We have been celebrating our 25-year sponsorship of Premiership Rugby club, Exeter Chiefs, and it has made us think about how things were very different back in 1994.
On the field, the game hadn’t even turned professional and rugby players wore baggy cotton jerseys that soaked up all the water and mud. For us lesser mortals, business technology was cumbersome too.
My working life has seen huge steps in communications technology. The so-called tech we were using back in 1994 is alien to my teenage children, if not laughable!
Those of you in your mid to late-40s will remember IBMs, Packard Bells and other old-school PCs which used to sit on desks, complete with floppy disk port and a box-shaped screen on top.
The internet and email were in their infancy back then. Internet Explorer 1.0 was not launched until August 1995. We were still sending letters and making calls, often using telephone directories and the Yellow Pages, not to mention Rolodexes and contacts books, to point us in the right direction.
While switchboards and phone systems existed, they were very limited to what they could do aside from handling on-site call transfers.
Fast forward five or so years, and the integrated services digital network (ISDN) broke through. This offered a superior means for transporting calls and has reigned supreme until recent years. As well as offering better call quality and increased call capacity, ISDN gave businesses a chance to manage their calls at line level in terms of routing and queuing. Handsets developed too offering ad hoc call recording, business directories, voicemail access, etc.
Meanwhile, other search engines were popping up, blogs were invented, and the WYSIWYG Dreamweaver visual code editor had been launched in the wake of HTML, PHP, Javascipt and XML tools to create websites. Email was also becoming more widely used with Outlook updating their email client virtually every year after its launch in 1997.
From then on PCs started to get smaller with CDs replacing floppy disks, and CDs replaced by memory sticks. Laptops became the norm also…again getting smaller as they were developed
The popularity of mobile phones was gathering pace too. UK mobile phones existed within 16% of households in 1996. A decade later, the figure was 80%, partly driven by the launch of the first pay-as-you-go, non-contract phone service.
In the office, BlackBerry smartphones, complete with mini keyboard, became the mobile phone of choice after their launch in 1999. The BlackBerry allowed staff to get their emails on the go and reached a peak of 85 million subscribers across the world in 2013.
While not the powerhouse they once were, the BlackBerry model opened the door to unified communications whereby phone systems and mobile devices, such as the iPhone and Android devices, are linked to PCs to access email and instant messaging apps.
This functionality gives people the ability to work anywhere at any time. Coupled with SIM-enabled tablets or laptops with dongles, the modern-day workforce does not even need to have wired or wireless access to the internet; they can use 3, 4 or even 5G networks.
As my previous article, 25 years on: Using technology to accommodate a growing number of home workers highlighted, going to work does not always mean going to an office these days.
Phone systems are now being supported by voice services run on internet connections. The copper ISDN is ageing and is being phased out in favour of modern fibre connections.
Many phone systems are now hosted in data centres, or the cloud, meaning handsets are simple to add as businesses grow as well as to support home workers or even another office. Calls are free to UK landlines and mobiles, handsets are twinned with mobiles for seamless call handling wherever their user is working, staff can hot-desk and use any handset as their own, and much more.
So you see, just as advances in science have transformed the rugby jersey into a more streamlined, grab and water-resistant shirt, technology has transformed our work communications. The evolution has been rapid with some businesses being left behind along the way. To be agile and cost-efficient in a competitive world, and to attract and retain good staff, businesses need to keep up.
If you need advice, get in contact with me and will put you in touch with one of my colleagues. Join the evolution!