Major trends occurring in the field of telecommunications have a significant impact on management decisions in this area. Informed managerial end users should thus be aware of major trends in telecommunications industries, technologies, and applications that significantly increase the decision alternatives confronting their organizations.
Telecommunications networks and services are available from numerous large and small telecommunications companies.
Explosive growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web has created a host of new telecommunications products, services and providers.
Business firms have dramatically increased their use of the Internet and the Web for electronic commerce and collaboration.
Open systems with unrestricted connectivity, using Internet networking technologies as their technology platform, are becoming the primary telecommunications technology drivers.
Increased industry and technical moves towards building client/server networks based on open system architecture. Open systems are information systems that use common standards for hardware, software, applications, and networking. Any open systems provide greater connectivity, that is, the ability of network computers and other devices to easily access and communicate with each other and share information. Open systems architecture also provides a high degree of network interoperability. That is, open systems enable the many different applications of end users to be accomplished using the different varieties of computer systems, software packages, and databases provided by a variety of interconnected networks.
Change from analog to digital network technologies. Local and global telecommunications networks are rapidly converting to digital transmission technologies that transmit information in the form of discrete pulses, rather than waves. Digital transmission offers:
Higher transmission speeds (transmits with pulses)
Movement of greater amounts of information
Much lower error rates than analog systems
Telecommunications networks to carry multiple types of communications (data, voice, and video) on the same circuits. (Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) technology)
Change in communications media. Many telecommunications networks are changing from copper wire-based media and land-based microwave relay systems to fiber optic lines and communications satellite transmissions. Fiber optic transmission, which uses pulses of a laser-generated light, offer significant advantages in terms of:
Reduced size and installation effort
Greater communication capacity
Faster transmission speeds
Freedom from electrical interference
Business Application Trends:
The trend toward more vendors, services, Internet technologies, and open systems, and the rapid growth of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and corporate Intranets and extranets, dramatically increases the number of feasible telecommunications applications.
Telecommunications networks are playing a vital and pervasive role in electronic commerce, enterprise collaboration, and internal business applications that support the operations, management, and strategic objectives of both large and small companies.
Telecommunications functions have become an integral part of local and global computer networks that are used to dramatically:
THE BUSINESS VALUE OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS - [Figure 4.3] Information technology, especially in telecommunications-based business applications, helps company overcome barriers to business success. Four strategic capabilities of telecommunications and other information technologies include:
Overcome geographic barriers
Overcome time barriers
Overcome cost barriers
Overcome structural barriers
THE INTERNET REVOLUTION The Internet is the largest “network of networks” today, and the closest model we have to the information superhighway of tomorrow.
Distinguishing features of the Internet include:
The Net does not have a central computer system or telecommunications centre. Instead each message sent on the Internet has a unique address code so any Internet server in the network can forward it to its destination.
The Net does not have a headquarters or governing body.
The Internet is growing rapidly.
Internet Applications:[Figure 4.4]
The most popular Internet applications are e-mail, browsing the sites on the World Wide Web, and participating in special interest newsgroups.
Internet browser software enables millions of users to surf the World Wide Web by clicking their way to the multimedia information resources stored on the hyperlinked pages of businesses, government, and other web sites.
Web sites are the launch sites for electronic commerce transactions between businesses and their suppliers and customers.
The Internet provides electronic discussion forums and bulletin board systems formed and managed by thousands of special-interest newsgroups.
Other applications include downloading software and information files and accessing databases provided by thousands of businesses, governments, and other organizations.
Hold real-time conversations with other Internet users.
Gathering information through online services using web browsers and search engines.
BUSINESS USE OF THE INTERNET - [Figure 4.5] Business use of the Internet is expanding from an electronic information exchange to a broad platform for strategic business applications. Business uses of the Internet include:
Collaboration among business partners
Providing customer and vendor support
Buying and selling products and services
Marketing, sales, and customer service applications
Growth of cross-functional business applications
Emergence of applications in engineering, manufacturing, human resources and accounting
THE BUSINESS VALUE OF THE INTERNET - [Figure 4.6] What business value do companies derive from their business applications on the Internet?
Substantial cost savings can arise because applications that use the Internet and Internet-based technologies (like Intranets and extranets) are typically less expensive to develop, operate, and maintain than traditional systems.
Attracting new customers with innovative marketing and products
Retaining present customers with improved customer service and support.
Generating revenue through electronic commerce applications is a growing source of business value.
Most companies are building commercial sites on the World Wide Web to achieve six major business values:
Generate new revenue from online sales.
Reduce costs through online sales and customer support.
Attract new customers via web marketing and advertising and online sales.
Increase the loyalty of existing customers via improved web customer service and support.
Develop new web-based markets and distribution channels for existing products.
Develop new information-based products accessible on the Web.
THE ROLE OF INTRANETS Intranet characteristics include:
An intranet is a network inside an organization that uses Internet technologies (such as web browsers and servers, TCP/IP network protocols, HTML hypermedia document publishing and databases, and so on) to provide an Internet-like environment within the enterprise for information sharing, communications, collaboration, and the support of business processes.
An Intranet is protected by security measures such as passwords, encryption, and firewalls, and thus can be accessed by authorized users through the Internet.
A Company’s Intranet can also be accessed through the Intranets of customers, suppliers, and other business partners via extranet links.
The Business Value of Intranets: [Figure 4.7]
Organisations are implementing a broad range of Intranet uses. Several common functional Intranet business applications include:
Intranet applications support communications and collaboration, business operations and management, web publishing, and Intranet management. These applications can be integrated with existing IS resources and applications, and extended to customers, suppliers, and business partners.
Communications and Collaboration
Intranets can significantly improve communications and collaboration within an enterprise. Examples include:
Using an Intranet browser and PC or NC workstation to send and receive e-mail, voicemail, paging, and faxes to communicate with others within your organization, and externally through the Internet and extranets.
Using Intranet groupware features to improve team and project collaboration with services such as discussion groups, chat rooms, and audio and videoconferencing.
The advantages of developing and publishing hyperlinked multimedia documents to hypermedia databases accessible on World Wide Web servers has moved to corporate intranets. The comparative ease, attractiveness, and lower cost of publishing and accessing multimedia business information internally via intranet web sites have been one of the primary reasons for the explosive growth in the use of intranets in business. Examples include:
Company newsletters, technical drawings, and product catalogs can be published in a variety of ways including hypermedia and web pages, e-mail, net broadcasting, and as part of in-house business applications.
Intranet software browsers, servers, and search engines can help you easily navigate and locate the business information you need.
Business Operations and Management:
Intranets are being used as the platform for developing and deploying critical business applications to support business operations and managerial decision making across the internetworked enterprise. Employees within the company, or external business partners can access and run such applications using web browsers from anywhere on the network whenever needed. Examples include:
Many companies are developing customer applications like order processing, inventory control, sales management, and executive information systems that can be implemented on Intranets, extranets, and the Internet.
Many applications are designed to interface with, and access, existing company databases and legacy systems. The software for such business uses (sometimes-called applets or crossware) is then installed on Intranet web servers.
Employees within a company, or external business partners, can access and run applications using web browsers from anywhere on the network whenever needed.
THE ROLE OF EXTRANETS Extranets are network links that use Internet technologies to interconnect the Intranet of a business with the Intranets of its customers, suppliers, or other business partners. Companies can:
Establish direct private network links between themselves, or create private secure Internet links between them called virtual private networks.
Use the unsecured Internet as the extranet link between its Intranet and consumers and others, but rely on encryption of sensitive data and its own firewall systems to provide adequate security.
Business Value of Extranets:
The business value of extranets is derived from several factors:
The web browser technology of extranets makes customer and supplier access of intranet resources a lot easier and faster than previous business methods
Extranets enable a company to offer new kinds of interactive Web-enabled services to their business partners. Thus, extranets are another way that a business can build and strengthen strategic relationships with its customers and suppliers.
Extranets enable and improve collaboration by a business with its customers and other business partners.
Extranets facilitate an online, interactive product development, marketing, and customer-focused process that can bring better designed products to market faster.