Much has been said and written about the digital transformation of the enterprise. For the past 10 years or so, it has been a near enough inescapable topic in C-suite circles, whichever way you turn. But the sad reality is that, despite much effort and expenditure, many of the transformational projects that we have seen so far have been piecemeal, partial, confined to one silo of a business or another, hardly ever coordinated as a meaningful pan-enterprise whole. Some projects have looked at resource planning, some at transforming the customer journey, others are centred around cloud migration or the availability of applications.
Ramesh Marimuthu, VP & Head of Americas with Tata Communications, fears that these individual projects do not always deliver the complete benefit they should. Businesses now operate in a highly complex and large ecosystem of suppliers, customers, partners et al. for digital transformation to be meaningful, this entire ecosystem has to be hyperconnected. This ecosystem approach also helps unite different transformational initiatives into one coherent whole.
Hyperconnected ecosystems and their benefits were the focus of a ‘fireside chat’ at the recent NetEvents Global Media Summit in San Jose. Marimuthu, an industry veteran with 35 years of experience in telecoms, was in conversation with Zeus Kerravala, Founder and Principal Analyst with ZK Research.
“Our vision is an ecosystem thatis connected anytime, anywhere, enables seamless collaboration and is powered by intelligence. ,” he outlined. “That’s whether you are talking about transforming your workforce, or your supplier management system, or your customer experience management system and the platforms associated with that. It brings all of the benefits of digital transformation to that particular enterprise.”
Kerravala agreed that a sense of unity is one of the things that has been lost in the mix, and that a major casualty has been at the level of the network: “When you think about it, many of the building blocks of digital transformation – cloud, IoT, mobility – they’re all network-enabled technologies,” he pointed out. “I’ve seen a lot of companies that have been through a digital transformation process where they didn’t modernize the network. Those projects generally saw no ROI.”
One benefit of a hyper connected ecosystem, argued Marimuthu, is that it allows enterprises to be borderless, operating across continents and countries. Another is simply around performance: “Performance is the number one factor driving most digital transformations,” he said. “On the customer experience side, customers are demanding better services with lower latency and more security. Then there’s risk management. Given all of the geopolitical issues happening around the world, how do you protect your supply chain? How do you protect your network availability.”
As an example of a hyperconnected ecosystem in action today, he cited a well-known global ride sharing company. This company uses Tata Communication’s customer engagement platform to communicate with users and drivers, helping to anonymize all of the voice and text messages exchanged in the business process.
Kerravala offered the example of the Chase Center, the home venue of the Golden State Warriors NBA team: “I did a video with the CIO, Daniel Brusilovsky, where he talked about his vision of creating hyper connected fans,” he explained. “If you download the Warriors app in the stadium, you’ll get lots of messages pushed at you during the game. There’s a trivia contest where you can scan QR codes and you can message other fans. It’s an interesting mix of physical and digital technologies, and creates an entirely new type of experience.”
Marimuthu talked of the latest generation of retail experience where you walk into a store, pick up goods and five seconds later are billed for them with a message coming to your phone: “It combines facial recognition, IoT, Private 5G, and security,” he said. “It also brings in voice data security and cloud enablement, all of it coming together in a hyper connected ecosystem.”
He also offered the instance of a food delivery company that has achieved 40% cost optimization and a hugely improved Net Promoter Score with help from Tata Communications: “It’s not just been a story of cost optimization, but also employee experience within the enterprise,” he said. “These are all clearly defined business outcomes. We bring the message to our customers of approaching transformation in a holistic manner. We give them a blueprint for going about it that’s not necessarily about trying to boil the ocean. It can be about incremental benefits. The challenge is pulling everybody together towards one common goal. We also make sure that when we start on a transformation drive, there are benefits out there that are visible, tangible in a relatively short period of time. If you can get some quick wins, then you can use the ROI from that to go fund other projects.
Tata Communications, he said, operates its own business this way: “All of our products and services together form the digital fabric that fuels the hyperconnected ecosystem.” he explained. Our products are all available as a platform or as a service. Instead of operating 16 different products all in different silos with their own OSS/BSS system, we are transforming the entire product range to function as a platform. This level of unity is possible with open APIs, making the use of a particular platform much easier for our customer and ensuring that Tata Communications is easy to do business with.”
Every enterprise business is unique in one way or another, he said: “You need a platform that you can expand in all directions with APIs that talk to multiple other business ecosystems. You get scalable, flexible, API-driven integration, and that is a primary focus for us.”
Connectedness is also about AI-driven tools to make sense of masses of data: “We have platforms in place today that collect all of this data, perhaps from a 4G or 5G device, or a router sitting in a branch office, perhaps security or business related,” he explained. “Then we use AI to make sense of it and bring that to the enterprise so that they can add value. Think about 5G and a global SIM to allow edge devices and customers to roam over hundreds of countries without having to worry about which operator they come back to. We are also investing in multi-cloud applications so you can take your ERP applications to a different cloud and maintain performance. Cybersecurity is another key area for us., whether that is edge, IoT, device, platform or network security.”