Everyone’s using the term “sustainability.” And, I’ll admit I’m a little jaded. But, given that it’s around to stay for a while, let’s take a look at the term. What are the primary objectives of “sustainability” initiatives? Are they “green” – with an eye toward protecting the environment by reducing the effects of climate change? Are they economic – cost cutting, increasing efficiency? “Sustain” seems static, maintain the current state. But some are thinking about “sustainability” as a means of generating growth. A few weeks ago, I started an interesting discussion about “operational sustainability” with Rich Lechner, IBM Vice President for Energy and Environment. (I say started because it actually continued this week, and will likely continue further.)
“Sustain to grow” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s not. First let’s think about efficiency. What does it mean to be more efficient? Efficiency to me is the goal to “do more with less” – improving the ratio of output to input. So you cut and improve productivity ratios that way. But what if you’ve cut as much as you can, and you still want to do more, to improve those ratios? How can you grow within the limits of the resources you have? Sustain resources, increase productivity or capacity – in whatever terms or measures of capacity you use. This translates into the objective behind “operational sustainability.” How do you improve operations or processes in order to improve outcomes, within the limits of available resources?
I will be joining Forrester's Tweet Jam on Cloud Computing today to add some commentary on the differences we're seeing in attitudes toward "cloud" as a delivery model and in adoption across countries. Interest and adoption differs significantly across countries. While in most countries the primary drivers of both Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are around speed and flexibility, in others the primary drivers are cost. Interestingly, in India and Russia, the No. 1 driver for IaaS is "improving disaster recovery and business continuity." IT decision-makers in those markets prefer to rely on those focused on delivering infrastructure than on their own datacenter, for certain projects.
As for inhibitors, the main concerns are pretty common across countries: security and privacy issues, integration with existing infrastructure and applications, and uncertainty around to total cost of ownership. While many are driven by the desire to move from fixed cost to rotating costs (capex to opex), they remain concerned about the total costs in the long-run.
Mature market telecom operators can learn from many of their fellow service providers in emerging markets. Recognizing that contexts differ – and they certainly do – there is still a sharp contrast in approaches to their markets. Ellen Daley and I just returned from India where we met with Indian telecom operators and services firms, and conducted an interactive session with telecom product and service providers – Forrester TelecomNext 2010. Both were an opportunity for us to listen and learn as well as share our observations on the industry.
With well over 500 million subscribers and a growth rate of more than 11% a quarter in 2009, the Indian mobile market is certainly attractive. But, Indian telecom operators face a tough competitive environment with some “circles” having upwards of a half dozen or more service providers (there are 23 telecom regions in India, known as “circles”), and the overall market packed with thirteen competitors. ARPUs are low and shrinking, with an average of about $2/month in March 2010. And, the price tag for 3G licenses in India added additional pain, with some vendors paying almost $3 billion in the spectrum auction. High costs and low revenues do not make for an easy road ahead.