FRAMINGHAM, 1 MAY 2008 - Last week, I mentioned that telecom managers have my deepest respect. That's easy to say, but in this case, I really did put my money where my mouth is: Last month, my company honored 10 of the top enterprise organizations that demonstrated significant leadership when it comes to deploying communications services.
Our PilotHouse Innovators awards quantitatively measured the effectiveness of advanced communications services deployed by these companies, many of whom we've been benchmarking for years. (For those who don't know, the pilothouse is the glass-enclosed room high up on the deckhouse from which a ship is controlled -- something we found a useful metaphor in selecting companies whose communications teams are leading the industry.)
Three firms asked us to keep their names confidential (because they view their telecom infrastructure as providing competitive differentiation). The remaining seven are: BP, Charles Schwab, LyondellBassell Industries, Matria Healthcare, Pfizer, Shaw Industries Group, and St. Luke's Health System. Winners were invited to a steak-and-lobster dinner at a restaurant named, fittingly enough, the Lighthouse.
For obvious reasons, I can't give the details of each company's individual communications infrastructure. But compared with the several hundred companies we looked at, the Innovators were significantly more likely to deploy advanced communications services, which included broadband wireless, MPLS, carrier Ethernet, and a range of peering and hosting services. Innovators also were considerably more likely to have deployed converged services, and have taken advantage of managed services (including outsourcing).
And get this: These companies actually understand the correlation between well-paid employees and a successful communications infrastructure: Innovators are 25% more likely than companies as a whole to be planning to give their communications teams raises within the next year. Not surprisingly, they also spend slightly more on their communications services as a percentage of IT budget than other companies -- although their communications cost per employee is significantly lower.
Organizationally, these companies are also more likely to have convinced their companies to view communications as a strategic asset. They're also more likely to have structured the communications team as a "service provider" within the organization. And most intriguingly, they're likely to have communications teams that are around 25% smaller than organizations overall -- a good example of investing in a few good folks, rather than a stable of less-talented individuals.
The lessons to be gleaned? Positioning your communications team as a strategic asset can pay off big time -- but to reap the rewards you need to be ahead of the curve both organizationally and technically. As I noted in the previous column, make sure your higher-ups understand that communications infrastructure can be a strategic asset. Position your team as an internal service provider. Carefully select and invest in talent --even if that means granting pay raises in the teeth of a recession. Stay on top of the new-generation communications services as they emerge. And I'll see you at next year's PilotHouse awards.
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