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Rethinking communication for the digital age

·5-min read

How can APAC firms put (real-time) communication at the centre of their business processes?

Today, with the rise of broadband and cloud services, telecommunication is getting to be increasingly faster, and more native as well as omnichannel. Additionally, telecommunication is no longer just about connecting people, but also about connecting applications and objects -- through the now-common concept of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The explosion of data and digitalisation of everything has also accelerated digital transformation in the telecommunication sector. This is a transformation trend that has been amplified by the health crisis over the last 20 months as companies transitioned to a distributed or hybrid workforce, and healthcare organisations attended to patients through telemedicine.

The impact of this transformation will continue well beyond the pandemic. Bain & Co. predicts that the accelerated adoption of telemedicine in Asia will long outlast COVID-19, as telemedicine usage remains resilient despite lifted restrictions.

Real-time communication and collaboration amongst workers – no matter where they are located – have become an expected norm. The need to have the right information made accessible to the right person at the right time, regardless of the medium used, has never been greater than now.

Yet, while the world adopts digital age communication, company networks are playing catchup and IT teams continue to face skill and technology challenges.

Connecting devices in the digital workplace

Digital transformation in telecommunication has largely been driven by users themselves, especially by a generation of digital natives, born in a world with connected devices. In particular, Generation Y has been the instigator of many changes in the way tools are used and the way enterprises communicate.

Over the last few years, we have seen the trend of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) pave the way for the acceptance of portable personal devices in companies. Research from IDC finds that nearly half (49%) of companies in APAC allowed employees to use their own devices during the pandemic – making personal smartphones and devices a common tool in most workplaces today.

We have accepted these non-enterprise grade personal devices, and are using them regularly for communication, storing and transmitting work data because we gain mobility, nomadism, and the ability to work from anywhere and everywhere.

Connecting humans and machines

Communication in the digital age means more connection between people by voice through telephony and collaborative tools, such as conference platforms and online chat. It is also about connecting machines and humans and allowing devices to communicate with and transmit information to human operators.

Then, we also have communication amongst machines themselves like severs or IoT devices, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies for decision making.

For IT and network teams, addressing the complexity and challenges that come with allowing this equipment to communicate and transmit data in real time can be a major challenge. The challenge is that network professionals must now see applications and connected objects, the same way they see employees/users, as assets of the company that may require connection so that they can communicate vital information for mission-critical work.

Era of 5G, cloud and wireless LAN

Companies today must take control of the entanglement of their network infrastructures and the new possibilities offered by the cloud – be it on-premise or hybrid– to optimise digital communications.

Additionally, corporate networks need to have the capability to support 5G, LAN or Wireless LAN technologies and integrate harmoniously into the digital ecosystem chosen by the company. This is especially relevant with the Asia Pacific region expected to lead global 5G adoption. More than 60% of the world’s 5G connections will be in APAC by 2026.

At the same time, IT teams must ensure that their network caters to a future-of-work trend where new applications and services delivered on-demand (or ‘as-a-service’) continues to appear regularly.

The fact is many companies do not have the resources to develop these new ecosystems.

It is then a question for IT teams to find truly agnostic partners and work with external teams to sort out their communication and network infrastructure needs, or applications and connected object requirements. They may also want to identify specific technology partners to ensure that they have the capabilities to build a flexible model from existing elements.

The challenge is to ensure that legacy network infrastructure can ‘co-exist’ with new digital solutions and minimise the impact on existing processes. IT teams will need to develop a secure hybrid cloud to fully take advantage of data and applications. They will also need to anticipate regulatory restrictions related to this ecosystem, including those around digital sovereignty and ensure that company data is protected.

Arriving at the digital age

Companies are now rethinking the workplace to bring it into the era of digital communications suitable for real-time communication and collaboration between onsite and remote teams; A digital environment that allows for real-time communication, amongst people and devices, no matter where they are.

This requires rethinking communication and putting it at the centre of business processes. There is no single approach to successfully migrate from a historical model to the digital age since each company must adapt its communication solutions from an existing ecosystem. Whatever the approach, the goal is the same: it is to optimise the performance of the entire system to offer a real-time communication experience without latency.

For many companies, accelerating the digital transformation of their telecommunication systems and networks is a way forward to drive future performance and success. Digital transformation can have a positive impact on everything from attracting the right talent to retaining good customers.

However, it is crucial to get digital transformation right and not adopt technology just for the sake of it. A recent study by Nature Human Behavior revealed that teleworking, as productive as it is, is optimised only if real-time communication tools are interconnected, reliable and suitably sized for the company and its employees.

Gregoire Thomas is the Cloud Services director for APAC at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise

Photo: Quino Al/Unsplash

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