Communications Manager Is in Charge of the Rapidly Evolving Information Age.
What does 10 years of changing technology look like? Back in 1938, the Aichi Company of Japan began production of the type 99 dive bomber. Its top speed was 241 miles per hour. It had two fixed forward firing guns, and an open cockpit. The Japanese type 99 bomber was the primary aircraft used in the attack in Pearl Harbor.
Less than 10 years the introduction of the type 99 bomber, in 1947, the first prototype of the Boeing B-47 was tested. Guns were fitted in the tail and fired by remote control from the crew compartment. Pilots sat beneath a canopy that stretched the technology of transparent plastics to the then-known limit.
The new B-47 flew well over 600 miles an hour, nearly three times that of the type 99. It was completely unlike anything the world had ever seen--a dramatic new shape, unprecedented engine design, the largest financial commitment to aircraft development in history. Beoing made it bigger, faster, heavier and safer, and they went on to revolutionize aviation technology. Less than another decade passed, and in 1955, Pan American ordered the Boeing 707-121, a jet-powered aircraft that launched the explosive growth of the airline industry.
The rate of change was then slow, compared to the present, and it's certainly accelerating for the future.
Consider the way in which 10 years of technology have changed the telecommunications industry.
In 1975, a sales manager in New York applied the latest technology available and faxed sales quotas to 15 different sales offices around the country. The message required 15 calls, several minutes of transmission time and an entire morning on the part of a secretary to get it right.
In 1985, the sales manager's secretary is an administrative assistant. She's planning the next sales meeting, while the manager sends quota messages to the same 15 offices. This time, through electronic mail, the message arrives instantaneously on the terminals of each sales office.
Retailer JC Penney now processes credit-card transactions for Shell Oil and Gulf. Penney is doing it to pay for its information netework and to gain revenues from a new kind of sale--information processing. Who would have predicted that 10 short years ago?
The previous examples indicate what might be considered subtle changes over a decade. But the cumulative results produced enormously different worlds.
We know that communication technology is accelerating the pace of life. From my example of the sales manager, 20 years ago he would have mailed the quotas. Responses might have taken another week. The total transaction would have been significantly slower than today's pace of doing business. But how slow is too slow? New technology always increases the pace of life. How fast is too fast? Is communications technology going to revolutionize the way we live 10 years from today? Let's look again at examples from the recent past.
The 1950s and '60s were characterized by the invasion of technology--the mass consumption of undustrial/high-tech products at work, in the factory, in our health care systems, in transportation and even at home.
From hi-fis to Vegematics, the invasion was everywhere, and with it came an impersonal world of account numbers instead of the personal use of names, an impersonal world of more TV and less talk.
The social reaction? Not a revolutionary boycott of a high-tech economy. But instead, an evolution of a new, highly personal value system; the evolution of self-help groups, of personal encounter sessions, of emotional/spiritual movements. The emphasis was on personal development, and evolution of human potential.
The operative word here is "evolution," not revolution. We cannot afford or emotionally cope with the prospect of tearing out the technology now in place in order to revolutionize our world with newe "whizz-bang" systems.
Although we may now have the capability to keep more than half of the workforce at home, most of us aren't ready to sit in our living rooms at our CRTs talking to the corporate mainframe 40 hours a week.
Any revolution in technology must consider cultural resistance. Consider, for example, what became of the personal computer revolution. The prediction that by 1985, executives would be managing their operations through desktop computers. The PC office revolution didn't quite happen because larger, cultural factors came into play. How many executives know how to use a typewriter? Although computer keyboards are easy to operate, the fact that they resemble typewriter keyboards is a major limiting factor in their acceptance among top management.
The Matthew Kenny hunt-and-peck method doesn't lend itself well to even the simplest of keyboards. Most executives do not know how to type, especially those managersi in older, nontechnical industries. For these managers, the inability to use a PC is an embarrassment, even a bit of an ego threat.
But still, a real evolution is underway. Most recent college graduates completed term papers on personal computers. Graduates of these schools have every reason to expect that when they enter the work-a-day world, they'll be greeted by their own desktop computer. For them, there is no adjustment, while the rest of us cope with change at a turtle's pace, eventually accepting new and better ways of doing business.
New Technology for New Problems
Again, the word is evolution. The cycle goes something like this: New technology creates new problems so we create new technology to solve the problems, and end up again with new problems for which we create new technology.
In the '40s and '50s, aviation technology made it possible to vacation in Florida. It changed the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and raised the expectations of millions of others not so rich and not so famous. So, new advancements in aviation technology made it possible to increase the size of commercial aircraft to take more passengers at a more-affordable rate.
Then came a computerized reservation system that required all of the sophistication of new communications technology to resolve a host of new problems. As the beaches in Florida grew more crowded every winter, so did the traffic on Florida's underdeveloped highways and the strain on its overcrowded hotels.
That very same cycle is affecting developments in the telecommunications industry now. Just 10 short years ago, telecommunications was a function pushed into a back room. Inside the office of the telecommunications manager were bare walls with exposed wiring, and a shirtsleeve-type individual whose main job was to see that telephones were properly installed.
Today, the situation has changed dramatically. The field of telecommunications shares the same stature and importance today that computer science had during the '60s and '70s. That person in the back room is now a manager, director or, in some cases, even a vice president. And that back room may now be on executive row.
Let's take a look at some of the things these telecom professionals are facing. Fiber-optic technology today has created an enormous data-carrying capacty. We are literally installing bandwidth that isn't likely to be fully used for some time. And the cost of installing this wideband transmission facility is falling today as fast as the temperature is dropping north of the Mason-Dixon Line. In just a little short of a decade, the cost per circuit mile of fiber will have dropped from $1,000 in 1979, to less than $1 by 1988.
So the cycle goes. Once we've created the capacity, we will raise expectations to fill that capacity, to use up that wide and barren bandwidth to carry a host of new applications.
Fifth-generation computing, with its power for artificial intelligence and rapid-fire parallel computing, will eat up a large piece of the new bandwidth.
Optic storage for instantaneous distribution, teleconferencing, voice, data and video will also take a bite of the bandwidth.
ISDN also looms on the horizon with trials in major US cities planned as early as next year. The RBOCs and independent telcos are migrating their exchange networks to ISDN. ISDN will continue to evolve through incremental introductions of new services such as packet switching and CSDC.
It will also involve fiber optics throughout the local loop, more distributed switching and transmission, and interfaces closer to the customer. The evolution of ISDN will progress through the 1990s.
But it's important to realize that it won't happen overnight. Simple economics will prevent replacing existing systems with new devices.
Let me quote from a recent market report issued by the Arthur Anderson Company: "It is widely speculated that we are on the verge of the electronic enterprise where everyone can hook up his or her terminal or PC to a single enterprise-wide network and freely access and exchange data, text, voice and images. Infortunately, such integrated networks will be a long time in coming."
Other changes we can expect to see involve the continuing evolution of bypass alternatives. Technologies will encompass satellite, microwave, cable, DDS, DTS, cellular and CATV. Numerous vendors will also be promoting private network alternatives.
In terms of the technology itself, functionality will continue to grow at the lower end of the network. The increasing power of microprocessors and the lower cost of memory will accelerate. As a result, technology is moving toward larger-backbone bandwidth, higher transmission speeds and increased use of network management and multiple transport media.
Hybrid networks will be solutions for the future. They'll incorporate a variety of transmission modes such as analog voice, digitized voice, voice-grade data, digital and video.
The future holds exceptional promise for the telecommunications industry. It also holds challenges and obstacles. One of these is something you'll recognize. You come in contact with it almost daily: "option shock."
The options are here and multiplying. Option shock: the proliferation of technologies, technical approaches, products and vendors. It's rapidly becoming an occupational hazard for the computer/communications professional. It has become a full-time job simply keeping up with the sheer mass of new information on products, R&D efforts and the latest value being added or service remarketed.
But in the corporate world, business decisions have to be made. Equipment must be purchased, new capabilities implemented and end-users accommodated.
At the present time, there are over 70 manufacturers of personal computers, 50 manufacturers of computer terminals and related equipment, and countless small-to-mid-size software houses in the running. The list changes almost daily. Given this situation, network-design decisions are often made on a piecemeal basis. The end result is the creation of a "spaghetti" network. There is a clear distinction between the tube hybrid network and one that ends up that way only by chance or poor planning.
An example: One of our customers came to us with just such a situation. Their network consisted of a collection of so-called state-of-the-art options, including DDS and satellite common carrier, and a cumbersome tangle of multidrop circuits that spanned the US.
It sounded like the latest and the greatest, but it was costing a bundle each month to operate. We were asked to provide a complete network redesign, top-to-bottom.
The end result was a baasic terrestrial network using conventional analog phone lines multiplexed through five regionally distributed processing nodes. No satellite, no DDS, just a good basic datacomm network, saving the customer on the order of $60,000 per month.
The point is, high-tech isn't necessary if low-tech can do the job.
No Substitute for Integration
Clearly, there is no substitute for an integrated approach to network design. And while up-scale options often seem attractive, the question always has to be asked, "Are they really needed?"
In terms of products and services, options have flooded the marketplace. The traditional "make-or-buy" decision has been revised to "make, buy or wait." The challenge is to bring the right technology on-line at the right time, while keeping the door open for future development.
But the questions continue: Should we build a private data network or use existing common carriers? Which vendor can offer the right mix of services and products? How will the development or lack of standards affect our decisions? Should we wait for a highly touted technological breakthrough?
Coping with the flow of options means constant evaluation of technology. It is the technology that creates options. It is also that same technology that can and will create solutions. But is it really? Is it the technology that drives our success? What happens when we define our livelihood on the technology of the day?
A little less than a century ago, an entire industry positioned itself as being in the railroad business; not the transpotation business, but the railroad business. Consider now what we know of the railroad business.
In that same vein, consider the dangers of viewing yourselves as being in the telephone business, or even the telecommunications business. That's the business of people who make sure there are plenty of boxes with bells, lights and whistles to go around. Railroads were also managed by people who thought they were in the business of bells, lights and whistles.
Information Is the Business
Today, information is the business. It's my busines and it's your business, as well as the business of every organization you serve. The way in which you view your evolving role within the organization is defining what you will be doing in the future. Consider yourselves in the information business.
Back in the early '50s, Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell was the first to suggest that "the strategic resource is information." Now more than ever, we know that Daniel Bell had it right.
From John Naisbitt's Megatrends to Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave, there's no denying that we're deep into the Information Age. In this age, information is the strategic weapon in every sector of the post-industrial marketplace, from advancements in medicine and surgical technology, to productivity increases on factory assembly lines. Information is the tool for remaining competitive.
Today, more than 65 percent of the world's workers are involved in information occupations--bankers, brokers, secretaries, teachers, lawyers, accountants, managers, programmers, clerks and bureaucrats. Information is the stuff of success in the '80s, the '90s and beyond.
The ability to use telecommunications creatively is already spelling the different between success and mediocrity. Leading are retailers and airlines, now in the business of banking, insurance and nationwide data processing. They're selling their information and communication networks as strategic business weapons, opening new markets, advancing sales and profits.
What does it mean to you? It means telemarketing, teleshopping, telediagnosis, teletraining, telebanking and teledelivery. We're not just talking about data and voice communications; your business is information. In its simplest form, it means getting the right information to the right person at the right time in order to make the right decision.
In the past year-and-half, you've already seen evidence of the increasing importance of your role within your organization. In many cases, your contributions, you budgest and your credibility have been boosted above those in DP and MIS groups. Since divestiture, management turns to you for solutions and for the weapons to wage a winning war in the battle for information.
But who's going to do the fighting? Already, the telecom industry is plagued by a shortage of trained personnel. At companies with more than $1 billion in assets, where information technology is driving the success of the company--at major banks and insurance companies, for exanple--annual salaries for information managers are already twice what they were just vive years ago.
In less than a decade, we will see the demand for telecommunications professionals triple the supply. That shortage of professionals is sure to have a positive effect on your salaries. It's also going to push you full force into a leading role in the information business.
From network design to the construction of corporate-wide, nationwide and even worldwide communications systems, your function is rapidly becoming the organization's key profit center. In the next 10 years, you are going to be providing the communications and information to:
* Automate factories, reducing operating costs, boosting productivity and dramatically increasing profits.
* Open new domestic and international markets for your company's goods and services.
* Train personnel at work and at home.
* Provide your firm with continual update on its progress in the marketplace.
A Decade of Securing Company Profitability
You'll be buying and selling information and the tools to manipulate raw data into meaningful information. In short, your work in the next decade is securing the profitability of your organization. Your job is to manage the creation, transportation and manipulation of an ever-evolving competitive data base.
The future depends upon how you define it today--casting your role as the gatekeerps, the managers, the profit makers in the information business. In the Information Age, you're in charge. The world is yours.
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|Date:||Jan 1, 1986|
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