Digital disruption is transforming the way we live, from how we travel to how and where we work, pay for goods and consume media services.
The advances in digital technology are driving these changes, in many industries even faster than established players can adapt.
It’s not just the technology itself that is significant but also the ways in which it is affecting consumer behaviour, and indeed, creating a new breed of connected customer.
The connected customer is using technology to rewrite the rules of engaging with businesses.
Companies no longer control the conversation.
Telecoms is no exception.
We’re seeing first hand the impact of new technologies on telecoms infrastructure and service delivery, in particular, how these developments are transforming traditional telephony.
In the 2015 TeBIT study, the participants that were most active in the digital space suffered the smallest revenue declines.
In the first of our IPEX Reports, IPEX COO Paul Sherlock takes a deeper look at the digital transformation of telecoms.
“I’ve heard the phrase ‘voice is dead' increasingly used of late. It’s a good sound bite but an oversimplification of the telephony landscape as it emerges.
“To understand what’s changing, it’s necessary to understand the drivers of change in more detail.”
“One of the biggest drivers of transformation is closer than you think - your mobile phone.
“The astonishing leap in the sophistication of mobile devices has instigated the rise of the connected customer.
“The connected customer is informed, empowered and always-on. Previously, businesses were able to lead conversations with potential customers through more traditional advertising means.
"Now, that has changed.
“With a simple search, customers are able to research services, read peer reviews and product comparisons - all before interacting with you. In most cases, before you’re even aware of that customer.
“Social media is a huge influence too. A lot of these online conversations are happening on social networks, at any time. That’s a huge change in the customer-business relationship.
“From a more practical point of view, the incoming ISDN switch off is an interesting infrastructural factor.
“You may already know that BT intends to switch off the ISDN network by 2025. ISDN comprises the digital form of communication that allows for both voice and data to be transferred between parties, using traditional phone lines. It was one of the first digital communication networks, launched back in 1986.
“As more and more services move to cloud-based services, the ISDN switch off is merely an evolution of a now obsolete technology and indicative of the exciting advancements the industry has made.”
Currently, approximately 95 percent of households in the UK own a mobile phone, a figure that has remained constant since 2015
“The impact of these developments on telecoms has been huge.
“Consumer mobile use has increasingly blurred with business use. Consumers are employees and expect the same convenience and speed at work as at home.
“This puts pressure on businesses to offer mobiles as standard, and manage a fleet of devices, data and apps. This has given rise to Mobile Device Management packages to help businesses keep control and monitor activity of a wide number of devices across a network.
“With mobile usage robustly managed, the benefits are numerous for businesses. Productivity apps and efficiency monitors help businesses keep track of where their biggest threats and opportunities to optimisation lie. We’ve given our clients clever dashboards that give them oversight of all these data insights in one place - they find it really useful.
“Along the same lines are the advancements in increasingly cloud-based services.
“The advent of chat and instant message services are putting greater pressure on businesses on top of traditional phone and email services, as the connected customer demands their pick of real-time, always-on communication channels.
“Having a robust internet solution is now business critical.
“Internally, advances in connectivity are driving the rise of remote workforces.
“According to the Office of National Statistics, it’s expected that half of the UK’s workforce will be working remotely by 2020.
“Remote working or mobile working can boost productivity and foster collaboration and engagement across your teams, so it’s a trend that’s here to stay.
“Naturally, with all these developments, there are some potential risks posed by increased mobile reliance and greater connectivity.
“Moving to connected services for your telecommunications means that you’ll require robust data protection services and centrally-managed control of any third party applications or services in play.
“There are many clever ways to manage these risks however, and they form part of the new reality of telecoms.”
“With all of these advances, you could be tempted to think that telephony itself is becoming archaic.
"While it’s true that internet services are gaining ground, it’s definitely not true to say that voice is dead. In my experience, it’s quite the opposite.
“If anything, I’m seeing an increased need for human-to-human contact services that are underpinned by great technology.
"There are still many businesses and many instances where instant messaging, email or support tickets just won’t suffice.
“I spent time recently with a business providing vital software to schools. Neither the school nor the software provider could afford to wait for email responses in the event of an outage and so preferred to continue using a service centre.
“An estate agency I know is developing tech in-house that will help them get closer to their customers and learn more about them, as well as market their properties in a new way.
“These types of services rely on human interaction, on empathy and an emotional response. That’s not something we can or should aim to automate.”
Harnessing new communications technology, mobile developments and changing customer behaviour is about bringing businesses and customers closer together, in new ways that work for everyone.
“I hear a lot of noise around the challenges to the traditional telecoms business models and how failing to embrace digital developments quickly enough is a threat to many.
“I agree with this in some ways but for me and for IPEX, the market has got to realise it’s about offering more than cheap products and services. It’s about spending time getting to understand customers and using our expertise to give them the right solution.
“The connected customer may be more informed than ever but they also need expert guidance to make the best choices for their needs.
“There are over 400 providers of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and there can be crucial differences between providers. Faced with a barrage of information, buyers still need guidance.
“For me, harnessing new communications technology, mobile developments and changing customer behaviour is about bringing businesses and customers closer together, in new ways that work for everyone.
"That’s really what lies at the heart of embracing these changes."