Brian Solis, The State of Digital Transformation I Altimeter
In this two-part article, we interviewed Rob Willcock, President, Americas at Orange Business Services in Atlanta. He was previously the Managing Director and Head of UK and Ireland at Orange Business Services and has an extensive background in transformational and complex customer programs.
Digital transformation evolves transversally throughout the globe but has distinct business strategies and approaches on each continent. Rob provided us with a closer look at his customer front-line insights in the Americas.
Question: You work closely with Orange Business clientele and also recently had an opportunity to attend the Orange annual customer conferences Hello!Americas in Chicago, U.S. and Mendoza, Argentina. Would you share your thoughts about the challenges and opportunities that digital transformation is bringing to enterprises?
The biggest challenge I really see for customers is trying to grasp everything that is happening around them and make sense of it. All technologies are arriving at the same time in different shapes and forms, e.g., in Software-Defined Networking: SD-WAN and SD-LAN, wireless, software development, security services, wireless, cloud, hybrid, on- and off-premise software. It is such a multitude of services to cover in a rapidly changing environment, and the pace has accelerated compared to just two years ago.
It is such a challenge being a CIO or CTO today and thinking which solutions and services are actually going to bring benefit to my business. How do I do it? RPA (Robotic Process Automation), data analytics, blockchain, to mention a few. If you are in their shoes, it must feel overwhelming to consider: “How do I filter out the ones that I actually must do, and what will make a difference to my business?” I can relate to the worry decision-makers must have if they choose the wrong areas to focus on because they are responsible for the entire business technology. “If I choose the wrong direction and it doesn’t bring any real value to my customers or their customers, am I left behind the marketplace?” Technology has a much more critical role today – how the business strategy plays out with the clientele and in the market.
The opportunity depends on which industry sector you are in, e.g., data analytics, AI (Artificial Intelligence), RPA. I was at a conference in Los Angeles, and there were quite a few CIOs there – a number of them from the insurance, finance and banking sector. The changes they have implemented over the last two years are fundamental.
One good example is how insurance companies have embraced RPA. Automation has made a massive difference to their customers and how the cost base is calculated. Access to more detailed analytics and automating the industry have fundamentally changed the business and customer service models of the insurance industry. It all comes down to sheer volumes of data and speed they need to keep up with. You do not see RPA necessarily as a “sexy thing,” given it is basically about automating manual processes; but on a grand scale, it is a real transformation opportunity.
Another area that hit home to me is how AI, machine learning and data mining are changing the business approach in managing large, complex programs globally. As an example, the construction industry and governments have grand-scale programs. There are many global brands out there engaged in resource-intensive projects with a bottom line tied to a limited gross margin and stringent time frames. The projects require substantial upfront investments and have little if any room for error.
The opportunity for any company today is that with AI, you can analyze the data from previous performance cycles and simulate new models to shave off risks. AI-based analysis bypasses the thousands of man hours it would take to analyze data and allows you to change your entire cost base, risk, quality and governance management approach. Many Fortune 1000 companies rely on algorithmic data and need to deploy significant technology and business changes to measure their progress in digital transformation.
Question: What are some of the takeaways from your customer engagements that you would like to extend in your leadership objectives for the Americas region?
Answer: For the last two years, we have been focusing on five key areas: SD-WAN, security, contact center collaboration, MSI (multisourcing service integration) and IoT. We have had a strong network services approach in the Americas and are now focusing on the extensive service offerings for business growth and interacting with the customer digitization models.
Question: Do you see a difference in enterprise digitization progress between the Americas and other regions, such as Europe?
Answer: One big difference: companies in North America are often about the DIY (do-it-yourself) model. Europe and the rest of the world are usually looking for partially or entirely managed services. Most American companies prefer to implement and run SD-WAN projects in-house: Orange installs the hardware; we may or may not load software; customers configure and manage it. Most customers take this approach. Customers want to manage and master the different technology waves. Many customers also run their proof of concepts internally. To help their innovation process, we have kicked off the Open Labs concept with our customers in Orange R&D facilities.
In some cases, once the customer has the programs up and running, they look for Orange teams to continue with the managed services model and jointly plan development of the service life cycle. This shift typically happens a few years after the installation. Unlike in other regions, equipment resell plays a big part for us in the Americas.
Question: What is the most beneficial approach for Orange Business Services to support our customers in the Americas region in creating a digitally transformed business?
Answer: The most beneficial approach is building strong relationships with customers. We are regularly engaging our customers with Orange Silicon Valley (OSV), the Open Labs concept for joint innovation programs. Overall we have a more innovative and collaborative approach with our customers in different areas like IoT. We are using our corporate assets to bring value to our customers. Orange Silicon Valley prefers this approach because it allows them to take a step further from theoretical projects like AI and engage customers in live scenarios that turn the creation phase into practice.
Technology evolution is accelerating exponentially, especially in information technology. To keep up with the pace, service providers need to develop relationships hand-in-hand with the technology waves that support a rapid, innovative change with sufficient risk management and future-proof planning. Digital transformation requires building corporate and partner-wide ecosystems to cater to varying customer lifecycle engagement models.
In part 2, we are looking forward to hearing more about the employee engagement models and organizational development from Rob Willcock. Thank you for the time you spent with us today.
Rob Willcock is President of the Americas for Orange Business Services. He leads the company’s enterprise activities across North and Latin America, positioning Orange Business Services as a trusted partner in the digital transformation of multinational corporations. Rob has more than 20 years of business and technology experience in the telecommunications industry encompassing consulting, business development and global customer programs across multiple regions. He was previously the Country Manager for Orange Business Services in the UK and Ireland, and Vice President of the Orange European customer division. Rob is a member of the International Business Leadership Team at Orange and chairs the Americas Customer Advisory Board.