Business turns VoIP talk into action

Computer Weekly's survey of IT leaders reveals that adoption of voice over IP and tablet PCs is gathering pace as CIOs seek more adaptable technologies

Two technologies long-promoted by suppliers are gaining a stronger foothold in corporate IT, the latest Computer Weekly CIO Index survey has revealed.

Tablet PCs, which allow handwritten user input, and voice over IP, which enables data and voice traffic to be managed on the same network, have become more widely used by UK businesses in the months since our inaugural survey for the CIO Index was carried out in April.

The latest research provides further evidence of how IT directors have taken to VoIP this year, targeting savings from reduced call charges and lower network costs. The results suggest that misgivings about the maturity of the technology have largely evaporated as service reliability has improved and doubts about security have eased.

The CIO Index found that 23% of enterprises have fully deployed VoIP, up from 15% in June and 10% in April, and departmental roll-outs have increased from 29% in June to 32%.

One example of the take-up of VoIP is Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets' newly created trading floor for derivatives, foreign exchange, credit and debt capital trading, which has a VoIP-enabled voice trading infrastructure from IPC. The system has been designed to reduce possible points of failure and to allow the addition of new trader voice circuits within a day - a process that took three to four days in the past.

It is also notable because Lloyds TSB's decision to adopt it flies in the face of earlier calls from banks to tread warily around VoIP. In May, the chief security officers of investment banks Dresdner Kleinwort and Standard Chartered told delegates at the Info­security conference that VoIP was too insecure to replace traditional business telephone networks and had a long way to go before it would be secure enough for major business use.

Use of tablet PCs is also increasing, although adoption remains lower than for VoIP.

Introduced in 2002, it was claimed at the time by Microsoft founder Bill Gates that the tablet PC would revolutionise the way people worked and bring digital pen technology into the mainstream. "Within five years, most mobile PCs will have tablet PC functionality," Gates said.

In reality, the transformation has been less dramatic. According to analyst firm IDC, tablets represent about 1% of the total notebook PC market, but the CIO Index suggests that a corner is being turned.

The survey found that tablet PCs had been fully deployed in 3% of organisations, up from 1% in June and, more tellingly, departmental deployments have risen from 19% in June to 29% in the latest survey.

The rise may point to the fact that IT departments are finally finding uses for the technology that can bring demonstrable benefits.

For example, Cambridgeshire County Council's Social Services Department recently began using tablets to provide a mobile information gathering and sharing system. Its elderly-patient care team uses collaborative software with the tablets to harmonise the service it offers. This has cut duplicate visits, saving the department £3m a year.

Elsewhere, the CIO Index showed that adoption of open source technologies is on the increase, with 7% having deployed it across their organisations by September, compared with 2% in June.

But older operating systems are being abandoned: deployments of Windows Server 2003 across the organisation fell from 40% in June to 28% in September.

About the computer weekly cio index

The CIO Index is Computer Weekly's quarterly online survey of IT directors in the Computer Weekly 500 Club. The research is conducted by our parent company Reed Business Information's market research department, strictly adhering to the Market Research Society's code of conduct.

In the technology adoption report, respondents graded their replies to a statement according to five categories: full deployment across the business, used in one or more departments, pilot studies, reviewing potential and no action taken. Between 129 and 133 IT directors responded to each question.

In addition to tracking technology adoption in UK businesses, the CIO Index highlights trends and provides analysis of key metrics for IT expenditure and the business readiness of emerging technologies.

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