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Telco Alert! A $50 billion opportunity in enterprise mobility

We´ve all heard stories about sales reps pulling up real-time data on a tablet to close deals, or field technicians accessing instructions on a tablet while swinging from a telephone pole. But there´s a whole world of other ways mobile is changing how we work, live and play. Here are some examples.

Doctors can now prescribe embedded transceivers in pharmaceutical packaging to monitor patient compliance to medication. Shoppers can ‘try on’ clothes and accessories in a virtual dressing room while sitting on a bus. And those technicians on telephone poles don’t even need tablets anymore, just a pair of glasses responding to touch and voice commands.

Where’s the opportunity for Telcos?

Enterprises are transforming their operations with mobility at an ever faster pace as new gadgets, apps and devices hit the market, literally changing the face of the mobile workforce from month to month. Leadership in this new arena requires deep industry knowledge, skills for using new tools and technology, and most of all, new business models to deliver repeatable, high volume, customer-facing growth initiatives.

As enterprises reduce spend on traditional telecom services, telcos have a timely opening to take an enterprise mobility proposition to market, because until now, deployments have been niche and opportunistic rather than part of a long-term strategy.  An exhaustive survey by STL Partners, sponsored by SAP titled The $50bn Enterprise Mobility Opportunity, reveals a massive opportunity along with a significant gap between what telcos have to offer today and what enterprises want.

The estimated market size of Enterprise Mobility worldwide is $50 billion[1]. Thanks to years of grappling with the consumerization of IT and developing BYOD programs, most enterprises are on track when it comes to mobilizing the business: 60% have deployed B2E apps and 46% have a defined mobile strategy.  And 77% said they would consider purchasing mobile apps from telcos. That’s because mobilizing an enterprise is no small undertaking and many enterprises are looking to third parties to provide the tools and technologies to do the heavy-lifting of mobile app deployment and lifecycle management, together with the know-how to help them realize business value and return on investment faster. Telcos could provide such services, but only 16% have a defined EM strategy and/or a compelling market offer.

One would think that telcos would be leaders and pioneers in enterprise mobility – after all, telecommunications is the use of technology for long distance communications, and the advent of mobile phones was one of the key disruptors in the industry. But in reality, the adoption and maturity of mobility programs within telcos lags far behind other industries. Only 32% have mobilized their workforce and only 10% are using mobile to transform customer relations.

What are the challenges?

One reason for this gap is lack of technical resources with the right skill set amongst telcos. New skill sets are required to deliver and maintain enterprise mobility initiatives, and assuming partial or complete ownership of the enterprise mobility stack requires telcos to take a strategic approach. A long term plan requires market segmentation and prioritization, a strategic roadmap, resource alignment and a clear enterprise mobility proposition to support their go-to-market plan, plus infrastructure, platforms and services needed for turnkey delivery. This won’t happen overnight and not without a highly skilled and well trained staff.  With the right long term investment approach and a partner who can help them develop these areas, telcos could justifiably present themselves to enterprise customers as strategic services platforms, and the return would be considerable!

Besides slow adoption within the telco industry, there are other factors hindering telcos from leveraging this opportunity. Telcos traditionally sell to IT rather than business stakeholders; they see mobility partners primarily as vendors rather than true partners; and finally, reselling mobile technologies results in low margins because the margin comes with the IP.

Success through partnership

Solving these issues requires a long term transformation journey with substantial commitment and investment – not only in platforms and tools but also in people, via a transfusion of talent from related industries. Collaboration and partnership between telcos, enterprise mobility solution providers and their customers can go a long way in easing the transition and helping multiple parties benefit from this opportunity. In fact, I believe partnership is THE only way we will all benefit from the myriad ways mobile is changing how we live and work.

In my next blog, I’ll share the four-step program for success to help telcos move up the enterprise mobility stack to higher value offerings, and I’ll also discuss partnership models to help scale and enable telcos.


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