The world has quite literally become our office. Advancements in mobile services, connectivity, and reductions in the cost of moving data have made location almost irrelevant as we work, share, and communicate with our colleagues and clients as if we were in the same room.
This has had enormous consequences on productivity, the way we live our working lives, and even on our personal lives – whether we are travelling domestically or internationally, working at home, or indeed not working, we are fully contactable and able to work.
The clear benefits of this to businesses and their employees has brought a rapid development in the number and variety of mobile devices, connectivity tools, productivity solutions, apps, and other IT/telco solutions and services used for work. and as a result has significantly increased the workload of IT and telecoms decision makers. In a relatively short space of time their world has become greatly complicated by demands for them to provide and manage smartphones and tablets, allow personal devices, support a range of mobile OS, provide quicker connectivity (e.g. 4G), in and out of office wireless connectivity, integrated cloud and collaboration services (e.g. data storage, conferencing, UCC) and an increasingly wide variety of mobile business apps. All the while ensuring their network and devices are securely managed and protected from potential breaches.
Another consequence of the proliferation of mobile devices and remote working solutions used by businesses has been the increase in the number and variety of vendors needed to provide all the solutions a business needs. This adds two levels of complication, firstly the need to develop and maintain relationships with additional vendors, and secondly the need for these new mobile devices and remote working solutions to seamlessly integrate with existing systems and each other. This is one of the biggest challenges currently for IT and telecoms decision makers, and unsurprisingly they are now looking to consolidate as many services with as few providers as possible to reduce their costs, workload and place the emphasis for integration on the vendor.
This is not new news for vendors, with many having supplied ‘triple play’ bundles (mobile, fixed telephone, broadband) for years now, and fixed mobile convergence being a hot topic in the IT/telco space currently as vendors look to offer businesses seamless integration of fixed and mobile telephony connections to allow minutes to be shared, reduce costs, and maximise availability. In addition to this IT/telco vendors increasingly offer businesses value-added services which are complimentary to their core solutions and services; Wi-Fi delivered via broadband, Mobile Device Management, and Cloud services being prime examples.
The key challenge for IT/telco vendors as services converge, bundling becomes the norm, and value-added-services come to be expected by customers is understanding which products and services they can credibly provide, i.e. where does their brand stretch, where they would benefit from partnering with another vendor with a stronger reputation in that area, and where their brand is simply not credible. It is also important for them to be aware of which products and services customers are prepared to pay for, and which are expected to come as value-added-services with little or no extra charge. It’s these challenges which have helped to drive the latest flurry of merger and acquisition activity between BT and EE, and 3 and O2; in the current market adding new strings to their bow is crucial for any vendor, with credibility in the mobile, fixed, and IT spaces being essential.
This trend also has two very important implications for the way in which IT/telco products and services are sold. Firstly, business decision makers need awareness, education, and support when analysing which converged services and bundles are right for them. They need to be reassured that these will integrate with their existing systems, providing efficiencies, cost reductions and greater ease of use, i.e. an explanation of the business case and ROI. Secondly, as they look to increase spend with the vendors they use while reducing the number they use, they will expect a high service level, both during and post-purchase. In addition to service level expectations naturally increasing with spend, the greatest fear for them in ‘putting all their eggs in one basket’ is that problems with one means problems with all, they will expect to be reassured that when problems do occur they’ll be treated as a priority and a quick fix will be provided.
Ultimately this means the personal touch from vendors will never have been more important. Successful vendors will educate their customers with two-way conversations about which products and services they need, support them with a business case, tailor bundles to their needs, and support them during and after the purchase process. As businesses consolidate their vendors the market will be tougher, but the rewards for success higher.