When the phone doesn’t ring….don’t bother calling your telco!

Graham Chick, chief executive of GemaTech, says with over one in four businesses experiencing expensive business downtime due to weather related incidents last year, a growing number of UK organisations are finally beginning to recognise the need to provide resilient solutions for their telecoms – as well as their IT infrastructure.

“However, with limited or zero business continuity budget, few claim to be able to afford the necessary investment irrespective of escalating business risk – forgetting that most, if not all companies are totally reliant upon the receipt of their incoming calls!

Yet an increasing number of public and private sector organisations are now, quite correctly, allocating budget to support both flexible working and ‘green’ policies. So why not leverage this budget to deliver secure, flexible and cost effective telecoms solutions that enable staff to work from home or any number of alternative remote locations on demand. This would enable organisations to meet these corporate objectives and also attain a comprehensive business continuity solution by default, explains Graham Chick, chief executive, The GemaTech Group.

Business Risk

The risk of business outage due to weather related incidents has soared in recent years – and that is before taking into account the summer floods. According to a recent survey by the Chartered Management Institute, while 9% of businesses experienced a weather related business interruption in 2005, in 2006 that number almost quadrupled to an astounding 28%.

Add in the implications of road works that damage or completely sever telephone cables sited less than 150 mm beneath the pavement surface, road closure, adjacent building fire, gas explosion or terrorist attack and businesses are now finally facing up to the very real hazards that have a significant impact on employees’ ability to answer the telephone in the conventional office building.

Indeed, some 60% of respondents to the CMI survey fear loss of access to their site – when there will be nobody available to actually answer the telephone in those offices; with 13% acknowledging that their business had experienced loss of site access during 2006.

The business cost associated with a loss of telecommunications infrastructure can be significant. When customers and suppliers cannot make contact, how long before they move their business to the competition? Add in loss of reputation and ensuing brand damage, and the impact of a telecoms outage becomes equally, if not more significant than a loss of IT infrastructure.

Traditional Route

As a result, the UK’s mid-tier organisations are now beginning to follow their larger counter-parts and embrace a proactive business continuity strategy that encompasses both IT and telecoms equipment. They now appear keen, at least in principle, to implement a solution that enables employees to be able to answer the telephone, irrespective of their location, in the event of business disruption.

And yet, in the main, most companies are failing to invest in the most cost effective solutions on offer, which begs the question – Why?

The simple answer is because those charged with implementing such a solution invariably take the easy route by simply calling their Account Manager at their incumbent Telco and asking them what is available…..and this is where it can all go horribly wrong!

The trouble is that most if not all of the major Telcos will see no reason to go out of their way to incorporate modern, web based solutions that have been developed by specialist third party vendors. A Telco’s main aim is to simply increase their own profit centre and internal sales at the expense of offering customers what they really want – cost effective value added services that satisfy their needs.

Furthermore, by focusing exclusively on outdated business continuity solutions, these Telcos are fundamentally failing to recognise the growing public and private sector demand for cost effective telecoms solutions that also facilitate more flexible ways of working on a daily basis and which also support emerging environmental corporate policies.

New Policy

Indeed, the green message has now risen to the top of the political and corporate agenda, with the government now insisting on the building of carbon neutral buildings that support renewable energy sources. But unfortunately many of these houses are being built miles from commercial centres, resulting in a corresponding increase in carbon emitting travel to and from work. What nonsense!

By combining an environmentally sound house with a flexible telephony solution that enables individuals to work at home one, two, even five days a week, organisations can effectively remove the need for travel. This in turn will significantly reduce the level of CO2 emissions – helping to meet the increasingly important carbon neutral business strategies.

Furthermore, by having the ability to offer employees the chance to work from the most appropriate location, from home to satellite office, organisations can also meet their flexible working commitments under new Employment Law.

A flexible solution that supports employees working in diverse locations, whilst retaining central management control, addresses all of these issues – enabling organisations to leverage existing budget to meet both key policies and deliver solid business continuity.

Corporate Failure

Yet those organisations turning to the mainstream Telcos for such flexible solutions will leave empty handed. For example, some can only offer highly customised, inflexible bespoke solutions on a business by business basis; whilst others have a hard coded option that allows an organisation to divert incoming calls to a limited number of pre-determined alternative locations or simply to one number delivered to one pre-defined location in the event of business interruption.

Neither solution is flexible enough to meet the needs of organisations facing up to multiple potential threats that cannot be addressed by a single business continuity policy. From responding to a flu pandemic, which will inevitably result in the vast majority of staff choosing to work from home, to relocating mission critical staff to a recovery site in the event of major flood, organisations need a highly flexible way of diverting incoming calls to multiple locations that enables an “on the fly” response to any specific event.

BT, at long last, is now promoting a more flexible solution having recognised that its own product offerings were outdated, inflexible and expensive. However, at £15 per number per month, this solution probably only makes sense for an organisation with less than 60 employees. For any larger company, the cost becomes rapidly unsupportable.

Using a real example, an organisation with just over 2,500 employees located in 6 offices across the UK and Ireland would be looking at £39,000 per month to enable users to divert their own calls to any number of alternative numbers and/or alternative locations using the “new” BT technology. Add in their solution for a Network based secure voice recording facility, required by an increasing number of organisations – especially in financial services – and the price per number leaps to an astronomical £65 per month, creating a bill of £172,000 per month before the inevitable negotiation involving discounts is introduced!

This is obviously completely unrealistic, especially when specialist independent vendors have developed web based solutions that are so much more user friendly and available at a fraction of the cost. Solutions are available to recover up to 15 concurrent inbound calls (not based upon the prohibitive “per number” basis) from £800 per month or £1,200 per month when incorporating a network based secure voice recording solution, which can be used on an “all day every day basis”.

Broad Appeal

Specialist telecoms vendors are now able to instantaneously and seamlessly recover 100% of incoming calls to office based individual geographical DDIs by intelligently re-routing them, on an individual DDI basis, to any other number, or series of numbers, in a simple to use, cost effective manner. And, with the option of being able to voice record all in bound and outbound calls, including those re-routed to any remote location, and any subsequent outbound calls made by those remote workers, the technology also addresses the burgeoning compliance requirement.

An increasing number of organisations, are now considering the use of flexible working budgets to invest in telecoms solutions that both support key business practices, from flexible working to reducing the carbon footprint, and provide the business continuity required in an increasingly risk conscious environment. So isn’t it time the major Telcos moved away from inflexible and expensive business continuity solutions to deliver technology that supports the day to day operational requirements of UK business?”