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IBM/Economist CEO Survey Supports Telco 2.0 messages

IBM and The Economist’s annual survey of top telecoms executives is out; it reinforces the messages we’ve been trying to convey in this blog and via the Telco 2.0 Initiative as a whole.

69% of IBM/EIU respondents thought that “business model transformation” was the most important source of value, compared to 34% in 2002. 72% of those people specified “collaboration with external partners” - and that certainly isn’t the first time you’ve seen that here - as a “critical initiative”.

Compare this result from our Broadband Business Models 2.0 report; when we asked our (rather larger) sample of telecoms types about the best commercial approach to delivering video, this is what we got:

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69% of 223 respondents thought that telcos should pour video investment into CDNs and other elements of a platform that many different partners could use to reach many different groups of users. 35% thought setting up a monolithic IPTV system would be the worst possible option. Similarly, 33% of our respondents thought that payments from “advertisers, merchants, employers, or government” to provide end-user services would be “very important” or “extremely important” in terms of revenue

There’s still room for improvement, though, as only 53% of the same group in the IBM survey mentioned “enabling third-party access to telecoms capabilities” as critical. It’s absolutely critical to Telco 2.0, in fact, that both of these things are done; trying to sign up external partners is going to be painful and will probably fail to come up with anything new if you don’t do the underlying technical platform to support this. And just providing a gaggle of APIs is not enough without the economic and operational parts of the puzzle.

It may not be terribly surprising that only 16% of a sample of telco people thought that customer service was one of their strengths; perhaps this was a moment of clarity. Similarly, “a culture of collaboration” came in at 11%. But how can it be possible that only 16% of these Bellheads gave “scalable infrastructure” as a strength? Or, for that matter, “ease of use”, at only 11%?

It’s probably also worth pointing out that 47% of the respondents thought advertising would only be a “minor” source of revenue by 2012 as against 23% for “major-to-moderate”. There’s a clearer way of thinking about this issue, which we described after our recent ‘mobile advertising summit’ here.

If you haven’t already had chance to taste of our thinking about these issues, have a look at the analysis from this autumn’s Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm .

The key challenge with all of this, of course, will be firstly to disseminate these messages through the ‘treacle layers’ of the organisations, secondly, to create a coherent story for investors, and thirdly (related to the previous points) to work out what to do about them. We need to remove the blinkers and re-set our thinking. To help, a road map is needed, and that’s our focus of our 2008 research and events programme (here are some slides, if you haven’t already seen them, to kick start the process)…

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