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Guiding digital explorers in Africa

December 5, 2016

Radwan Moussalli   

Senior Vice President for the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa

The African market is full of ‘digital explorers’. Enterprises in the continent are beginning their journey towards digital transformation and reshaping IT in a major way. These digital explorers are looking for IT to deliver enhanced value across all aspects of the business – from customer service and product development to supply chain and finance – and for service providers to propel them forward on this journey.

I have watched the African market change dramatically over more than two decades. The arrival of new undersea cable systems on the East and West coasts of the continent in the late 2000s was a step change, but nothing compared to what we are seeing today.

At our recent Partner Summit in Cape Town, South Africa, the role of service providers in enterprises’ digital transformation was a hotly debated topic.

African enterprises are demanding that their service providers change and evolve to support this transformation. For service providers, this means moving well beyond the role of a basic connectivity provider, and expanding their offering to include a new suite of value added services, including cloud, unified communication and collaboration (UCC) and managed security solutions. This shift is a must for service providers.

Around the world, $1.3 trillion will have been spent on digital transformation initiatives this year, according to IDC. The research firm notes that 64% of organisations are just beginning their journeys towards digital transformation. Nearly a third are made up of so-called digital explorers, who still have some way to go in ensuring the integration and consistency of digitally-enabled customer experiences and products.

I see this as a huge opportunity for service providers in Africa. They need to rise to the challenge and help these digital explorers accelerate their journey towards greater digitisation. Only through becoming real partners for these organisations, can service providers ensure that they won’t get relegated to the role of a traditional A-to-B connectivity provider in an increasingly commoditised market. They need to bridge the gap between their old priorities and what their local enterprise customers want and need.

In a global survey commissioned by Tata Communications, we found that African service providers and enterprises don’t always see eye-to-eye in terms of priorities. Around 40% of enterprises say that cloud is their major area of focus at present, while only 10% of service providers rank developing their own cloud services at the top of their list of priorities. More than a quarter (29%) of enterprises say that managing multiple service providers is a significant challenge, yet only 10% of service providers recognise this.

On the other hand, 40% of service providers are focusing on enhancing their offering through solutions such as software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV). But, just a quarter (23%) of African enterprises see these technologies as a current priority.

To ensure that the solutions that service providers offer are better aligned with their customers’ requirements, they need to look again at their strategy, and become more flexible and agile.

For example, enterprises want to manage fewer service provider relationships. That means service providers need to extend their reach and expand their service portfolios.

Enterprises want cloud services spanning storage, compute, UCC, and cloud connectivity. They need a service provider that can take a consultative approach to enable them to capitalise on the many opportunities that the cloud can bring.

Crucially, enterprises want transformation to happen quickly. But, the breakneck speed of technology innovation means that the latest technology advancements represent uncharted territory for not only many enterprises, but many service providers too.

That is why I believe that, in order for service providers to be able to shape the future of their enterprise customers through digital transformation, they should look for strategic partnerships. Partnering with other like-minded service providers enables them to bridge the gap between their current offering and enterprises’ emerging demands.

The right partnerships will enable service providers in Africa and beyond to embrace the role of a ‘guide’ for digital explorers, and drive their growth in today’s rapidly evolving telecoms market.

To read more about bridging the gap and partnering to align with the expectations of enterprises download our whitepaper Bridging the Gap: Partnering to align service provider solutions with enterprise expectations.

In the meantime, leave a comment below. How do you think service providers can best support digital transformation in Africa?