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Here's Good Advice on How You, Too, Can Be a Real Telecommunications Hero-Heroine.

It's 7:59 am when the telecommunications manager cracks the door of his office, knowing full well that he has all of 60 seconds of peace and quiet before "they" get to him. Coat on the rack, newspaper on the desk, the countdown is already apparent on our hero's furrowed forehead. He's down to less than 30 seconds and at least one line is blinking on his phone.

It's a call from Doris Doesgreat, who manages the company's very aggressive international sales force. In 26 seconds, Tele Comet (our hero) will whear all there is to know about the noisy circuit to the London sales office (Doesgreat always talks with the London office from 7 am to 8 am).

In fact, from 8 am straight through to 5:40 pm. Comet will have heard from most of the people who satisfy the stockholders' demands for profits, those who roll out new products before their competition, and who increase their company's share of existing and emerging markets. They'll remind him that they get their work done in engineering, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and even accounting, through any means possible. They are the corporate heroes and heroines. Tele Comet wants to be one, too.

It has been our experience that telecommunications managers become heroes when they get out of their offices to seek applications and apply technologies to them. They go out and meet with the people who are the line and staff managers, learn where the company can be more profitable, and help by showing how the company can work smarter. These are the ones who have gained higher visibility within their organizations and have reaped the rewards.

All telecommunications managers are already saving their organizations money and untold hours of aggravation. By the nature of their job, the position requires an understanding of a myriad of technical solutions to communications problems. They must know voice, data and, in some cases, video in both the analog and digital domains. This represents a great look kit to be offered to others in the company. The problem is that our hero, Tele Comet, and untold others are accustomed to waiting for opportunities to come to them.

We propose that telecommunications managers take existing technologies, such as teleconferencing and messaging, out of the telecommunications departments and put them before the people who are making money for the company. We have evidence that where this has been done, it has worked.

At IBM, Hughes Aircraft, Boeing Commercial Aircraft and Deere & Company, a variety of technologies have helped in the management of work forces distributed around metropolitan areas, the United States and the world. Possibly the best example has been Deere & Company's management of its sale force, which, to make more sales, has dynamic offices in hotel rooms and phone booths. Through a combination of audio teleconferencing and a voice-mail system, the company has kept its sales teams apprised of overnight changes in product prices. Deere's version of Tele Comet became a hero when the sales force was able to meet or beat the competition in sales calls the next day. Here's how they did it.

Mailboxes Called Twice a Day

Sales team members were given voice mailboxes and were instructed to call them twice a day for messages while on the road. When the company had to change prices and idscounts overnight, a broadcast voice-mail message was used to alert the sales force to an early-morning audio teleconference. Salespeople attended from their hotel rooms and from phone booths before they made any calls on their customers. When they did call, they closed sales with the new prices.

Other companies have found that communications tools can be used to bring in more revenue by putting products before larger markets. Companies such as Century 21 and First Financial Broadcasting Network, and universities such as Harvard and the University of Central Florida, have expanded their markets through teleconferencing.

Century 21, for example, has used audio teleconferences successfully to bring in larger groups to bid on investment real estate. The first time it was tried, the company received $721 million in offers for the property up for sale. The First Financial Broadcasting Network found that it's difficult for small banks to afford to send their people away for training, so First Financial is carving out a niche by transmitting the training to bank premises through one-way video teleconferecing with two-way audio.

Existing universities are jumping in, using a pattern devised by the University of Wisconsin some 20 years ago. Harvard University and the University of Central Florida, through the use of the telephone network, have moved their continuing-education cources to hard-to-get students through audio conferencing supplemented by PC-based graphics systems and captured-frame video systems. They have reached students who had tuition in hand but couldn't make it to the campus for classes. The instructors who understood teleconferencing used it to add a new profit center for their universities.

Some companies have used various orms of teleconferencing and messaging systems to improve their sales through electronic auctions. Cattle are now sold to packing houses throughout the United States using a form of computer conferencing managed by the National Electronic Marketing Association. Bidding is done through computer terminals. A time-share network and a central computer are used to offer the cattle, sell them, and arrange for invoicing. The Pulaski Livestock Market (Pulaski County, Virginia) has been using conference calls to auction livestock for 15 years, and sold $10-million worth of cattle this way in 1985.

Possibly the most-innovative use of teleconferencing for auctions has been by Kennedy-Wilson, a high-ticket real-estate company in Santa Monica, California. It has sold beachfront property in Maui, Hawaii, and Florida, and condominiums in Hawaii, to people 500 to 3,000 miles away through satellite-delivered videoconferences. In one case, it even got people in Hawaii to rally and outbid people in Los Angeles and San Francisco, keeping the ownership of the property in Maui. Cameras were used to capture the faces of people bidding against each other 3,000 miles apart. Someone there understood teleconferencing and applied it to make the company money. The company improved its revenues by $20 million in 1985.

We find that it's important for telecommunciations managers to know the products of their companies and look for electronic marketing opportunities. Possibly the best example of this came in November 1985, when Texas Instruments decided to show anyone with a satellite video-receive antenna in the United States what TI was doing in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The company took out full-page advertisements in The Wall Street Journal, inviting other companies to watch an all-day program tutoring them in AI. The conference resulted in marketing TI's products to more than 500 sites and 20,000 to 30,000 viewers. The idea came from one of TI's innovative communications people, Al Bond.

In 1986, this type of direct marketing will continue. Computer companies will introduce new products directly to their buyers through a business television network set up by MicroAge computer stores. In some cases, the stores will be the hub of a new shopping-mal video network called Magnet, offered by Private Satellite Network of New York City. This will present more opportunities for telecommunications managers, who will point out these new channels to the marketing heads of their companies. These telecom managers will be heroes.

New-Product Planners Can Benefit

Communications systems are useful in developing new products and services for companies. Telecommunications managers need not assume that their electronic tools are only for existing products their companies offer. There are a vast number of opportunites for totally new lines of services and products that are available only through teleconferencing and messaging systems. The telecommunications manager needs to be creative and work with the product planners to develop these new products.

As a telecommunications manager, you probably underestimate how much knowledge you bring to your organization. The tools, systems, services and products that you have been buying, testing, studying or reading about in your daily activities are almost virtually unknown to the end users who need them. You already have a good idea of the "solutions looking for problems" that are on the market. It's now a matter of putting the right tools together with the right groups of people.

So how do you start? First, look for groups of people who are geographically dispersed with well-defined goals. Any group with a job that must be done on time and under budget will jump at the opportunity to communicate cmore efficiently. This is especially true if the group has more than two locations. It's usually critical enough to the organization so that anyone who can help achieve the company's goals become a hero overnight.

A strong, visible, highly committed leader usually is a champion who is willing to take a calculated risk, to try something new, and is on his way up in the organization. He is innovative in problem-solving. As a telecommunication manager, work with him! This person is always looking for a better way and will embrace your communication tools.

Another tack is to approach the person who is wrestling with a bear of a project that seems to keep getting sidetracked. The culprit of any project that's bogged down is almost always a communication problem of one type or another. You've heard this before, haven't you: "Manufacturing didn't get the new Widget 5000 out on time because they misinterpreted the changes that engineering gave them." Your job is to help control these problems. If they were located in different places, possibly they could have taken advantage of some of the new low-cost, protable freeze-frame systems that are on the market. Iths your job to bring this to their attention.

Probably the most important thing to understand is how to present the solutions. All these years, you've been sitting behind your desk, studying thousands of salespeople calling on you. Now it's your turn to "sell." Remember two things--first, your customers never like to think they have a problem for you to solve, and second, you have to be diplomatic before you dash into someone's department and tell him that you know what's best for him.

So. with both of these things in mind, once you have targeted an application, approach it very casually at first--perhaps just a handwritten note, attached to some product literature, that says: "Saw this system and thought of your project. Let me know if you'd like to know more about how it might work for you."

Must Match Technology to Users

Probably the major mistake we have seen made in introduing new tools is mismatching the technology to the user. For instance, how high up in the organization are your end users? Senior vice presidents would probably use voice mail with each other faster than electronic mail, as they are used to communicating with one another by telephone or face-to-face, so their communications are more "social" in nature. if, however, a senior vice president is the head of sales who needs to communicate with district sales managers, he may benefit from a combination of audioconferencing for meetings, voice mail for messages and updates, and electronic mail for order entry, call reporting, and anything that needs a printout. This means, when "selling" applications, always take into consideration who needs to communicate with whom about what.

We're convinced that telecommunications managers are one of the largest untapped resources within any corporate structure. You're setting on top of a gold mine of solutions and you have the shovel. Sales managers, engineering managers and manufacturing managers are all doing the same thing you're doing right now; rading their journals and periodicals. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the vendors of these technologies have targeted their advertising to you. So many of the things that probably are old hat to you would be considered wonderful new innovations by your corporate colleagues.

It's time to let yourself be recognized (or perhaps to recognize yoursel). The technological and management expertise you have developed in creatively solving some of the major problems for your respective companies is both untapped and unending.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Gold, Elliot; Smith, Ruth
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1986
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