Have you had a long holiday lately?

Are you one of those business owners who only gets short breaks because you can’t be away for too long before it all falls apart?

How much of that is because you need to be in your office to communicate and manage? How much of that is to do with your IT systems not working wherever you are?

I spend time contemplating who I need in my business to set me free then I think about the systems I need to support that. The great news is that size and cost are no longer the barriers when it comes to IT and communication systems.

Today the technology required to work from anywhere with a team of people either in your office or distributed around the country or the globe is not cost prohibitive. In fact, I would say it is cheap and readily available relative to the health costs of not having it at all.

Just yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting in the Microsoft offices in Melbourne where one of my clients was run through what they call a Customer Immersion Experience (CIE). If this sounds like a baptism, I guess it is not too far from the truth.

It is bathing the audience in the experience of a connected world with the latest technology tools from video conferencing and shared desktops via Lync to collaborative authoring and shared calendars.

The fascinating thing is that almost all of the technology demonstrated is available in the cloud. This means a two person or a 2000 person company can have the same experience. Except the bigger company can have more collaborators simultaneously. Not because their technology is bigger, just because they have more people to invite on board.

Once this “office technology” is available in the cloud, all we need is a PC with a mobile data connection and we no longer need the “office” we just have “technology”. Once you do not need to be at your desk or in the meeting room to have a face-to face meeting with your staff or your client that 4 week holiday is suddenly possible.

We have been talking about things getting to this point for so long that I think we are struggling to believe that the experience is real and that it exists now. I still get people saying to me, “why should we upgrade, it is just another version of the same old applications with the buttons moved around to confuse us.”

This could not be much further from the truth.

In the past 18 months technologies have gone from trial versions to fully functioning versions with thousands of engaged users. The quality of the service is pretty good so long as the bandwidth is available. For the early adopters of this technology there are distinct benefits in improved communication, better collaboration, and video conferences instead of travel.

I am now able to demonstrate software from my PC at home or in the office with voice, video and desktop sharing. This has already saved me thousands of dollars in travel and has reduced sales calls from half a day of travel or more to 45 minutes of online demonstration. When prospects learn that they can see what they want later today rather than waiting a week or two while I arrange three meetings in their town to justify the cost of a trip, they are delighted and, I find, very willing to put up with a few blips in the transmission. (Bring on the NBN)

For mobile users on a 3G or 4G connection to a tablet or handheld device the bandwidth is fine in most places around capital cities and populated areas of Australia. For office-based users it is dependent on the quality of the office connection and the shared load between the office staff.

Let me state again that we can’t afford to delay the roll out of the NBN for business to help this technology along. For me, travelling with a laptop with video device built in and a Bluetooth headset I can join meetings at the boardroom table or do an impromptu presentation from almost anywhere I get a 3G or better connection.

Now all we need to deal with is the stress created by never quite getting away from work even when we are on holidays. That one is a psychologist’s issue. I can give you the technology to break the physical shackles that you have built, but I can’t help you with how you think and tolerate interruptions. I know I enjoy my holidays knowing that in just an hour each day I can keep the wheels turning and not arrive home to chaos.

I hope you enjoy your next holiday. Before you go, let me ask a couple of closing questions.

Are you taking full advantage of the latest developments in technology or are you wasting money supporting old systems that don’t support you and your staff?

What new technology could you benefit from the most? It may be that it was a very expensive technology two years ago and is included for a few dollars a month with a cloud subscription to other productivity tools you already need. Who could you ask for advice about that?

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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