For several years, we’ve advocated for service providers to become enablers so that businesses and industries can define and develop their own digital services. Many network operators have built platforms that give enterprises access to an environment that includes all the connectivity, infrastructure, development environment, and “infrastructure stuff” needed to connect employees, customers, partners, devices, and applications anywhere at any time. So what happened? Why aren’t they all implementing M2M and selling connected services?
Service providers got in their own way. They are really good at selling bandwidth. We are constantly bombarded with claims of 4G and LTE and 10 gigs of data and we really don’t care. The response of the market is a big “SO WHAT?” Tell me what I can do. Netflix tells me what I can do, Amazon tells me what I can do. Even Allstate tells me what I can do. As an enabler, it’s up to the service providers to help enterprises figure out what they can do. What sort of products and services will benefit their customers and how are those products built, delivered, supported, and monetized? Enabling enterprises requires more than bandwidth and an application platform; it requires creativity, insight, and tactical advantage.
Creativity – we get so immersed in our daily existence that we don’t always have time to think about what would make it better. Easy things like having the sprinkler system turn off when it’s raining and hard things like making sure Dad is taking his medicine. Enablers facilitate creativity. We’re all consumers and we all face the daily grind so there are lots of opportunities based on shared experiences. Real, practical opportunities for businesses to improve their products, services, and relationships with customers. The best ideas will come from those who interact with customers every day. Support representatives, technicians, sales staff, and maintenance staff – the people outside the conference room.
Insight – I like to bake but I could never tell anybody how to build and run a bakery. The business of baking requires more skill than which ingredients to combine. Likewise, enabling an insurance company to automate the claims process requires insight beyond how much bandwidth is needed. Enablers have an understanding of the nuts and bolts of the industry, not just the general nature of the business. Building applications and automating processes requires insight that only those who have been there can provide. The difference is that enablers use that insight to disrupt, rather than sustain, the norm.
Tactical Advantage – Finally, the technology. Enablers can equip enterprises with their own virtual telco, but without all the management and regulatory headaches. Ordering, provisioning, activation, billing, operations and management provided as a service or a cloud-based platform would give enterprises access to the operational platform and the network. But it has to be easy, intuitive, and well integrated. Enablers give an enterprise power over the network (or at least their part of it) while still providing the reliability, scalability, availability, and security that service providers are famous for. Enablers leverage existing technology assets and use new ones to create business value for customers.
That means that service providers have to become viable enablers. Consultative selling that asks “what should we build?” not “how big is the pipe?” Enablers have industry specialists that can facilitate brainstorming sessions with employees that spend their time with customers rather than networks or IT. There are consultants that understand the regulatory environment and rules about availability and security pertaining to each industry. For service providers this may mean partnering with consulting firms, app developers, and system integrators or hiring specialists. Enabling the enterprise is more than metro Ethernet discounts and self-care portals for monitoring – it’s orchestrating the team that builds the product and then making it work.