By Martin Burvill, Group Vice President Global & Vertical Industry Solutions, Verizon Business

Business leaders today live in interesting times: in domestic markets or abroad, businesses are still under tremendous pressure; customers, suppliers and shareholders expect ever faster service, in ever broader geographies; continued economic uncertainty makes the ability to bring new products to market quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively more important than ever.

They are therefore transforming business infrastructure to align it against operational goals — making it scalable to support future growth, agile and high performance to deliver business applications quickly and reliably, flexible to accommodate operational fluctuation, and extremely efficient, to maximize return on investment.

The end result is likely to be a future where business is dramatically different, with collaborative business ecosystems, joint ventures, partnerships, outsourced models and fragmentation the new standard. And what is increasingly clear is that those organizations that invest in innovation today will be ahead of the game tomorrow.

Building a Fluid Business

Firstly, competition is increasingly fragmented. It is difficult to know how to differentiate yourself from the competition when the competition cannot be clearly defined, or even located. Secondly, determining how and where business effort should be focused is increasingly complex — not least as emerging market expansion can bring with it increased complexity in terms of regulatory and other requirements.

Fluid business constructs that enable organizations to make the most of opportunities as they arise are increasingly driven by technology. Global, IP-enabled networks enable collaboration between employees, customers, partners and other stakeholders, and are the foundation on which companies can build new constructs that can streamline business processes, enhance decision making, improve productivity and enhance customer service.

But these constructs also need to build-in operational flexibility. Cloud computing gives enterprises flexible access to large amounts of scalable computing power, with the freedom to adjust capacity up and down to support the natural cycles of their business.

The cloud is not the only option. With scarce capex, selective out-tasking is another increasingly popular business model. The incoming generation of employees uses and shares information in an entirely different way to that of most employers, and expect their experience of information consumption and collaboration in the workplace to mirror the always-on communications environment of their personal space.

This is, of necessity, leading to a consumerization of technology in the workplace. The new employee is used to accessing information in multiple formats, on multiple devices (but more likely a smartphone than a PC), from any location, on demand. With immersive video communication, mobile devices and social networking tools increasingly filtering into the office environment, demand on bandwidth is tremendous. So high capacity networks, and always available applications are becoming critical business enablers.

Understanding the Already Possible

One of the key issues faced by many business leaders is understanding what is already possible — and what this means for their business both today and tomorrow.

Business leaders are already looking to integrate consumer-driven IT approaches into the workplace, and make it work for their organisation, and mobile information access is now an absolute standard in business technology. Mobile device management and content delivery systems will play a crucial role in the workplace of the future transforming the office intranet into trusted social workspaces.

Perhaps the most important ‘already possible’ technology is cloud computing — which is driving a fundamental shift towards an ‘Everything as a Service’ delivery model, a world in which cloud-based, converged solutions are delivered with built-in security via managed and professional services over global IP networks. This new computing model has the potential to transform enterprise operations; flexible access to large amounts of scalable computing power gives enterprises the freedom to access resources on demand to support natural business cycles.

We are already seeing several other key trends begin to make a real impact on business operations. For example, High IQ networks (ultra-wideband capacity, “super” data centres for the cloud and smart devices for anywhere, personalized applications), video (built on the growth of telepresence, high-definition desktop video units and Web-based applications, will increasingly go mobile), the network and Machine to machine communications (automating many of the processes linked to the machines that run our everyday lives).

And finally, imagine a virtual world where one user name and password enables access to any website on the Internet or the corporate LAN. Identity management is already a major political focus, and in 2011 many countries around the globe will begin to put in place the infrastructure required to make this a reality - the idea is to add stronger security for every digital user.

Taking a Leap of Faith

Technology already has the potential to dramatically, and positively impact business operations. Innovation can bring significant rewards — and particularly if framed squarely within and in support of business strategy. And by looking afresh at the business of business, we can build new infrastructures that will help make the business environment of the future more fluid, more agile, and ultimately, more successful.

Now is the time for tomorrow’s business leaders to establish a blueprint for their future business success. Now is the time to work smarter, be more efficient, and create a future-proof business model that will drive business growth. And Verizon Business, as a global leader in communications, IT, information security and netw