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The Bloor Perspective: The CSO, UK slamming and presence for voice calls

This week the team at Bloor Research examines the rise of the chief security officer, problems with consumers switching telcos and what can be done about phone tag.
Written by Bloor Research, Contributor on

This week the team at Bloor Research examines the rise of the chief security officer, problems with consumers switching telcos and what can be done about phone tag.

Security is an area that many companies need to improve. In the US, a new breed of corporate executive has become widespread - the chief security officer (CSO). Some corporations there are taking security so seriously that they have even appointed a CISO - chief information security officer - who often reports directly to the CIO or is even on the same level. Security firm Vormetric reports that half of the Fortune 500 have put in place either a CSO or a CISO.

New technologies, including mobile applications and web services, are making our infrastructure more porous - and more widely distributed throughout an organisation. In addition, recent corporate scandals, especially in the US, have brought the issue of corporate governance to the fore, along with all the associated issue of the need for more stringent audit requirements. Risk management is being pushed throughout organisations and is being incorporated into many companies' everyday business practices.

However, Network Associates has recently surveyed 200 companies across five European countries and has found security awareness to be patchy, at best. The survey asked respondents about their level of preparedness for dealing with viruses, if security gets board-level attention in their companies, whether they perceived security to be a competitive differentiator and whether or not they have adopted a proactive security model.

While attitudes differ among European countries, overall 50 per cent of respondents reported that their companies are taking only a reactive approach to security, only 30 per cent believe security offers an kind of competitive advantage, and just 40 per cent have placed security on the agenda of their board members.

The differences in levels of preparedness are stark - while 100 per cent of German and French companies interviewed reported having plans in place for dealing with both current and future security threats, the Dutch have the lowest level of preparation for dealing with attacks. Worse, some European companies have no protection at all against viruses. Rather, respondents report that the greatest levels of investment to be made over the next 12 months will be on anti-spam technology.

Perhaps most damming is that security is given a low profile in European companies. In France, 75 per cent of security decisions are taken at the level of the IT director - rather than decisions being taken at the board level to fit in with the rest of the corporate strategy. This opens companies up to the risk that not all parts of their infrastructures will be covered through this piecemeal approach and makes it much harder for risk management practices to be embedded within organisations. Only in Germany and Holland are more than half of security investment decisions made at the board level.

The security market is being driven from the US, where it is given a much higher priority. But risk management is becoming a hot topic in Europe as well - especially among financial services companies that must upgrade their technology and business processes to more effectively handle risk in compliance with the requirements of the Basel II accord. That requires that every part of the organisation become involved. Europeans need to take their heads out of the sand and do something about it. Now.
*Slamming telecoms deregulation?*

It appears the doctrinal obsession to encourage competition in the UK retail telecommunications sector may encounter the same problems as has been experienced in other utilities.

Utilities deregulation resulted in a rise in consumer complaints, as new entrants aggressively sought to encourage customers to switch suppliers. Many consumers have found their voice calls switched without apparently believing they had given their consent – what the Americans call ‘slamming’.

Oftel has recently issued a warning to the new entrants, potential rivals and alternatives to BT in supplying voice call services to the UK retail consumer market. This is in response to a substantial rise in complaints from consumers who felt they have been exposed to unfair, misleading and aggressive sales tactics to persuade them to switch from BT to alternative carriers.

The procedure for switching is in fact more complex and not spontaneously contracted by a verbal contract over the telephone. Any agreement to switch voice call suppliers has to be confirmed by a letter to the consumer from both the existing supplier and the prospective new supplier. Thereafter, the consumer has a further 10 days in which to cancel the order.

The extent to which the existing supplier may counter or persuade the consumer not to switch is uncertain but it is surely appropriate for the existing supplier, at least to restate the existing offering and point out where it does equal or exceed the new offering. Speaking from personal experience the prospective supplier only focuses on those elements of the offering which may bring financial savings but the financial saving is seldom as clear-cut as the prospective provider would have the consumer believe.
*The cost of tag is…*

Recent research conducted on behalf of Siemens Communications has revealed that telephone tag wastes time. Time is of course money and the cost of telephone tag to UK business is estimated from this research at over £20bn per year.

The survey was of 30,000 computer-based workers. It found that more than a quarter of workers believed that more than half of their calls failed to reach their intended contact first time, due to people being away from the office, at meetings or just engaged. This combined with other assumptions in the survey led to the conclusion that the average worker wastes 30 minutes per day on telephone tag.

The research was in support of the launch of a collaborative communications software package linking the desktop PC to an existing telephone system. This uses an on-screen presence indication and computer initiated dialling. The indicator shows if a person is already on a call or the presence status set by the individual.

As mobile phones have become smarter, and the mobile infrastructure too, the focus has been on providing brand new data services. SMS take-up, ringtone purchases, plus the Holy Grail of video messaging and video clip download, all tantalise with appealing revenue possibilities. But the challenge is selling these new services to a broader market of handset users and not just the narrow niche of teenagers and early adopters. 'Per user' revenues mean it's best to reach as many users as possible.

For most mobile phone users the primary application is still voice calls. From the days of early car phones, for many business users the primary value of a mobile phone has been to avoid the problem of telephone tag. The growing intelligence in the handset doesn't have to be dedicated to new data services. Using mobile data to augment voice services could make the mobile phone an even more valuable tool, for all users.

Missed calls cost money. Desktop telephone tag is one thing to fix. Solutions that add presence data to mobile voice calling can add serious value to consumer and business mobile users alike.

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