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May 20, 2011


Telcos – What Business Are You In?

by AlanSBPerkins

In the 19th Century, railroads sprang up all over the United States and Europe and history shows that most of them ultimately failed because they didn’t understand the fundamental nature of their business. The actions of most demonstrate that they understood their business to be that of operating a railroad. Of course, those that survived understood they were in the business of providing a service to move people and goods. These companies were able to make the natural transition from trains to planes, ships and trucks.

Telecommunications companies face a difficult decision as they see their traditional business eroded by new entrants using completely new approaches to linking people together, but how do they perceive their business? Is it:

  1. provisioning infrastructure?
  2. facilitating communications between people from afar?
  3. enabling information to be shared remotely between people?
  4. enabling information to be shared between business objects and people?
Telecommunications companies need to be a little careful because the lure of the Cloud may well see some of them limit their vision and their potential. There is an enormous opportunity to build data communications platforms that allow businesses and people to interoperate in new and interesting ways (read my post on Where Next for Salesforce Chatterfor example).A far cry from the operator sitting at a switchboard punching cables into sockets, the opportunities for a telco to take a leadership role in this are stupendous. A telco that sees itself in the fourth category can build an interchange platform that can take all manner of data input events and turn them into all manner of data output events, complete with a subscription engine for notification of events that have happened or failed to happen.

There are many businesses offering a small subset of this in a particular domain, for example,

  • Marketing Automation tools that offer automated notifications when the behaviour of  someone warrants it for example visiting a website, opening an email, talking to someone at a tradefair, failing to respond to a stimulus;
  • Accounting Software that can automatically notify a dispatch agent such as Amazon Fulfilment when an order is placed, informthe Financial Controller when an invoice over a threshold has been allowed for a customer with a suspect credit history or can notify the Accounts Receivable clerk when an expected cash receipt fails to arrive;
  • Product subscription services and RSS notifications that notifying a group of subscribers when a new product enhancement has been released or a new piece of content is made available;
  • Leave management systems that notify managers when an employee’s leave gets too high or when a vacation is due to be taken by someone in the team; and
  • Data Integration tools that allow data warehousing for data mining, disaster recovery or remote access.
Imagine if someone provided a facility that could handle these types of requests through a generic platform capable of allowing people to set up their own business rules and schedules to process a range of inputs and convert them into a range of outputs. For example, inputs may include:
  • Emails;
  • API Calls;
  • Facebook Posts;
  • Tweets and similar;
  • Forum Posts;
  • Website Visits;
  • Email Responses;
  • Database Events (inserts, updates, deletes, reads, procedure executions)
Outputs from these may include:
  • Emails;
  • API Calls;
  • Facebook Posts;
  • Tweets and Similar;
  • Forum Posts;
  • Database Events;
  • SMS Messages;
  • RSS Feeds;
  • XML;
  • CSV;
  • Amazon Simple Notification Service entries;
  • Amazon Simple Queuing Service entries;
  • Tasks / ToDo Items;
  • Financial Transactions;
  • Logistics Instructions
Between these inputs and outputs, a system would require the following components:
  • A robust security system;
  • A scheduler;
  • An event and non-event manager;
  • A business rules processor;
  • A billing and transaction manager;
  • An adapter;
  • A metadata editor;
  • A subscription manager.
Telcos are well suited to provide these facilities.The way that telecommunications companies perceive themselves today will undoubtedly influence the choices they make as they attempt to leverage the power unleashed by the new cloud computing paradigm. Will they simply provide infrastructure for others to do their own thing, or will they leverage their historic advantage and open the door to a new generation of information interchange?

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. May 23 2011

    Hi Alan,

    I think you hit the nail on the head.

    Telcos are the only organisations that can potentially guarantee a 24×7 IaaS uptime because they own the network (= wires).
    Especially in Australia Telstra and Optus are watching competitors (like Amazon) enter the market…something I personally don’t understand.


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