Observations From Mobile World Congress From A B2B Perspective

Photo: Bergman

This year’s big technology themes at Mobile World Congress (MWC) can be summarized as big data, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR). These themes will be important for B2B players and especially for revolutionizing customer experiences, optimizing industrial and operational processes, and boosting service enhancements. My recently published report, “Brief: Observations From Mobile World Congress That Will Shape Your B2B Digital Transformation,” summarizes our observations from MWC 2016 and the key takeaways for developing B2B digital transformation strategies. We observed that:

  • The main MWC themes are increasingly intertwined. VR and AR will enhance user experiences on mobile devices and expand mobile moments. Big data will provide context-based, and more relevant, insights and use cases — including for VR and AR solutions.
  • Mobile data is driving digital customer experience. Enterprise apps are increasingly integrated with business processes. In turn, enterprise apps help generate data-derived insights from mobile objects and devices. This will help transcend app silos to generate a single view of the customer who benefits from a better end-to-end user experience.
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. MWC feels near its zenith in terms of visitor numbers and industry impact. In 2016, nearly 101,000 attendees from 204 countries made it to MWC — more than ever. Yet, for business users MWC still falls short of translating mobility into tangible business benefits for digital transformation.
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Digital Business Ecosystems Rewrite The Rules Of Business

Customers use digital experiences to help satisfy their needs every day. Digital tools expand our experiences and change our lives at home and at work. Digital is now intertwined into the fabric of our lives at work and at home. We expect digital tools to add value to us no matter what we’re doing. Some 89% of executives believe digital will disrupt their business in the next twelve months.

To keep up with the rapidly evolving digital expectations of customers, businesses must not just develop a digital strategy but also become a digital business. This means more than building a few bolt-on mobile apps. It’s a fundamental rethink of your business model within a dynamic digital ecosystem that impacts every aspect of your business.  

Transforming into a digital business is complex enough. But the rapid evolution of digital products and services makes it even more challenging for business leaders to navigate the landscape of digital business. Slow innovation cycles jeopardize the survival of traditional firms, and winning businesses will move toward an ecosystem business model. Digital businesses need to embrace digital ecosystems that support the continuous exchange of information and data to create value.

To master digital business, business leaders must minimize the complexity of digital ecosystems and learn to create value within such ecosystems. Digital ecosystems drive faster innovation, more efficient production, and more agile go-to-market activities, because:

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Expectations For Mobile World Congress 2016

The last year has flown by: In just a few weeks the Mobile World Congress (MWC) is on again. So what can we expect from the leading global get-together of mobile-heads this year? In my view there will be:

  • Less hype concerning mobile device launches. The leading smartphone and tablet providers will announce or showcase new models of established product lines, including more wearables and watches, like Samsung’s Galaxy S7, Sony’s Xperia Z6, LG’s G5, Huawei’s P9, HTC’s One M10, and Microsoft’s Surface Phone as well as newcomers like the Nextbit Robin or the OnePlus 2 Mini. Yet, I expect more of an evolution than a revolution. Blackberry might provide more insights into its future as device manufacturer beyond the Priv. Both Apple and Google will announce their upcoming devices at their own respective events, not at MWC. I am interested to see which way the pendulum is swinging: device commoditization or real new innovation. I expect the former.
  • Increasingly intertwined messaging of big data and IoT vendors. Big data will play an important part in most IoT solutions. Ultimately, IoT is not really about things but rather about data. Mobile-connected objects create scale and various channels for sensor data that flows back and forth. I will listen to how the messaging for front-end, customer-facing and back-end operational activities are emerging among IoT vendors like Nokia, Telstra, GE, Ericsson, and Salesforce but also among firms like ABB and John Deere. I expect AI and machine-learning to play a growing role for big data and IoT initiatives.
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IBM Opens Its Global Watson IoT Headquarters In Munich

IBM opened its global Watson Internet of Things (IoT) headquarters in Munich this week. It is hardly unusual for this quintessential global business to open research centers on a global scale. But the decision to move the HQ for one of the most dynamic areas of the digital transformation arena to Munich is noteworthy for several reasons. The move underlines that:

  • IoT has a very strong B2B component. Yes, IoT will play a role in consumer segments such as the connected home. But connectivity limitations and costs, compliance, and security will put many IoT ambitions in the consumer space to rest. The real action will be in the B2B space, where IoT will be elemental to drive activities like predictive maintenance, fleet management, traffic management, supply chain management, and order processing. Forrester expects the market size for B2B eCommerce, of which IoT is a subset, to be about twice that of B2C by 2020.
  • IoT and big data are closely intertwined. The real value of IoT solutions will not come from the hardware components of connected assets but from the data they generate and consume. In order to manage and make sense of the data that connected assets generate, cognitive systems and machine learning will play a fundamental role for the evolution of IoT. “Employing” Watson in the IoT context elevates IBM’s role in the IoT market significantly.
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Mobile Becomes A Key Success Imperative For CIOs

Forrester survey data highlights the urgency for the CIO to complete the mobile mind shift. In the age of the customer, great mobile solutions are the basis for catering to clients, empowering employees, and optimizing supplier and partner relationships. Yet, the mobile mind shift has its roots in the consumer environment. Most of us have gone “mobile native” over the last few years, having grown accustomed to using apps on our smartphones and tablets at home. This has changed the way we think, look for information, communicate with others, and conduct transactions.

Mobile is now a vital part of the CIO’s business technology agenda to help enhance customer experience, employee productivity, and new revenue channels. Every CIO will need to provide his organization with mobile solutions that support these business requirements. The lack of a comprehensive mobile approach with dedicated interdisciplinary teams for mobile and digital initiatives will translate into lower revenues and many business failures in the years ahead. The most visionary and forward-looking CIOs, meanwhile, are using mobile to build the steppingstones for their digital transformation:

  • Businesses that are most mature in mobile also have the fastest revenue growth rates. Forrester survey data highlights that the most “mobile-mature” organizations also have higher revenue growth rates than the mobile laggards. Mobility is thus an important revenue driver.
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Telstra Shows Promise For European CIOs As A Network Solutions Provider In Asia

At a recent event in Sydney, Telstra, Australia’s incumbent network solutions provider, provided new insights into its strategic activities under its new CEO Andrew Penn. Overall, Telstra’s strategy remains in line with that communicated last year; we suggested then that for European CIOs and technology managers, Telstra represents an attractive network solutions provider for their organizations’ activities in Asia. But Telstra has evolved since then. Discussions with Telstra executives have provided us with new information and have led us to several new observations:

  • Telstra’s digital strategy is beginning to take shape but remains fragmented. Like many other telcos, Telstra has created a digital division to develop digital retail offerings for SMBs and consumers. In its current shape, this approach carries some risks, as Telstra’s Global Enterprise Services and Software divisions are also pursuing separate digital activities. As a result, duplicate and potentially contradictory digital offerings could emerge. Although Telstra claims that it is coordinating these activities, the current set-up underlines the fact that Telstra doesn’t yet have a digitized strategy; it is instead pursuing several digital strategies. This could cause confusion for customers, inefficiencies for Telstra, and flawed end-to-end customer journey mapping, thus undermining the value that Telstra can deliver to CIOs as a business enabler.
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The Role Of Telcos In Digital Ecosystems: Gaps Between Ambition And Reality

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.
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The Emergence Of The German Digital Autobahn Ecosystem

A few days ago, at an event hosted by Continental, Deutsche Telekom AG, Fraunhofer ESK, and Nokia Networks, I came across an interesting example of an emerging mobile Internet-of-Things (IoT) solution: the initiative to “connect the Autobahn” in Germany. The goal of the Digitales Testfeld Autobahn initiative is to develop a platform that allows a wide range of players to access a common platform for digital services in the context of Germany’s road infrastructure. The event also included a test drive to highlight how driving “assistants” in connected cars could communicate with a latency of about 15 milliseconds. Discussions at the event underlined several insights that CIOs should consider when devising mobile IoT solutions:

  • Ecosystem partnerships create more value for IoT solutions than standalone approaches. At the event, Deutsche Telekom’s CEO, Continental’s Head of Interior Electronic Solutions, Nokia’s VP of Strategy, Fraunhofer-Institute’s Head of Embedded Systems, and Germany’s Minister for Transport all pointed to the necessity for close cooperation to make the “digital Autobahn” platform work. Proprietary OEM technologies will not boost the connected road infrastructure. Continental told us that open IoT systems create more value than closed systems for the company and its customers. To uncover its true potential, the “digital Autobahn” platform will also need to be open to third parties like weather forecasters, retailers, and entertainment companies. This means that CIOs need to support open APIs.
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Atos’ Acquisition Of Unify Offers The Potential For A New Enterprise Collaboration Platform

French IT service provider Atos has reached an agreement to acquire Unify, a provider of integrated communication solutions, from The Gores Group and Siemens for an enterprise value of €590 million, of which €340 million is cash. Unify’s 5,600 employees generated an estimated €1.2 billion in revenue in 2014. Atos, 12% of which is owned by Siemens, hopes to finalize the deal in the first quarter of 2016.

Over the past few years, Unify has managed to transform its portfolio from traditional PBX products to robust, scalable, and carrier-grade solutions for IP voice, web collaboration, video conferencing, mobility, and advanced messaging; clients can add these to existing communication infrastructure to enhance business processes and productivity. However, this transformation wasn’t always easy for Unify’s customers, as it brought disruption and often meant integration and transition assistance. What can Unify’s customers expect should the Atos deal materialize? We believe that the deal will:

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AT&T Delivers Its Network On Demand

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.
  • Is a real game changer in the realm of connectivity solutions. As on-demand networks take off, products have the potential to become features on an access pipe that customers can turn on and off rather than remaining standalone "silo production".
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