The ‘PSTN Switch Off’ (PSO) is going to be big…

The impact

It’s going to manifest in ways in which we expect, but also those which will come as a surprise.

Devices and systems that have integrated into the fabric of our working life will quietly stop; unable to communicate with their control systems. We’ll likely anticipate most instances but some we may miss. Worryingly this may include lift phones, door entry systems and security alarms where a business may not discover their sudden obsolescence until too late! Inconvenient at best, potentially more distressing if someone becomes trapped in a lift with no means of communication, not to mention the non-compliance with Health and Safety regulations.

Parallels with the ‘millennium bug’ (MB)

Clearly parallels exist with that huge tech milestone of 23 years ago: the ‘millennium bug’ (MB). Those of working age at the time will remember the ‘hype’ about planes falling out of the sky on the stroke of 12am, 2000. Hype aside, and there was a lot of it, the difference between the MB and the PSO is in part form factor: MB was software in origin whereas PSO is network-driven, but moreover a key difference was in the fact that the MB, long prior to the event, entered the public consciousness.

This was, in no small part, because of the hype and the catastrophizing about it but that said, people in their professional and private lives were aware of the change and its potential impact, with many organisations employing one of the then dwindling number of available consultants to identify and mitigate the potential impact. Alternatively, organisations formed their own internal ‘SWAT team’ to perform a similar role – if they had the software skills.

Fast-forward nearly a quarter of a century and we are facing an equivalent national infrastructure ‘mass extinction event’ in the form of PSO’s copper wire retirement and the upgrade to fibre. But where is the national consciousness on this, as it will affect us as consumers? Or at least the business community’s attention? In part it may be due to the less dramatic outcomes predicted for PSO compared with the MB. It may also be due to the curiously low-key awareness campaign by BT, Openreach and the Government.

The right response

For the business community though, a fair response would be that it’s still transitioning on from the society-changing lockdowns and resulting hybrid working; the current workforce shortages and mass resignation; all whilst coping with rising energy costs and bracing for the resulting recession and changes to consumer behaviour. These near-term disruptions will hit before the PSO with the latter event still over 3 years out. A fair challenge in terms of prioritising PSO in the corporate agenda and long-term IT strategy.

However, Digital Space recommends that organisations position the PSO on their long-term plan now! Furthermore, that they view PSO as another of the economic and social headwinds that have hit organisations over what will go down as a hugely challenging 2020-2025 period in which to operate.

Certainly, whilst easy to suggest, it may appear more difficult for organisations to plan, but CIOs should target the navigation of PSO as another outcome of their digital transformation agenda which successful organisations are using to:

  • Pivot through lockdown by enabling a hybrid workforce.
  • Improve their employee experience to encourage staff retention and engagement.
  • Devolve and improve customer service over a virtual contact centre model.
  • Manage their cost over an optimised hybrid IT platform (through datacentre, private and public cloud) to minimize the impact of fuel price increases, and now including network and connectivity modernization to address PSO whilst improving security and end-customer experience

Adding the list of digital transformation outcomes, we want to achieve.

A core set of security, connectivity, and hybrid cloud services are vital. Thankfully, the technologies are in place to do just this. This is not a huge shopping list of products, it’s about carefully integrating strategic platform elements of security, connectivity, and cloud to form a robust but agile platform underpinning digital transformation. This holistic view, delivered in partnership with an experienced manager service provider, is the key to building competitive advantage and thriving in the face of these oncoming headwinds.

About Digital Space

Digital Space delivers progressive digital solutions that enable organisations to transform at pace. Focused on enabling change for our customers, we provide secure, connected cloud managed services to the UK mid-enterprise.

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