Added value all the way
Mr Schaeppi, Mr Geldmacher, one of the biggest challenges for telecommunications providers at the present time is to adapt the technical infrastructure to the dynamic process of globalisation. What do you see as the key areas here?
Urs Schaeppi: Globalisation is already a reality. Today it is important to carry as little baggage as possible – in other words, to travel as quickly as possible. This is why the focus is, firstly, on connectivity and bandwidth and, secondly, on the scalability of services such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) as well as solutions for sensible Spend Management.
Jan Geldmacher: Exactly. The globalisation of the markets means that companies find themselves in a dynamic competitive environment with increasing time and cost pressure. Furthermore, their employees are more mobile than ever and, depending on requirements, work together in project teams that are spread across the entire globe. Our customers therefore demand flexible and highly professional communications infrastructures that can cross national borders just easily as the customers themselves.
Urs Schaeppi: Our customers expect far more than just communications services. We need to generate tangible added value for them with our international services.
What will this involve?
Jan Geldmacher: Making sensible use of synergies to cut costs, for instance. To do this, we need to overcome the boundaries between pure telecommunications services and traditional IT tasks. This is why, apart from transport, the protection, maintenance and management of data is becoming increasingly important. As customers no longer have to carry out these duties themselves, they can make considerable savings in personnel costs and also cut their budget substantially for their own hardware.
How can telecommunications companies meet these requirements?
Urs Schaeppi: As is so often the case, the greatest challenges are also our greatest opportunities. We now provide services that were not even conceivable a few years ago. These include cloud services that allow you to extend your infrastructure quickly as required, or security solutions ranging from assessment through to your own SOC (security operation centre). Managed services and machine-to-machine solutions also keep us at the forefront of global value chains.
Jan Geldmacher: In this context, the new LTE turbo Internet, which allows rural regions to develop into centres of international data streams, is also important. However, it is also clear that, as well as pronounced flexibility and the will to find specific solutions for every single customer, strategic partnerships are also key. We rely on strong national partners in places where we cannot be present ourselves – in Switzerland this is Swisscom.
What specific benefits do customers gain from such alliances?
Jan Geldmacher: They benefit, for example, from uniform technical standards and full cost transparency thanks to strictly standardised roaming procedures.
Urs Schaeppi: These partnerships also allow us to optimise the entire value chain to the benefit of our customers. This ranges from international purchasing groups, for example for mobile phones or software solutions, through to development of products and services, and cross-company and international added-value services such as expense or order management.
You are taking on a lot of responsibility on behalf of your customers here. As a telecommunications provider, how do you ensure that the software and hardware solutions you are developing are in line with market requirements?
Jan Geldmacher: Here it is incredibly important to involve customers. Intelligent linking of knowledge is the key to business success in a digital society. I always see innovative sparks of ideas when we meet at the Vodafone Enterprise Plenum or the Enterprise Customer Executive Board – both exclusive circles where we develop premium customer strategies for the future. In this context we can evaluate our business customers' requests and requirements in real time and together develop sensible, economically viable solutions for the long term.
Urs Schaeppi: This is why we look after customers on a one-to-one basis. Not only does this allow an ongoing exchange of information: we are also continually extending our know-how. Furthermore, an integral element of our customer support is to initiate innovation. Not only do our customers expect this – in some cases, it is also a contractual obligation. For instance, we are developing specific workshops with experts from our “Swisscom Innovations” ideas laboratory. We regularly share ideas with customers and partners at the annual “Swiss dialogue Arena” and the “Brain Gym” also gives us a further ideas workshop. All this does not mean that we are only looking at national developments: on the global stage we also have a facility at Silicon Valley in the USA.
Can you give an example of innovative projects of this kind?
Urs Schaeppi: Let's take mobile payment – that's payments using a smartphone. Hardly anything happened for a very long time. Then, working with some banks, we managed to develop an extremely powerful application for mobile commerce, which has its storage space onto the SIM. Here we opted for Near Field Communication, a radio standard which only has an activation range of a few centimetres. This allowed us to satisfy the high standards of clear identification of the user as well as the need to provide rapid and secure payments.
So, to be more specific, that means that Swisscom and Vodafone are involved in developing their customers' business models?
Urs Schaeppi: The answer for Swisscom is a clear “Yes”. We are involved in developing business models for our customers. As a general provider of ICT solutions, our role is much more than the provision of technical solutions. Customers are entitled to expect that we understand their industry and the dynamics that drive their business and contribute its further development. They also expect this in a global environment – and that is possible, too, thanks to our cooperation with Vodafone.
Jan Geldmacher: (laughs) However, that doesn't mean that we also provide appropriate ideas for the business. What really happens is that the majority of companies nowadays make very considerable use of the possibilities offered by modern communications but for some, such as online shops and call centres, it is their core business. So it's sensible for us to fully exploit our expertise as an integrated communications business in this field. However, here, too, it is important to deploy your efforts in the right place and to know when to offer solutions yourself and when to buy in expertise.
In your view, does the cooperation model have a future in the telecommunications market? After all, there is hardly another market that has seen so many technical innovations and the upheavals these cause as the telecommunications market.
Jan Geldmacher: This is why we do not wait for a new trend to appear before we react – we drive forward innovation ourselves. The close alliance with Swisscom is a good example of this. Essentially, this is a strategic decision that is of particular benefit to our customers. This is because it provides transparent costs, which is a basic component for the international activities of many of our medium-sized companies. In this way, we make an active contribution to the development of future markets, which is only possible through working together with partners. In this respect, this cooperation does not just have a future – we are shaping the future together.
Urs Schaeppi: In the future, we will have to bring products and services to the market even faster. The "make or buy" issue is becoming increasingly important, both for us and our customers. Alliances like the one with Vodafone allow us to get the most out of our own qualities and our partners’ expertise.
When telephone calls and data cross international boarders, legal and technical frameworks change. How does it work when two major companies with different corporate cultures and traditions come together?
Jan Geldmacher: Framework conditions do not just affect us, but also our competitors. We therefore shouldn’t see them as a drawback, but rather as a challenge to be tackled. And when it comes to philosophy, Swisscom and Vodafone have a lot in common, especially with regard to innovative strength and service quality.
Urs Schaeppi: Both companies share the same goal. They want to supply their customers from one source in a global environment as well –for products like global Service Level Agreements – even when certain legal requirements and regulations start off a debate. The customer will be unaware of this and will also be spared having to deal with it. In this respect and as an exception to the rule, globalisation even helps to make business processes simpler.