Have you ever wondered if your home broadband is being effectively utilized? What if you could squeeze more out of your data allowance when outside your home? Telstra may have cracked this problem in Australia: It will invest more than A$100 million to build a nationwide Wi-Fi network as part of a strategy to increase connectivity in the places Australians live, work, and visit, including cafes, shops, sports grounds, and transport hubs.
The strategy aims to offer all Australians — whether or not they’re Telstra customers — access to 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation within five years. Telstra home broadband customers can install new gateways that allow them to securely share a portion of their bandwidth with other Telstra Wi-Fi customers in exchange for broadband access at Telstra hotspots across the nation. Non-Telstra customers can purchase daily hotspot access. The network, scheduled to launch in early 2015, will also reach overseas; an exclusive deal recently concluded between Telstra and global Wi-Fi provider Fon will allow people to connect at more than 12 million hotspots worldwide.
What It Means
Telstra has been at the forefront of improving the telco customer experience; its CEO, David Thodey, has been a major driving force behind that. This has put Telstra’s local competitors on notice and provides valuable lessons in how to raise the customer experience game:
My recent report, “Driving Toward Communications Sourcing Excellence,” looks behind the scenes to find out why Formula One (F1) sourcing professionals enjoy such a great customer experience from their network providers. It’s a two-way street: Providers ensure that the F1 team’s network is reliable, always available, and delivers peak performance when needed, and F1 sourcing pros provide the guidance, insight, and support to make sure providers know what teams need. This is as much a concern for CIOs as it is for sourcing pros in their quest to win, serve, and retain customers.
Matt Cadieux, the CIO of Infiniti Red Bull Racing, said, “AT&T has a dedicated F1 account team that I meet for regular account reviews to discuss our requirements and plans. In the rare event of a problem, we also have excellent relationships with AT&T’s top executives. AT&T has consistently delivered projects when required; for example, in 2014 it provisioned new access networks in England and France and at racetracks around the world. These circuits have been fully operational — we show up and they just work.”
What It Means
My colleague Tracy Stokes believes that a consistent customer experience builds a trusted brand, and I couldn’t agree more. It also leads to:
“The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” This popular quote hit home at the Global Mobile Internet Conference panel on meeting the challenge of global connectivity that I moderated this week. Internet.org is a global partnership between technology leaders, nonprofits, local communities, and experts who are working together to bring the Internet to the two-thirds of the world’s population that don’t have it. Founding partners include Facebook, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Nokia (now Microsoft Mobile), and Opera.
What it means
The age of the customer is everywhere. This point was cemented at the conference. Device makers, network infrastructure providers, and app developers have to work with telecom providers to leverage existing 2G/3G assets to tap unconnected subscribers or miss out on business opportunities. Governments also need to help by, for example, providing consistent electricity to homes. Improving the customer experience can help businesses grow.
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.