Digital Worker Market - More Telco inspiration please

There should be a significant growth opportunity for telcos in the business market, especially the SME (Small & Medium Size Enterprise) segment. But it's a challenge, due to current perceptions of what the end-user (knowledge worker) needs, what's sold to them, and, maybe most importantly, the way it's sold.

Below is the 'hypothesis' we will be debating in the Digital Worker stream at the Telco 2.0 Brainstorm on 27-29 March. We're looking to:

  • Clarify knowledge worker needs and usage trends (current and future),
  • Articulate the key challenges in responding to this (looking at devices, identity, security, packaging up propositions, and sales methods - stimulus from Nokia, Intel, BT Global Services),
  • Learn from case studies (from BT's ground-breaking MyBT programme, Cisco's internal use of it's voice/web/video collaboration tools, and Microsoft in terms of making office apps mobile)
  • Refine the strategic options that Operators have in this market (exploiting un-met needs, and re-configuring the value chain).

As with all the workstreams at the event, the stimulus presentations are tightly focused after considerable briefing, to provide new, cutting-edge insights. The participants will brainstorm using the interactive 'Mindshare' process.

HYPOTHESIS: DIGITAL WORKER - Opportunities for Telcos in addressing Knowledge Worker Productivity

Digital workers free themselves from analogue constraints of place, people and time
• Change in composition of the workforce: a generation of creative (and sometimes chaotic) individuals are entering the workforce. They take computers, mobile phones, broadband and the Internet's resources for granted.
• Flexible careers, flexible working, flexible lives: Working anywhere, anytime, on anything. The daily commute is fast becoming a mobile office, the home becoming a hub for the enterprise.
• Blurring of divide between large enterprise, SME and entrepreneur: all have access to similar, powerful business and communications facilities at low cost (although corporates still have access to the most powerful systems).
• Users are adapting multiple communications tools (including consumer technology) to fit their work needs. There is a corresponding change in social expectations of workers and their contactability and responsiveness.
• Social, environmental and user demands to reduce unnecessary or unproductive travel.

Current Telco approach to solving Digital Worker needs is uninspiring
• Corporates and large enterprises: full managed global services based on large individually negotiated contracts
SMEs: Individual services - PSTN, Mobile Phone, Broadband, cable etc. with premium support.
• SoHo: buying pattern similar to SMEs, but often buy residential/consumer services instead.

Is it still leisure if you check your work email on the golf course?
• Work-life balance a problem to users. Mixing office and work stresses with home life can adversely affect the family.
• Blackberry-type messaging is a corporate stovepipe that doesn't necessarily fit well with other personal communications needs, hence many carry two devices (or more).
• Users bear high hidden costs in getting connected, and managing messages from multiple channels and dealing with multi-tasking.

Telco solutions placing too much integration and support effort on the user, and cost too much
• Large corporate market is fiercely competitive, with narrow margins. Yet solutions often lack support for home/remote working, and mobile services are positioned as an add-on rather than fully integrated.
SME/SoHo stand-alone services are not integrated, and may lack satisfactory support. They want the same benefits of convergence as big companies, but without the need to staff dedicated internal comms teams.
• Technical challenge of integrating operator NGN capabilities into enterprises with fragmented legacy infrastructure (mixed TDM and IP voice) - but opportunity for high-margin SME managed services too.
• Unmet demand for new types of service provider who offers IT support as well as communications.
SMEs like to buy from other SMEs, but telcos haven't built channels to fit this buying pattern.
• Users are resorting to arbitrage schemes and alternative access (e.g. Wi-Fi) to avoid usurious mobile operator charges, particularly when roaming.

Questions (In the minds of the telcos)

How to support digital workers in large corporations in a way that:
• Lowers the pain of provisioning and payment.
• Offers better internal and external voice and data communications.
• Allows, more seamlessly, interaction and collaboration with other workers from other corporations (including suppliers, partners) and freelancers.
• Securely extends the full range of corporate communications outside the office - at home, on the move and abroad.
• Support work-life balance

How to support digital workers in SMEs and SoHo so that you:
• Provide for all ICT needs support the daily job function in the absence of comprehensive internal resources: affordable, universal reach and portable between work settings.
• Provide a 'big company' feel to a growing company - replicating the core features of a corporate intranet.

Answer (Our high level view of what needs to happen)

• Learn from the unfolding story of BT's 21C network as one of the most advanced NGNs.
• Apply more sophisticate qualitative market research techniques to seek to identify unmet user needs for digital workers, and then work out how to address them by whatever means available:
- Move from a network sales to a services and solutions mindset ("communications integrator").
- Incorporate 3rd party technology, networks, services ("mashups") as necessary
- Make the home office/remote worker an integral part of every corporate sale.
• Fast track a change in thinking:
- For cellular operators, accept that 3G spectrum may not provide all a digital worker needs.
- Allow competing retailers and systems integrators to make innovative use of wholesale network capabilities, despite rivalry from own-brand retail operation.
• Decide on where you want to play in each market:
- Pipe, Protection or Platform strategy?
• Experiment with new business models, embracing distributed bottom-up decision-making and service acquisition among end-users.
• Focus on identity and security technologies so that SMEs can enjoy what large corporates already have.

More here.