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By Tim Watson, CEO of Activ Australia, a company that provides data and voice
communications solutions to the SMB and corporate markets, asks “is network
convergence the on-ramp?”
Companies who outperform their industry peers are PC solution. IBM was outmanoeuvred in a market they
always on the lookout for new ways to out-manoeuvre pretty much created in 1981!
their competitors. In 1997 when we started providing There will always be a focus on doing more with less,
network solutions to these companies their major focus but the scope of the next generation business applica-
at that time was to increase efficiencies and cut costs. tions is broader and more complex compared to the
By 2005, the focus has moved up a level and these cost cutting exercises of the past. The focus has
same companies are now exploring ways to achieve expanded from new business procedures to new busi-
mass customisation in their own markets; network con- ness models.
vergence (voice and data integration) will be an essen- In parallel to this, advances in wide area network-
tial ingredient to making this happen. ing such as broadband and TCP/IP have resulted in
Back in 1997, sharing CRM, ERP and SCM applications the commercial viability of network convergence to the
with offices and outlets across town, interstate and mass market. The integration of video, voice and data
overseas was central to avoiding “head office” bottle- enables you to rapidly share business knowledge when-
necks. In those days, while office local area networks ever and wherever you are.
were quite affordable, the wide area networks that The internet phenomenon has helped to acceler-
linked them together were not. Larger companies had ate the commercial availability of network conver-
a natural competitive advantage; they could afford gence by forcing a level of unprecedented standard-
expensive networks to share their centralised databas- isation in the IT&T industry. This heralded the
es nationally and globally. Mass commoditisation was still beginning of the end of expensive, proprietary and
the rule and customised solutions the exception. otherwise incompatible data and voice networks, not
The internet changed all that – as a wide area net- to mention incompatible hardware and software
work solution for “everyone else” – smaller, more flexi- systems.
ble companies suddenly had a natural advantage over Mass customisation is an emerging requirement for
their larger rivals because they could deliver customised businesses globally to differentiate themselves in an
solutions at more competitive prices to the mass mar- increasingly competitive market. Network convergence
ket alternatives. Dell is a great example of a company allows your business to think faster and achieve scale
that used the internet to challenge the traditional mass without burning your staff out in the process.
market ‘cost reduction’ approach of many in the PC The internet got things moving in 1997, but network
industry, by delivering a customisable yet very profitable convergence is the on ramp for mass customisation.