By Mark Windle, Head of Marketing at OpenCloud

Enterprises are driven by the ability to communicate effectively, enabling them to streamline processes, better fulfil customer requirements and collaborate more effectively.

They are always looking for the most innovative communication service provider to meet their growing requirements.

Today, powerhouse IT companies such as Microsoft are primed to win large enterprise communication deals at the expense of the traditional mobile operator.

This is because CIOs are increasingly viewing communications as ‘another IT service’ and not a provision exclusively from telecoms operators.

Billions in revenue could be lost unless operators make the necessary changes to their networks to enable them to create tailored, value added services for the enterprise, putting a stop to current churn.

Telecoms technology is now shifting towards common IT, spurred by the use of internet protocol (IP) networks and the move towards virtualisation and the cloud.

These technologies have all habitually been used for a variety of IT services, but in recent years have been increasingly utilised to deliver communication services.

As a result, many IT-centric providers have had a headstart optimising these technologies to deliver a broad range of communications services to the enterprise.

Communication services have now become embedded in a large range of applications, contextualised for use within the specific application.

This is demonstrated in many consumer applications, for example WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger now offer voice calling, and there are live audio connections on many online games.

Within the enterprise environment, communication boosts productivity and is therefore increasingly considered alongside IT systems and applications.

The warning for operators is that it is no longer sufficient to simply provide connectivity.

Businesses want communications to add greater value and context to their applications and processes.

Communication services now need to adapt and evolve as rapidly as the enterprise market demands.

A new approach to service innovation

Operators’ advantage in delivering communications traditionally lies in the access network, and the licencing of telecoms spectrum for delivering cellular connectivity.

However, because operators provide generic IP (internet) access over 4G, other non-operator communication services can now easily be delivered over-the-top of the operator provided connection.

Furthermore, generic internet access is supplemented by access via Wi-Fi and fixed broadband.

This has provided an inroad for other service providers and IT players to offer an array of third party productivity applications with embedded communications to the enterprise.

As many IT systems are built on software, they are inherently more flexible and evolving faster than ever.

Traditional operators are struggling to match the agility of IT-centric providers and any advantage the operators’ once had is in decline.

One way in which operators can turn around their fortunes and become a more attractive proposition to enterprises is by creating tailored, innovative services to meet their evolving needs.

To achieve this, a new capability is required that enables them to develop, deploy and iteratively enhance communication services with agility.

Many operators currently rely on service innovation to be implemented through the physical deployment, integration and commissioning of new vendor equipment into the network.

The innovation, developed by the vendor, is embedded into their product.

This is a costly and slow process that greatly hinders service innovation.

Operators must bring this process back in-house by introducing open software that can support the creation of new communication services.

By taking this flexible approach to development, they can begin creating their own services without relying on network equipment vendors.

This development model lets operators optimise a service in-house, such as video conferencing or unified communications, offering enterprises a variant that meets their individual requirements.

This model puts the operators back on a level pegging with powerhouse IT companies who have a lot more flexibility in how they create and integrate communication services.

The enterprise is a huge market for mobile operators with higher average revenue per user (ARPU) than consumers (up to double in some countries).

Revenues for many operators across Europe are already squeezed, and they cannot afford to lose lucrative enterprise customers to more nimble IT players.

Operators need to take urgent action to inject the capabilities into their networks that enable them to deliver valuable, dedicated services to their enterprise customers without dependency on vendors and without the associated cost and delays.

They must begin to show the C-level influencers in enterprises that they can offer compelling value and deliver a more relevant set of communications services than IT providers.

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