Smooth op­er­a­tor: Tele­coms’ dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

By Danny Karam DUBAI:

In a world where tech­nol­ogy never sleeps, the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try finds it­self at a turning point. The dig­i­tal wave is grow­ing ever-stronger, and as it does, op­er­a­tors are con­fronted with the peren­nial ques­tion of how to stay rel­e­vant while pro­tect­ing their core ser­vices. As data be­comes com­modi­tized and in­ter­net so­lu­tions draw ba­sic tele­coms ser­vices into a fight for sur­vival, dig­i­ti­za­tion is trans­form­ing the in­dus­try. Now, op­er­a­tors must de­cide how to act-and their re­sponse could de­ter­mine if they sink or swim. A new era is dawn­ing. At present, 2.7 bil­lion peo­ple are on­line with four bil­lion new in­ter­net users set to join them by 2025. Mean­while, it is estimated that there will be 50 bil­lion con­nected de­vices glob­ally by 2020-that’s six to seven per per­son. With dig­i­ti­za­tion now an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of daily life, the dig­i­tal ser­vices mar­ket is ex­pected to reach $1.1 tril­lion glob­ally by 2018-$20 bil­lion in MENA. In the face of com­pelling sta­tis­tics, the call to ac­tion is clear: with the de­mand and dig­i­tal plat­forms in place, telecom op­er­a­tors must cre­ate the ser­vices to match. For­tu­nately, the scope for do­ing so is broad. From Open Data to The In­ter­net of Things, sev­eral trends are driv­ing progress amongst op­er­a­tors that choose to em­brace the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion-but there is no ‘one size fits all’ ap­proach.

Log­i­cal strat­egy

For op­er­a­tors with ad­e­quate re­sources, de­vel­op­ing in-house dig­i­tal units may be the log­i­cal strat­egy, but in the ab­sence of such ca­pa­bil­i­ties, part­ner­ing pro­vides an ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive. Here, op­er­a­tors should ex­pand the part­ner­ship ecosys­tem to in­clude academia, in­no­va­tion labs, ac­cel­er­a­tors, pri­vate eq­uity firms and other or­ga­ni­za­tions with the power to fill the cre­ativ­ity and re­source gaps. For more ad­ven­tur­ous op­er­a­tors, mean­while, in­vest­ing in tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies pro­vides ac­cess to the in­no­va­tion needed to stay ahead. But as op­er­a­tors look out­side, cre­ativ­ity can be closer than they think. In­still­ing an in­ter­nal cul­ture of in­no­va­tion that nur­tures idea-shar­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion can be equally-if not more-re­ward­ing. Of course, cre­at­ing such a cul­ture re­quires the right team. To build the best pos­si­ble work­force, op­er­a­tors must hire care­fully, fo­cus­ing on in­tel­li­gence, cre­ativ­ity and dy­namism.

In de­vel­op­ing their hu­man and data ca­pa­bil­i­ties, op­er­a­tors are also cre­at­ing a dig­i­tal as­set. Lever­ag­ing op­er­a­tors’ data for an­a­lyt­i­cal pur­poses can op­ti­mize their ex­ist­ing and planned in­fra­struc­ture, while of­fer­ing an­a­lyt­ics ser­vices to other com­pa­nies presents op­por­tu­ni­ties to mon­e­tize their new dig­i­tal re­source.

Ex­is­ten­tial chal­lenges

Fully cap­i­tal­iz­ing on data, how­ever, in­volves a care­ful bal­anc­ing act. Op­er­a­tors must stay true to the com­pany val­ues, while de­lin­eat­ing their dig­i­tal unit from their main cor­po­rate en­ti­ties. Such au­ton­omy is a ne­ces­sity: telecom op­er­a­tors rarely pos­sess the agility re­quired to re­spond to rapidly chang­ing mar­ket de­mand, yet this is the very qual­ity that dig­i­tal units need to thrive.

Here, the re­spon­si­bil­ity rests with the com­pany as a whole. As dig­i­tal units de­lin­eate, op­er­a­tors should strive to cre­ate ag­ile busi­ness mod­els that re­tain the req­ui­site core com­po­nents, while pro­vid­ing scope for rev­enue share and pri­vate eq­uity.

Ex­e­cut­ing such fun­da­men­tal trans­for­ma­tions is no mean feat, but for in­dus­try con­stantly at the fore­front of change, ex­is­ten­tial chal­lenges are noth­ing new. In the 1990s it was mobile that dom­i­nated the de­bate. Then came broad­band and ques­tions of data, pen­e­tra­tion and con­nec­tiv­ity. Now, with dig­i­ti­za­tion at the fore­front of telecom trans­for­ma­tions, mul­ti­ple op­er­a­tors have risen to the chal­lenge. Deutsche Telekom took the plunge back in 2000 with the launch of its dig­i­tal unit, T-Sys­tems.

Or­ange then fol­lowed in 2006-its new unit earn­ing the French op­er­a­tor almost $8.65 bil­lion in dig­i­tal rev­enues in 2013. Since then, sev­eral other op­er­a­tors have de­vel­oped dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia’s STC in 2014. Where STC and other re­gional and global play­ers have headed, oth­ers must now fol­low. As the wave of tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion con­tin­ues to dig­i­tize life, tread­ing water is sim­ply not an op­tion in a world in which dig­i­tal reigns.

RID­DLE: In this photo, a log­ging crew har­vests new tim­ber on pri­vate land near the head­quar­ters of DR John­son Lum­ber Co, in Rid­dle, Ore.—AP pho­tos

RID­DLE: A ma­chine ap­plies glue to the next layer of a panel of cross-lam­i­nated tim­ber, or CLT, in the pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity.

RID­DLE: Photo shows a piece of cross-lam­i­nated tim­ber, or CLT .

DUBAI: Photo shows Danny Karam, Vice Pres­i­dent at Booz Allen Hamil­ton, MENA.

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