In a bid to generate strategic advantage, IT is entering a new phase of computing with real-time integration of the front and back office to create a new paradigm.
Dubbed as phase three of the computing age, Nortel CTO Phil Edholm, said phase one was during the 1960s and 1970s when payroll and inventory was automated.
"It didn't change a lot but it made business run faster," he added.
Phase two emerged in the late 1980s when there was a fundamental shift from technical to strategic as business processes began to change.
"Walmart was the poster child of this transition which was repeated industry by industry during the 1990s," Edholm said.
The third phase began in 2004 with the question: "Is this is really a sustainable model?"
"Everyone has access to the same technology, and like electricity, IT was no longer strategic. You may have implemented SAP but so has your competitor," he said.
"The goal now is to completely change the business which is being accompanied by a radical workforce change, the amount of time staff spend in the office is decreasing five percent each year."
Edholm said the key to this shift is unified communications boasting real-time media, workflow integration and Web services.
Enterprise priorities are no longer around cost cutting but improving response times to meet customer needs and increasing employee productivity.
This includes the integration of collaboration apps, the Web, video and audio conferencing, mobility, Instant Messaging and presence.
"The focus is on productivity and revenue," Edholm said.
Speaking at a CIO Magazine breakfast event which was staged in both Sydney and Melbourne last week, Edholm said touchpoints are growing - from Instant Messaging to e-mail, the PC, telephone and the Web - and the enterprise has to support them all.
"I get business cards with 12 different contact numbers and addresses on them, but the goal is to have a single number that reaches the knowledge worker at any given time regardless of device," he said.
"This is achievable with unified communications as users cannot deal with complexity; 72 percent of consumers cannot program a VCR.
"The phone on my desk should be untethered as today's worker is mobile."
Edholm said increased employee productivity includes reducing the times it take to make a decision.
"Up to 90 percent of this time is wasted with calls waiting in queues or staff waiting for replies from e-mails; the six hours it normally takes to make a decision will be reduced to 15 minutes," he said.