|Issue:||Europe II 2008|
|Topic:||Network evolution – rising expectation|
|Title:||Chief Information Officer|
Fotis Karonis is the Chief Information Officer of Romtelecom, Romania. Prior to Romtelecom, he worked at the Athens International Airport as Director of Information Technology and its Telecommunications Business Unit; he was also a member of the Board of Executives. Previously, Mr Karonis worked for Cap Gemini, France, and Cegelec – Alcatel, France. Mr Karonis graduated from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department of the University of Patras in Greece and earned his MSc in Digital Electronics & Systems from the University of Manchester, Institute of Science & Technology (UMIST).
Throughout the world, the telecom sector is changing radically in response to changing technology and rising consumer expectations. The traditional voice-centric business model is rapidly becoming a recipe for disaster. To survive in today’s market, operators need to adopt an innovative, value-added, service-oriented and customer-centric strategy. The collaboration trend means that customers no longer just consume content – they create and share it. They often upload as much as they download, share content with friends and participate in communities.
The changing ecosystem Today, the growth of the net is creating big opportunities, but also significant challenges for all players involved. Telco operators, manufacturers, IT providers, cable operators, the media, all are trying to position themselves with new services and solutions within this fast changing ecosystem. The common characteristic today is that the customer or consumer is at the heart of the network business, and largely dictates the business models of all the players struggling to capture the entire relationship with the customer. The content providers are expanding their services in the telco area and are influencing the technological layer. The end devices with which producers are integrating ever more features and technologies in consumer products, are generating new applications demand and bandwidth capacity. The telco operators are trying to adapt their business value proposition, evolving in all the areas of communication services and integrated solutions, fixed, mobile, broadband, content, and IT solutions. The principal challenge for the operators is to be competitive, excelling in customer satisfaction and in providing effective and innovative end-to-end services to the market, consumers and businesses; and they must rise to the challenge of usage growth and new demands of the customers. The heart of the Net The Net offers a unique opportunity for each consumer to be part of a world of diverse interaction, of content and knowledge, diversity of business activities and people networking. The needs of Internet consumers include improved education, the ability to interact, to innovate and contribute and collaborate as needed. The customer is the heart of the Net. Today’s user demands more and more interactivity to find the proper information, interact with the content and change it, communicate with friends, participate in social networks, play games or buy online. This is the pulse of the Net consumer! Everyone wants to engage in a great number of activities simultaneously from whatever device they happen to be using, without needing to know about – or even be aware of – the underlying technology the service is based on. Collaboration The real promise of collaboration technologies lies in supporting new ways of working and interacting. It is a shift to a connected society of interaction, learning and knowledge exchange. For the corporations, it means a dramatic improvement in the capacity for innovation. To understand where collaboration technologies are heading, a different framework characterises collaboration, based on the attributes reach and awareness. The combination of reach with awareness is the true generator of innovation, knowledge, for societies, as well as for corporations. One important trend in the communications world today is that customers are not simply consuming content. They are creating and sharing it as well, establishing digital communities based on mutual interests. People are interacting more and more and becoming integral parts of an extended social ecosystem. Yesterday’s thinking was about ‘customers’; today’s thinking is about ‘communities’. Understanding the customer means understanding the customer as part of a social community. Volunteers create all of Wikipedia’s content; it is now the ninth most visited site on the Net. The Wikipedia exemplifies one type of expanded reach: the ability of an individual anywhere in the world to create content in collaboration with tens, sometimes hundreds of others. YouTube gives consumers the capability to seamlessly share content in a manner almost impossible not so long ago. The evolution of social networking demonstrate another flavour: expanding one’s social network in preparation of potential future collaboration. Facebook and MySpace provide a range of tools for increasing both reach and expanding social networks and staying in touch with what is happening in those networks. Telco business models There is clear perception in the industry that the future for telecommunication operators should not be just providing connectivity. Telcos need to advance on the value chain to provide more value and service for our customers. From a technology prospective, integrating fixed and mobile capabilities is an essential foundation of success. From a service prospective, providers need to be innovative and creative, driven by a sense of what the customers want and need. Another key element of customer-driven innovation is the move towards integrated converged services, so customers can use any device they choose to satisfy both their personal and business communication needs. To do this, telcos need to adopt high technology where the line between traditional network and IT technologies is blurred. Significant investments are required in next generation convergent solutions, to meet customer needs for the increased bandwidth needed to support new services and interactive content in a secure and transparent way. The complexity of this constantly evolving process is extraordinary, as the demand for speed, for bandwidth – at lower prices – is growing dramatically. For example, after cutting ADSL prices by 50 per cent, the Romanian incumbent recorded a 280 per cent increase in its broadband market share in 2007. Innovations in video, voice and data services are changing the way we live, work or play. A new world – a virtual one, without borders, without limits – promises great challenges and many opportunities. This calls for service providers with both well-defined long-term strategies and the agility to adapt. Added value, innovation and efficiency Differentiation and innovation are key elements of success in today’s highly competitive world. We can find a clear example in the automobile industry, where companies that invested in innovation and cost effectiveness succeed, while their competitors are at the brink of extinction. Another example of differentiation is coming from the aviation industry with distinct high-end travel service offerings and low-cost travel with minimal services and self-service passenger processes. The telecommunications industry is no exception. Telcos must take the message to heart. Service innovation and cost effectiveness are key elements for success. Telecommunications companies should continuously offer innovative products while, at the same time, improving their efficiency. They need to develop new hunting techniques driven by innovation and customer-centricity. By keeping in mind what made them successful in previous technology eras – their knowledge of the customer – communications companies can position themselves for high performance, regardless of the challenges that lie ahead. Continuous change is the answer – a permanent process adaptation and cross-functional interactivity, provides the competitive edge. The vision and the strategy should be clear – excellence by innovation, adaptability, customer focus and success. A new class of truly agile organisations, the globally integrated enterprise, is emerging as the winner. How? By delivering unique value, tapping into the power of globalization and forging a strategy of componentization. These organisations understand that using service oriented architecture (SOA) is a preferred method of delivering sustainable agility, the ability to quickly and effectively respond to changes, opportunities and threats, to be able to compete effectively. Convergence and end-to-end integrated services to the customer will be the key of success. A key driver for convergence is network efficiency. Traditional networks were simply not designed to support the explosive growth in customer demands and the continuous rollout of new products and services. To address the new challenges, next generation technologies and highly adaptable architectures need to be built. Telcos often embrace service-oriented network design with a modular highly scalable approach; this lets them quickly adapt and scale the network infrastructure itself, to support new services and future growth. Continuous self-improvement and innovation should be among the objectives of any strategy. Technology, changes in the corporate culture and processes, customer focus, simplification and optimization are all equally important sources and multipliers of innovation. A customer-centric and cost-oriented culture, agility and education also help sustain an organisation in a competitive market and to keep it alive. Strategic alliances and partnerships with other players can bring competitive advantages, agility and jet-like performance in an age where speed in the marketplace is all. Competitive excellence is a must these days. In order to be part of the Net culture, all key elements of the organisation should be orchestrated to deliver excellence and customer value.