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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The Collaborative Economy Will Drive Business Innovation And Growth

Over the past two decades, the Internet has triggered a tectonic shift in the concept of networking — one that has redefined how companies market and sell products. More recently, social media, mobile, and cloud have fundamentally changed the concept of collaboration, enabling businesses, employees, customers, and partners to continuously interact with each other to create innovative new products and services and enhance existing ones. Rising customer expectations and faster product life cycles are forcing companies to adapt to a new style of business: “the collaborative economy.” My new report outlines the core dynamics of the collaborative economy and the implications for CIOs and their business partners:

  • Collaboration is much more than unified communications. It’s not sufficient for the CIO to roll out a unified communications solution; technology solutions alone do not change business processes or support employees’ changing collaborative behavior — let alone alter business models. A modern collaboration strategy requires CIOs to make organizational adjustments in addition to technology planning.
  • Collaboration is becoming part of the corporate strategy. A modern collaboration platform is the foundation for better innovation, faster processes, and greater employee satisfaction, which lead to happier customers and new revenue opportunities. We believe that modern collaboration is part of competitive advantage — and leading CIOs must support it as part of their group strategy.
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Philips’ Journey Toward Becoming A Connected Business

Macro trends in technology and shifting customer behavior are giving rise to the connected business — which is not defined by technology but is rather a new style of doing business. CIOs will be responsible for introducing technology solutions that help break down silos, boost cross-team collaboration, drive the end-to-end customer experience, and engage more deeply with customers. In order to succeed, CIOs must go beyond technology enablement and support organizational and cultural transformation.

With Jeroen Tas, one of the most renowned technology visionaries in Europe, as its CIO, Philips made a number of strategic decisions to transform itself into a connected business. Forrester believes that CIOs should familiarize themselves with Philips’ strategic, operational, and cultural transformation and learn from it, as Philips offers CIOs valuable lessons in planning the transition to a connected business:

  • Philips embraces digital propositions at the expense of standalone products. Philips maps out customer journeys and ensures that its products turn into plug-ins for broader digital propositions. The firm connects all of its propositions through data, communities, and collaboration, allowing it to understand who the customers are and how they use products. Philips decides how it needs to develop its portfolio based on these customer journey maps, opening up new business models.
  • Interdisciplinary teams help open up new revenue streams. The old model — all marketing people sitting together, all IT people sitting together, all supply-chain people sitting  together — is outdated. Interdisciplinary teams force people to speak each other’s language. At Philips, interdisciplinary teams have also resulted in much higher job satisfaction.
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Mobile World Congress 2014: The Mobile Mind Shift Is Becoming Reality — But MWC Still Falls Short Of Its True Potential

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 questions in mind, and my main takeaways of MWC are that:

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The Facebook/WhatsApp Deal Is Bad News For Telcos

Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp shows that the market for messaging is far from dead. But it’s just gotten worse for the telcos. We’ve already discussed the underlying reasons in a report — but the fact that Facebook put $19 billion on the table, of which $4 billion is in cash, for a global messaging service with 55 staff should scare telcos, with their millions of employees and high-cost structures. Over-the-top communications tools like WhatsApp, Line, KakaoTalk, WeChat, and Viber (which itself was bought a few days ago by Rakuten) have pushed telcos further and further away from any meaningful customer engagement.

To be sure, WhatsApp is about much more than instant messaging; it’s about content sharing — which is an emotional activity. Such emotional activities are critical to closer customer engagement. As the online giants use ever more granular user analytics to cement their position as marketing powerhouses, telcos’ hopes of developing new revenue streams from analyzing user behavior are slipping away faster and faster. This is what makes the deal so dangerous.

Of course, it’s tough to justify the deal simply on the basis of WhatsApp’s revenue model of $1 annual subscriptions. In my view, the deal is really about:

  • Bringing a major competitor into your family. Otherwise, someone else could have lured WhatsApp into theirs. The deal, which accounts for about 10% of Facebook’s market capitalization, could be seen therefore as an insurance cover.
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Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Conference 2014: Embracing User Privacy As A Competitive Advantage

By Enza Iannopollo and Dan Bieler

The recent Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Conference (CPDP) showcased a series of innovative projects that are based on big data. Big data is one of the four imperatives that shape the age of the customer — one of Forrester’s main focus areas — and the changing regulatory framework of data protection in Europe has big implications for big data initiatives.

Central to data protection is the existing EU Data Protection Directive, which legislators have been trying to update for years to reflect the changing online realities. The proposed Data Protection Regulation focuses on a redefinition of the concept of “consent.” User consent now has to be freely given, specific, informed, and explicit.

This new definition forces businesses to be more transparent about how they gather, use, disclose, and manage customer data in the form of the principles of privacy notice and purpose limitation. Complying with these new privacy principles is a challenge in the age of the customer, as privacy regulation affects:

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CIOs Need To Prepare For Cultural And Organizational Transformation

Picture: Utua

Macro trends in technology and shifting customer behavior are giving rise to the connected business — which is not defined by technology but is rather a new style of doing business. The responsibility for transforming a company into a connected business ultimately rests with the CEO, but the CIO also plays a central role.  

CIOs will be responsible for introducing technology solutions that help break down silos, boost cross-team collaboration, drive the end-to-end customer experience, and engage more deeply with customers. In order to succeed, CIOs must go beyond technology enablement and support organizational and cultural transformation. It’s easier to implement technology innovations than to change habits and culture. Technology is only the catalyst for cultural and organizational transformation. As Jeroen Tas, CIO, Philips told me:

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Mobile World Congress 2014 Will Push The Mobile Mind Shift

Mobility is becoming pervasive in the enterprise. Smart devices, including wearables, are appearing in all sectors, both in developed and emerging markets. Businesses that fail to prepare for the mobile mind shift risk losing their competitive edge. I hope this year’s Mobile World Congress, which kicks off on February 24, will emphasize the interaction between business processes and mobility — in addition to the traditional gadgets.

I focus primarily on themes relating to the connected business and social collaboration, and I will travel to the world’s leading mobile event in Barcelona to gain new insights into several questions in these areas:

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Symantec EMEA Industry Analyst Conference: Shifting The Tack Of Dealing With Security Issues

With Enza Iannopollo

Symantec held its EMEA Industry Analyst Conference in the UK recently. Symantec saw targeted attacks increase by 42% during 2013. Although it’s always mentioned among the top concerns by businesses in surveys, security is still often treated in a somewhat blasé way by many of those businesses in reality. We took several messages away from Symantec’s conference:

  • Security is not just a simple IT issue but has wider business implications. Digital security has many facets, including cybercrime and online privacy. Security is an economic and societal dimension for the digital ecosystem. Just think of privacy legislation -- customers expect the businesses with which they interact to adhere to it. This also means that the future security manager will be someone who understands business requirements and employee wishes well enough to balance them against specific security threats and compliance obligations. The security officer who just “shuts the gates” and says “no” to requests like accessing video websites or installing software is damaging to what we call the connected business.
  • There is a need for Symantec to engage effectively with a partner ecosystem. Symantec is moving beyond products to become a solution provider. Symantec knows that integrated solutions need to work in a multivendor landscape across third-party and competitor products in a legacy environment. Such integration challenges hold back ecosystem ambitions. To strengthen its offering, Symantec has established partnerships with Hitachi Data Systems (data storage and interpretation), PwC (threat intelligence, incidence response, and digital loss prevention), and Colt (joint go-to-market offering for security-as-a-service). As part of these partnerships, Symantec sees a growing interest in the managed services option.
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