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Q&A: Vodafone Global Enterprise’s Nick Webb

Nick Webb, head of solutions at Vodafone Global Enterprise, discusses the mobile workforce, unified comms and the company’s new R&D facility in Silicon Valley.

Eurocomms.com: What’s the biggest challenge facing you and your enterprise customers currently?

Nick Webb: One of the biggest challenges is how to deal with the implications of a rapidly growing mobile workforce. Five years ago, there were typically only a handful of senior executives and sales people working away from the office. Companies across all sectors now have increasing numbers of staff throughout the business working flexibly or away from the office. This change is rapid and relentless. For example, one of our customers, a major multinational electronics business, has seen more than 70 percent of its workforce adopt some level of mobile working in just two years.

Why is this such a concern to your customers?

Existing systems, processes, management structures and corporate cultures are built around the assumption that all workers are in the office every day, sitting at the same desk. IT provides a case in point. The biggest concern is how to reorganise IT in a way that will better support a new community of flexible workers, in ensuring they can work equally effectively irrespective of location.

How are you helping them overcome these challenges?

We are increasingly providing advice and consultancy through our professional services team.  At the outset we work closely with each customer, often in a joint workshop, to understand the particular challenges they face. Only then do we look to develop a communications solution that is designed to meet their specific needs. Depending on the problems identified, these may range from telecoms expense management to a more comprehensive unified communications solution.

Businesses are continually looking to drive down costs, particularly in the current economic climate - what are you seeing out there in the market in this regard?

The biggest costs are often those operational inefficiencies resulting from poor communications that businesses cannot see. As a result, businesses are concerned about the hidden costs associated with staff being less productive than they could be. Internally, this has become apparent in areas such as poor collaboration between departments. Externally too, staff are not always available to receive and respond to customer calls. Businesses are therefore more willing to consider tools that enable their staff to embrace flexible working more effectively. This is one reason why they are responding more positively to unified communications solutions, as it allows them to identify and remove these hidden costs, so making the business more efficient and customer-responsive.

How big a challenge is creating unified communications in the workplace?

The central challenge is to take out the complexity from the increasing diversity of devices, processes and platforms throughout the enterprise. In helping the business achieve greater simplicity and a better user experience, there are best practice tools and solutions that enable the enterprise and its staff to focus on the business, rather than the technology. An integrated communications solution will provide a single interface, allowing staff to pick up and send emails, share documents and files, hold conferences and exchange instant messages, from any location and almost any device. This means that information is always delivered to them the way they want, ensuring they are equally effective, in and out of the office.

In September, Vodafone launched a new R&D centre, Vodafone Xone, in Silicon Valley. How do you expect to benefit from this?

This exciting new resource is intended to provide technical expertise, potential financial assistance and logistical support to US start-up businesses. By doing this, it will also help promising US technology companies gain a ‘fast track’ in putting in place proof-of-concept trials across our global network. Ultimately we hope that this will enable us to bring more innovative services to our customers – wherever they may be.