The importance of good communications
I mentioned a while back that I had invested in a new phone system for the office, bringing with it the promise – and I don’t feel I’m exaggerating here – of an entirely new way of working. Oh, the feature set: wired handset basestation; additional remote wireless handsets; the ability to link with my smartphone over bluetooth; comprehensive inbuilt database functionality; Ethernet link to my PC for shared database connectivity; computer driven dialling; internet connectivity; the ability to record interviews at high quality... The list goes on. Of course I was expecting some change management issues, but in many ways it has genuinely delivered on its promises. If I had one gripe, it’s that it’s turned out not to be terribly good as a telephone, which really is its primary purpose. Every now and then, at random, for no apparent reason, it will drop a call. I’ll be chatting away or listening intently, and suddenly the line will go dead.
I contacted the manufacturer, who told me it was very unlikely to be a fault with the phone, and that it was more likely to be a problem with the line. I contacted my service provider, who ran some tests, and assured me that there was no problem with my line, and that most likely it was a problem with the phone. I could already see where this was going. I contacted the manufacturer again, who told me that, actually, my phone wasn’t officially supported in the UK, and so they wouldn’t be able to support it officially or, and I felt I had to ask, unofficially.
Out of interest, and probably with the benefit of hindsight something I should have done before I bought the phone, I checked some online reviews. “Great phone,” said the first one, “except that it occasionally drops calls.” Excellent. I joined some online forums to try to get to the bottom of the problem. “What else do you expect,” said one, “with DECT 6 technology.” Brilliant.
Another asked if I had performed a firmware upgrade. This is a phone, I thought. It isn’t rocket science, although thinking about it there’s probably more computing power in the phone than there was in the Apollo 11 rocket that first landed on the moon. Anyway, to cut a long story short(ish), I have performed a firmware upgrade and so far the problem seems to have been resolved. But what this has highlighted for me is our reliance on communication technology, and how quickly we can be left flailing if our communication technology lets us down.
So I think we should be particularly concerned by a new survey from EEF that shows the UK is at serious risk of falling behind its competitors because of a lack of Government planning for a world class digital infrastructure. Many companies are increasingly seeing internet access as critical to their business and are planning to invest more in communications technology over the next five years. But they feel they are having to pay a premium to ensure high speed internet access and, looking forward, are fearful poor digital connectivity may prove a drag on future growth. As EEF concluded, we surely need concrete steps to ensure the UK has a modern business environment that enables us to outperform in the digital race.
Mark Simms, Editor
Industrial Technology - NEWS