fighting the right battles,” though it is admittedly hard to know exactly which battles are the “right” ones when there are so many potential points to protect.

One thing is certain: The cost of prevention is much cheaper than the cost of responding to a security breach. Unpatched software and operating systems remain one of the most common vulnerabilities, yet the simplest to fix. Keep system software current and security risks will be minimized.

Though 45% of IT leaders surveyed believe mobile devices pose one of the greatest security threats from malware and other viruses, according to the 2015 Verizon Data Breach Report, less than 0.03% of mobile devices contain malware. In fact, studies indicate that 90% of all security incidents can be traced back to people, and that user education programs can have a very positive impact on securing business networks and data.

IP voice systems are another vulnerability many do not consider. Incidents such as toll fraud can quickly rack up telephone bills 100 times higher than usual. Without adequate security, connectivity to an IP network can leave a communication system open to malicious attacks and present network risks.

Information security is no longer a point solution, but an ecosystem. Every ecosystem component, from the network core to the network edge need to be active participants to secure the infrastructure and be able to respond automatically to a perceived threat. Protect your network, protect your customers and protect your business.

Ready or not, the digital era is here!

Much has changed in the past decade. Trends that were not even part of our conversation less than a decade ago are important focal points for business leaders and technologists. The momentum of trends like mobility, data and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to accelerate. It is changing consumer behavior and redefining the responsibilities of numerous business roles, not the least of which are IT teams.

Download the infographic  5 things every business should know about communications and use it to start important conversations with your IT team and executive staff about securing your digital-business future.  For some organizations, the future may depend on it.

Tags - Collaborazione digitale, Comunicazioni cloud, Unified Communication

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Ed Youngblood

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