|Topic:||One size does not fit all|
|Organisation:||Telecom NZ Ltd|
Theresa Gattung is the CEO of Telecom New Zealand Limited, having previously served as its Group General Manager for Services. She has led Telecom’s transformation into an Australasian online and communications company, providing a full range of communications services across Internet, electronic commerce, mobile, data, calling and access. Before joining Telecom as its General Manager for Marketing, Ms Gattung was the Chief Manager, Marketing for the Bank of New Zealand, and had previously held executive positions with National Mutual and TVNZ. Ms Gattung graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from Victoria University and a Bachelor of Management Studies (Honours, with majors in Economics and Marketing) from the University of Waikato.
Operating companies and service providers of all types, pushed by technology and pulled by the consumer, are faced with a series of hard choices. The need to change the traditional business model is evident to most, but how to change it is not. The risks of a wrong choice, given the rapidly shifting technologies, markets and consumer preferences, are great. Many of today’s hottest services – Google, eBay, Skype, MySpace, iPod – were unknown, unthought-of, just a few years ago.
The digital world has brought new challenges for telecommunications providers. Telcos no longer just provide phone services, they are now providing a raft of services for an increasingly demanding consumer. In New Zealand, like elsewhere in the world, the consumer is helping drive the transition to a digital world. People are embracing the possibilities that technology offers and are pushing it forward – often at a breakneck pace. This challenges service providers to not only keep pace with change, but also stay a few steps ahead of the change. To cope with constant new developments, telecommunications providers need to be flexible enough to adapt to where technological progress takes us. That is easier said than done. The pace of change has been dramatic and hard to predict. For example, a report in 2000 estimated that by 2005 there would be 1.17 billion mobile connections in the world and by 2010 there would be 2.3 billion. As it happened, the world passed the 2.5 billion mark in September this year – who knows where we will be by 2010. How many people would have heard of Google or eBay ten years ago, or heard of Skype, MySpace, YouTube or an iPod just five years ago? What has also become difficult to predict are the habits of consumers. In New Zealand, we have seen a trend, especially among teenagers, to own multiple handsets from different mobile phone companies in order to take advantage of special offers. They may send text messages on one network during the week to make the most of cheap rates, and then switch over to another provider at the weekend for their discounted offering. These teenagers have never experienced a world without a mobile phone. Their phones almost never leave their sides and they even have their own text language – they are the ‘Generation Text’, and they are as unpredictable as the future. In the world we live in things will always change. We are in a constant state of flux. One thing is guaranteed, however, all this technological change opens up a wealth of possibilities. We are in a world of choice. Consumers now have many different choices available to them to keep in touch. Mobile phones, texting, email and instant messaging are all doing the same thing that the humble fixed line telephone did for years – allow us to keep in touch. No longer do we need to be rooted to one spot to make a call or go online. That connectivity, that need to be ‘always on’, is playing an increasingly important role in the way we live our lives. We need to feel connected anywhere, anytime, and broadband is helping fuel this need. It is also revolutionising people’s lives and businesses. New Zealand is heavily reliant on primary industry and farmers are making the most of what the digital world can offer them. By using a mix of mobile and broadband networks, farmers can get environment updates from sensors and meters on their farms giving them access to data they need to improve productivity. They can monitor milk vats remotely or check on the pH levels of the soil and make the necessary adjustments. It may be primary industry but it is high-tech. New Zealand as a country is geographically isolated but, through the digital world, it is globally connected. School students are able to make the most of technology to participate in video conferences with other schools around the world and share information and cultural differences. The mobility that the digital world offers us is freeing us up from the constraints of being deskbound. Technological advances allow us to call the shots and access information where and when we want. Companies are becoming less reliant on their employees coming into communal office spaces to perform their work tasks. With mobile broadband, wireless networking and video conferencing the traditional idea of an office or workplace is changing. Employees can work from home with a connection as good as what they have in the office; this gives them the ability to achieve that work/life balance that we’re all after. Laptops and smartphones mean people are no longer tied to their desks, and they don’t have to be restricted even to their home to be able to operate. Who knows what is around the corner. The future is devilishly hard to predict. For incumbent telcos this means they must be able to adapt quickly to change. They will need to make the correct technological choices or risk vast sums playing catch up. Traditional business models can easily be overturned by new technology and be ruined overnight by new developments, but that’s the world we now live in. It is a world where consumers no longer accept what they are given. They want to be in control and companies must offer a range of services to cater to their needs. In New Zealand, we are moving to an IP network, which will allow people to make the most of what the digital world has to offer. It will provide a host of services – voice, video and data – via a single connection. Consumers will be able to pick and choose what they want and how they want it. Developments such as IPTV will continue to shift the onus of consumers being in a certain place at a certain time to view something. Video on demand gives people the opportunity to control what they watch, when or where they watch it and it offers, as well, a vast array of choices. Henry Ford once said that people could have the Model T in any colour – so long as it’s black, but the days of industry dictating terms has long past. Technology such as the Internet has provided people the wherewithal to impose themselves on society. Traditional media has become marginalised as more and more people are bypassing it in favour of alternative media. Video sites such as YouTube and social networking sites such as MySpace have given people an opportunity to interact with a global community that was previously out of their reach. Henry Ford also said all Fords are exactly alike, but no two men are just alike. This will apply today and tomorrow in the digital world – one size does not fit all.