When Clippy, Microsoft’s paper-clip assistant, disappeared in 1998, it was hardly missed; it was both annoying and offered little value to users. Zip forward 16 years: Microsoft has just introduced Cortana, a new personal digital assistant that the firm will launch on Windows Phone in the coming months. Powered by Bing, and about two years in the making, Cortana will be important if Microsoft gets it right. Here’s why it’s an exciting development:
Mobile-first is a growing enterprise strategy. The whole idea of creating a mobile-first enterprise strategy has taken root in many enterprises, as they recognize that users now expect any information or service they desire to be available to them, in context and at their moment of need. Users are cognitively and behaviorally ready to embrace wearable technology as an extension of mobility — and to weave it into their business processes. My colleague JP Gownder shares his views on wearables here.
I attended an NG Telecom summit in Hong Kong recently; at the event, I chaired a discussion on how telcos need to improve the customer experience.
Consumers now have powerful mobile devices in their hands, speedy access to social platforms, and the ability to call up information on the go. More importantly, customers today can choose to easily switch to a competitor if they don’t like the customer experience they are receiving. As a result, telcos no longer “own” customers — it’s the other way around.
The discussion participants all agreed that telcos must do the following to meet customer-centric needs:
Simplify systems and processes. The debate on how to simplify complex telco business support systems (BSS) to make it easy for customers to consume services is an ongoing one. When BSS cannot provide a single, unified view of the customer, it’s difficult to provide a consistent customer experience. This happens with CRM systems: Call center agents struggle through five or six screens just to get a complete customer profile while irate customers spend time repeating their personal details or waiting for a resolution. Telcos must be like OTT players, which have very complicated businesses, systems, and processes on the back end but present a simple front-end interface to the customer.
At Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona, SingTel CEO Chua Sock Koong was reported as “call[ing] on Australian regulators to give carriers like Optus the right to charge rivals WhatsApp and Skype for use of their networks or risk a major decline in network investment.”
With the telecommunications industry unable to monetize over-the-top (OTT) traffic, telcos will struggle to find the funding they need to improve their infrastructure — meaning that network quality could deteriorate. Chua did concede that telcos should work toward partnering with OTT players.
What It Means
SingTel’s argument runs over familiar ground, similar to the ongoing net neutrality debate in the US. My colleagues suggest that telcos will offer tiered access at tiered pricing to OTT players in the future, charging higher prices for better connection speeds and greater data traffic. While I don’t doubt this, price-sensitive Asia may be a harder nut to crack; telcos here run the risk of customer churn by raising service prices.
Aside from speeding up its rate of service innovation, SingTel should:
The government of Singapore has released its 2014 budget, which includes S$500 million (US$400 million) to help drive economic changes at small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). This spending will focus on:
VMware recently announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire AirWatch, a leading provider of enterprise mobile management and security solutions. The acquisition is expected to provide customers with the most complete solution to manage users, devices, and applications across server, desktop, and mobile environments.
VMware obviously has had to expand its penetration beyond the server-centric virtualization market. So far, it has had mixed success with selling virtualization as a platform in the region, even though it has successfully entrenched itself as a leading hypervisor provider (unfortunately, VDI has proved a difficult sell for VMware in AP). In order to gain much deeper penetration and traction, VMware needed to add an end user computing offering to its portfolio. The pairing should result in:
When I interviewed clients for a recent telecom sourcing best practices report, I heard a recurring refrain: “We need to drive down costs.” Both CIOs and sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals measure the health of their department with the amount of annual cost savings they can achieve. While this is a laudable metric, over time it can skew SVM pros’ perspectives and cause them to miss an opportunity to provide value to the business in the form of a vital “always-on” service.
SVM pros should:
Accept that cost savings are limited and short-term. Telecommunications is highly regulated in Asia Pacific; local competition is limited and governments own significant stakes in incumbent telcos. While cost savings can be had, they will diminish over the lifespan of a contract. SVM pros must understand how to work with lines of business and suppliers to create more value for the organization.
Focus instead on always-on service availability. Firms must focus on the fundamentals: ensuring that their communications services push toward always-on service availability. Getting the right price for services is important, but SVM pros in Asia Pacific must align business needs to service sourcing and ensure that the service delivers the expected value in terms of availability and quality.
Engender trust with providers with long-term commitments. View service providers as long-term partners; this will take the uncertainty out of the relationship and engender trust. One company was happy to lock in a five-year rental with an equipment supplier, eliminating a source of business risk in a volatile Asian economy. Focusing on long-term contracts gives providers the impetus to serve you well.
ASEAN IT spending will grow by 7% in 2014. A weak global economic recovery and unstable domestic spending led to slower 2013 economic and tech industry growth in China and directly or indirectly affected export-oriented economies in the Pacific and ASEAN. This combined with ongoing structural problems in India and dwindling foreign direct investments in ASEAN to produce slower than expected IT spending growth across Asia Pacific in 2013. Forrester expects IT spending growth in the broader Asia Pacific region to improve slightly in 2014 versus the prior year, with regionwide growth of 4%, while IT spending in ASEAN will grow by about 7%.
Transformation projects are the main drivers of IT spending. Debt levels in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia will continue to be a major source of concern for foreign investors, whose lack of investment will in turn limit growth in these countries. Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia will lead the ASEAN region in terms of IT purchase growth, most of which will come from companies undertaking large IT transformation projects and implementing best practices to improve their competitiveness in a slower, more uncertain economy. Thailand’s ongoing political uncertainty may also affect how IT investments flow into the country, and hence its IT spending growth rate in 2014.
SAP is betting that its future lies in the cloud. While the company still books just 5% of its global revenue from cloud services, SAP is putting the cloud at the center of its growth strategy, unveiling new business models and initiatives aimed at increasing the cloud consumption of its applications. To facilitate this, SAP is making it easier for clients and partners to embrace the cloud. For example, its cloud extension policy allows customers to reallocate existing license seats to a cloud subscription. Clients can unlock the stored value of unused licences and put it to work, giving end users access to meaningful applications in the cloud.
What It Means
SAP has a number of cloud services on offer, and the changes the company is making to pursue its high-growth strategy in Asia will not only transform SAP’s business model, it will also change how its partners do business. Client organizations in Asia will also have to adapt and:
Telstra hosted its annual analyst event in Sydney on October 23 and 24. In his keynote address, CEO David Thodey compared Telstra’s customer advocacy journey to a triathlon that the firm has just begun, which we believe it a fitting analogy for Telstra’s progress on the path it has set for itself. The company is clearly in the race and making progress, but still has many miles to go.
While the company shared a broad spectrum of initiatives, our main observations are that Telstra:
Has made clear progress since our check-in last year, but its transformation remains a work in progress. Telstra is no different than other incumbent telcos working to transform beyond traditional — and declining — sources of revenue. Its dominant position in Australia is secure, but its prospects in new market categories inside and outside of Australia are less certain. We do not believe that Telstra is particularly innovative compared with service providers in the US or Europe, but we do believe that it has a viable transformation strategy and is making progress. Its progress in the Australian media and entertainment industry, including its Foxtel investments, is impressive — it has built a large IP-based digital media file exchange platform to serve global broadcasters and content providers.
Carrier Ethernet aims to provide users with a wide-area service to connect sites, in the same way that asynchronous transfer mode (ATM), Frame Relay, and X.25 services from carriers have done in the past. While end user demand for carrier Ethernet services in Asia is relatively small, it’s growing year over year and is having an impact on service providers’ bottom lines: Carrier Ethernet services currently account for 8% to 10% of service providers’ total connectivity revenues in the region.