Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Paradigm Erupts (The disruption of the Telecom industry)

The great philosopher Leibniz (born 1670) said “Reality cannot be found except in One single source, because of the interconnection of all things with one another.” Although certainly not his intention this statement rings true for the Telecom or IT industries today. In the very near future everything from our breakfast cereal to our heartbeats will be connected.

What if telephones of the future will be no larger than a dime and cost less than a dollar?

If telephones could be very small and very inexpensive would we still have only one telephone each or would we have hundreds? Would they just be laying around everywhere or would they be built in as an extra feature or component of all sorts of other products?

What if our customer identity moves out of the SIM-card and into our driver’s license or maybe in a “chip” implanted under the skin on our neck. (My cat has one and horses often have them.) If someone would borrow your telephone, the telephone will automatically identify them and charge whatever calls they make to their bill. While they use your phone they have access to all of there own telephone numbers, calendar and anything thing else they want to access (files, entertainment, photos, music, whatever). When you take the phone back it switches back to your identity and your content. In short, what if you have access to all of your personal content with whatever device you have access to wherever you happen to be without the limitations of the memory capacity of the device?

When I connect my customer identity to a device the size of a dime and lay that little phone on top of a TV or a PC or a screen in my car or a Palm in my pocket I can see my content. None of this is technologically farfetched, however, there is still a great deal to do on the commercial side of things to understand what products and services with which business models will generate revenue for what companies.

There is a convergence of everything to everything.

Telephones have become computers and computers have become telephones. We can watch TV on phones or over the internet! Any decent telephone contains a camera and a Mp3 player. Cameras are getting SIM-cards so they can automatically send your photos to your computer or your server supplier. Some gurus claim that this is not really convergence but divergence. To avoid getting caught up in semantics, maybe the best thing is to say that from a technology perspective things are changing rapidly.

New disruptive technologies will impact the way we work and play as individuals! They will create great opportunities for some companies and spell out doom for others. Although it is relatively easy to see these changes happening at a macro level it is enormously difficult (impossible) to say which companies will win. It is equally difficult to know exactly what technologies to bank on or which new business models will succeed.

What are the keys to success in this brand new world or maybe I should say in this new brand world? Customers and brands have always been important and I will not fall for the temptation of saying they will be more important in the future. However, the role of brands is changing as are the tools we use to build brands. TV advertising has been the most powerful tool for building strong consumer brands for 50 years. Viewers are opting out of traditional TV for other forms of entertainment or they are fast forwarding or simply hoping over commercials on digital channels. New media consumption behaviors require new marketing know-how. Consumers are becoming immune to traditional brand promises. Volvo’s promise of safety has gone from a powerful driver of the brand to being a prerequisite for any carmaker competing in that customer segment. Whatever else a BMW, Mercedes or Volvo may aspire to be in the hearts and minds of their customers they must also me safe.

This is not a paradigm shift, it is a paradigm eruption!

The expression “paradigm shift” at best creates a mental picture of one state of things that will shift to another state. What we are witnessing is more like an eruption in which there are so many parameters and so much change happening simultaneously that it can hardly be called a shift. When the dust settles many of the winners (not all) will simply have been lucky. They will have gambled on the right technologies and services. Organizations need a certain amount of stability to operate. The agenda cannot be changed completely everyday! Paradoxically, despite the fact that technology is radically changing the way we live and work, our fundamental human needs remain the same. Here we find the underlying stability we need to run our businesses. Fundamental human needs change very slowly, if at all. I am sure that a traveling business man in Roman times would have wanted to call home to his wife and his office if he could have. The need was there but the technical solution was not. As technology advances we find better ways to satisfy our needs. Our behaviors change but the needs that drive these behaviors do not.

Maslow will move from the marketing department to the boardroom

Companies who build their visions and strategies around satisfying these fundamental needs by means of whatever technologies best happen to suit them at the time will succeed. Companies who entrench themselves in technologies and then look for commercially viable applications will falter. Maslow will reign supreme and move from the marketing department to the boardroom.


Tips for success in this “New Brand World”!

Focus on fundamental human needs
-Shift from acquisition to retention (Anyone can win a customer, winners keep them)

Be open minded
-Don’t defend old technical solutions or business models (Kill your darlings)
-Accept that you don’t know what tomorrow holds

Experiment
-Failures are inevitable! Expect, Accept, Celebrate and Learn from them!
-Move on!

Have Fun!
Be fearless in the face of change. It’s a great business!

1 comment:

Kfir Pravda said...

Very interesting post Kelly.

I was looking into this subject too, and tried to model it. Till now I found three main drivers of the disruption you described:
1. The increase of broadband access in various forms – mobile, wireless, fixed wireless, cables, and wire line.
2. The reduction in bandwidth required to deliver high quality content
3. The reduction in price per storage unit

These elements are blurring borders between the various industries.

I am also trying to find some guidelines to identify which player will control (or at least have superior position) these new value networks. Though it seems like an impossible task, I singled out these points:
1. Gate keeping is not enough –mobile operators cannot rely on their ability to be gatekeepers in the mobile media world. They must bring additional value to their customers, such as aggregation, value and quality screening etc.
2. Content owners have a potential to dominate the new world, as they can deliver their media over multiple mediums, and build brands by multi platform distribution
3. Small players in the media market are going to have hard time, unless they are able to build or partner with strong content arenas
4. Interdisciplinary teams from telecom service providers, regulators, media owners and technology companies are key to success in this new world.

Will be happy to hear your opinion on this “work in process”…