The environmental scan is focused on identifying and analyzing the threats in the external environment. There are factors outside of the company that can reduce revenue or profits for the future. These can be obstacles, externally-driven changes or just competition (MindTools, 2013). Deltacom faces a number of such threats. The main threats in the external environment are competitors, regulators, and economic threats. Competitors are a significant threat. Deltacom operates in eight southern states, and it competes against other national and regional players. Deltacom has been purchased by Earthlink and renamed Earthlink Business, indicating that it competes for business with corporate customers (Deltacom.com, 2013). The competition includes some major companies, like AT&T, Verizon and more, in addition to smaller, more regional players. Competitors will use all manner of enticements to attract competitors, and this can affect the prices or the margins that Deltacom earns. Clearly, Deltacom faced substantial competition in its market, as it was forced to sell out to Earthlink, a tactic normally associated with a struggling company.
The second major environmental threat is regulatory. While all businesses face basic regulatory burden in the form of human resources and environmental laws, the telecommunications industry is one of the more heavily-regulated industries. The industry is governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a body that among other things investigates the conduct of telecommunications firms and auctions off wireless bandwidth. Because most of Deltacom's business is landline-based, the company is not as heavily-impacted by regulatory burden as many other firms in the industry.
The third major environmental threat is economic. When the economy is struggling, firms will often reduce their expenditure on all items, including telecommunications. It could be argued that a sluggish economy represents an opportunity to grow telecommunications businesses as a substitute for travel, but when businesses are closing and contracting, the net effect is at best a wash, and more likely a revenue downturn for firms that service other businesses.
Deltacom does not have too many strengths. The company was bought out by Earthlink, and this gives it two main sources of strength. First, the Earthlink brand is more widely-known as this was one of the tech companies that rose to prominence in the late 1990s. Deltacom has a presence in eight states, and has built up a network of customers in that region -- this geographic base is a source of strength should the company seek to improve its share, building on the reputation that it already has. The company has a group of talented, dedicated employees who can help it to recover after a difficult period surrounding the Earthlink acquisition.
However, the challenge for Deltacom is that many of its competitors possess the same strengths, and in some cases more strengths. Larger firms have greater capacity to invest in technology upgrades, for example. Earthlink itself is struggling after the purchase. It lost money in the last fiscal year, and with the debt it assumed from Deltacom, Earthlink has seen the book value of its equity decline in the past couple of years. It does not look like there is much financial strength at present for the company, but compared with prior to the acquisition, Deltacom is in a much better place financially, so that is something.
It will be difficult for Deltacom/Earthlink Business to leverage these strengths in the marketplace. Their competitive position as a smaller, regional firm is such that they need to leverage the familiarity of the Earthlink name in one of two ways. They need to either be a low cost provider or a high-end provider. They should not seek the middle ground, taking on the major competitors head-to-head (QuickMBA, 2010). Earthlink does not really have the money to invest in technology to be a high end player, so should probably focus on developing a low cost strategy that sees them undercut the major players in order to build the business. They should still provide strong service, but must keep costs a little bit lower than the national competitors.
The industry leader in business telecommunications is AT&T. This company is much larger than Deltacom, and therefore has more capital to invest in superior technology. AT&T is national in scope, which can be seen as a plus or not. AT&T offers a wide range of business services and unlike Deltacom has a strong presence in wireless and even handheld devices. AT&T is a tough competitor because of these advantages. It also…