Cost versus productivity: the international communications challenge
Technology can assist businesses to reduce costs, improve productivity and reach new economic markets, but in an increasingly globalised world, many businesses are challenged to manage international communications simply and cost effectively. A research p
Research conducted by Truphone found that more than one in 10 employees in organisations surveyed had a mobile roaming bill higher than $5,000 from a single business trip abroad. Managing costs was by far the biggest challenge identified for Australian businesses with employees who travel overseas, with 40.1 per cent of respondents citing this as a major business issue.
This puts organisations in a very difficult position. Managers are seeking to give staff the tools they need to ade- quately communicate with stakeholders in overseas locations, as well as remain productive while away on international business trips. But given the high cost of international communications, many businesses are facing significant challenges in finding a solution.
So how can Australian businesses better manage their international communications? The research revealed some interesting insights into how organisations are managing these challenges, and the implications on cost and productivity. Maintaining connectivity A key finding of the research was businesses with staff travelling internationally have a dependence on email as the primary method of staying connected. Of businesses surveyed, 63.3 per cent identified email as a key business tool for employees to communicate when travelling overseas. Close to half the respondents identified free Wi-Fi as a primary source of connectivity for business travellers, followed by use of current mobile providers’ roaming services (39.9%).
The same can be found for businesses with frequent international communications from Australia. Reliance on email for communications to overseas contacts is high, with 54 per cent of respondents using email to stay connected to contacts abroad. Cost the key concern More than two in five respondents said cost had caused problems for their business. Of the businesses surveyed, almost a third (27.2 per cent) of their annual mobile spend is on international communications, with nearly one in five (17.7 per cent) spending more than 40 per cent.
By comparison, the equivalent figure for US businesses shows only 11.4 per cent of US companies spend more than 40 per cent of their total annual mobile bill on international communication - according to research commissioned by Truphone and conducted by CCMI in October 2013, International Mobile Communications: How to Balance Connectivity, Productivity and Cost Concerns.
With Australian businesses seeking to expand globally and conduct business abroad, the challenge is to balance the demand for connectivity with operational efficiency. One of the ways organisations are trying to address this is through policies to manage international communications. Balancing productivity concerns vs policy To strike the right balance between managing the high cost of international communication and enabling employee productivity, Australian businesses are turning to policy in an attempt to find a solution.
Over a third of respondents surveyed (35.4 per cent) have instigated an international communications policy requiring employees to only use free Wi-Fi hotspots when working abroad. Similarly, 29.3 per cent of organisations surveyed use policies to limit employees’ use of their devices entirely.
The impacts, whilst harder to measure are most felt from the travellers themselves. Respondents to the survey reported that they have lost important clients due to restricted mobile services, and that restricted communications with colleagues overseas have impacted decision-making and productivity.
By contrast, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents have no policies around the way staff use devices while abroad. Whilst accepting roaming charges as a cost of doing business, these businesses are still challenged with managing the costs, even though productivity is not hindered. Finding a solution The need for simple, cost-effective international communications is paramount to the success of Australian businesses operating on a global scale. Key to this is providing businesses with an alternative that enables them to empower staff to communicate internationally, whilst maintaining control on costs.
The research indicates there’s an appetite across Australian businesses for an international mobile provider that provides international mobile services at local rates in multiple countries, with a focus on reliable connectivity and effective global customer support.
And for those Australian businesses that do embrace new ways of communicating internationally, the benefits of increased productivity and reduced costs will propel their business forward globally. Alex Blinko is managing director, Truphone Australia. Reference: ¹The research was conducted by independent research firm CoreData in February 2014. Findings are based on responses from 300 individuals employed in Australian businesses across a variety of sectors. Results are based on small-to-medium-sized (40-199 employees) and large-sized (200+ employees) businesses.