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Top Talk: The internet brings changes and benefits

Les Williamson, managing director of Cisco

As the new managing director at Cisco Australia and New Zealand, but an old hand at Cisco, it is Les Williamson's responsibility to help the local arm of the company capture new and emerging market transitions. In that role, he says he is extremely excited to be leading a business at a time of great change, wrought chiefly by the current wave of internet technologies and the incredible productivity benefits they provide.

Indeed, it could be said that the entire Australian and New Zealand economies, societies and communication systems are undergoing significant structural change because of the massive impact of internet technologies. It is up to all of us to harness those changes for the benefit of business and society.

Cisco, as a leader in this area, is at the heart of this change. But what precisely is going on? How is the internet changing business and society?

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The first thing we need to realise is that the communications network, driven by internet protocol (IP), has come a long way from the days of the early 2000s when having a website was about the extent of many business and social organisations' investments online.

The wave of internet we are currently riding is about an unprecedented level of collaboration, real-time two-way video interaction, mobility and presence, truly unified communications and more.

This collaboration is leading to significant improvements in productivity, business efficiency, asset reallocation and improved resource management. For instance, through using the network to bring parts of our business together more effectively, Cisco was able earlier this year to make a multi billion dollar acquisition in just eight days! Without that collaboration, including instant messaging, high definition, two-way video communication, and other collaboration technologies, the acquisition would have likely taken about 45 days.

But that kind of business improvement is only the tip of the iceberg. The arrival of instant messaging, mobile and presence capabilities, all actively coordinated with supply chains, business units, enterprise resource management systems and customer relationship management systems, means that we are entering a period of unprecedented opportunity for business.

In Cisco, for instance, we have already seen productivity improvements and travel cost reductions from deploying Cisco TelePresence technology in our Sydney and Melbourne offices. TelePresence is what we like to call a 'beyond videoconferencing experience'. Using the IP network, it provides high definition, life size communication via video for up to 12 people in multiple locations, anywhere around the world.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about TelePresence, however, is that it is essentially a phone call, with single button activation and without the need for IT assistance. That is the power of the network working as a platform for collaboration.

Another area of change for businesses in Australia will be the way they manage all of this online information. Just think, when you do a banking transaction online, or you buy something using the net, there is a responsibility by law for some organisation to keep that information securely for a number of years. One of the results of all this growth in information online is that businesses are using their data centres as a strategic asset, to keep, manage and maintain all the millions and millions of bits and bytes generated by doing business the internet way. We see data centres inevitably becoming network oriented, where everything is virtualised.

Finally, I would like to add that all these collaboration technologies are also having a strong, beneficial impact on society.

It really is the most exciting phase of the internet and Cisco is proud to be enabling its partners and customers with these capabilities, and changing the way we all live, work, learn and play.

About the author: Les Williamson joined Cisco in 1999 and has held a number of roles in the company including account manager, regional manager and operations director. In his most recent role as client director before becoming the managing director, Williamson was responsible for leading Cisco's engagements with Telstra Australia. He has over 19 years' experience in the ICT industry.