+=+=+The TeleChoice Take+=+=+
The telecom industry is clearly in the midst of intense
trials and tribulations, but we must not lose sight of the
incredible blessings delivered through networking in
the past few years. Looking back on this first year of
TeleSparks, I believe it's time to dwell on the good
fruits of the industry, the things deserving of praise.
It is incredible to look back just 5-10 years and see
the awesome improvements in how people and
businesses operate because of the advances made
in our industry. I think the foundational (but enormous)
impacts can be summed up into four key areas of
- Immediacy of communication
- Freedom from time
- Freedom from place
- Ubiquitous access to information
Obviously, there are overlaps between these areas,
but I'd like to explore each one briefly to help us all
dwell on these good things at the end of a very bad
+=+ Immediacy of Communication +=+
Go back 10 years. How did you communicate? You
probably used three primary tools: telephone calls,
faxes, and letters/memos. Do you remember when an
Inbox really meant a metal tray on your desk and not
something accessed using your phone or your
computer? It wasn't that long ago.
Think back - official communications were largely put
in writing. Faxes were not yet accepted as legally
binding communications, so an original document
had to be physically delivered.
Internally, memos were hand carried from building
to building, from floor to floor, from secretary to secretary,
and finally into that metal inbox. In the large company
where I worked, mail was picked up and delivered to
our floor twice a day. If I put a memo into my outbox
before my secretary brought in my morning mail, it
could make it into the afternoon mail pickup, get sorted
in the basement, and hopefully delivered to my
co-worker 20 feet below me the next morning.
Moving outside our company added more days to
the process. In those rare circumstances when I could
justify overnight delivery, getting a letter into my outbox
in the morning might get it into the FedEx truck that
afternoon for 10am delivery. If the mail sorting department
on the other end was operating well, it might be on my
correspondent's desk by mid-afternoon - a day and a
half after I "sent" it. Best case, his response to me would
be in his outbox the next morning, and best case, I'd have
the response on my desk by the afternoon of the fourth
day. (Day 1 a.m.: my outbox, Day 2 p.m.: his inbox,
Day 3 a.m.: his outbox, Day 4 p.m.: my inbox).
Of course, most correspondence didn't rate express
delivery, so add at least a day into each of the above
steps, and we're talking a week or more for roundtrip
communication. (Mon. a.m.: my outbox, Tue: transit,
Wed p.m.: his inbox, Thursday a.m.: his outbox,
Friday: transit, Monday a.m.: my inbox).
Compare this to e-mail. Roundtrip best case:
5 minutes. Roundtrip worst case: typically 1 day.
Sure - fax was faster, but in most companies, fax
machines were centralized and delivered through
the same 2-a-day cycles described above. So,
if a document wasn't legally binding, and would
be legible when received via fax, then the process
for communicating anywhere in the world would be
reduced to the same timing as internal
communications. (Day 1 a.m.: my outbox,
Day 1 p.m.: faxed, Day 2 a.m.: his inbox,
Day 2 p.m.: his outbox, Day 3 a.m.: faxed,
Day 3 p.m.: my inbox).
And, of course, we could always pick up the phone
and call, if our need for immediate information
justified the cost (daytime rates of $0.50/minute?).
If I was lucky, I'd catch my counterpart at her desk
and able to talk. If not, the response from the other
end might go like this: "I'm sorry, Mrs. Jones is not
at her desk, would you like to leave a message?
No, I don't know when she might be available.
She keeps her own calendar. Would you like me
to write your message down on a pink sheet of
paper so that she can return your call and try to
catch you at your desk?"
Praise the blessings of voice mail, e-mail, cell
phones, pagers, blackberries, and falling long
+=+ Freedom from Time +=+
Directly related to the above description is how
networking technology has freed us from the
constraints of time.
Those of us doing international business were
the first to experience this blessing. Fax machines
were the first broadly available technology to
combine, the immediacy of telecom networks,
with the ability to time shift communications. I
recall projects where work was being done on
two continents with no overlap in workdays. Work
would progress on one continent. A summary of
progress would be faxed at the end of the day to
the team on the other continent, who would receive
it first thing in the morning. They would work all day
addressing any issues and fax their results back
at the end of their day. This early technology,
although primitive, laid the foundation for how most
of our business is conducted today.
Between voice mail and e-mail, we are now almost
completely freed from the constraints of time.
Even among people working in the same time zone,
how many messages do you receive that are either
left or sent outside of your "normal" working hours?
Think about how many tasks you've been able to
accomplish purely through voice messages or
e-mail messages sent back and forth, without ever
speaking directly with each other? Think about
how many times you've been able to reach
conclusion on an issue within one day, despite
the fact that schedules would not permit a direct
meeting or conversation?
Of course, the concept of time shifting has extended
well beyond these critical tasks and now is taken
for granted. Think about audio conference
playbacks, hosted storage of streamed
videoconferences, even the mundane task of
watching TV using a TiVo or ReplayTV unit.
Praise the blessings of falling networking costs,
falling storage costs, and the development of
technologies that have made time shifting as
simple as speaking into a phone, typing on a
keyboard, or looking into a webcam!
+=+ Freedom from Place +=+
Remember when that metal box and that black
phone on your desk would wait patiently for
your return, along with the growing stack of pink
I remember when I dreaded returning to the
office after either a long business trip or vacation.
The stack of memos and messages would take
days to wade through and return. Sometimes I
wonder if it's better, but now, at least I can wade
through the voice mails and e-mails on a daily
basis - deleting the unimportant, and responding
to the urgent.
Cell phones, of course, make you reachable
almost anywhere in this country, and most places
you're likely to travel in the world. In fact, no one
even needs to know whether you're sitting at your
desk, across town in the doctor's waiting room, or
in a far corner of the world. If you need to be
reached, or if you need to reach someone, it's
now as easy as if you were still chained to that
But even beyond this incredible freedom we all
regularly enjoy, the freedom from place can be
even greater. The way that TeleChoice operates
is a great example. We often struggle to answer
the question "Where is TeleChoice based?" Our
employees literally stretch from Maine to San Diego.
Our CEO is in the Northeast. Our President is in the
Southwest. And our CFO is in the Southeast. And
our business has taken us to every continent on the
globe (except for Antarctica - so far). And yet, as you
'do business with us, you probably have no sense
of where we are, unless you ask. And even then the
answer might surprise you. On a recent conference
call, client participants were in the U.S. Pacific time
zone and London, while TeleChoice participants
were from Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern
time zones. And yet through web conferencing and
teleconferencing, we were able to communicate
nearly as well as if we were all in the same place.
A key component of TeleChoice's ability to cohesively
operate despite out physical separation is our use of
Instant Messaging. Through my IM client, I can quickly
see who is "in the office" and can easily "stick my
head" in someone's "doorway" to ask a quick question
and get a quick answer. In fact, if I'm able to multitask,
I can actually use this technology to carry on several
such conversations at once.
Thanks to incredible networking technologies, there's
no longer any sense that place matters when
performing in business. Other than the amenities of
your comfortable desk chair and keeping your lunch
in the office refrigerator, there's no difference between
doing business from that Steelcase desk with the
metal inbox and black phone, and doing it from an
airport lounge in a far corner of the globe.
Praise the blessings of ubiquitous network coverage,
increasing wireless options, and wonderful
applications, which have made the desktop, truly a
+=+ Ubiquitous Access to Information +=+
What was life like before the web? Did you ever have
a job that required much research? Do you remember
what the terms "copy" "cut" and "paste" originally meant?
Do you recall what the inside of a research library looks
like? Do you own an encyclopedia that takes up more
than half an inch of physical shelf space? Do you
remember when the analyst reports you purchased
only came in big binders (I mean, really big binders
with more "thunk value" than "thought value")?
These days, we're surprised when we CAN'T find
some information within seconds from our desktop.
We're shocked when we can't receive an information
product in electronic, downloadable form with instant
delivery. We're frustrated when someone only has
the document we need in a physical form that has to
be mailed or hand delivered to us.
My how times have changed, and how rich our
blessings are, thanks to the World Wide Web and
all of it's offspring (Adobe Acrobat, secure credit
card transactions, e-mail attachments, online
magazine archives, Powerpoint presentations, the
list goes on.)
+=+=+What's Next? +=+=+
In a year that has focused on the failings of our
industry, when many have collectively painted us
as fools or charlatans, please take a moment to
savor the richness of the blessings that our industry
has delivered to the world. Perhaps this is just a
private moment, or perhaps these are thoughts
that you can share with others to remind them that
you have no need to be ashamed of the industry
This has been a tough time for many in the industry.
It has been painful to watch great teams dismantled,
great technologies lost for posterity, and great
people suffer personal challenges. I hope that this
final TeleSparks of the year can encourage us all to
continue to amaze and deliver.
Specifically, think on these things:
- How can you and your company build upon
the foundational benefits discussed here. Research
in Motion is a great example of a company that has
done just that. What are your opportunities?
- What other barriers can be knocked down
through networking? What physical constraints can
be eliminated when we replace the physical with a
networked virtual equivalent?
- What opportunities exist to make these
advances available to every business, every
organization no matter how small or no matter in
what corner of the world they operate (or in how many
corners, for that matter)?
- Microsoft and National Semiconductor are
focused on "smart objects" - making everyday items
intelligent and networked. How will this change how
we live and work? What opportunities does this
create for you and your business?
- Are you and your firm taking full advantage
of these advances in how you operate, or do you
still chain people to their desks with a metal inbox
and a black phone?
The ability to appreciate the past while envisioning a
better future will always be a critical requirement for
success in every industry. Let us know if we can help.
+=+=+Need Some Help? +=+=+
TeleChoice helps companies everyday better position their
firms and products for success, whether re-examining
fundamental business strategy or clearly communicating
unique position and value in today’s tough marketplace.
Contact us at email@example.com or visit ( http://www.telechoice.com/)
On occasion, we share with our industry
friends our views on major events and issues in telecom.
We use TeleSparks as the primary vehicle for sharing these
(usually highly opinionated) views, and we welcome your
feedback. Feel free to forward these on to others, but please
copy us on the messages so we have a sense of the extent
of distribution of our views.
TeleSparks is generally authored by Russ McGuire,
TeleChoice Chief Strategy Officer, with input from others
throughout the TeleChoice organization. You may contact
Russ (firstname.lastname@example.org) or your favorite TeleChoice
contact to share your thoughts on these matters.