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Transcript Blog- The Global Impact of COVID-19 on the Telecommunications Industry

Telecommunications is so essential in a time when we cannot connect in person. On this episode of Industry Insights by SAP, Josephine Monberg interviews Michaella Munyuzangabo, Global Solution Manager of Telecommunications at SAP. Michaella discusses the short- and long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the telecommunications industry and how technology can help aid in the recovery from this crisis.

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Josie: (00:03) 
Welcome to the industry insights by SAP podcast series. My name is Josephine Monberg, and I am your host. You are now listening to the COVID-19 special edition of our show. Welcome come to our podcast. Hey everyone. And welcome to our podcast. We’re looking at how different industries are being impacted by COVID 19. And even though we’ve moved further ahead, still tons of stuff happening that are dramatically changing different industries. And today we’re going to take a closer look at the telco industry. So telecommunications not to use abbreviations all the time and to do this. I am so fortunate that I am joined by Michaella. Now I’m going to say your last name, Munyuzangabo. That I, that I say, right? Yeah, exactly. I right. I tried to practice in advance, but you never know. So Michaella, you were an expert in the telco industry. So tell me a little bit more about yourself and you know, what you do so our audience can get to know you  
 
Michaella: (01:16) 
Yes. Michaella Munyuzangabo like you said so well, and I am actually based in Montreal in Canada. And I’m part of a team that we call the telecommunication industry business unit as a global solution manager. So what that means is that I work while my team and I work on understanding the needs of the market, like what is happening in telecommunications in general, discussing with our customers, understanding their needs and then sort of positioning, um, solutions to help them. So on one side, explaining and leading the go to market strategies of all we have that can help them. And then on the other side, looking at what more could we develop and then bring in that internally so that we can always evolve as our customers’ needs evolve as well.  
 
Josie: (02:14) 
Hmm. I’ve always, whenever I do these interviews, I always get, so I love my job, so I’m definitely not complaining, but I think that’s so cool how you kind of like sit between the two worlds and bring them all together and then you ensure that we stay so customer centric. So I really do think that’s so important and just, I know you’re in Montreal, but your name, where are you originally from?  
 
Michaella: (02:39) 
Okay, well, so I’m originally from Rwanda, uh, but I’m a bit of a, like a third culture kid, you know, I grew up in seven countries.  
 
Josie: (02:48) 
I seem so boring now, I grew up one little country. 
 
Michaella: (02:53) 
so I have many homes, but I’m Rwandan Canadian for now. 
 
Josie: (03:00) 
Oh, okay. Very, very cool. Yeah, I’m just Danish. So that’s me. Not at all. Yeah. No. Um, okay. So let’s talk a little bit about telco telecommunications. What’s going on? How’s the industry being impacted by COVID-19.  
 
Michaella: (03:18) 
So it’s actually been an interesting time for telecommunications. There has kind of been this resurgence and appreciation for them, you know, because usually they’re these big companies, I kind of operate in the background and we don’t really think about them as a consumer, you know, but now it’s like, that’s how we work. That’s how we communicate. That’s how, if you have kids, you teach them they’re learning online. Right. So they’ve kind of really become one of these essential services that we are depending on like food and utilities to sort of keep the world going around. And so for telecommunications themselves, then they’ve had to sort of think about what services are they providing to their customers. And also do we increase the amount of data that people have access to, whether it’s on their phones or in their homes, um, how do we help different businesses that are currently impacted and are not technically working right now? And so while at the same time still maintaining their networks right. And ensuring that there are no breaks and that there are no problems because we do depend on them so much.  
 
Josie: (04:29) 
Hmm. So what have they actually done? Have they done any frame, anything differently now because of COVID-19?  
 
Michaella: (04:36) 
Yeah. So different companies obviously react differently, but some have been out pre data, you know, so given off with their, some of their customers, some have sort of like push back, um, bill payments and allowed their customers who are like strained to sort of delay their payments. Um, and others are sort of coming up with like new offering and rethinking the different plans that they offer in order to really account for this huge surge in data consumption that we’re now seeing in the market.  
 
Josie: (05:08) 
Hmm. And how about 5G that’s something that we talk a lot about in general also be more covert, but I’m sure that’s something that gained a little bit more momentum now that like you said, we’re stuck at home and we can’t really go out and do the things I’ve used to fill up our days with. So what’s the role, what’s the role of 5G?  
 
Michaella: (05:29) 
It’s such an interesting topic because a lot of people are still trying to understand it, right? Like all of these telecommunications companies are investing in it and have started investing in it. And so for them, I think it’s been a moment of, um, of reflection. You know, some of them have, uh, increased their investment in 5g, as they see really the need to really have access to not only more data, but like faster data, be able to do more with it, be able to provide these services to, to these, uh, B2Bs and while others have sort of decided to kind of hold and see, there’s also been like interesting conspiracy theories. About how 5G is one of the reason that COVID-19 is happening, which of course for the record, it is not. Yeah.  
 
Josie: (06:21) 
Which is insane. Tell us a little bit more about that conspiracy theory.  
 
Michaella: (06:25) 
Yeah. So yeah, so it sort of started on the internet and kind of grew because social media these days, right. And people are out here attacking teleworkers. It’s actually really sad attacking tele workers and like destroying towers in Europe and in Asia because it causes five G and it doesn’t. And so now it’s like, we have to not only keep investing, if you’re a telco in 5G, but then do this whole education to really tell people like this is a good investment, it’s going to allow you to do more. It’s going to help you. It’s going to help healthcare companies. It’s going to help manufacturers retailers. It’s going to really even improve your entertainment because you’re going to be able to download a movie in three seconds, you know, rather than it being such like a negative thing. And so that reeducation of, um, telling people like this is not true, but then also just for them, like on the telcos, just keep investing in it.  
 
Michaella: (07:26) 
And then the most important part is sort of thinking of like, what are the different use cases that we can actually do with 5G? Because unlike, let’s say the 4Gs or the other bandwidth before here for five G to work, telcos will need to collaborate with other people. So collaborate with partners or that these are like implementation partners, but also collaborate with our customers. So whether it’s like a city for smart cities or like a utility company or a healthcare network, so create use cases where they partner with other people, which is something that they haven’t really had to do a lot of in the past.  
 
Josie: (08:05) 
So COVID-19 is really a time of collaboration. I see that across other industries as well, and also when it comes to supply chain and so on. So what are you telling your customers right now? Are you saying, are you telling them something different than what you did before COVID? Is it just because it’s an industry that really hasn’t been from what I’m hearing from you impacted dramatically in a negative way, at least is this is a different conversation or is it, is it pretty much the same?  
 
Michaella: (08:37) 
No. I mean the bigger team theme, the larger theme around digital transformation is the same. But I think now there’s a bit more of a sense of urgency because sometimes we’re having this conversation and insight, they felt that they had a little bit more time, but now as they feel sort of the strain right. On their systems to keep going now, it’s like, okay, well, as we start thinking about how we recover, then what do we really start focusing on? So for example, telcos also have retail stores, right? Like when you go on to get your full plan, um, both have had to close. And so if those are closed, then did they have the capabilities let’s say to have commerce online? Like how were their commerce, how were their online stores set up? You know, were they as strong as they are physical stores?  
 
Michaella: (09:31) 
Where did they, did they really, were, they really set up for that whole Omni channel experience? And so we’ve seen like a momentum in that as well, especially because for telcos, like their billing system is a bit different than a regular retail store. Because if I’m going to buy a plan, it’s going to be associated to a phone it’s going, I’m going to have to choose like how much data I have, which will impact my pricing. And so they are commerce experience is a little bit different than from a regular retail store. So we’ve seen some change in that direction. And then as we were talking about the investment in five G, we’ve seen of course an impact on the supply chains, like how do they work with our different suppliers, but also how do they really sort of look at their profitability? Because it’s like where it’s spending a lot of money investing in all of these assets. And now we’re also sort of helping our customers and giving them a lot of data and sort of changing how our plans are structured. So how do you really balance that cash flow? The conversation on a grander level is the same, but I guess to talk in some settings has, has, has had to change, right? We have to adapt.  
 
Josie: (10:43) 
Yeah. So speed is a factor. Now it’s accelerating digital transformation, which is really the case for all industries, but in this case, it’s because they need to keep up with the demand. And then of course also the collaboration piece of it, which is, is important as well. What about, you mentioned 5g and you mentioned a couple of other things, but what should businesses, teleco companies do right now? What is like, they should focus on their digital transformation. Are there more kind of concrete areas that they should also be focusing on in terms of how they go through an even more rapid digital transformation?  
 
Michaella: (11:23) 
Yeah. So for right now, the way we’ve structured sort of structured it right now is like in the short term where they’ve sort of been doing, um, sort of, we call it meeting the needs of a dispersed workforce. So now we’re all working from home. So how do we ensure that there is some form of continuity and this is not only from their customer side like us, but also from their own employees. Right? Because now their own employees are working from home. So how do they make sure that they understand the experiences of that employees and that their employees are set up for success so that they can continue on delivering these services to their, to their customers. Right. So that’s really been the first place to start to start from. And then what else, what we’ve seen as well is when you start thinking about planning, right?  
 
Michaella: (12:11) 
Whether we’re planning for like these five G, like this network, expansions or planning for the reopening of the stores, but it’s like, how do you readjust the plan that you had at the beginning of the year? Because the one that you had in January, are different ones and how can we help you do that? And then last but not least is, as we think about the new services that are going to be created. So if telcos are helping their business customers with, with new services that like I was mentioning earlier, how can we collaborate with other companies? How can we bring in partners so that we can create new use cases that will help us in that going forward? And I think the challenge always right, is that in a moment of crisis, you really focused on just the, now you’re focused on keeping this running as usual. Whereas here, yes, we have to keep business running as usual though we also have to take the notes and think about, okay, what do we need to do next so that we will be in a stronger position going forward.  
 
Josie: (13:24) 
Yeah. And it’s, it’s a, it’s a great point because when you look at COVID-19 and you look at it from the start, which was where, okay, COVID hit, everything changes pretty, I wouldn’t say overnight, but it was pretty dramatic. Right. And then companies have to figure out how do we respond? And that was really kind of the first phase. And that is also of course, trying to run business as usual. But then there is the recovery phase was for example, I’m in Denmark right now. And Denmark starting to open up again. So literally the government said, well, tomorrow all malls can open. So if you’re not prepared for that phase, well, then you’re kind of lacking behind and that’s just for physical stores, but it’s also having an impact of course, in the entire business model and then comes to the last phase, which is the reimagine of the business model, right?  
 
Josie: (14:15) 
Like, so we are in the recovery, but how has this actually reimagined our business model in the more longterm? Because like you said, digital transformation, speed, agility are factors that are just so much more important than they were before. So if we talk about reimagine, which is also kind of looking into the future, because I don’t maybe apart from China, I don’t think that there’s many companies that are in that phase quite yet. So what are you seeing in terms, or maybe also South Korean, other countries in Asia, but what are you seeing in terms of, if you look into the future for telco, what’s, what’s going to happen? How do you think they’re going to reimagine their business? It’s such an easy question, right?  
 
Michaella: (15:01) 
Yeah. That’s a big question. So, I mean, tacos have always sort of been like two folds, right? So obviously on the customer side, like the direct customer continue delivering an excellent customer service, right. I think that consumers today have high standards. We’re just so used to getting like deliveries in one day or in two days. And we want our experience to be the same, whether it’s in a physical store or like online, or if I call for a call center. So as we think, as we go forward in the future, telcos really have to sort of rethink their customer experience and to make sure that it’s aligned to that and that whether I am in store or I am online, they know who I am, they know my profile, they know how I’ve spent, um, in the past and can give me recommendations that sort of align with what I want as a customer.  
 
Michaella: (16:03) 
So that’s on the customer side and then there’s a huge opportunity on the business side. So when we think about manufacturers, um, like putting the connectivity at the edge so that they can really deliver these services where they can, for example, do like some fleet management and it helped their business customers with services that they wouldn’t be able to afford on their own. You know, there’s a huge opportunity in retail by if you think of the retail of the future, providing a connected retail experience where the customer can sort of just go and like check out if we want, you know, without having exactly, um, the huge opportunities in smart cities, right? Like we’ve started seeing it already, like with smart lighting, we started seeing it with smart trash management, all of that depends on connectivities. And so really the telco of the future is going to be really central to sort of like our life as customers, but in a more larger scale than they have been in the past. And it is very, it is an exciting time for them. And it is an exciting time to be in this business.  
 
Josie: (17:17) 
Yeah. I was going to say, I think you are in a good, in an exciting industry. If you look ahead and you see, because right, you’re right. It’s, there’s so many things that depend on telco and like smart cities, which is a huge thing. Or like you said, light lightning. I talked to a customer and SAP customer. They’re doing insane things with lightning where they can use it to figure out kind of, um, the temperature in the room or different things that I was like, I never imagined. So it’s really, really fascinating. Yeah. Have you heard about something similar to that or?  
 
Michaella: (17:53) 
Yeah, so we’ve had like, some customers sort of do like, um, temperature tracing, so like, like using like track trace, you know, so for example, you would be able to know when let’s say a vaccine leaves a facility and goes to be delivered to the center where they’re supposed to be delivered, you’ll be able to monitor, but the temperature is like all along so that, you know, if there has been like a risk of infection or the risk of like the product being affected because the temperature drops too much or not, you know, and this can also be done for food. Let’s say if you have frozen foods and you want them to remain on certain temperature, um, so that they can remain viable and we can consume them safely. Um, we’ve seen actually also, I don’t know if you’ve heard about it. Uh, and this is relates to the COVID-19, but the Deutsche Telekom and SAP and the German government partnership where the’re developing together a COVID-19 tracing app.  
 
Michaella: (18:56) 
And this is because telcos, have all of our information, right. They are able to kind of trace where we’ve been and anonymize that data. And so what the application is going to do is that it’s going to help people sort of know where they were at certain times, so that if let’s say tomorrow, God forbid, but I was to have like COVID-19 yes, but I’ll be able to say like, Oh, I have it. And then the people who were around me at the time or who I’ve been in contact with over the last few days would be able to receive a notification that says, like, you were close to someone, you were in contact with someone who has COVID-19. So please, um, like self isolate or go see your doctor, or, you know, like whatever, um, instructions that government or that public health sector gives to their citizens. You know? And so these are solutions that are very real, you know, like they’re needed, they’re very relevant right now. And it sort of brings up, um, once again, like, yeah, hey’re important.  
 
Josie: (20:09) 
Yeah. And it’s like you said, it’s critical this time and I’m assuming obviously all of this is very GDPR compliant because there might be people listening saying, Oh, do I want my data to share it that way?  
 
Michaella: (20:21) 
Yeah, no, no, no, no. It’s anonymize data. Like it’s anonymized data. So they will be able to just like, there’s no way to say like, hi Michaella, you were in contact with someone with this person. No, it’s more like your ID, your anonymized ID was around who had COVID. So maybe take these following precautions. And as the world opens up again, and as we go back to work for some people in their office spaces, or at some people have never stopped working, it sort of gives an added sort of security level just to, just to ensure that this is monitored. And there are ways that we can sort of manage the pandemic because it’s not going to be over soon.  
 
Josie: (21:04) 
Yeah. And if there’s a time to want to share your data, I think this is absolutely the best purpose that I’ve ever heard of. So that is so it’s amazing to see in this time that we live in, even though it’s so unprecedented companies are stepping up and they are taking responsibility and they’re thinking outside of their traditional business models in terms of, well, how can we restructure what we’re doing to better help? And I think that’s one of the really beautiful things about what’s going on right now is that we’re seeing that individuals as well as humans are truly stepping up to the challenge. So, and I see that is also the case for telco. So thank you so much, Michaella for coming on the show. It was so fun talking to you. And I am. I just think it’s such a cool industry that you’ve focused on. So thank you for coming on the show. Please subscribe to our channel industry insights by SAP at open SAP, Apple, Spotify, or podcast, to learn more about what SAP is doing to help you cope in COVID-19. You can go to sap.com about global health safety and find free access to select SAP software tools to support your business in much more. Stay safe, everyone. 

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