Conversation with the Conversation Group

A week or so back I sat down and did an interview with Haydn Shaughnessy from The Conversation Group via Skype. This isn't an exact transcript of the interview, but my notes jotted down during the interview, which I've broken out into 3 topics based on the agenda laid out in an email from Hayden;

 a short interview around social technologies and the chances of a more open culture evolving in the telco space and what this means for how suppliers should in future communicate with operators. And of course for a view on how it is affecting the industry generally - for example the developer community around Ribbit and the growing use of open communities

A more open culture;

There is definitely a greater prospect of a more open culture within the telco space as Orange is not alone in adopting social media both internally and externally and trying to both start conversations and join existing conversations related to the industry.

I think telco's need to become more transparent and more human in how we operate, we have to demonstrate that there are lot's of great people within Orange working hard to ensure that all our customers get a great service and that they are real people with a passion trying hard to help people succeed. We can improve how we communicate both with our customers but also with our business partners to benefit everyone in the telco ecosystem, and social media offers that platform.

Orange is actively encouraging employees to blog and join the orange blogging team to demonstrate that we've got great people doing great things and launching innovative services. We've launched our own TV channel, again showcasing the great people within the Orange organisation, but also the good work they are doing improve orange and satisify our customers too.

We're working on blogging guidelines and have talked about how we move that forward which should help people find their voice. However, we've already a Orange bloggers club, were news items are exposed to us, as they are to journalists, prior to official launches via a blog. This demostrates that the PR teams see how bloggers can have a positive impact and help, it also puts the social media tools on a level playing field with traditional media.

I don't think we've reached the point of grasping the benefits of the social media explosion across the entire organisation just yet, but key groups are starting to understand the benefits of an open and transparent conversation. I think we've got some way to go still but Orange Business is moving in the right direction, check out people like ConorFromOrange on twitter for example.

Social media technologies;

In terms of social media technologies in use both internally and externally I think Orange is again heading in the right direction. Internally, we've a growing Yammer community that's developing across the entire domain. We're also sandboxing a version of the Jaiku micro-blogging platform internally as well, now that Google have made it opensource.

Externally we're really trying to get involved in the conversation, we've a both an official and un-offical Facebook group, we're also on Linkedin. There's the Orange Business Live blog (here) and also the TV channel too. We've also a got a couple of twitter accounts and a widget on Netvibes to boot.

We're going to be putting a lot of these social media tools to the test early in June of this year at the Orange Business Live 09 event in London. There's going to be a team of Orange Business bloggers at the event, hash tagging all the content with #orangelive09. So watch out for pictures and video on Flickr, Ovi, posterous and the blog itself and our tweets too.

Communicating in the future and impact on the industry.

In terms of using social media and the associated platforms for communication in the future, I'm pretty sure the industry and enterprises as a whole will adopt social media and it's going to have a positive impact on the business in general. I'd love to see some of our suppliers adopt social media tools and engage in a conversation for sure, I think it'd be great if our telecoms suppliers had a twitter account for their Network Operations centre, so it's a quick way to see if there's an issue and get regular updates without having to chase (AT&T uses twitter).

In terms of impact, we're already seeing new software development companies use social media to talk to their customers, fine tune requirements and features and release products that are exactly what the users want. I think we need to see that happen within the more established enterprises, to see them become more transparent and communicate with their user bases. There's got to be massive benefits, shorter product development times, an improvement in speed to market with the right products that have been built with the support from a community of loyal users.

Nicolas Jacquey
Rob Evans

Rob is the Group Head for Telecoms Sourcing for Western Europe and the Nordics and manages a team providing all aspects of Telecoms sourcing to Orange Business.  Rob owns the Commercial relationship with major carriers across Europe on behalf of Orange Business.  Cost reduction, re-negotiation, competitiveness and subsequent impact on country P&L are key activities that Rob drives across Western Europe.