The Fourth Wave
Technology can drive business evolution, but savvy CIOs are quickly learning that rapidly expanding customer needs – and expectations –can upend the most carefully plotted strategic plan. Today, CIOs – and all personnel with “IT” or “telecom” in their job descriptions – find that little of their jobs is automatic anymore. Managed services and unified communications are washing away borders of distance, media and the wall between technology and all other business departments. Every one of us who works in the formerly steadyworlds of telecom and IT must rethink our roles and adapt to stay relevant and succeed.
Of course, the need to change isn’t all that unfamiliar. I’ve lived through multiple re-orderings of the communications landscape since the days when I ran the regulated parts of NYNEX and their telephone companies – change is constant, challenging and laden with opportunities.
During the past 15years that I’ve been the CEO of TelePacific, we’ve successfully navigated three waves of fundamental transformation. We started as a small, voice-only T1 shop, carving out a niche with business customers. Since everyone was offering the same technology solutions, service was our differentiator.
Our next incarnation came when we embraced SIP and MPLS for multi-location customers (still our key target) and shifted from offering basic data to rich data and voice. This new technology offered a way beyond the low-margin commodity of our core products. These broader capabilities and product sets are what drove businesses that ultimately would become winners – my firm among them – to become top-down customer-driven even in core business development. Listening to customers and their needs made us radically rethinkwhat services we offer and how we deliver them.
We are now in the fourth wave, which is characterized by managed services and unified communications
The third reshaping came as big bandwidth and Ethernet connections became the must-haves of a rapidly evolving business world. Here again, my company differentiated itself by driving business development around customers. In contrast to competitors, we rolled out Ethernet-over-Everything (copper or fixed wireless) in order to truly deliver Ethernet everywhere our customers needed it, not just where we happened to have fiber.
We are now in the fourth wave, which is characterized by managed services and unified communications. This transition is different from the others in that it reaches deep into enterprise IT departments and makes them much more like service providers. Let me explain: The expectation – and demand – for access any time, on any device, from any location to any media puts as much pressure on CIOs and IT departments as it doestheir providers. The challenges of shadowIT and line-of-business adoption of cloud services, bring-your-own-device and remote labor – not to mention security for all of these –are significant. IT departments, by virtue of their domain over all things tech, have to become experts in the operations and goals of business units throughout their organizations.
In fact, today’s CIOs and their teams find themselves in an ironic reality. As more specialized solutions emerge in the marketplace, they simplify workloads and enhance efficiency across the company but significantly increase complexity and workload burdens for IT staff. Our job as a managed services provider is to help CIOs address that dichotomywith product and service offerings that combat complexity and simplify the lives of their IT departments.
Here are some success-defining trends that will emerge in the near-term that can help you best select a service provider that can help you successfully ride this fourth wave:
• Application stability becomes critical. The performance of applications, an emerging differentiator that will soon become central to competitive positioning, is inextricably linked to bandwidth availability and network performance. To address this, service providers are reinventing their business models around managed services to provide solutions platforms for their customers. As CIOs and their teams seekto focus on proprietary app development by outsourcing more general business solutions, application stability will become associated with the technology service provider.
• SLAs become strategic. With quality of service (QoS) and defensible SLAs becoming strategic purchases by IT departments, pure over-the-top (OTT) plays will become simple applications. Over time, OTT services will become options within a larger solution spectrum from whichCIOs and their teams can select services and SLAs (QoS included) according to needs, priorities and spend.
• Single-provider solutions become vital. As IT departments outsource compute, cloud solutions, security, the fewer the providers, the better the outsourcing efficiency. Managing too many vendors erodes the value associated with reducing the management requirements for internal applications. Simply put, the ability to contact one party to address needs or problems across an entire chain of outsourced solutions saves time, reduces headaches and frees up CIOs and their teams to focus on the proprietary, value-adds that will serve as competitive differentiators for their companies in the future.