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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Business Augmentation – Back to Basic

I was asked a couple of weeks ago what is this augmentation I keep talking about, and why does it apply to businesses? Augmentation is not new, if you think about augmented reality, augment glasses, augmented amusement park rides – yes they exist!
The reason I apply it to businesses today is simply that like the other examples above they are seeking to maximize existing components and add additional capability and or scale to it that can adapt to their current market environment. Anyone familiar with augmented reality knows this is a powerful tool which can understand the current context of what you see and add additional information to it such as where a bus is headed to, availability of properties and reviews of your favourite restaurants. Now in the context of these examples you would say well of course it has to use the current capability we would be blind otherwise (literally!), fair enough, but why not use the same concepts for business? The current platforms work, it is not a case of them being no longer fit for purpose, more likely they are functionally or scale limited by the platforms they were built on and if a business knew that by adding to their existing capability they could actually extend the life of their assets and as such turn a depreciating item into a value creation item they might change their views on them.
Woah … what? Ok let’s go through an example. A business has an existing telephony system they would look to replace it or upgrade to a new platform when it is either end of life (financially), has reached maximum capacity or last but not least is no longer able to meet the functionality needs of the business. In any of these circumstances you might think a business needs to request quotations for new platforms, and previously this is most likely what a business would do. Consider equally businesses looking to grow through acquisition in a market where just about everyone has some form of video conferencing, yet there is always that concern on integration cost of communication platforms. In both of these examples any vendor would love you to rip and replace the old assets and convert to a new platform, but this only adds cost to your business which would be better spent on systems and tools upgrades/integration which tend to be more customized. Hence having access to a virtual “bridge” that allows you to leverage the assets of the existing business that can be integrated whilst using cloud based IP Telephony or video for new or temporary users/sites provides an alternative avenue and drives a philosophy of business led outcomes. i.e. decide what your business needs to do first and assume the technology is there to make it viable second.
Equally the current economic environment with its rapid changes of growth and decline across multiple markets at different times has resulted in concerns on making the right decision and timing of business decisions. Particularly when it relates to ICT investments where businesses are struggling to understand how they can find a balance between driving business improvement or growth goals against managing cost and mitigating risk. The Business Augmentation approach here creates a fundamental shift in defining the business outcome first, knowing that technology will adapt to your requirements rather than being limited by your current ICT capabilities both in terms of functionality and cost.  Think about it for a moment – how often have you considered that accelerating the growth of your business through expanded ICT and other resources could derive your next wave of growth, yet at the same time being concerns on managing risk. What if the market changes? What if competitors flood the market? What if my supply chain can’t keep up? Business Augmentation is about removing this risk, leveraging existing assets, adding new functionality – preferably through the cloud – with the confidence to unwind that functionality at a moment’s notice should market dynamics require it.
I am a big advocate of Business Augmentation mainly because it directs the discussion between people and technology where it belongs – Technology as an enabler to business and consumers and that through reducing (or even better, removing!) the risk businesses can create, innovate and drive growth with greater confidence. Technology change is increasingly regarded as a disabler as “rip and replace” or full transformation of platforms offers little or highly complex roll back to legacy platform options. Imagine for moment that your ICT architecture was linked to cloud based platforms which were used to facilitate your growth, and as you continued to grow you realized your business had established a new baseline, this could then justify longer term investment and encourage the business to stretch further with the confidence that it was suddenly in a stronger position to adapt to change.
Now this is all great in principle but we need to be able to realize these ideas, the great news is these platforms are out there today, whether it be around Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Networking and Security, we simply need to drive Service Providers, vendors and SI’s to be more disruptive and challenge the norms of upfront payments linked to capex towards a more sustainable and elastic business model which will deliver self fulfilling growth as risks become more manageable and businesses in turn take increasingly creative steps forward.
Challenge yourself, your business and your ICT relationships to change the way we work by leveraging Augment capabilities and you will quickly find there are a growing number of opportunities to create, innovate and grow your business! Hence get back to basics define your need and challenge your ecosystem to deliver!

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