ANALYST Q&A: ENTICING THE ENTERPRISE
Industry Director for Mobile and Wireless Frost & Sullivan
SVP of Enterprise Research CCS Insight
President and Principal Analyst J.Gold Associates, LLC.
Q: How big of an opportunity is the enterprise application and services market for mobile operators?
Jeanine Sterling (JS) The enterprise apps and services market presents a massive revenue opportunity – and mobile operators are in an ideal position to earn a slice of the mobile apps pie. In North America, these solutions remain on a growth trajectory, based on a clear set of benefits. Frankly, mobile operators that are not participating as at least resellers are squandering an opportunity to increase ARPU, sell relevant adjacent and core services, and decrease business customer churn. In an increasingly competitive landscape, participating in this market also helps position operators as technology leaders.
Nicholas McQuire (NM)
This is a great market opportunity for the operators. The health crisis has driven an acceleration to the cloud and cloud working which means that cloud applications are skyrocketing with some areas in the remote collaboration space picking up 10X in terms of demand over the past five months.
The home has become the new branch office, so in my view, operators that can provide a set of curated and elastic managed services that support a range of enterprise applications and the digital workplace with an enterprise grade quality of service into the home will lead the market.
Jack Gold (JG)
With 5G, operators have a real ability to help enterprise deploy edge computing at the point of service. Edge is a major growth opportunity and operators can leverage this if they do it correctly. But there is some resistance for companies to deploy with operators, based on historical challenges. Operators will need to be more creative and more services oriented to succeed.
Q: What kinds of enterprise applications and services are most in demand and why?
JS In our annual business survey, more than half of current mobile enterprise app users plan to expand their deployments within one to three years. Mobilised apps for workers out in the field – including field service technicians, home healthcare aides, field sales personnel, etc. – are very popular. These software solutions allow remote and mobile employees real-time access to critical information, collaboration, and guidance via their smartphones, tablets, and wearables. These solutions can also transmit valuable field information – worker location, task status, emergency alerts, etc. – back to HQ. With this kind of up-to-the-minute information at hand, customers experience real hard-dollar benefits such as more efficient business processes, more productive employees, and happier and more engaged customers.
At the moment, most firms are struggling with the demands in the remote collaboration and productivity environment such as Microsoft Office 365, Teams, Slack and Zoom, etc. We have seen huge progress in this market but firms are struggling with the question of standardisation in this environment.
They are also looking at areas like robotic process automation, and new technology solutions brought on by the pandemic such as hybrid working and wellbeing tech. Above all, security is perhaps the biggest concern, especially in the home working space.
These are all big opportunities for operators.
Edge-based systems for industrial processes, as well as for autonomous vehicles and similar systems. Smart cities is also a huge opportunity, as is telehealth.
Q: What’s looming on the horizon? How are 5G and IoT changing the game?
JS This is a sector that loves leveraging new technologies, and carriers should consider using their unique IoT and 5G experience and capabilities to differentiate against other types of providers. For example, integrating a field service management app with the Internet of Things makes it possible to see early warning signs and provide more predictive and proactive technical service and support in the field. And mobile situational awareness apps are leveraging IoT sensors to provide first responders with life-saving on-the-ground data. 5G speed, capacity and power will make it possible to take enterprise apps to the next level by enabling the incorporation of breakthrough technologies such as augmented reality and 3D virtualisation in the field, in retail stores, in real estate, etc.
There is growing attention on 5G edge solutions at the moment and we have seen some traction in areas like private networks as well as growing interest in VR/AR applications over 5G in field maintenance for example. But much of it is still experimental at this stage and the pandemic has had to shift priorities for many firms.
5G makes it possible to slice the network for IoT and make it more financially attractive to deploy. It also allows much greater scale out of devices. Many IoT deployments are cost sensitive so this should be a big advantage.
Q: Ok, so how do operators turn this opportunity into revenue?
JS The vast majority of businesses prefer to deploy prebuilt third-party applications as opposed to building a fully customised solution. This makes it easy for mobile operators to act as app resellers, earning a percentage of each sale. App providers recognise the unique strengths carriers bring to the table as a channel partner, including a high-touch relationship with business customers via their monthly invoice, their reputation for high product quality, and their ability to offer a one-stop-shop experience that conveniently provides the app, the mobile devices, the network, and ongoing technical support. These are some of the reasons why, in our annual survey, a significant portion of businesses (large and small) consider wireless carriers their preferred partner when selecting and implementing mobile business apps.
Operators have some great opportunities in delivering managed network services for extremely low latency applications. They can become innovators in the business models that support high performance and mission critical applications over 5G and, above all, become big lures for developers building the next generation of software, both in exposing their network services for application development but also in the data insights they can provide.
The big question is can they deliver on these opportunities? As they shift to the cloud as part of the operational and network transformations over the next few years, they certainly will have the capacity to.
Operators will need to have a services-first mentality, rather than a how-many- connections-can-I-sell-you mentality to be effective. Partnerships with edge-based cloud providers will also be key. Finally, operators need industry-specific and vertical solution-specific expertise if they want to be seen as credible suppliers.
Q: What barriers are there to enterprise adoption of new applications and services? How can operators address these?
JS Businesses worry about data security, mobile device issues and lack of budget. Mobile operators already have a strong data security story (or they should). ‘Mobile device issues’ typically boil down to having to purchase additional smartphones or tablets, and the operator has the ability to offer a discounted app/device bundle when needed. And lack of budget is usually neutralised with affordable, scalable monthly or annual subscription pricing.
The biggest barrier operators have to overcome is customer trust. Whilst many telecoms stepped up during the health crisis, they now must help companies rebuild, particularly SMEs. In the past, they didn’t have the greatest reputation when it came to being helpful to customers, especially when it came to innovation and cost. A much deeper focus on helping firms become more resilient with their solutions, an ethos of serving and not selling and prioritising “shovel ready” initiatives, customer success and up-skilling on 5G, will be key to this in future.
There are many, but primarily the ability to easily deploy extended edge-based systems; the ability to segment and orchestrate apps to various edge devices; and the cost and difficulty in making it all work. Many organisations will need a lot of help in doing this and operators generally do not have the internal expertise to help them. That’s why partnerships will be key.