There is a post-war generation that tends to believe that it saw more technological advancement than any other, but in terms of speed it is last decade that has produced change at record levels.
Driving the momentum has been the internet, which has changed the way people work and the routes resellers take to customers, but there are also warnings that service levels will have to improve if the expansion of web-based services is to continue to flourish.
Putting the changes of the last decade in some sort of context, the BT 21st Century Life Index report revealed that more people were connected to the web, using it to buy products and exploiting its flexibility to work remotely.
Ian Neild, disruptive futurologist at BT, said the pace of change was a challenge for the channel because working out which direction to go in was now more difficult. “What used to take 10 years to happen can now happen in six months,” he said.
One of changes that the channel has already felt is around the growing interest in cloud computing, and Neild said that services would only increase because “everyone is always online and connected”.
In terms of predicting the future, a BT poll indicated that customers would want more video and voice over IP services.
Scott Brothers, director of product management at Masergy, said a growing number of people were working from home, with many encouraged to do so because of rising fuel costs, but it could not be taken for granted that current services would be adequate for their needs.
He added that customers had to be offered a quality of service environment where voice and video were delivered without a decrease in network performance.
In terms of selling goods online, Nick Glynne, managing director at Easy Computers, said e-tailers had to be careful in taking the expansion of the web for granted, because bad service and credit card fraud could combine to undermine confidence.
“There are also problems with delivery, with people having to wait in all day for big ticket items. All that the logistics firms can tell them at the moment is the day of delivery, so people are stuck indoors taking time off work,” he said.
Glynne added that technology could solve most of the problems but more pressure needed to be brought to bear to improve the position.
“In the early days of the web, it was a bit like a jumble sales – people would put up with poor service because it was cheap and new – but not any longer,” he said.
Kevin McCallum, commercial director at Pegasus, said it was incorporating more web features into products, and pushing those features to customers was where the resellers could tap into the widespread changes that BT was describing.
“It has almost happened by stealth and there has not been a big marketing process, it is just happening,” he said.