More from Management World Americas: Why Attend Tradeshows?

Posted: November 10th, 2011 | Author: Olivier Suard | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

This was the question TM Forum’s president and CEO, Martin Creaner, posed during Tuesday’s keynote speech at Management World Americas in Orlando. He noted that almost everyone in the industry is aware of the current challenges facing and opportunities awaiting communications service providers (CSPs), from increasing pressure on revenues and the threat of cyber security, to the potential of data mining and the impact of new regulations. With competition at every turn, Creaner believes that CSPs must transform or risk being relegated into dumb pipe status—delivering someone else’s services to someone else’s customers for a low return.

And the real value of attending tradeshows and conferences isn’t to find out about these trends, but rather to explore how our peers are addressing them. And it seems that every CSP’s strategy is centered on growing new revenues while maintaining a superior customer experience.

CSPs are looking at innovative marketing techniques, new pricing models and more, in order to grow revenue and offset the erosion of traditional income streams. They’re also looking at innovative content services to generate complimentary additional revenue, with things like smart grids, M2M and mobile payments. These all have huge potential but also pose huge risks because, as Creaner said, you don’t know what you don’t know.

In that same vein, it’s a reality that OTT players and complex value chains have a distinct presence in the market, and the only way to assume a role here is if the CSP can add value. Creaner believes that the fact that CSPs own a network, or own lots of customers is not enough—to penetrate the OTT market, they will need to prove they are adding a particular value that the whole industry needs.

Ultimately, when it comes to maintaining and growing the customer experience, a holistic view is needed. CSPs must focus on end-to-end customer experience management and be in a position to manage service quality across the key value chains.

We’re excited to continue this conversation with colleagues and peers at the show, approaching Management World Americas and the ever-changing telecom world in general with an open mind.

Once you go Mac you don’t go back

Posted: May 27th, 2011 | Author: Steve Hateley | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

A lesson on capitalizing on the needs and aspirations of the customer, from real users.

On a grey and blustery final morning at Management World 2011 (#mwd11) and in a week when I had received countless notifications about exceeding my mobile data roaming limit, I felt it appropriate to tune into the “Optimizing Customer Experience Summit” specifically its “Creating Loyalty” focus.

Ericsson had “creatively” pulled in a mixed panel from the Facebook generation, selected demographically from the Dublin student and young adult fraternity, to discuss their likes and loathes associated with the mobile subscriber experience.

Almost instantly it became evident that to this select group – who in reality are likely to be some of the biggest consumers of data – that Mobile operator brand was NOT important… a shocker, I know!

Buddy-Bundling: To this bunch of intellectually-apt users, their priorities were led by application bundles that enable them to maximize social interaction with close friends, for the least cost and with offers including group handset deals – some even switching from iPhone to Blackberry to get them. In some examples the panelists talked about entire groups of friends deciding through Facebook discussions to switch operator and handset to get the best inter-friend bundling deals.

Security observation: A common misconception of the younger generations using next generation technology and innovation is of negligence associated with identity and account protection. This group of individuals actually highlighted concerns around security and encryption, maturely stating that other than for iTunes (the exception) they would generally choose not to save credit card details on their handset-accessed accounts. Some of the panelists acknowledged the risks associated with phone theft and the potential identity theft that could follow. I was surprised but pleased to hear this level of maturity and awareness.

It’s of no real surprise that in the eyes of the panel as consumers, Apple emerged as the ultimate brand they would like to build their media and social lifestyles around. Barring the unfortunate high price of the iPhone and iPad, Apple could happily command loyalty. In the words of one of the panelists “Once you go Mac you don’t go back”.

So why is it that operators can’t create such brand loyalty?

Apple’s go to market is built pretty much entirely around the user experience with its intuitive interfaces, media, application and communication on-device ecosystem tailored for ease of use. But take a look at the top operators highlighted in the panel session – Vodafone and O2. The panelists regaled us with their experiences of all-encompassing bundles (with hidden over the top charges for the obvious extras that users would want to use), poor customer service, non-tailored product bundling, patchy coverage in obviously populated areas and unwanted, poorly researched marketing attempts. The fact is that “… Products will pretty much always get commoditized, so differentiation has to come from customer experience – the quality, the way you sell and the way you support them”, a comment made in the customer loyalty session that followed.

So could I be so bold to suggest that if subscriber churn is such a problem for Mobile operators, they start using the data that is available to them from their network, services, devices, billing and CRM systems to up their game on personalization and think about becoming the “Apple of Communications – Social networking enabler or choice”. As commented by Amdocs in the following session, operators should take this extensive data, add some real-time processes and they open the door to a great Customer Experience opportunity.

Wrapping Up in Dublin

Posted: May 27th, 2011 | Author: Olivier Suard | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The third day of Management World is always much slower than the first two. Many delegates have either headed back home or have opted for a lie in for whatever reason (yes, the Comptel party was great! Pictures from Dublin will be posted to our Facebook page).

It’s time to take stock of the event. Overall, I would say this year’s conference has been a success. I have been locked in press and analyst meetings for most of it, but I was told that the standard of the presentations has been very high. To quote Nancee Ruzicka of Stratecast whom I bumped into this morning: “It’s so good to see case studies of operators actually DOING the things that we in the industry have been chatting about for years.” (My colleague, Steve Hateley, who attended quite a few presentations, also seemed to concur with this.) And cloud and customer experience were again prominent buzzwords at Management World. It will be interesting to see how these areas continue to develop, as the industry is looking for more real-world examples.

For Comptel, the prime objective for this event was to connect with customers, prospects and partners—and much to our delight, there have been plenty of good people to meet. The demographics of the event seem to have changed though. We saw far fewer delegates from Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS, and even from the Middle East and North Africa, than we used to at Nice. One contact at TM Forum explained to me that the ash cloud and political situation were to blame, but anecdotal evidence from our own customers suggest the event’s location also influenced their decision.

And that leads us once again to one of the biggest topics of conversation here: Dublin. Despite TM Forum pulling off the most successful event ever, people are still curious to know when we are going back to Nice. Rumours abound that it might be next year, or the year after. But TM Forum is remaining very tight lipped on that subject, maybe in the hope that we will grow to like Dublin. From Comptel’s perspective, as long as delegates come to the event, we are not too bothered about the location. Dublin has proved to be an adequate, if unexciting, location and TM Forum has demonstrated its ability to bring people to the event. If it can convince people to return next year, and delegates from the regions mentioned earlier to join, then we will be happy.

What did you think of the three days in Dublin for Management World 2011?

A Few More Conference Highlights from Day Two

Posted: May 26th, 2011 | Author: Steve Hateley | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

The rain held off for the walk into the Dublin Convention Centre on day two of TM Forum’s Management World 2011, and with no sign of royal or presidential visitors, at least everything outside the centre seemed relatively normal and calm. Inside the centre, however, it was a different story. The buzz that was so evident on day one was still around, and at 9:00 a.m., the uphill escalators were packed with attendees eager to listen to the interesting keynote sessions in the auditorium.

The morning’s keynote on innovative players and future-looking directions for the industry was very well attended. Nick Ogden, CEO of Voice Commerce, gave a “Jobs-esque”, abstractive guide through his history and experiences within the communications industry and its paralleled evolution alongside device and subscriber innovation. The presentation culminated with an extraordinary vision of introducing ATMs in the home kitchen! Actually (and thankfully), it was a clever association to the average user’s need for round the clock access to his or her money, and how the other round-the-clock appendage (the smartphone) could be used to access it more freely.

Facebook's Colm Long

  • Over 500 million users worldwide (during any 30-day period)
  • More than 50% returning on a daily basis
  • The largest photo upload site on the Internet
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content shared every month
  • #1 application on smartphones

Yes, you guessed it—FACEBOOK.
As an avid social media enthusiast, I was keen to see the next eagerly awaited keynote presenter—Colm Long, head of Facebook’s EMEA operations. (Even if you are not a fan of Facebook, you have to admit that the facts are astounding.)

Colm explained that most common photo upload sites are very narrow in their focus compared to Facebook’s features. He pointed out that although they offer the ability to share photos, they are still restricted to closed user groups defined by the user, but for true social interaction, it needed to be much more open, and the mechanisms created within Facebook enable that. Tagging was a truly innovative creation that empowers the “socially-sharing generation”.

On another common topic, Colm highlighted the gaming industry, which is essentially fragmented in terms of the consoles used and (other than Xbox Live) the dependence of players to be co-located. Facebook’s exposure of Mafia Wars, Farmville, Cityville and countless other social gaming experiences have proven to be extremely popular! The aim has always been for these games to be “social by design”—Farmville and Cityville have a run rate of 70 million+ users, where people will buy “virtual nothingness” just to be social! What is key, however, is that the evolution of this string of social gaming has unwittingly created a massive demographically segmented target audience for direct marketing—although Facebook are not so keen to overly exploit the monster it has created.

The innovative technology being leveraged within Facebook has now started to make its way into commercial models, with the embedding of social techniques to create lucrative opportunities for Zuckerberg and crew, without exploiting their ever-growing subscriber numbers. Giantnerd, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, ticketfly & GAP… are all leveraging the instant personalisation techniques. There’s a delicate balance between target marketing, personalisation and turning users off the Facebook application. It’s important to understand the user through interpreting his or her selections and navigation choices, plus his or her subscribed interests and social groups. It’s about tailoring and optimising the customer experience—a theme repeatedly seen here at Management World. But what’s next for these Facebook giants? Are they planning transformation into MVNOs?

“Not part of our strategy…we don’t want to become a 100,000 person company,” Colm stated. “We would rather partner and focus on our core competencies, of course.”

How about their revenues? How do they actually make their money? (The question we are all curious about!) 
Revenues come from traditional methods, such as banners and adwords, but working with BIG brands is a better approach (see above). Application developers who credit Facebook every time they get a transaction done via their application is a good source of income for them, and they expect e-commerce to potentially hold some interesting opportunities, too.

Looking forward to sampling more presentation delights during day three.

Management World 2011: Another Day in Dublin

Posted: May 25th, 2011 | Author: Olivier Suard | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Day 2 of Management World 2011 started more or less where Day 1 left off (i.e. plenty of wind outside and plenty of meetings inside).

We have been very pleased by the turnout at this event so far. When TM Forum announced at very short notice last year that it was moving the event from Nice to Dublin, my immediate concern was: will people follow?

As a result, given the perceived risk and to some extent the intransigence of TM Forum on pricing, we decided to scale back our investment in the event. Comptel is not a sponsor and has not opted to take executive appointmentsettings this year. We have invested more in the booth, however, and built on two floors to give us an extra meeting room and afford us a better view of the exhibition hall!

Anyhow, it seems that, despite the near universal grumbling about Dublin not being Nice, people have turned up. Our meeting rooms have been full, and the exhibition floor has been busy. A straw-pole of my colleagues yesterday indicates that the customer and partner conversations have been good, too.

Aside from that, today saw the presentation by Comptel’s Mika Tanttu and Stratecast’s Nancee Ruzicka on the business drivers for policy control and how to get complete control over the customer. Specifically, they shared what TeliaSonera is doing in the space, with the help of Comptel.

And tonight is THE event of the show: Comptel’s party! When Management World was in Nice, Comptel used to hold a very popular rooftop party. This being Dublin, an open rooftop party is not really an option, so we have instead opted to go underground in a bar called The Vaults. We are very much looking forward to it and Day 3!

Readying for Management World 2011 in Dublin

Posted: May 19th, 2011 | Author: Olivier Suard | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Time has flown by since I wrote about the stress of moving—we’re now only a few days away from traveling to Management World 2011’s new home of Dublin. And yet again Comptel is pleased to have such a packed agenda! Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll be up to in the convention centre next week.

CTO Gareth Senior and Stratecast’s Nancee Ruzicka will be presenting a TeliaSonera case study as part of TM Forum’s Enabling Service Innovation Summit on Wednesday, May 25 from 12:15 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. It’s a worthwhile presentation that will discuss the operator’s unique “you get what you pay for” approach and use of policy control, to better manage its customers’ mobile Internet usage and meet the European Union’s data roaming regulations.

As my colleague Greg Scullard mentioned, we’ll also be giving live demonstrations of the Enhanced Cloud Service Management Catalyst in Forumville. Comptel’s mediation and policy control solutions were used in the proof-of-concept, which explores how communications service providers can develop, monetise, and assure access to new revenue streams and markets with hosted unified communications and collaboration services.

Lastly, Comptelians will be manning booth #49 in the expo hall and are on hand for demos of the Comptel Dynamic OSS, covering catalog-driven service fulfillment, dynamic SIM management, mediation, charging and policy control. We’re particularly looking forward to showing how our solutions can help operators deliver a superior customer experience, from customer acquisition through to service delivery, and to customer retention.

Should you wish to share any thoughts from the event, Comptel invites you to leave a comment here. We look forward to seeing you in Dublin!