Amsterdam is a handy place for Orange Business Services to have an event – not so much because it’s one of the most connected hubs in Europe, but because the place is swathed in orange! It feels like they have branded the entire city. Location aside, it has been a timely moment to reflect on what has happened in the last 12 months since Orange Business Live 2009.

Helmut Reisinger, Senior Vice President Europe, Orange Business Services, kicked off the event, setting some local context, reminding us that 25% of the Netherlands is below the water level (the airport, where I landed, yesterday is 4m below sea level). Broadcaster Sarah Coburn, who is anchoring the event, joined Helmut for a review of the last year. It’s easy to forget how much the world has transformed in the last couple of years.

Post-Lehman Brothers, business attitudes and the financial systems have been transformed. In some ways, not as dramatically as some would like, but never the less they have changed. How are businesses now? “Cautiously Optimistic” is the phrase on people’s lips. We’ve gone down the waterfall, and are looking at the river ahead. But it isn’t just finance that has changed. From volcanos to oil spills, the environment is in sharper focus than it ever has been before. The impact for the CIOs here is two fold:

  • Firstly, deploying technologies like telepresence to reduce travel and its associated carbon footprint.
  • Secondly, looking at the environmental impact of the IT infrastructure, from data centres, to more efficient desktops.

Geography has changed too. Helmut talked about the shift to the emerging economies, and Yee May Leong, from Orange Business Services in Asia Pacific, joined him on stage to give some startling insights to China. I know China is big, but it is easy to forget how quite how big it is, and more importantly how big it will most likely become. And China is just one piece of the Asia Pacific puzzle, especially when you add India into the mix. ICT decision making is increasingly moving to China, and that is influencing service offerings for providers, with the focus moving from “5 star service” to “fast service” – getting new cities and locations up and running super-fast. The Asian economies, on average, are forecast to grow 2-5 times as quickly as the US and Europe over the next few years. That changes things.

It’s a global world, and communication technology is an increasingly important part of it. Being here with the Orange Business services team is proving a great opportunity to catch up with the latest developments and their impact. They run many of the world’s largest networks, and have done for many years, and it’s interesting to note that they see and ‘get’ the importance and impact of social technologies on business. There is a tribe of bloggers here, both internal and external. I’m surrounded by information feeds, communications technologies and it’s all about business.

Social Media is no longer a toy. It’s coming of age as a business tool for connecting employees, customers and businesses, in real-time, across the globe. Get your business onboard before the train leaves the station.