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Opportunities in 1985 and Beyond for Telecommunications Managers.

With 15 months of divestiture and deregulation behind us, one is tempted to look at the coming era and, in a feeling of frustration, view it through the eyes of Pogo as an "insurmountable opportunity." Unquestionably, we are moving into a new era of telecommunication management. An era into which we have been dragged, kicking and screaming; but an era opening on new horizons that will benefit both our employers and us, an era of opportunity.

Having now spent some 28 years in the telecommunications industry, with 23 of those as a consultant, I can say with authority, "The times, they are a' changing." At an ever-increasing pace, I'm seeing management's view of the telecommunication function changing. Changing from the historic perspective of an expense to be cut, to a view that telecommunications is an asset to be valued by the corporation and managed to the corporation's benefit.

The era of "voice communication managers" and "data communication managers" (and God help us if either of them should speak to one another, much less understand each other's disciplines) is rapidly disappearing. We are now entering the era of the management of information flow. It's immaterial whether that information is credible (a telephone call), in the language of a business machine (data), written message (telex/TWX), graphic (facsimile), or visual (television), because all of these constitute and convey information.

In its simplest form, all information originates at a single source: the human mind. In the beginning, the caveman used his feet to transfer that information from point to point. Over time, as it became necessary to transfer information greater distances with greater speed, signal drums, smoke signals, heliographs and other coded methods were devised by man.

More-Recent Transmission Means

In 1844, Morse placed that code on wire with the telegraph, and in 1876, Bell placed the human voice on wire with the telelphone. Now, that same information, originating in the mind, can be input to the transmission media in an analog format from the mouth through a telephone, in a digital format from the fingertips through a terminal; or via a number of devices capable of transmitting visual representations.

Today, the mission of communication management is to move that information from its point of origin to its destination in a timely, economical manner. To do that, three broad areas must be managed:

* It is necessary to have the right facility, at the right place, at the right time.

* It is necessary to move the right information.

* It is necessary to secure the best value for the telecommunication dollar expended.

This change in the perception of telecommunications has brought about improved customer service. Today, perhaps the fastest-growing communication service is AT&T's 800 Service, providing immediate accessibility, on a toll-free basis, for customers throughout the United States and, rapidly, the rest of the world. Northing else provides the cost-free access on an immediate basis with the interchange of information between supplier and customer that comes from 800 Service. One has only to look at the programs designed to increase customer brand loyalty of many large consumer-goods manufacturers to see the realization of the benefits they have derived.

This is an adjunct to the telephone's obvious capability to increasing sales at lower cost. Telemarketing is an industry growing at a staggering pace. Between 1980 and 1984, the number of in-house telemarketing centers in the United States grew 20-fold, from 1500 to 30,000. These produced an estimated $56 billion in sales. Continued growth projects 8,000,000 people employed in the telemarketing area by the year 2000, just 15 years from now. Used to more-effectively utilize limited sales time, handle marginal accounts or just simply increase sales, the additional expenditure for telecommunications is being well spent.

In a broader sense, the improvement of the information flow brings with it improved productivity. That productivity gain can result in improved cash flow. The program being embarked upon by General Motors to interface directly with its major supplier's computers, thereby reducing inventory and its investment cost, is one example. Productivity improvement through increased communication expenditure, while difficult to quanlify, can also result in reduced operating costs.

That increased telecommunication expenditure, utlimately, in each instance, has the same effect. That effect is a direct flow to the bottom line of the organization, resulting in increased net profits. In past years, the saving, or reduction, in communication costs was rarely thought of as a contribution to bottom-line profits. Now, the communications expenditure must be viewed in this manner.

For communication managers, the era of system purchase to supplant rental costs is virtually gone. It's now necessary sto compete within the organization for capital dollars, capital dollars that will provide a return on investment sufficient to justify their expenditure. Competition for those dollars will come from the production, distribution and other administrative areas of the organization--all vying for that scarce resource, money. Money to carry out their projects so that the organization can achieve its own goals, those of profitably producing and distributing a product.

It has been remarked any number of times that the telephone industry is at the same threshold as the computer industry of some years ago. Just by viewing the direction of the computer industry in 25 years, some insight can be gained as to the direction of telecommunications. Had it been available in 1959, one megabyte of memory would have occupied about 400 cubic feet--a room seven feet square and eight feet high. Using 256K chips, it now would require one-half cubic inch of space. In just the past 10 years, the cost of this memory has gone from $600,000 to as little as $2,000 on a micro-computer. Size and cost reduction have increased terminal penetration from one per seven white-collar workers in 1980 to one in three in 1985.

Information Movement Growth

There's little question that both telephone and data service--the movement of information--will grow and be integrated. IBM's present goal is to double in size by 1990 and again double by 1994. Clearly, that will place computing power on virtually every desktop and in every home, just as at present, after 108 years, the telephone is ubiquitous and found in virtually all locations. The telecommunication system will be the glue tying these information-transmission devices to their sources.

Increasingly, as we move toward that era, the telecommunication management function will take on yet another aspect: the management of access to the information base. Not access in the sense of making the information available. Not access in the sense of the cost of transmitting or reaching the information. But access in the sense of controlling the need to know.

For, as increased quantities of information are more-readily or (as will probably be the case) immediately and constantly updated, and as it becomes increasingly easier for the desktop information-access terminal to reach that data base, people will become the problem. Psychologically, man's innate fear of making a decision in the absence of "all of the information" could grind the overall operating structure of any organization to a total halt. For always, "If I just wait a few seconds, a few minutes or a few hours, I will have newer, more up-to-date information on which to base my decision."

On that basis, with the ready access to information from sources that are constantly being updated, it's possible to convince one's self to never make a decision, since more-current information will be available momentarily. Thus, it will be necessary to manage not only the devices and the cost of telecommunications, but it will be necessary to manage the psychology of the user if the organization is to go forward.

This new era has brought with it a need to understand new technologies. Twenty-eight years ago, it was the step-by-step, dial 701 that provided telephone service. It was only eight years ago that the computer appeared as the controller of the stored-program-control telephone system. Twenty years ago, to talk of data transmission at 1200 b/s was pushing the state of the art. Now, dial-up 56 kb/s is offered, and Tl at 1.544 Mb/s is routinely ordered.

Technology is arriving at a rapid rate. With technology comes new applications and opportunities. However, there's a need to apply those technologies for the good of the organization, not for technology's sake. It has brought with it a need to learn new management skills. Who, 10 years ago, in the telecommunication management function, talked about software-defined networks, return on investment or the coming of integrated switched digital networks?

Technological Advancements

Technological advance has brought with it new equipment and service offerings that enable us to instantaneously reach all corners of the globe. To literally move information at the speed of light on a beam of light capable of carrying vast, and just years ago unthought-of, quantities of information. It has brought with it the necessity of managing people in a time of change.

All of these changes can be viewed as a problem or as an opportunity. Those organizations that seize upon this opportunity to more-effectively control their destiny through the rapid, economical movement of information will be the stars of the future. Those stars will be directed by the communication managers who seize upon this opportunity to simultaneously enhance their organization's position and thereby their own.

Many of the technologies, many of the service offerings and certainly the ultimate effect of deregulation/diverstiture are new to all of us. Never in the past 140 years, since information began to move on wire, has there been greater opportunity--an opportunity to learn together, an opportunity to increase profits, an opportunity to improve the quality of life within our organizations, and an opportunity to enhance our own careers. Never in the history of our profession have opportunities been so great. Investigate them, seize them, and enjoy. We are on the threshold of a great era.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Kuehn, R.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1985
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