Digital Business Transformation: Where Should You Begin?

Digital business transformation is a huge and confusing topic, making it very difficult to know where to begin. The Open ROADS Community has created the Digital Mastermind to answer this question and guide your entire transformation journey. The essence of this method, which we call “Digital Thinking” is to “Identify a Scenario, then Start Small, Think Big, and Align Business & IT to Scale Fast”. This is encapsulated in the figure below.

To put this into practice, a dedicated transformation team should focus on the transformation activities on the right of the figure: Supporting the organisation to benchmark current digital maturity, defining a direction for the transformation, and then handling the change management and progress tracking. The will enable the business team, in parallel, to adopt Digital Thinking through the approach on the left, moving to become an increasingly digital business.

Of course, like every journey, you need to know where you are before you can set off. In this case, the first step in your digital business transformation should be to get an understanding and benchmark of your business’s current digital maturity level.

 With multi-million dollar investments at stake, it is imperative that a comprehensive digital maturity assessment be conducted, using a sophisticated digital maturity model, and driven by subject matter experts. That said, recent research by the Open ROADS Community has shown that even a cursory evaluation of a business’s digital maturity can give sufficient insight to determine a general way forward for the transformation, and thereby stimulate business leadership to sign-off on a full digital maturity assessment.

By deploying a 10-minute digital maturity self-survey, comprising of 18 questions which span strategy, customer experience, culture, service innovation, data, and technology, it has been possible to obtain some useful insights into the current state of digital maturity across industry. As an example, the finding from a recent survey of 15 distinct digital businesses is shown below:

All the responding organisations revealed opportunities to improve their digital business maturity, and tended to fall into one of three distinct groups as indicated:

Beginning, ready to transform

Typified by low levels of maturity across all areas, these organisations have not yet made significant progress on any aspect of digital transformation. In this situation the organisation should initially focus on technology investments to make itself more efficient through increased digitisation. This will drive down operating costs, while enabling subsequent digital initiatives to be adopted.

Progressing, with high digitisation

Typified by relatively higher levels of maturity towards the right, technology, side of the model, these organisations have already achieved a good level of efficiency through digitisation. They should now look to exploit this to gain new revenue through the introduction of digital initiatives to increase customer experience and deliver new services.

Experimenting, but needs delivery focus

Typified by relatively higher levels of maturity in most areas apart from Innovation and Lean Delivery, these organisations have achieved a good level of efficiency through digitisation, and are now actively delivering a good level of customer experience. However, they now need to further develop their operating model, adopting lean principles with continuous delivery to seize the additional revenue available from more rapid service development and deployment. In fact, careful manipulation of the data can reveal further insights, including whether inter-departmental cooperation is strong enough to allow customer experience and efficiency to develop in parallel.

You can hear more about the Digital Mastermind by attending my talk at TM Forum Digital Transformation Asia in Kuala Lumpur from 13-15th November. You can also discover more here. Finally, if you’d like to get an idea of your own organisation’s digital business maturity, you can try the 10-minute survey for yourself here. You will immediately get a personalised result, which can be anonymous if you wish. Aggregated results will be shared at TM Forum Digital Transformation Asia.

A Holistic Approach to IoT Monetization

The monetization capabilities of Internet of Things (IoT) platforms needs a fresh approach beyond standard rating and charging designed for connectivity usage. As communications service providers (CSPs) embrace more innovative IoT business models, they are struggling to address these opportunities with their connectivity-oriented IoT platforms.

IoT digital platforms must be flexible to enable CSPs to accommodate a wide variety of B2B (enterprise), B2C (consumer) and B2B2X (wholesale) business models. As IoT business models evolve, the monetization platform must be able to keep pace allowing CSPs to adopt a “fast-fail” mentality, experimenting with new products and processes. IoT service providers need not only a more holistic solution from a technology perspective, but also a solution that can cater to different business models and different needs within their organization, as typified by the three cases below:

  • A line of business with a focused IoT service offering (e.g., fleet management) that wants to ensure a great customer experience and agility to keep its offering fresh.
  • An IoT platform offering that aims to enable third parties to sell their industry-specific, niche IoT solutions.
  • An operational team that is charged with managing the IoT platform, guaranteeing availability and striving for flexibility while keeping operating costs under control.

Click here to download this whitepaper

Italy wants to establish a single broadband provider

Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio said on Sunday the government is looking at establishing a single national broadband provider.

Di Maio, who leads the anti-establishment Five Star Movement party, made the revelation in an interview with la7 television.

“We are working to set the conditions in order to create a single player to distribute internet and broadband,” Di Maio said.

Reducing market competition is typically associated with higher consumer prices.

Di Maio didn’t elaborate further on the plans but said to create “a new digital highway” the government would be setting up talks with all involved players.

Open Fiber and TIM (Telecom Italia) are currently in the process of rolling out their fibre optic network across Italy. The government believes duplicating infrastructure makes little sense and wants the companies to merge operations.

The government is a joint owner of Open Fiber via state lending company Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), while CDP also has a stake of around 4% in TIM.

‘Our aim is to approach the issue with a view to guaranteeing national security,’ Di Maio said back in July.

(Image Credit: LUIGI DI MAIO by Pietro Piupparco under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Italians clearly aren’t that suspicious of Huawei

Despite governments around the world turning against Chinese vendors, Telecom Italia has agreed a new partnership with Huawei based on Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technology.

As part of a strategy aimed at evolving TIM’s network solutions for business customers, Huawei’s SD-WAN technology will be incorporated to create a new TIM service model which will allow customers companies to manage their networks through a single console.

“Today, more than ever, companies need networks that can adapt to different business needs over time, in particular to enable Cloud and VoIP services,” said Luigi Zabatta, Head of Fixed Offer for TIM Chief Business & Top Clients Office. “Thanks to the most advanced technologies available, these networks can be managed both jointly and by customers themselves through simple tools.

“The partnership with Huawei allows us to expand our value proposition for companies and to enrich our offer through the adoption of a technological model that is increasingly and rapidly emerging in the ICT industry.”

The partnership is a major win for Huawei considering the pressure the firm must be feeling over suspicions being peaked around the world. Just as more countries are clamping down on the ability for Huawei to do business, TIM has offered a windfall.

Aside from the on-going Chinese witch hunt over in the US, the Australians have banned Huawei from participating in the 5G bonanza and Korean telcos have left the vendor off preferred supplier lists. Just to add more misery, the UK is seemingly joining in on the trends.

In recent weeks, a letter was sent out from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the National Cyber Security Centre, warning telcos of potential impacts to the 5G supply chain from the Future Telecom Infrastructure Review. China was not mentioned specifically, and neither was Huawei, but sceptical individuals might suggest China would be most squeezed by a security and resilience review.

The rest of the world might be tip-toeing around the big question of China, but this partnership suggests TIM doesn’t have the same reservations.

A more streamlined VC approach could hinder the US in the 5G race

With US venture capitalists increasing their total investments, but reducing the number of start-ups being funded, you have to wonder whether the US is priming itself properly for the 5G bonanza of tomorrow.

According to data from Pitchbook, the total amount invested by VCs in US firms is set to exceed $100 million across a 12 months period for the first time, but the number of completed deals is actually decreasing. So far across 2018, VCs have invested $84.3 billion, already exceeding the total from 2017, though the number of deals has dropped to 6,583 compared to 9,259 last year. These numbers are correct to September 30, still leaving time in 2018, but you have to wonder what impact this will have on the innovators of tomorrow.

Looking at the data, the number of deals which are valued at $50 million or more is significantly on the increase, while the bottom three categories (which you can see in the table below) are decreasing. This is not necessarily a bad sign, innovation can come from larger companies and more established SMEs, though some of the brightest ideas over the last two decades have come from companies which didn’t exist in the 20th century.

VC Deals 1

Think of the likes of Facebook, Uber, AirBnB, Shopify, Android and Netflix, these are all organizations which have risen through the ranks in recent years and are defining their respective segments. All were powered by the democratization of the internet, in particular mobile internet, and the emergence of a new form of economics. They are companies which succeeded because they thought and operating differently from the status quo, leaving many traditional businesses playing catch-up today.

In short, the start-ups are an excellent source of innovation and, in many cases, a completely under-utilised resource for national economies. However, with the upcoming 5G bonanza promising fortunes for those who seize the opportunity, is a more streamlined focus from the VCs creating the right, nurturing environment?

5G is going to create a completely different playing field, though we’re not entirely sure how at the moment. Those who think they can accurately predict where future fortunes will come from are nothing but blowing hot air. They might well be right, but this is likely more to be luck than judgment. For example, back in 2005 who would have thought a relatively unknown networking website designed for university students would become one of the most powerful companies on the planet, influencing elections, stimulating fake news and completely revolutionising how companies communicate with their customers?

The point is there is a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude with 5G. If you create the right technology environments, underpin them with supportive regulations, open doors to new markets and fuel them with seeding funds, the next great idea will emerge. We don’t know what it is just yet, but that was the exciting thing about 4G and will be the exciting thing about 5G.

Another consequence of a lack of available funding for the smaller players is the risk of acquisition. Without the fuel to grow their own ideas, some entrepreneurs might be tempted to sell their business and product to an established company. This in turn would direct innovation into the acquirers main focus area. Perhaps this will leave potential usecases and the dark corners of what is possible unexplored?

The issue here is whether VCs are putting enough cash into the early stage start-ups to nurture this innovation and create the blockbuster idea of tomorrow. Fuelling companies which are already out there is not a bad idea, but it is likely going to get you a better version of what exists today. This is a perfectly acceptable approach to business and will reap rewards, but are these trends going to create a landscape in the US which will dominate the 5G world of tomorrow? We are sceptical.

VC Deals 2

SoftBank plans massive IPO for its Japanese telecoms business

Tech conglomerate SoftBank wants to raise a few trillion yen by offering some of its Japanese operator up for public consumption.

Around a third of SoftBank Japan’s shares will be served up in an initial public offering that is expected to raise around 2.4 trillion yen (21 billion bucks). If things go really well it could even challenge Alibaba for the biggest ever IPO, which would come in handy for a group that is especially exuberant in its spending.

“Through the listing of SB shares, SBG expects that the respective roles and valuations of the two companies will be clear,” said the announcement. “SBG is accelerating investments on a global scale, while SB is a core company to the Group’s telecommunications business. It is hoped that each of the two companies will be able to provide information regarding their businesses to the market with greater clarity and thereby better respond to the various needs of investors.

An alternative way of looking at it is that SoftBank Group is a bit short of cash and has decided that a sport of equity release from one of its subsidiary companies is the best way to get hold of the kind of cash it needs. As well as big acquisitions such as ARM, the group seems more concerned with general tech investment these days. This IPO seems to have been on the cards for a while, but it remains to be seen how much, if any, of the cash raised will be reinvested in SoftBank’s, Japanese network.

How 5G network infrastructure revenue is set to reach $26 billion

The deployment of new communications technology could disrupt parts of the traditional broadband marketplace. According to the latest study by International Data Corporation (IDC), that's a key finding from their assessment of the worldwide 5G wireless network infrastructure market.

It follows the release of IDC's initial forecasts for Telecom Virtual Network Functions (VNF) and Network Functions Virtualisation Infrastructure (NFVI).

5G wireless market development

With the first instances of 5G services rolling out in the fourth quarter of 2018, 2019 is set to be a seminal year in the mobile telecommunications industry. Moreover, 5G smartphones will begin to reach the market and end-users will be able to experience 5G technology benefits firsthand.

From an infrastructure standpoint, the mobile telecom industry continues to trial innovative solutions that leverage new spectrum, network virtualisation, and machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to create new value from existing network services.

While these and other enhancements will play a critical role, 5G NR represents a key milestone in the next mobile generation, enabling faster speeds and enhanced capacity at a lower cost per bit.

However, even as select cities begin to experience 5G NR today, the full breadth of 5G's potential will take several years to arrive, which will require additional standards work and trials, particularly related to a 5G NG core.

In addition to 5G NR and 5G NG core, procurement patterns indicate communications service providers will need to invest in adjacent domains - including backhaul and NFVI - to support the continued push to cloud-native, software-led architectures.

Combined, IDC expects the total 5G and 5G-related network infrastructure market (5G RAN, 5G NG core, NFVI, routing and optical backhaul) to grow from approximately $528 million in 2018 to $26 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 118 percent.

According to the IDC analyst's latest view, 5G RAN will be the largest market sub-segment through the forecast period, which is in-line with prior mobile generations.

Outlook for 5G wireless applications

"Early 5G adopters are laying the groundwork for long-term success by investing in 5G RAN, NFVI, optical underlays, and next-generation routers and switches. Many are also in the process of experimenting with the 5G NG core," said Patrick Filkins, senior research analyst at IDC.

The long-term benefit of making these investments now will be when the standards-compliant SA 5G core is combined with a fully virtualised, cloud-ready RAN in the early 2020s.

This development will enable many communications network service providers to expand their value proposition and offer customised services across a diverse set of enterprise verticals through the use of network slicing.

Time Warner acquisition resistance could turn ugly for Trump

President Donald Trump’s administration certainly has been a different shade of politics for the Oval Office, though actions and alleged prejudice could come back to haunt the Commander in Chief.

Despite being proclaimed a resounding victory for the Republicans, the mid-term elections could have gone a hell of a lot better. With the House of Representatives swinging back into the hands of the Democrats, not only will Trump find passing his questionable legislation more difficult, but his actions over the first two years of the Presidency could be called into question.

In an interview with Axios, California Congressman Adam Schiff, who is also the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested an investigation into the President would now be able to make a material impact because of the swing of power across the aisle. The President’s tax records will once again become a topic of conversation, though the appropriateness of his objections to AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner will also come under scrutiny, as will his seemingly personal vendetta against Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

While the President’s actions have constantly been condemned by critics and political opponents, there has been little opportunity to do anything considering Trump’s political foundations. With majorities in both Houses of Congress, the Republican party have been able to block, or at least stifle, any investigations. However, with last week’s mid-term elections swinging the House of Representatives into a Democrat majority things might be about to change.

Trump’s opposition to the AT&T and Time Warner deal has been widely publicised, dating back to the Presidential campaign trail. Some have suggested his hatred for Time Warner owned CNN is the reasoning behind the probes and appeals against the acquisition, though this will come under question through the investigations.

“We don’t know, for example, whether the effort to hold up the merger of the parent of CNN was a concern over antitrust or whether this was an effort merely to punish CNN,” said Schiff.

While the deal has been greenlight by District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon, the Department of Justice is appealing the decision, suggesting Judge Leon is ignorant to the facts and the economic implications of the deal. It has been reported the Trump administration has been pressuring the DoJ to pursue the appeal and attempt to derail the acquisition.

Looking at the spat with Jeff Bezos, this has been tackled on several fronts. Not only has President Trump constantly berated the excellent reporting by the Washington Post, privately owned by Bezos, Trump has been targeting the tax activities of Amazon. Back in March, Trump tweeted he would be tackling the tax set-up at Amazon, sending share price down 2%, while he has also been reportedly pressuring the Post Office to charge Amazon more, despite the eCommerce revolution seemingly saving the service with the vast increases in package delivery.

These are just two examples relevant to the telecoms and technology industry, but the Democrats are seemingly going for the throat. Tax records will be called into question, as well as reports the President blocked the FBI from moving its headquarters because it would negatively impact business as one of his hotels, located opposite the bureau’s offices.

For the moment, this seems to be nothing more than political posturing, as while the statements might appease those in opposition to Trump, they are nothing more than statements. The Democrats will not assume their majority in the House of Representatives for two months, a long-time in the lightly-principled world of politics. Much could change during this period.

What the change in political landscape could mean more than anything else is a bit more stability. President Trump has been praised by his supporters as a man of action, though actions are of questionable benefit to business executives who crave legislative, regulatory and policy consistency. Only with the promise of consistency can businesses made long-term strategies to conquer the world, but with Twitter a constant threat of change it is understandable some are nervous.

With the Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, Trump will find it much more difficult to force through any controversial or overly aggressive policies, though there is also the threat of legislative standstill. The US political landscape has certainly been an interesting one over the last two years, though it could become even more interesting over the next two for completely different reasons.