A Mobile World Congress panel discussion about digital operators took an unexpected turn when differences emerged between Telefónica and MTS.

Michael Duncan, CEO, Consumer, at Telefónica, used his opening speech to outline why digital transformation is so important.

The Spain-based operator, which folded its Digital arm into group operations two years ago, unveiled plans to become a “100 percent digital company” back in December.

Duncan said: “Everything is changing...both tech and consumers.”

At the same time, the exec said that the pace of innovation was accelerating and “transforming the whole ecosystem”.

Telefónica has identified six priorities that it is focusing on as it attempts to become more digital, Duncan revealed.

Outstanding connectivity, integrated offers and making customer engagement more digital are the first three.

These will be backed up by the use of big data, end-to-end digitalisation – notably real time capabilities – as well as capital allocation and simplification.

Duncan also pointed out the need for people to lead the transformation.

He said: “Talent is a key aspect. We need leaders who can transform the organisation.”

He added: “We need talent to be resilient...accept failure.”

The discussion was moderated by Accenture. Mike Sutcliffe, Group Chief Executive of Accenture Digital, said: “Operators will help other industries to become more digital.”

However, Vasyl Latsanych, Chief Marketing Officer at MTS, took a decidedly different view.

Dismissing digital transformation as a buzzword, Latsanych said: “I’m here because I struggle to comprehend what digital transformation means for carriers.

“It’s not about being digital, it’s about being right.”

According to a recent IDC-Amdocs survey, a lack of vision and strategy from top management is holding back operators from transforming themselves quickly enough.

Latsanych did agree with Duncan on the importance of big data, however.

The CMO said this offered “immense potential” but its usage remains “very fragmented and not efficient”.

The company has created a big data business unit because, Latsanych said, MTS needs it “in every part of the business”.

Earlier this week, Telefónica revealed it is rolling out big data analytics tools in an effort to anticipate outages and black spots on its global network.

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