Live From Management World Americas: Change and Digital Services
By Jessica Zimet
This year’s Management World Americas is all about change, according to TM Forum CEO Martin Creaner, who opened the conference Tuesday morning. It has to be. Otherwise the communications industry is in danger of “boiling frog syndrome" – if we don’t react dramatically to the changes happening slowly around us quickly enough, it might be too late (and by then we’ll be cooked). The communications industry has been much better at sustaining innovation (making things better) than disruptive innovation, but we’re going to have to adopt disruption, even cannibalize our own businesses, in order to survive. Those who are already doing it, like Telefónica Digital, are a step ahead.
So what changes need to happen? An easy way to see where change is happening is by looking at where service providers are investing. Robert Hackl of T-Mobile USA, and Verizon CIO Fari Ebrahimi shed some light on where their companies are putting their dollars. T-Mobile is focusing on “better value" plans for customers, BYOD, and unlimited nationwide 4G (full LTE rollout is planned for the middle of next year). They’re evolving their store and reseller experience, and investing to improve the customer experience with a large-scale “voice of the customer" program to concurrently resolve multiple root causes of customer issues. Verizon is continuing to invest in the areas it has spent $150 billion on in the last 10 years, including digital services, machine-to-machine (M2M), cloud, fast wireless, security, IP backbone and fiber to the home.
Discussion about M2M continued with a panel led by Steve Hilton of Analysys Mason. Glenn Eggert of Verizon echoed Ebrahimi’s comments that they see the top three segments as automotive, health care and energy. And what exactly is the service provider’s role? To connect things, according to Jürgen Hase of Deutsche Telekom, and to the ecosystems of partners. To nods from the panel, he encouraged providers to build and embrace their M2M developer community, as in the end, “you’re the ones who will be supporting what they are developing."
M2M in the automotive industry comprises both safety issues like crash notification, theft, and 911, as well as “creature features" such as news, entertainment, and Wi-Fi. Tom Nelson of Sprint declared telematics in the auto industry should be as easy as using your smartphone.
“It should be simple, intuitive, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel. What can we do to make that easier, to simplify M2M? That’s our role," Nelson said.
As for enterprise services, the model depends on the business. Some, like smart grids, are very local, explained Eric Krauss of AT&T. Others, like consumer product companies or enterprises, want a module that works globally. In most cases, companies look first for the hardware, then the network, then the service delivery platform. Because M2M doesn’t allow for a lot of excess cost structure, efficiency is required. Krauss also spoke about global deployments, predicting that the industry won’t be marketing “fluff" for very long, as fledgling partnerships and models are maturing.
Answering where to invest in M2M over the next two years, panel members mentioned scalability, knowledge sharing, application stack/cloud services, global partnerships, and cross-stack smart solutions. Said Eric Troup of Microsoft, “It's the 'network of networks' that could bring digital services to the forefront, and leveraging big data to enable M2M."
As TM Forum’s Tony Poulos pointed out, you only have to look at how M2M was represented in conferences a couple of years ago (usually in a corner somewhere) to where it is today (front and center in the keynotes), to understand how quickly it’s become important. So clearly change is in the works.