Don’t underestimate the value of customer service and a competent account manager when contemplating a new telecomms service, but make sure — as with any other technology — that your strategy is tightly linked to the organisational plan.
A CIO should learn to recognise when a change in the business justifies a change in the technology, says Graeme Osborne, technology services general manager at Statistics NZ and new chairman of the Telecommunications Users Association. S/he should also learn to recognise when a technology has become “commoditised”, because at that point the user organisation is free in its choice and the customer is “in the driving seat”.
Osborne sees an opportunity for just such an upgrade with Statistics’ planned move to a new building in 2004-5. Possible directions include enhanced IP telephony with integrated desktop-mobile handsets and/or a wireless LAN.
The next nationwide census, in 2006, will be the first to provide for online completion of the census form and so presents significant challenges and opportunities for new technology, he says. Load balancing for effective performance and efficient “event management” of census night and surrounding tasks will be crucial.
In weighing up the pros and cons of offerings from telecomms bidders, don’t underestimate the value of customer service, says Osborne, giving the recent Telecommunications Day audience an account of his organisation’s approach to telecommunications strategy and the background to its decision to switch from Telecom to Clear, subsequently TelstraClear, in 2001. The smaller entrants are eager to gain a reference site and may perform comparatively well in this regard, he says.
A potential supplier “needs to have an articulate person who understands my challenges as well as [the provider’s] products and services,” he says. Many suppliers need to do more work in this area, he says.
It is crucial for the customer — the IT department — to understand its own clients; to know who the basic users and the “power users” are and what needs they each have for IT, and to understand what your mission-critical applications are.
Statistics went to market for telecomms services in October 2001 for the first time in five years. Through negotiation with Clear it achieved “significantly improved service” at a 15% cost reduction. However, the move was delayed until September 2002. This was due partly to the TelstraClear merger and Telecom’s response to it, and the need to negotiate with Telecom over upgrade and maintenance of the Nortel PABX equipment on the TelstraClear network. Telecom would not agree to delegate this role to a third party, says Osborne.
The success of change, in telecommunications and/or IT, he summarises, comes down to “people, people, people”.
If people don’t see the value of a change, they won’t use it, he says, which in turn, drives the adoption of the KISS (keep it simple) principle where possible.