Much like 2020, 2021 continued to be a year of change. While previously unusual terms such as social distancing, lockdown, and isolation became the global norm, the effect of the pandemic continued to trigger shifts in working practices industry-wide. Last year on Accelerators, we had the pleasure of catching up with some of the leaders embracing change and accelerating transformations in the telecoms and tech industries. So, in the first episode of the new year, we wanted to look back at how the telecoms industry transformed in 2021 and consider the predictions for 2022, with the CEO of Beyond Now, Angus Ward.

2021 perspective: the triple debt facing CSPs

As business models changed, CSPs started 2021 with three main challenges: financial debt, technical debt, and organizational debt. 

Firstly, to grow margins and address existing financial debt, CSPs needed to move beyond connectivity. 

Secondly, inflexible IT systems hindered the speed they could deliver new business models. To resolve this, the focus for 2021 should have been on building a two-layered approach: building new 5G revenue streams as well as transforming existing IT infrastructure. 

And finally, traditional CSPs are structured based upon how they want to sell – not how their customer wants to buy – resulting in silos within the organization. So, to deliver innovative 5G solutions in 2021, their approach needed to change. This meant focusing on creating new divisions, co-creating, and co-developing with partner ecosystems to sell total solutions that address the customer's needs. 

2022 and beyond

The shift from comms to tech-comms

Following on from the organizational debt CSPs faced in 2021, Angus predicts that we will continue to witness a shift in how companies work in 2022. As CSPs adapt and evolve their solutions for the B2B market, they must continue to move away from silos; instead, adopting a new organizational model that focuses on discovering and resolving the customer's problem with an ecosystem of partners. 

As Angus puts it, “CSPs need to organize in a way that enables them to bring to market what the customer wants to buy, which means being less centralized, and powering those who are sitting in front of the customer.” These organizational changes aim to make CSPs easier to work with so they can attract the right partners to their ecosystem to deliver valuable solutions for the customer.

Real partner ecosystems 

Creating effective partner ecosystems will be key as CSPs move towards a tech-comms approach in 2022. To successfully shift towards creating a solution – rather than the traditional approach of selling a single product – CSPs need real partnerships in which co-creation, co-development, and free-flowing communication are encouraged. 

Angus reflects on his past conversations with telecoms providers, explaining that traditional relationships may no longer be good enough. In today's landscape, a partnership that is based on reselling products and apps (an app store-like model), does not suffice. Now, companies must start with a complete understanding of the customer's problem and then strategically build an informed solution to solve these problems using an ecosystem of partners to resolve it.  

Many players already began building strategic and selected relationships in 2021, and the results were clear to see; for example, Nokia enabled cloud-based 5G radio solutions by partnering with AWS. However, navigating this new approach for some can be tricky, especially when establishing which partners can bring the most value to your ecosystem. But, with strategic guidance, CSPs can really pinpoint what fits with their customers' needs to identify suitable partners. Angus explains that when offering support to CSPs, it’s not just technology-focused, it’s also about helping the business to think differently, which often means taking on the customer’s perspective so that CSPs can navigate the market with a deeper understanding.

Moving closer to the Edge

In 2020 and 2021, everyone was talking about 5G use cases, but as we begin a new year, there are still a lot of ‘what ifs’, as the 5G market evolves slower than expected. While there is no doubt that 5G will remain a key trend in 2022, as conversations begin to slow, one technology that is quickly starting to dominate the discussion instead, is Edge. 

No matter whether your business connects to a 4G, fiber, or a private 5G network, the lower latency of Edge can accelerate your technical capabilities at a reduced cost and improved quality. And demand is rising as businesses quickly realize this – proven by former guest Lumen’s choice to pivot its offering and focus entirely on Edge. Angus explains that as the enterprises’ desire to transform continues to grow at speed, so will the adoption of Edge, which he expects to soar in 2022.

Solving the SMB market

Typically, the newest technologies and latest advancements have primarily been available to larger corporations at first. However, Angus believes this is set to change in 2022. The shift towards automation, lone working, and working from home in the wake of the pandemic, accelerated the need for technologies such as the cloud and IoT among smaller business, pushing CSPs to address the rising demand in the SMB market. However, in 2021, with little appropriate platforms in place to support it, many CSPs have struggled to cater to the SMBs' needs. So, in 2022, Angus thinks it is time for CSPs to truly ‘hack’ the market. 

To do this, telcos need to consider the real needs of SMBs, to use technology to improve their business. While often, smaller businesses do not have the teams or resources available to manage multiple vendors; instead, Angus explains it requires a solution that has been ‘stitched’ together for them. A 'one-stop-shop' that is affordable, accessible, and most of all, easy to use. At the same time, it needs to demonstrate a clear business value to the CSPs themselves – adopting a digital marketplace that is designed to support these solutions will become key for CSPs in 2022.

Focus on green

Finally, Angus emphasizes the importance of factoring sustainability into every business strategy in 2022. If the changes the telecoms industry makes today are to remain efficient in the future, climate change must be on the agenda. Even though IT offers solutions to the climate emergency, it is also still a polluter, accounting for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions, according to ClimateCare. To combat this, in 2022, SaaS migration is likely to become a key step in businesses’ meeting their climate targets. The ICT sector has made significant progress in becoming more energy efficient, for example, Google’s new cloud computing tool helps its customers to pick cloud regions with a lower carbon footprint. Additionally, hyperscalers are starting to make the move towards green energy, with the likes of Microsoft opening a new data centre in Sweden that runs entirely on green energy as well as supporting zero-waste operations. Throughout the year, we expect to see enterprises continue to prioritize greener decisions, in turn driving cloud migration and the switch to SaaS.

Ultimately, to drive all these trends forward, the industry relies upon 'accelerators'. These are industry leaders, pushing for change, innovating at speed, and guiding the telecoms sector further, faster, and beyond. So, stay tuned to hear more on Accelerators from the trailblazers’ transforming telecoms in 2022.

Listen now to the latest episode of Accelerators, to find out more.

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