Understanding your enterprise customers: what do they need and what do they expect?

Understanding your enterprise customers: what do they need and what do they expect?
When it comes to enterprise connectivity, is 5G now the be all and end all, or are other technologies an equal part of the equation? Richard Doughty and others set out to answer just that at this year’s Total Telecom Congress – read the highlights from the panel here.

Cerillion were once again bronze sponsors of the recent Total Telecom Congress in London, one of the telecoms industry’s leading events exploring the latest trends and technologies for digital transformation and service monetisation, with a strong line-up of thought leaders from across the sector.

Following a fascinating opening keynote from Staffan Eriksson, Telia’s Senior Portfolio Manager for IoT Connectivity, Richard Doughty, Cerillion’s Business Development Director, took to the stage for a lively panel debate as part of the Enabling Enterprise stream: Understanding your enterprise customers: what do they need and what do they expect?

Richard was joined on the panel by: Dean Bubley, Founder of Disruptive Analysis; Carolina Ramirez, Vice President of Marketing at FreeMove; and Shaima Alhamed, Chief Commercial Officer for BNET – Bahrain Network. Moderating was Matthew Hatton, Founding Partner at Transforma Insights. Here are some of the highlights…
What technologies should enterprises be paying attention to?
Richard kicked off the discussion by echoing a sentiment shared earlier in the day by Macquarie Telecom’s David Tudehope in his opening keynote: “If you can measure it, you can manage it.” For business-oriented enterprises in particular, this maxim is fundamentally important for automating their data collection and analytics.

When it comes to consumer sales, the fulfilment process is usually fairly straightforward. For enterprise, it’s a more convoluted and lengthier process, involving managing many more parties and actors. Richard emphasised that automating this process is critical, greatly reducing the chances of mistakes happening, while enabling businesses to gather data at every point in the sales journey. Analysing this accumulated data is where enterprises then need to focus their efforts, in order to maximise customer satisfaction, increase their automation and fulfilment success, and drive profitability.

For Dean, of equal importance to enterprises is what connectivity technology or technologies are appropriate for a given application in each location – this might be as small as an individual shop or a single machine on a factory floor, to all facilities in a single country or even a multinational deployment with hundreds of applications.
Connectivity requirements include everything from fibre, 4G/5G and Wi-Fi to private or wide-area networks, satellite, and other proprietary wireless, such as even the microphones used by the panellists on stage. Looking ahead, 3GPP release 17 and Wi-Fi 7 will be the comparable drivers of connectivity, however Dean pointed out there is a “tendency in the 5G industry to compare old versions of Wi-Fi with future versions of 5G” – but ultimately, the right connectivity is not dictated by what panellists say at conferences, but what best fits a particular application or solution.

To the “not a techie at all” Carolina, today’s focus ought to be on service strategy; after the COVID pandemic, with 50% of staff still working out-of-office and perhaps never to return on a full-time basis, automation is necessary for companies struggling to deal with the complexities of a mobile workplace. 5G as it stands is not the only answer, but part of a web of future solutions.

Richard commented that telcos do need to make some bets on a multi-service, multi-network mesh that will prove to be “absolutely fundamental” to end-users, be they enterprise or consumer, who need a single easy-to-use experience concealing complexity under the hood: “Delivering simplicity is not easy.
On whose shoulders does responsibility lie?
Carolina said there are two types of customers: those who want the complexity taken away, and those further down the path of digital transformation who want that additional functionality made simpler through automation, such as self-provisioning for employees. After the pandemic, with half of employees working remotely and enterprises undertaking digital transformation projects more than ever, providing mere connectivity is not enough.

Returning to the analogy of the conference microphones, Dean pointed out that they come from a trusted brand; event procurement likely didn’t enquire as to whether they were 433mHz, 2.4GHz or some other frequency, or who makes the industrial sand that goes in the chips because the customer trusts the brand. The conference organisers trust their AV crew, who trust the brand, who trust their radio chip manufacturer – there is a “cascade of trust in systems and solutions” and this is something that telcos need to leverage when selling their own enterprise solutions.
Should enterprises have a telecoms strategy of their own, or outsource?
This is a core part of the rush to public cloud in Richard’s view: transferring responsibility of a “non-core” part of their business offering to someone else can allow a business (the operator) to focus on delivering their core competence, but equally, it can remove control and drive up costs. It should be viewed as a cost/benefit decision and not an evangelical one.

When it comes to the decision between in-house or outsourced, Shaima argued that enterprises must begin by investigating what they actually have and don’t have, and then outsourcing until they have built up sufficient internal capability, depending on how scalable the business is, and how agile you want the process to be.
How to give it to someone else to manage it, and how to do it in the smartest way internally, depending on your business direction, is crucial, especially if, as Richard added, ownership of the infrastructure is a key differentiator for the enterprise, and they want to keep control of that.
In what scenarios would we see enterprises owning a network versus telcos owning that, and operating it as a managed service?
Dean believes there’s a broad range of ownership situations, determined by factors such as what industry the network is serving, which country the enterprise in question is operating in, and whether local regulations permit them to own their own network.

Whether enterprises own their network versus a telco is much less of a binary issue; ownership could be in partnership with another telco, a fibre operator, a system integrator, or an industry specialist service provider. A small cell on a plane, for example, can’t readily be managed by one telco for the simple reason that it isn’t in any one airspace all the time, so a specialist provider for aviation ought to be responsible.
So, what do enterprises want from their telcos?
For Carolina, enterprises have specific needs, and they expect telcos to provide products and services as per their wants and needs proactively, whereas telcos currently expect enterprise customers to approach them with their direction and needs. Clearly there is a disconnect here, and both sides coming together to co-design a solution is the way to overcome complexity with multinational customers and move forward.

To Dean, it depends on the role of the enterprise buyer. If you’re in product management selling connected products, then your product is dependent on a telecom service. He pointed to the Business Design Centre’s deal for on-site connectivity, meaning great coverage for those on that network (including Dean), but that equates to only about 30% of conference delegates. Could they have leaned on the provider for a neutral host arrangement instead so that everyone would benefit? It depends on the ability to ask the right questions and have enough knowledge to demand that from one of their suppliers.

Richard continues; in any sales position, the buyers dictate what they’re expecting, and what they’re getting. As both a consumer and a businessperson, dependable connectivity is what he wants, but just delivering this infrastructure is job enough for most telcos. He points to highway infrastructure – the road pavers and bridge constructors don’t look to become vehicle manufacturers just because they’re using the roads they built. So telcos should think very carefully before going beyond their core competencies.

To Carolina, telcos are moving to not only provide but also integrate connectivity with IT services and automate business processes. Each telco is transforming internally into an integration business and is offering this to end customers, so the telco is transforming itself into a system integrator.

Richard pointed out, however, that automation isn’t being done by a telco in isolation, but by a telco through its BSS/OSS platform, purchased from a specialist software vendor – and that of course is where Cerillion can help.