Technology is only half of the digital economy story

What the world looks like in a decade is any bodies guess, but the success of the digital economy is so much more than simply getting technology to work seamlessly.

That was one of the messages which came out of the keynote sessions at the Big Communications Event in Austin. Yes, technology will fundamentally change the world, morphing the landscape into something which might be inconceivable to us today, but to ensure success companies will have to look at much more nuanced aspects as well, some of which are incredibly pressing.

“The need for bandwidth is continuing to grow, and while change isn’t new, the pace of adoption is,” said Phil Meeks of Spectrum Enterprise.

From a technology perspective, the communications sector has generally been pretty good as adapting to the new status quo, integrating new solutions in what would be considered an acceptable time frame. But as Meeks put it, when things go wrong the industry hasn’t been the poster child for superior customer experience.

When it comes to outages, complaints and relationship management, the telcos have been pretty useless. There have been improvements, but as more of our lives become digitally orientated, the more demanding and impatient we have become as consumers. An excellent example of this is hold times when calling call centres.

It’s an arduous task getting in touch with the right person. Some might suggest this is done on purpose on occasion, when trying to terminate a contract for example, though it is a challenge which has persisted. One question which Meeks asked is whether the industry is actually trying to tackle the right challenge. Instead of using technology to shorten calls times, why not ask the customer how they would like to communicate with the organisation? It is a simple question, but in an era where phones calls are becoming less common, the industry needs to meet the expectations of the consumer.

This is just one example of customer service and experience, but it does demonstrate the changing tides of society. Technology alone cannot answer this call, but being more customer centric is critical for success in the digital economy.

Another area which needs to change is the relationship between operators and their supply chain. Despite the world becoming more software-orientated, some might suggest procurement relationships between operators and suppliers are not evolving.

“Both parties will have to adapt to the new business model, but right now we are not seeing the supplier side change,” said Mirko Voltolini, President of Technology and Architecture at Colt. “The consumption based model is where we should be heading, as opposed to the one off licencing model which is around today.”

Evolving the way in which networks are managed and built is one part of the equation, but the procurement of services and products is arguably just as important. The current model is not suitable for the software-orientated world and some tough questions will need to be asked.

On the supplier side, progress has been slow. This is understandable, as these are organizations which have revenues to protect, though the pace of change will have to increase. The traditional vendors who hold onto the old-world business model are facing pressure from a new wave of suppliers entering the market, who are creating pricing and procurement models which are more acceptable to the digital economy.

These are only two examples, but it is an argument which remains solid. There is much more to the digital economy than technology.

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