The cloud continues to disrupt the telecoms industry. With more changes ahead, panelist and presenter at Information Age’s Tech Leaders Summit, Rufus Grig — chief technology and strategy officer at Maintel Europe — explains how to seize the opportunity in this changing environment, particularly around communications.
But first, we explore the three areas of telecoms that are changing as a result of competition, disruption and of course, the cloud.
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1. The network
Every CTO should be looking at supporting their company’s move to cloud, making sure that the cloud experience is a good one that is secure. But, now, in the whole topology of networks this has completely changed. “If I think about what a network look like five years ago, it was about connecting branches to head offices, and maybe to some data centres. These days, it’s about getting my users to the cloud as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” explains Grig.
From the networking side of the telecoms industry, virtually every project concerns cloud enablement
He also says that this year, compared to last, there has been a lot more emphasis on cloud security — securing access to the cloud, cloud access, service brokers. “It’s about making sure that when people are connected to the cloud, their data is secure when it’s there,” continues Grig.
The telephony side of the telecoms industry is experiencing major disruption.
All the big players in the on-premise space have strong cloud offerings, but they are now competing head on with the new market of native cloud providers. It doesn’t stop there — all of them are being disrupted by the collaboration providers. This new wave of entrants, such as Zoom, who have traditionally focused on video conferencing and collaboration, have now entered the telephony space.
Microsoft Teams is making significant traction in this space as well
“With traditional telecommunications, this is so much choice out there for a CIO or an IT director, in terms of what direction do I take my communication strategy, and it can be bewildering,” says Grig. “There’s too much choice.”
But, despite the rise in cloud-based communications services, he doesn’t write off the importance of traditional telephony. “In hospitality or indeed, hospitals, it’s very important that phones work. There’s still a strong place for traditional play.”
3. Contact centre
In last 12 months, there’s been an acceleration of cloud adoption in the contact centre.
According to Grig, this is because there was a lack of unified communications in the contact centre. But, now, it’s caught up and “every major refresh project is looking to be cloud first,” he explains.
“Some of the capabilities that companies want to take advantage of are just more easily delivered from the cloud than they are from on-premise.”
This is not a cost argument, CIOs, CTOs and equivalents need to make sure that they are on a technology platform that’s going to stay relevant to the way their customers want to communicate.
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Changing communication for a more productive experience
The new communication tools, particularly Zoom, WebEx, Avaya Equinox and various Mitel solutions, produce a much better experience and productive experience for all parties during meetings. “We’re moving from face-to-face meetings being the norm, where video and audio conferencing were the exception, to an environment where remote collaboration is more common,” says Grig. This new ecosystem saves time and cost.
Internally, the new team collaboration tools, such as those from Cisco, WebEx and Microsoft Teams are changing the knowledge workflow, more so than field service or frontline work. Communication, within organisations is text-based, but this is increasingly moving away from email and towards the above collaboration tools. And it’s changing that backend workflow.
But, Grig advises that “the telephony add ons to the communication products are not as rich, usable or capable than their traditional counterparts.
“As a result, organisations are taking a mixed approach — your knowledge workers might be using a collaboration tool as their primary mode of contact, even for telephony. But, in the contact centre, people with a high degree of voice contact, rather than text, would use more traditional telephony solutions (the telephone), even though this will still be hosted on the cloud.
“A lot of the work that we’re involved with is making sure all these pieces play nicely together and are delivered together as a seamless service in a single joint experience for the organisation.”
The role of an integrator, like Maintel, has changed over the years. In the 90’s, companies were installing telephone systems, drilling holes in the walls and laying down cables. It then evolved into installing software and now, we’re in the cloud era.
Grig explains how this change has impacted the work Maintel is doing:
“So now, a big part of the value that we bring to our customers is to make sure that their users will actually make use of the system.
“If you build a return on investment for collaboration tools, for example, you will get the ROI if people use them. If your your ROI is based on reducing travel between offices, you can put a perfectly working system in, but if people still get in their cars and travel, you don’t actually achieve the the improvement you want. It’s no longer about identifying the technology, installing the technology and training users, it’s actually about changing behaviour and making sure the desired outcome is achieved.”
The cloud in telecoms: moving forward
Disruption will continue, because of the problems haven’t been resolved. There are brand new players disrupting old technologies and that trend will continue.
As an example of this, Grig points to Amazon: “No one would have seen that a few years ago Amazon would become a contact centre provider and now it is providing these services.
“We’re seeing this crossover where the tool sets that we give our employees, in order to make them productive, can come from all sorts of different angles, which includes productivity software, communications and networking. And, I think it will become an increasingly crowded space.”
Rufus Grig will be speaking at Information Age’s Tech Leaders Summit. To find out more from him, as well explore a variety of technology streams, including intelligent automation, blockchain and digital transformation, register here.