|Topic:||How future technologies will build small businesses|
|Title:||Chief Executive Officer|
Heinz Sundt is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the management board of Telekom Austria. Mr Sundt served previously within the Telekom group as the head of mobilkom austria. Prior to joining Telekom Austria, Mr Sundt headed marketing and sales at Neupack GmbH and served as the head of the Telecom and Network Divisions at IBM Austria. He started his career at the Länderbank. Mr Sundt attended the School of International Trade in Vienna (Hochschule für Welthandel).
The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) account for 99 per cent of all businesses in the EU; very small firms (under 10 employees) provide one-third of all jobs. Many SMEs have employees working from home or on the move, using wireless devices and remote access, which helps even the smallest companies produce efficiently and maintain contact with customers and partners. Cross-border transactions enabled by these technologies permit SMEs to ‘globalise’ their services and make their position in the supply chain stronger.
The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) is a force to be reckoned with, despite its somewhat underdog status within certain industries. SME’s account for 99 per cent of all businesses in the EU; very small firms (under 10 employees) provide one-third of all jobs. The average size of a business in Europe is six workers (19 in the USA, 10 in Japan). European SMEs provide a relatively large share of private sector employment (66 per cent, as against 46 per cent in the USA and 33 per cent in Japan). SMEs come in all shapes and sizes–from the acorns growing into oaks to the well-established, successful, niche practices. These organisations operate across countless industries and regions, all with a very different commercial make-up. It is true to say that many small businesses are extremely innovative about the way they use technology. Many small practices have a number of employees working from home or on the move, via wireless devices and remote access. Because a number of these companies have an entrepreneurial spirit, they use new and innovative ways of working by means of a mixture of established and emerging technologies. Emerging and future technologies will help to establish and develop the small businesses of the future. Start from the inside out We have seen exciting new technology enable businesses to streamline their operations. A sound IT infrastructure will better prepare any business to tackle the challenges ahead. Technologies such as broadband and wireless networks mean that even the smallest companies can have always-on connections to the Internet, any time and any place. This not only helps the workforce to be as productive as it can be, but also insures that customers and partners can rely on the company to be available. Emerging technologies Very recently, the first cross-border, interoperable application for purchasing train tickets via mobile handsets was launched. This technology means that consumers can not only make purchases using applications that ‘cross’ countries and regions, but also that companies can work together by sharing applications across borders. For many SMEs, working with partners to develop comprehensive services can be a powerful weapon in competing with the big conglomerates. Cross-border transactions will enable smaller companies to effectively ‘globalise’ their services. Ultimately, having the capability to use current and emerging technologies and the applications they enable will make SME’s position in the supply chain stronger. Next Generation Networks The Next Generation Network (NGN) is the emerging telecommunications environment; it will change services and the way they are delivered, dramatically. The Next Generation Network will let end users access any communications service from any device, anywhere and at broadband speed. With the NGN, consumers will be looking at services such as triple play. Triple play will prove popular because the bundle will enable multiple on-demand voice telephony channels, broadband Internet access and a broadband multimedia entertainment package with video on demand, TV broadcasting and interactive gaming. In essence, triple play delivers any home entertainment service available, but via a single network. Ultimately, operators will shift from offering capacity to delivering capability. NGN will reduce the time to market and the life cycle costs that offering new services entails, so we will see increased entrepreneurial spirit amongst application developers and content providers. Operators need to work with vendors that can provide solid business return through their services. Partnerships with both hardware and software providers are of crucial importance. The joint development of services and products that can generate new revenue streams is imperative for all market players. Vendors are no longer running the show alone. The next generation network infrastructure is based on a multi-vendor approach and not upon proprietary solutions. The telcos’ R&D programmes and sales strategy are based on so-called partnerships of excellence. Cooperation with international global players–such as Microsoft, Siemens, Alcatel, Cisco and the like–and proactive know-how transfer are common practice. Moreover, alliances among operators in the fields of product development, procurement, standardisation procedures and tariff and roaming agreements generate win-win scenarios. It is an exciting time and there are a number of opportunities for SMEs working in the content, multimedia and software development area to get involved in, but they will also use the NGN themselves to receive the products and services essential for their small businesses. With IP-based multimedia services and applications gathering momentum, demand for greater data transfer capabilities is steadily rising among SMEs, posing unprecedented challenges to telecommunications operators. Against a background of extremely varying usage patterns among SMEs, broadband Internet access solutions have to encompass a wide selection of options with scalable and transparently priced bandwidths, as well as data transfer volumes tailor-made to any business’s requirements. ICT services Based on their new broadband infrastructure, telcos are increasingly extending their core business to include a wide range of network-centric ICT services, turning into one-stop-shop providers of tailor-made business solutions and full-service packages. These extended services include housing and hosting, VoIP and IT security services as well as e-business, e-government, e-health and e-learning applications. They are designed to meet current and future demands for scalability, functionality, cost-efficiency, flexibility and better ‘time-to-market’. Security Virus attacks and spam mailings can cause considerable damage especially to business customers, leading to congestion, chaos and even the breakdown of entire communications systems. Therefore, the new breed of security services ranging from electronic signature to firewall applications, virus detection and protection, as well as spam mail filtering, are of vital importance. These services can be configured according to the specific needs of customers in line with their scale and security level requirements. Mobile office Businesses are increasingly demanding unlimited mobility, around-the-clock availability and a wide range of brand new mobile data services, such as mobile connect UMTS/GPRS datacards and Blackberry® handsets are changing the way business is conducted. They provide customers with fast, transparent and inexpensive mobile data solutions, guaranteeing efficient working on the go. UMTS/GPRS connect datacards provide secure access to both the corporate network and the Internet. This flexible packet solution is ideal for freelancers or highly mobile employees. Through a clear graphic user interface, one can easily log on any time, anywhere, using a laptop. The incorporated software contains a monitoring function to keep track of costs. BlackBerry® makes possible to process emails on mobile phones providing automatic synchronisation with the company server. It therefore represents a mobile extension to the computer inbox. Synchronised calendar and address books, Internet surfing via WAP and the web are additional features, which transform mobile handsets into very efficient personal digital assistants, especially for SMEs. Moreover, end-to-end data encryption guarantees the highest security standards when downloading from the Internet, when using emails, SMS, or for calendaring. A further highly innovative mobile service is Push-to-Talk, a voice transmission technology that works like a walkie-talkie to instantly connect the user to one or more recipients by pushing a button on their mobile phone. Push-to-talk transmits voice in packet form via GPRS. The connection is made instantly, considerably simplifying phone conferencing, announcements as well as casual conversations among friends. This is already on the market in the USA and we are pilot testing the service in Austria at the moment. For small businesses, this type of technology will further encourage collaboration and enable businesses to make well-informed decisions faster. Importance of innovation Innovation is fundamental to enhancing both the value of a company and its economic footprint over the long-term, especially in times of increasing global competition. The ability to develop new products and services on an ongoing basis is becoming a decisive factor in determining corporate success and therefore one of the most important attributes for the sustainability of a corporation. Against the background of a dynamically growing ICT market, a company’s commitment to innovation represents a very challenging undertaking, but offers at the same time the opportunity to co-shape the ever-changing information society to our advantage. This not only means creating new inventions but, most importantly, implementing them within an innovation process that guarantees sustainable development of both society and economy. Therefore, the establishment and maintenance of an innovation-friendly environment is imperative. This includes: √ Innovation-friendly market conditions based on the awareness that transition from one technology generation to the next entails inherent risks coupled with potential failures; √ Economic players that foster innovation and do not jeopardise the sustainable economic development of a whole country as a place to do business through short-term economic targets; √ A public framework and conditions that promote competition and the proliferation of a variety of new ideas. The efficiency of the innovative process is highly dependent on concerted action, mutual support and the cooperation of all market and economic key players. Therefore, the future success of Austria as a business location within the global competition arena will be increasingly impacted by the extent to which innovative measures are implemented and this is the responsibility of all domestic players. To sum up, it is important for growing businesses to get their own houses in order. Having a sound infrastructure will enable organisations to: √ Increase the speed at which they can develop and deliver new products and services; √ Automate key processes to improve productivity and cut operating costs; √ Streamline internal systems to reduce time and money on administration and non-billable activity; √ Communicate better by safely opening the channels of communications with all relevant parties. Organisations can also use technology to collaborate with partners and suppliers, to strengthen their trading positions and ultimately deliver more to their customers. Technology should not only be used to improve business performance, but also to innovate. Ultimately, this will enable even the smallest companies to compete at some level with their larger competitors.