The media is rife with stories of interrupted services and technical hitches; only recently Lloyds Banking customers were unable to access their accounts. The issue of availability, and more specifically keeping information and people connected, will keep many senior management people awake at night, so just how do you get to grips with it?
As part of my on-going work and focus on business information strategies, I recently took part in a roundtable event where a panel of business experts discussed the most pressing issues surrounding business availability and the challenges organisations face when keeping people and information connected. Supported by 'Delivering the Available Enterprise', a new report by myself and SunGard Availability Services, and drawing on senior expertise from industry analysts Intellect, accounting firm BDO LLP and medical software firm Ascensus, it was concluded that the demand for unfaltering, 24/7 information availability is predominantly being driven by today's young, technology-savvy and mobile-ready workforce.
It also emerged that the biggest challenge for many businesses is the generational divide that exists between those demanding the technology and those who are paying for it. More often than not, the staff that hold the purse strings are also the oldest in the organisation - those 'digital immigrants' who don't often completely understand emerging technologies and the profound changes to business practices these bring. We've reached a hugely interesting point, where the traditional management mind-set is under increasing pressure from a younger workforce for always-on IT and accessible information.
The reality is that the failure to adapt to new ways of working and 24/7 availability will have a direct impact on a business's bottom line, as both customers and top employees look to jump ship to more dynamic organisations. Information is the lifeblood of any modern company, and availability is its heartbeat - both are essential components in delivering the best possible service.
According to John Turner, IT director at BDO LLP and a key member of the aforementioned panel, "availability is a 'hygiene factor' that has to be constantly has to be maintained. The pressure to deliver continuous resources and access has always been there, but it's increased hugely over the past 12 months. It's not even a competitive advantage anymore; customers expect it and you simply have to have it - especially when you're in an industry handling sensitive data."
Any issue with delivering service or value, no matter how short-lived, can undermine the trust built between your business and its customers. If it goes wrong, a relationship that has been nurtured over a number of years can come crashing down in mere hours. Truly getting to grips with the delivery of complete information availability is the first step in preventing this. Businesses must enforce a cultural shift in the upper management, and throw out traditional attitudes towards IT when needed.
To quote Henry Ford: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got" - and in today's increasingly competitive environment, businesses have to question if this is enough. With new, improved ways of working possible, the opportunity to deliver change to drive greater bottom line success has to be taken.