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New research suggests that European businesses need to work harder to integrate better, but modern communications tools help business leaders foster a borderless business environment

London, UK – 12 December, 2007: European business leaders believe cross-border economic collaboration has finally arrived, according to a new study launched today by European business communication provider Interoute. Following calls for a ‘model’ EU and for free trade to be extended to cover new EU members, together with the European Commission’s drive to create a “level playing field” for European telecommunications, the research reveals that 70 per cent of European business leaders (and 82 per cent of UK senior executives) already see a ‘borderless business culture’ within Europe.

Interoute surveyed 1,050 senior business decision-makers across seven European countries (UK, France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and Poland), and found that 65 per cent of respondents have reduced their carbon footprints by cutting back on their travel thanks to technological advances limiting the need for in-person meetings. The majority of respondents saw this as a highly positive by-product of modern business. Central to this is the advent of innovative communications tools, with the study highlighting:

• Ubiquitous use of mobile telephony across Europe

• The use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has increased 20 per cent since 2000 (almost half of British businesses using the technology in 2007)

• Instant Messaging usage is up 69 per cent since 2000

This illustrates that businesses are embracing technology to help close cultural and physical business boundaries to succeed economically.

“In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Europe was more of a closed environment with communication between nations limited by technology,” commented Gareth Williams, CEO at Interoute. “Since the mid ‘90s, technology has acted as a catalyst for European businesses to collaborate. Email, for instance, has breathed new life into the economy and real-time, cost-effective communications mean that the modern enterprise can seamlessly conduct business across multiple geographies irrespective of political borders. The evolution of Unified Communications will help businesses find new ways of working.”

The survey found that the UK is widely regarded as the easiest nation to do business with, closely followed by France and Spain. UK leaders found German businesses the easiest to work with (26 per cent), possibly indicating that years of mutual animosity have passed and collaboration is the way forward. However, the rest of Europe polled Germany (together with France) as the toughest countries to do business with, each taking a fifth of the votes. Cultural differences still run deep as 41 per cent of Polish respondents feel that Germany heads the list of difficult countries.

Most countries were too respectful to state how/why countries were hard to do business with, but the consensus among UK respondents was that bureaucracy (14 per cent), lack of modern technology (12 per cent) and unresponsiveness (12 per cent) were major limitations to effective business relationships. Modern communications tools, such as Instant Messaging, are helping to address the lack of technology and boosting collaboration. However, this is having an effect on inter-personal relationships as almost three quarters of business heads feel that changing communication tools have reduced the amount of in-person time spent with customers and partners.

“Long gone are the days when face-to-face meetings are necessary. Video conferencing usage has increased 17 per cent in seven years, with nations such as the UK, Germany and Poland embracing it the most. To realise the maximum potential of such innovative business tools, speed and reliability is of the essence. Patchwork communications infrastructures will not do; building a business ethos around an unstable architecture is economically unsound. Business leaders need to have faith in the tools at their disposal and this is why more and more organisations demand pan-European IP coverage”, concluded Williams.

Other findings from the survey included:

• Two thirds of European business leaders work less than 60 hours a week. Nearly half of UK respondents work longer than this – 24 per cent work over 70 hours a week

• 55 per cent work longer hours in 2007 than in 2000, but France and Spain have reduced their working hours (presumably in line with new EU legislation)

• The adoption of flexible working outside the UK is poor. On average, just 16 per cent of business leaders used remote working tools (i.e. VPN) with French respondents the least likely to adopt this, at nine per cent. UK workers take advantage of this the most (34 per cent)

• Over a quarter of British business heads have made the fatal business mistake of using inappropriate local ‘jargon’ when communicating with foreign colleagues which hindered a deal

About Interoute

Interoute is the owner operator of Europe's most advanced and densely connected voice and data network, encompassing over 54,000 kms of lit fibre. Its full-service next generation network serves more than 12,000 customers across a broad range of sectors from finance to retail and every major European incumbent, as well as the major operators of North America, East and South Asia, governments, universities and research agencies. These organisations find Interoute the ideal partner for hosting content, providing wholesale transit services, corporate access or creating new services. With established operations throughout mainland Europe, North America and Dubai Interoute also owns and operates dense city networks throughout Europe's major business centres. More than €1 billion in e-commerce transactions flows through its data centres each day, making Interoute a key part of Europe’s Digital Supply Chain.


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