June 18, 2015

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Strategizing Sales in a New Communications-Driven World

It wasn't so long ago that business growth was thought of in linear terms – a company wanting to grow revenue would consider the areas where the revenue potential lay, and how they could capitalize on the business possibilities. Technology was treated as a "necessary evil”, an inconsequential piece, and worse, even a cost center.

The IT team’s jobs were simple: ensuring working computers on people’s desks with minimal software tools like email, simple workflow applications and an ability to type letters. Only in large organizations anything more complex like ERPs and CRMs were sporadically seen. To the extent that not knowing what to do with IT, many companies had the function report to the CFO, presumably to control IT costs. What a waste it was.

Fast forward to today. IT technologies have evolved and grown manifold to provide extensive support to a business. The first, of course, is unified communication led, which leads to collaboration and a variety of media options. Online meetings, screen and presentation sharing, and mobility offer powerful communication options.

Enterprise presence and the use of social media is within the horizon (see:http://www.hcltech.com/blogs/engineering-and-rd-services/social-media-here-stay-where-are-businesses)

The widespread and low-cost Internet has offered that in plenty. A deeper peek is revealing: Would you have expected a low-cost peer-to-peer long distance service like Skype to carry 2 billion minutes of voice traffic a day? Which, by the way is >40% share of the global international voice traffic from the operators. Or that >80% of those with Internet access are active on social media worldwide?

IP/SIP led communications have dropped the bottom out of age-old costly communications. One can watch and chat on video cheaper than an operator-led voice call of earlier.

Then, there is trend-analysis. The first generation management reports provided only a view of the past. With version 2.0 analytics and trend-analysis, an organization has a better view of what to expect in the oncoming quarters and years. Inventory, sales, manpower resource planning, and many other functions have all gained from it.

With ever-maturing “Cloud” technologies, there is an ever-reducing need to host IT infrastructure within the premises. Apart from being cheaper and more convenient, one can leave the management of the infrastructure to the experts. Just like we do for our websites.

And, it seems, the transformation has only just begun. IT technologies are chugging along with Internet of Things (IoT). The idea of all these devices – at home and in the office, on our wrists and clothing – communicating and interacting with each other on our behalf is fast becoming a reality.

It takes about a sixth of the time for a start-up with a reasonable idea to reach a $1 billion in market-cap than 20 years ago. The time for monetarily successful innovations is here and now. But that is the subject-matter for another blog.

Business growth has come full circle. Technology offers a cheap and usable solution for most, if not all, kinds of business growth. Simply said, without those solutions, there is very little chance that a business will be successful in competing in a highly competitive business marketplace.

Technology is the primary mover in governing what growth is possible, and what is not.

Consider Facebook as an example. Their business model is predicated on the cheap and easy Internet access available to its subscribers. Net-neutrality or not, its business managers will do all they can to enhance the Internet connected world. After all, 80% of the Internet connected world connects to Facebook and other such social portals. Now think about the reverse. Suppose Facebook was built on expensive phone calls, slow Internet connections and SMS instead of a snazzy portal, and it didn’t have smartphone apps; would it have been at all successful?

Or consider Google. The easy and simple autocomplete offered by it today is dependent on the fast Internet common today.

Compare it to HP, Microsoft, or Apple of 25 years ago. Without doubt, their products led the world, increasing productivity and being very useful. BUT they weren’t dependent on new age communications. You could not conduct cheap online meetings, share presentations, or work in a team sharing documents etc. – all the things that we take for granted today. Apple probably has transformed the most, and in the fastest way. What I can do with their core devices utilizing Next Generation Communications just blows my mind. [Of course, many will disagree, and rightfully so. I am not promoting a brand, only discussing trends].

Let’s now focus on businesses a little more. In years gone by, it was practically impossible to buy anything without a trip to the store. Now, from food and groceries to household, stationery, music, movies, computers, phones, and tons more items are available for comparison at the click of a button. None of this would have been possible without the Next Generation video/voice chats, Internet portals, smartphone apps, and the rest. One can even track one’s orders online or through smartphone apps, with ease. I remember my college days at Penn State, where I would walk a mile in -25 degrees for a meal. My 13-year old son commented the other day – “why didn’t you just order your food online?” The world has indeed changed!

Surely companies do sell more because of this, right?

Many might be tempted to think that these arguments are one-sided, and that not all stores, especially mom and pop establishments don’t need this. Just the other day, I overheard a store owner talking to someone on the phone, saying “please WhatsApp your design photos to me; I will check and let you know”. The other day, I wanted to buy a violin for my son. How did I find the store? Through the online yellow pages; I found one within a mile from my home.

In conclusion, an organization must start with the technologies and the opportunities they offer. Then, and only then, plan business strategy and revenue potential, thus achieving growth. If companies are planning business growth without technologists on their teams, they would do so at their own peril.