Telcos Badly Need Shock Therapy -- But Politicians And Regulators Are Unlikely To Support This Treatment

The other day, I met with the strategy director of a European telco. Let’s call him Art. We shared an informal discussion about the future of telcos. Personally, I am fairly skeptical about the prospects of telcos to recover ground – in particular in Europe.

Consumers are more concerned about the apps they use and the devices that they have than what connectivity they use, as I outline in the report The Future Of Over-The-Top Services. Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, which measures consumer perceptions of telco services, shows telcos near the bottom of all sector readings.

On the business side, data from Forrester’s Business Technographics® Global Networks And Telecommunications Survey, 2014 shows that business users trust systems integrators and independent solution specialists more than telcos with almost all voice and data service, because they feel that telcos don’t understand their specific business requirements as well.

Add an unfavorable regulatory environment — which, under the umbrella of the net neutrality debate, is about to close the door on commercial relationships regarding quality connectivity between content and network providers — and it becomes difficult to be wildly optimistic about the future of telcos. Yet, this is not where our discussion ended. Art pointed to three major issues where telcos will need shock therapy:

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Business and network strategies will become more integrated as the network becomes the nervous system of the digital business

The enterprise network is the ugly duckling of enterprise technology landscape, looked at disparagingly by CIOs and often ignored by the business. The enterprise network is much less exciting than all the fancy projects like cloud, mobility, and big data.

Yet the enterprise network represents the vital underpinning for all these projects and increasingly evolves into a business-critical asset for companies looking to succeed in the age of the customer. It becomes the nervous system of the digital business. It facilitates deeper customer engagement by connecting manufacturers, sellers, and buyers of products in new ways, and it helps drive more operational efficiencies as it supports closer collaboration and connects previously disjointed assets. For most business leaders, the network infrastructure isn't much more than a utility, such as electricity or plumbing, while most CIOs don't know how to monetize it. This is a business challenge for the connected business as:

  • The enterprise network enables business success in the age of the customer. Customer engagement, internal collaboration, and the emergence of digital products and services all rely on a quality network infrastructure. Moreover, network data and business intelligence turn the network into an asset for monetization. As a result, the enterprise network no longer functions as a commodity but becomes a key function for success in the age of the customer.
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