Data services and an increasingly mobile workforce are driving the business networks of tomorrow

What do the UK’s businesses really think when it comes to their networks and communications?  How does this differ between small businesses which are just starting out, and much larger companies with dedicated IT departments?

To find out the answer to some of these questions and get a snapshot of UK business today, we took to the show floors of The Business Show in London and IP EXPO Manchester a few weeks ago and asked business decision makers what challenges they were facing, how their employees worked, and what their plans were in the next 12 months.

The Business Show in London

Starting in London, we spoke to decision makers from small and medium sized businesses about how our scalable voice and data solutions could help them as they continue to grow.

81% said that verbal communications were highly important to their business – a sign of just how important reliable voice solutions are to smaller business.  Even in an ever-increasing digital business environment, they need to communicate with their clients and customers more than ever before.

Perhaps even more interesting is how just under half of our respondents said that their workforce use hot-desks in some capacity and don’t always work from fixed terminals.  Couple this with the finding that 83% of SMEs have some mobile working requirement, and a picture quickly emerges of businesses which require flexible, yet reliable networks to allow them to get started and achieve rapid growth.

Finally, we asked attendees at the show what they saw as the top three technology challenges facing them and their networks in the coming year.  Our respondents placed remote working as their biggest challenge, with the growth and required provisions around Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in second, and a growing demand for verbal communications in third.

IP EXPO Manchester

So how would this compare with the IT professionals we surveyed just a week later in Manchester at IP EXPO?  Interestingly when we asked them to name their top three technology challenges, they also placed the need to provide services to workers in multiple locations in first place, with BYOD in second, and an increase in remote working in third.  These have been issues which have been on the news agenda for years, but it’s clear that they still present very real challenges to businesses of all sizes today.

Delving deeper into the details reveals more interesting views from IT pros on the last 12 months. Of those surveyed, 95% said that demand on their network bandwidth had increased in the last year, while 60% said that data, rather than voice, services had been most important for the business they work in.  With high quality video and audio content and communications services becoming a more permanent feature of business life, the need for robust, future-proof networks is more apparent than ever.

Emerging trends and themes

From London to Manchester it is clear that the UK workforce is increasingly unshackled from the traditional desktop terminal - with 90% of those we surveyed said that they had some element of a mobile workforce.  Perhaps due to the increasing demand on networks, 67% said that they had invested more in their business network over the last year, and when it came to what they expected to invest in over the next year, hosted applications was named most often by those we surveyed.

The emerging trends for businesses around the UK centre on being able to work from anywhere around the UK.  The increase in data traffic and proliferation of employees wanting to use the devices they are comfortable with show how businesses are becoming more adept at empowering their employees to work when and where they want to, by offering secure and reliable voice and data connections to an increasingly mobile workforce.

How does this match up with your experience in your company?  Have you seen demand on your business network increase this year?  Are more people working remotely or using hot-desks?  What’s the biggest challenge facing your business this year?  Tweet us @TalkTalkBiz to let us know.

Duncan Gooding, Director of Enterprise & Direct Sales, TalkTalk Business