Ken Shulman, CIO, CTO, Broadview Networks
Whether a small-or-medium sized business or a large enterprise, growth presents a host of challenges that necessitate proactive planning. While companies experience growth in various capacities, CIOs and CTOs must take the scaling ability of their business-enabling technology into consideration when catering to expanding company needs.
Servicing an increasing headcount, ensuring IT resiliency while adding back-office and network capacity, and avoiding a ballooning IT budget, are key factors to consider when reevaluating technology structure to accommodate growth. What are seemingly simple and mundane challenges to address are actually interconnected and must be examined holistically when developing a comprehensive, functional solution to business growth.
Handling Growth in Headcount
Managing physical growth and employee headcount can be challenging without the right technological support. When applying traditional approaches to IT, hiring new employees can trigger a substantial increase in direct infrastructure complexity and investment, whereas an effective use of new cloud technology alternatives can make scaling quick, easy, and cost efficient.
In a traditional IT environment, adding workers can trigger multiple direct investment requirements, such as:
1) Private Branch Exchange (PBX) expansion to add more phones to a capacity limited phone system which can result in the need for full scale “fork-lift” upgrades (i.e., PBX replacement) costing several thousands of dollars if the ultimate capacity of the existing PBX is reached
2) Additional office or cubicle space to accommodate the new employees which can result in the need to rent more space
3) Purchase of additional desktop equipment, including phones, PCs, software, switching, routing and wiring, which can easily cost thousands of dollars per new employee
On the other hand, cloud technology alternatives can offer significant opportunity to avoid many, if not all, of these challenges to employee growth. In particular:
1) Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solutions, which are cloud-based alternatives to the traditional premise-based PBX, offer virtually unlimited phone system scalability, supporting both expansion and contraction as needed generally with no limits on the number of employees served and limited or no up-front capital investment by the business
2) UCaaS solutions, with remote worker and shared “hot-desking” technologies, provide companies with the option of sharing office space among employees or flexible work locations while providing all the functionality and benefits of in-office phone systems, thus avoiding the need and cost of adding new office space
3) By leveraging cloud-based virtual desktop technology, PC softphones, shared “hot-desked” office space and optional desk phone equipment rental, companies can reduce or avoid the high cost of desktop equipment purchases to enable new employees. Cloud computing and UCaaS technologies can also enable Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), allowing new employees to use their own smart phones and/or laptops to work with company technology, a particularly powerful approach to hiring millennials.
Maintaining Resiliency while Adding Back-Office and Network Capacity
Beyond additional staff, growing businesses must also manage customer growth and may need to reevaluate the approach to customer service. Beyond adding storage capacity, growth-oriented businesses may also need to add processing power and compute power to ensure employees, both existing and new, are experiencing adequate back office systems performance, while customers are receiving the products and customer service they need to run their own businesses.
Among other things, CIOs may need to expand server hardware, including storage, CPU capacity, and network ports, to serve the additional back-office load, as well as expand the company datacenters to house the additional server and storage hardware while also maintaining proper cooling and power requirements. Furthermore, they need to add PBX trunk capacity to handle the growth in voice traffic, as well as add inter-location data network capacity to handle more traffic and expand internet access bandwidth.
Alternatively, cloud computing and UCaaS solutions can substantially reduce these needs and simplify the CIO’s challenges by:
1) Eliminating the need for company-purchased server, storage or CPU capacity.
2) Eliminating the need for company owned datacenter expansion.
3) Eliminating the need for PBX trunking by eliminating the PBX and its support contracts.
4) Simplifying the data networking requirements.
5) Providing a pathway to eliminating existing company datacenters entirely.
Once core resource requirements have been addressed, businesses must invest in disaster recovery, resiliency, back-up storage and overall network support to ensure business continuity during a time of disaster or disruption. Investing in a resilient technology infrastructure ultimately allows businesses minimal downtime through continued access to the network, communication among staff, and a back-up strategy for potentially lost or corrupted files. Cloud computing and UCaaS solutions particularly shine in addressing the needs for resiliency and business continuity.
Beyond managing headcount and network capabilities, growth oriented businesses must also consider the financial investment needed to ensure continued growth from a point of fiscal responsibility.
Cloud technology is exceptionally easy and cost-effective to install considering it only requires internet connectivity and installation which is a one-time expense. Once the cloud-based infrastructure is put in place, IT support is minimally required and is often provided at no or low additional cost by the provider, allowing the budget that would be dedicated to hiring an IT director to be invested elsewhere. In addition, company leadership and management generally have access to a user-friendly and intuitive central dashboard where changes can easily be made.
Growth is a shared objective of all businesses. But with growth comes many challenges, particularly for the CIO, or those sitting in the shoes of the CIO whether by choice or necessity. In today’s technology-heavy business world, the platform choices made can have a disproportionate impact on the costs, complexity, flexibility and sustainability of business growth, both now and in the future. Cloud computing and UCaaS offer substantial benefits over traditional IT solutions, dramatically improving the scalability and cost efficiency of a business, whether for phone services, desktop equipment, space requirements, back-office systems, or business continuity.