Overlooked engine of agile business

Got a problem? Build an app. It’s the fit-all solution to any issue right now. And it’s easy to see why we love apps.

More than 40 per cent of consumers regard their mobile device as the most important thing for making purchase decisions, according to a Nielsen survey. One in three only uses a mobile. The app obsession is increasing.

Goldman Sachs estimates mobile commerce will hit $626 billion by 2018. That is equivalent to all sales made by computer in 2013.

As well as being the consumers’ choice, apps are a popular option for business units keen to skirt around the IT complexities that define many businesses to deliver a speed and agility they know their customers are demanding.


But there are suggestions that the hype around apps is stealing attention away from other more important issues. Aaron Miller, chief digital technologist at Avaya in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, spends most of his time talking to boards about their digital strategies.

He cautions: “Businesses recognise that they need to become more nimble to stay competitive, but apps alone aren’t the answer. Adding an app to your network in a bid to become more competitive is like adding a spoiler to your car when what it really needs is for you to look under the bonnet and service the engine.

“It may give you an edge in the short term, but as soon as a competitor comes along with an engine that is finely tuned and well maintained, you’re out of the race completely.”

What were once best-in-class networks, when they were installed in the 1990s, are today creaking under the demands of modern business

Mr Miller refers to the network as the engine of modern-day business, arguing that the only time it comes on to the chief executive’s radar is when it goes down.

It’s a fair point. There is no denying that the network is a strategically important part of modern business, running everything from a company’s telephony and website, to its security cameras and air conditioning. As the internet of things and wearable technology take hold, the demands on the network will become greater still.

Yet a recent survey commissioned by Avaya found that 94 per cent of European businesses are negatively affected by the complexities of their network. This limits what can be deployed when and how quickly. Network fragility may mean your app quickly becomes inconsistent, unstable or simply won’t work, qualities guaranteed to annoy and alienate internal and external users alike.

The reason, as Adrian Brookes, director of corporate consulting at Avaya, explains is that what were once best-in-class networks, when they were installed in the 1990s, are today creaking under the demands of modern business.

He says: “Consider an iconic car from the same period and compare it to a car built today. We now have a completely new way to build cars. You can retro-fit your 90s icon with a DAB radio, heads-up display, sat nav and cruise control, but it gets ugly, expensive and difficult to manage, plus your car wasn’t built with these add-ons in mind.

“The same is true of networks. It gets to the point when you really need to upgrade.”

Mr Brookes makes some recommendations for building a powerful network fit for the digital age. Open standards are vital. You don’t want to be trapped with a vendor, when you could be mixing and matching from the best on the market.

Security, he says, remains critical. It should be built into the network, not added on. And virtualisation is key. Human error is the biggest cause of network downtime. Avoid it by virtualising your network. Research suggests it is 31 times faster to roll out new services over a virtualised network compared with traditional networks.

With the hallmarks of an agile business – speed, flexibility and security – now all built in at the foundation layer, it easy to see how add-ons such as apps can then start to deliver as they are meant to.

Europe’s leading private hire company Addison Lee recently invested in Avaya Fabric Connect to upgrade its network. The new system massively reduced the amount of manual configuration needed. Previously laborious tasks now seem effortless. Addison Lee’s chief technology officer Peter Ingram is now confident the company can grow and add services, secure in the knowledge its core infrastructure is rock solid. Yes, apps are exciting. But get your network healthy first. Nothing will work unless you do.

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