Poor network infrastructure undermines all digital transformation initiatives. The major technology building blocks affecting digital business are mobility, cloud, big data insights, and social collaboration. Thus, the key contribution to digital ecosystems by telcos is undoubtedly the provisioning of quality connectivity. However, many telcos we speak to have much larger ambitions. Can telcos increase their role in the digital value chain — and if so, how? Several macro-trends have an impact on the potential for telcos in digital ecosystems:
Rising customer sophistication is driving businesses to become more customer-obsessed. Businesses must work with ecosystem partners and vendors to improve customer experiences and drive operational excellence to enhance smart manufacturing, distribution, and supply chains. These operational ecosystems are essential to support the customer in his various life-cycle stages. Ultimately, the future of telcos in the digital context will be decided by their big data, cloud, and service orchestration capabilities.
Poor network infrastructure constitutes a major CIO challenge. CIOs at leading companies must support their organizations to take on the role of major ecosystem hubs with the assistance of mobility, cloud, big data insights, and social collaboration. The value and quality of digital ecosystem membership correlates with the quality of network-based interaction and collaboration solutions.
I believe that network-as-a-service-type offerings — where customers can control the provisioning and characteristics of their network transport services — will have a long-term impact on those enterprises undertaking digital transformation. Businesses that fail to recognize the significance of quality network infrastructure will undermine their digital business strategy. Secure, stable network connectivity is a prerequisite for using cloud, mobile, big data, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) solutions. As the business technology (BT) agenda gains momentum, CIOs are looking to technologies like virtualization and cloud that create agility by dynamically responding to business conditions. Network infrastructure has been a laggard on this score — until now.
AT&T has unveiled its solution, Network on Demand. It’s the basis for a new category of services aligned with customer requirements, including self-service access, control, and configuration of network bandwidth and features like security, routing, and load balancing. Network on Demand:
Gives customers control of network services. Network on Demand offers a completely different customer experience regarding network provisioning. Near-real-time provisioning via a self-service portal makes the customer’s network responsive to business needs.
As the digital economy gains momentum, CIOs will have to reassess and evolve their technology vendor portfolio. CIOs need to evaluate if their main technology vendors support the required new business practices and focus on crucial technologies.
Cisco has made massive investments in its portfolio and go-to-market strategies that help to sustain its role as a preferred vendor to most of its clients. We believe, however, that Cisco still has some distance to travel to transform its skillsets and business culture to become a trulystrategic technology provider. The recent leadership transition offers Cisco the opportunity to redouble its efforts to strengthen its digital and customer experience skills, flatten its corporate hierarchies, and build a strong digital ecosystem of software and services partners. Our main observations when scrutinizing Cisco as a vendor in the emerging digital ecosystem are that:
Cisco is on the path to becoming a partner of the CIO's technology agenda.Cisco has launched programs to change its operational setup, its business culture, its compensation incentives, and its skillsets. Its willingness to disrupt itself positions Cisco well to eventually transform from a network business into a global BT provider.
A gap remains between top management's vision and Cisco's go-to-market pitch.Cisco's vision to transform from selling networking boxes to selling architectures, solutions, and business outcomes is spot-on. However, we still perceive a go-to-market approach focused on engineering and products. This disconnect remains a challenge to becoming a strategic technology provider.
The old telco business model is breaking up. Telcos are at a crossroads, with one path leading to becoming pure utilities, another to transforming into important members of digital ecosystems, and a third to their complete demise.
Telcos have had years to prepare for this situation, but few have used their time effectively. At this stage, I see few reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for most telcos to recover the ground they’ve lost to other players in the emerging digital ecosystems because:
Consumers care more about apps and devices than connectivity than ever.One main impact of the onslaught on telcos by over-the-top providers like Facebook and handset manufacturers like Apple has been to push telco brands to the back of the consumer’s mind. Consumers care more about which handset and apps they use than which connectivity provider they have. Telco brands just don’t rock as they used to years ago.
Business leaders do not see telcos as the first choice to provide ICT services.Data from Forrester’s Global Business Technographics® Networks And Telecommunications Survey 2015 shows that business and IT users trust systems integrators and independent solution specialists more than telcos with a wide spectrum of voice, data, and managed services. One of the reasons is that business and IT users feel that telcos don’t understand their specific business requirements sufficiently.
Orange hosted its analyst event in Paris in July 2015, detailing its Essentials 2020 strategy for business customers. Central to Orange’s Essentials 2020 strategy is:
Pushing its customer experience capabilities. Orange shared its ambition to make its entire organization listen to its customers more effectively. In our opinion, Orange is one of the more CIO-focused telcos. One of Orange’s key goals is to support the CIO in regaining control over technology projects that have been lost to line-of-business (LOB) managers, who launch technology projects outside the CIO’s remit. Importantly, Orange also told us that it is working increasingly with LOB managers.
Driving the cultural transformation of Orange itself. Orange must become braver to disrupt itself. This includes bringing in new perspectives and experiences from outside, including other sectors. There are some encouraging signs that this is beginning to happen. For instance, Orange Business Services recruited its deputy CEO, Laurent Paillassot, from the financial services sector and put the American Diana Einterz in charge of its French Major Accounts.
Enhancing its digital solutions. Orange recognizes the greater role of software and data in its customers’ and its own business models. At the event, Orange demonstrated a number of interesting digital solutions in the Internet-of-Things (IoT), mobile, and healthcare spaces, which equal those of its leading telco peers.
Several Forrester analysts attended Huawei’s 12th global analyst summit in Shenzhen recently. This post will focus on the perspective of European CIOs; in our view, they should take note of Huawei due to the firm’s growing strength in the European enterprise segment. For Forrester’s global perspective on the event, please refer to our upcoming report. For European CIOs, the main takeaways of the analyst summit are that Huawei is:
Strengthening its financial performance. Huawei’s enterprise divisions — which the firm just announced in 2011 — impresses with its strong growth rates. Huawei grew its enterprise activities by 27% to $3.1 billion in 2014; two-thirds of that growth came from outside China, with Europe accounting for the largest share of that. Huawei’s goal is to grow its enterprise business to $10 billion by 2019. Outside of China — which still accounts for 38% of Huawei’s revenues — EMEA will continue to play a critical role for Huawei, as it accounts for 35% of revenues. In EMEA, Huawei reported revenue growth of 20%.
At the same time, for business leaders, having access to quality network infrastructure represents a vital underpinning for their digital business and their long-term competitive advantage. We predict that by 2015 and beyond:
The telco business model will shift from sustaining to enabling critical infrastructure. Traditionally, the telco business model focused on sustaining operational efficiency of network infrastructure. In the years ahead, we predict a shift toward enabling solutions that support telco clients to engage with their customers more effectively. This mirrors not only the CIO’s shift from IT towards business technology but will also be the overarching theme during the transformation of the telco business model.
Some 80,000 visitors ventured to Barcelona to attend the annual congregation for the mobile-minded, the Mobile World Congress (MWC). Long gone are the days when one single theme dominated the show. My main impression of MWC was that compared with last year, there was surprisingly little true news. I see evolution not revolution, which is somewhat odd as the overall business environment is clearly changing faster than ever.
Of course, everybody again claimed that they are active in the obligatory fields of cloud, analytics, and customer experience. However, if anything, I feel this convergence of marketing messages creates too many platitudes and undermines the practical use case scenarios that define the mobile mind shift. I went to MWC with several questionsin mind, and my main takeaways of MWC are that:
Ericsson is well on its way to being a prime driver of transformation in the Networked Society, as Ericsson describes its vision. I do not question the leading position of Ericsson’s core network activities. But compared to last year’s EMEA Analyst Event, Ericsson has made noticeable progress in its ambition to become a network-focused provider of ICT services because it:
Has a clearer perspective of what it is trying to achieve for its enterprise customers. Ericsson is much more specific about which types of enterprise customers it is catering to with what types of services. It targets sectors that face a high degree of mobile disruption and that rely on secure networks for real-time information transmission. In addition to the public and media sectors, which Ericsson has been focusing on for some time, it serves utilities and transport and logistics companies. At the event, Ericsson showcased its strong capabilities and vertical expertise for the media sector in the form of media delivery networks and broadcasting services.
As many market observers had expected for sometime, Nokia closed the chapter on what can only be described as a dramatic climb-down for what once was the world’s leading mobile player. Nokia agreed to sell its Devices & Services business to Microsoft for 5.4 billion euros. What does this mean for Nokia Solutions and Services (NSN), formerly Nokia Siemens Networks? I have several observations:
I expect that more change for both Nokia and NSN lies ahead. Nobody can accuse Nokia of shying away from fundamental transformations: from pulp producer, to electronic component supplier, to mobile phone company, to now what resembles a holding company looking after a network infrastructure business (NSN), a cloud-based mapping service (HERE), and a patents and a licensing operation (Advanced Technologies). I see no synergies between these operations. Hence, a breakup of Nokia followed by an initial public offering of NSN could be one possibility. At the Mobile World Congress 2013, NSN presented itself in a manner what - to me - looked like dressing up for an IPO: a lean and mean provider of mobile broadband network solutions.