By Mika Korpinen, Senior Vice President, MEA, Comptel Corporation
Saudi Arabia is becoming one of the world’s biggest technology markets, partly on the strength of a tech-savvy population of young professionals. To help sustain this growth, Comptel works alongside the largest digital and communications service provider in the Middle East and North Africa, STC, to educate and empower the next generation of IT talent in Saudi Arabia.
Our long-time customer reached out to Comptel for support launching its brand-new employee training initiative. The four-month “Young IT Talent” programme educates recent Saudi university graduates on telecommunications networks and Comptel technologies, while also providing the skills they need to succeed in future leadership positions within STC.
The development of young Saudis countrywide is an important national issue, and Saudi society greatly values any investments made in the education and betterment of youth. Our joint programme is particularly relevant given the kingdom’s emergence as an IT powerhouse.
The Comptel-STC partnership offers young Saudis the chance to develop business acumen, communication, presentation and writing skills, programming language aptitude, as well as an understanding of key technologies and software best practices. STC turned to Comptel because of our broad IT experience, comprehensive solution portfolio and innovative industry vision.
“Comptel was a natural partner to help us roll out the programme given our long-standing relationship and the important role Comptel technology plays within our business,” said Younes Al Suhaibani, director of IT integration applications at STC.
The program includes four modules over fourth months. Trainees receive on-the-job training in STC’s Riyadh offices, and then travel to Helsinki and Kuala Lumpur to spend a month in each city working within Comptel’s key research and development centres.
From these locales, the graduates are educated on the principles of Operation Nexterday, covering the new digital buying experience, the demands of Generation Cloud, the power of intelligent fast data and the possibilities of new digital service monetisation strategies and ground to cloud service orchestration. They also enjoyed international business mentoring and first-hand exposure to different cultural perspectives.
Ultimately, the program benefitted not only the young trainees, but also STC and Comptel. STC has gained access to new staff that possess an accelerated understanding of technology and communications. And by operating a first-class training program, STC is able to attract the best and brightest young talent from the community. All this helps STC meet present and future business goals to ensure long-term success.
For Comptel, the program supports long-term business goals in the emerging Saudi Arabian market. It also ensures that the next generation of Saudi IT talent is well-educated on the principles of Operation Nexterday and Comptel technologies.
“Our joint programme sets up both new employees and STC for success – this competency development initiative will help ensure software delivery and development best practices, reduce time-to-market, optimise costs and resource utilisation, as well as empower future leadership,” explained Teo-Tuomas Hirvonen, vice president of strategic accounts at Comptel.
Most importantly, the young professionals who passed through the program will understand the way globally leading software development works and gain a new global perspective on business, technology and culture. In an increasingly globalised world where innovation proceeds at a rapid pace, this experience will be invaluable to the future development of Saudi Arabia’s IT market.
In November, Comptel will launch the antiseminar that telcos have been waiting for. Nexterday North will bring together the brightest minds in telco to spur innovation and explore creative ways to reach Generation Cloud and transform their businesses for the better. Register for Nexterday North to reserve your exclusive spot.
All of these trends point to explosive mobile use and increased connectivity in Africa as a whole. So, what’s one of the biggest changes we can expect to see here?
A new boom in African creative industries
One significant shift that was highlighted at Mobile Web East Africa by tech website MemeBurn is occurring in television and literature. Traditionally, both of these industries have suffered from lack of art-based, educational programmes in schools and from a lack of resources.
The CEO of BuniTV and Buni Media, Marie Lora-Mungai, spoke at the conference and said that having mobile access to films will revolutionise the space. She hopes that filmmakers will be able to distribute their work much further than before and create pieces for mobile consumption.
Likewise, the vice president of marketing at BiNu, Mark Shoebridge, talked about how mobile will affect reading habits. At Mobile Web East Africa, he claimed that 70% of female readers who are using World Reader, an app for smartphones, are reading over a thousand screen pages.
Of course, there’s going to be a vast range of different needs among customers in Africa. Communications service providers (CSPs) will be hard-pressed to customise service packages and personalise their interactions to accommodate these trends.
To really meet the demands of the next decade’s mobile customers, CSPs will have to invest heavily in contextual analytics that can segment customers based on their individual behaviours when it comes to mobile data use. This way, no matter how vast the customer base or different the use cases, it’s possible to meet individual needs and prepare for the future.
In late 2012, Comptel began working with Kiva.org, a group focused on lending funds for projects around the world. As we begin the New Year, we’ve already seen the positive impact Kiva has on communities in need.
For instance, 27-year-old Williams in Uganda is married with a child, and provides for his family by selling crops and livestock. A loan of $325 helped him purchase a mobile phone, solar charging set and weighing scale.
This loan is part of Grameen Foundation‘s AppLab programme, where Community Knowledge Workers (CKW) are provided with this equipment to become knowledge centres for their communities. Williams looks forward to becoming a CKW, so that he may provide vital farming information to his community – helping them access information to improve crop yields, connect with various markets and, ultimately, generate more income.
Williams can also conduct mobile surveys to help local organisations better meet farmers’ needs. CKWs make monthly salaries based on the number of surveys they collect, enabling them to repay Grameen for the equipment. With the additional money that Williams will earn as a CKW, he will save to buy another cow, as he dreams of having a large dairy farm.
We invite you to take part in Comptel’s team and help us provide financial services to low-income individuals or to those who do not have access to typical banking services.
Tuesday 13th November was day 1 of the 2012 AfricaCom event in Cape Town. This is the first year it has been extended to 3 days, with day 1 being a ‘preview day’ … and I will confess to having been ‘worried’ that it would have ‘watered down’ the event. But I was wrong! Yesterday was probably the busiest first day Comptel has ever had at AfricaCom in 4 years of attending. With the organisers, claiming a record 8,000 pre-registrations and expecting 7,000 to arrive and with today being the keynotes, things can only get busier. So anyway, here are a few thoughts from day 1:
1. Informa, the event organisers, presented an overview of the opportunities in the Africa market. Customer Engagement Management (CEM) was a big part of this, and it is clear that as competition heats up, and customers become more demanding in Africa, operators need to get more personalised and targeted with their offerings and customer engagement strategies. Perhaps it is best to quote the original releases as it says it better than I can paraphrase: “There is more depth to a mobile operator’s customer base in Africa than two or three years ago and, for this reason, MNOs need to gain a greater insight into their customers’ behavior and offer them services that match their individual needs and preferences. Using this insight to design new business models … will enable a more compelling and personalized set of services to a wider variety of customer segments
2. And if the test of this was interest in finding solutions for it, then it is spot on! The majority of conversations yesterday with operators visiting our stand was about customer insight, serving customers more personally and better targeting of services to meet individual’s needs. These conversations could have been about simple analytics or segmentation … but they were more: they were about individual subscribers being treated as individuals. … and best of all was being able to explain how Comptel’s Social Links product can meet this by allowing CSPs to better determine customers’ needs, wants, likes and dislikes at a granular level based on historical and real-time data and predictive modelling … and in context.
3. We have the best stand in the show!!! Not my words only … but several visitors made this statement. Not the biggest or fanciest … but one that perfectly illustrates our tagline of “Making Data Beautiful” … a calm, clean and organised beacon of illumination among the chaotic hustle and bustle of the show. And our engagement solutions built around the “Event-Analysis-Action” paradigm is brought to life as it slowly rotates on our back wall turning heads of passers-by … literally! Come see for yourselves at stand #C05.
Working in marketing, I am constantly trying to identify which conferences are the right fit for showcasing various products and solutions. While conducting these searches, Comptel, like other practical companies, often finds itself targeting the fastest growing market: Africa. It may come as no surprise, then, that Comptel will have a stand at the 15th annual AfricaCom conference taking place 13-15 November in Cape Town. This year’s thought-provoking programme promises to reflect Africa’s potential to influence a market already filled with vibrant new dynamics.
At the show, we will have a dedicated team of experts on-site that are happy to speak with communications service providers (CSPs) about the true value we can bring to their business by driving innovation and growing lifetime value through real-time, personalised customer engagement. The Comptel team is looking forward to demonstrating how to reduce churn by transforming data into actionable intelligence. Acting on this intelligence, in addition to maximising customer lifetime value, helps CSPs distinguish themselves amidst a competitive market. The company will also discuss how to achieve accelerated and accurate advanced service deployments to enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty and their propensity to spend.
A few months ago in a blog where I discussed the need for more service personalisation, I admitted that it was tough for operators to engage effectively on a more personal level because I myself “don’t always know what I want until after I have experienced it – or what I had is taken away” …
I also, however, suggested that it is possible and operators should be empowered with “mind-reading abilities”!
Let me illustrate with a totally non-OSS related example: my 6 year old son. Unlike a lot of his friends (and his parents), he is totally disinterested in food. However, over the years, we have observed that when he gets hungry, he starts to get unreasonable and emotional. He never says he is hungry or asks for food, but we have learned that when he starts behaving that way and he has not eaten for a while, that giving him a snack returns him to his usual good natured self.
In this example, my son apparently does not know what he wants or needs (un-communicated needs) – and feeding him any other time is of course pointless too (context).
1. Learned (and re-learned) this behaviour using our human intelligence i.e. we do not use a list of rules to identify the situation;
2. We take into account the context i.e. when he last eat or whether his sister had just bitten him again;
3. We act then and when it is needed.
I will be manning the stand for Comptel (C05) at AfricaCom in Cape Town from the 13th-15th November and would love to discuss further how Comptel can provide operators with “mind-reading” abilities for more personalised customer engagement.
A few months ago, a friend made me aware of the Afrinnovator website displaying the tagline: “Putting Africa on the map,” with the goal of “telling the stories of African startups, African innovation, African-made technology, African tech entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs.”
First, this publication is focused on technology really changing lives. We’re living in a world where seemingly everything is mobile, where there’s an “M-something” for everything. For instance, there is mobile banking, education, agriculture, trading, health, security and government. Additionally, it’s about mobile meeting the daily needs of the consumer — not just a mobile “entertain -and -share-everything” mentality as I am more accustomed to reading about.
Second, these services are not only being delivered by “sexy” data bandwidth hungry smartphone apps, but are also using low-tech solutions that will work with even the least technical phone. For example, there is mobile banking using USSD, mobile medical diagnosis using MMS to send pictures, and even mobile vehicle licensing and resume submissions for jobs using SMS.
So, you may now be asking what the OSS angle is for an OSS blog.
Well, the point is the differences I noted between the mobile service innovation in developed vs. developing countries is an example of how markets naturally work to allocate resources at an aggregate level to meet their needs. However, while most people will tolerate my generalisations of developed vs. developing markets, it is fair to say that generalised services are no longer good enough for individual subscribers within markets.
Essentially, what is needed at an aggregate level is not necessarily what is needed at an individual level within those markets. This is what Comptel’s Customer Engagement Solutions can do to ensure an operator that the appropriate services and customer experience is delivered for individual subscribers, given their personal context.
Now, as a consumer of services I am the first to admit that I don’t always know what I want until after I have experienced it – or it is taken away. So, am I suggesting empowering operators with mind-reading abilities? You bet I am…
Today, we announced Comptel’s financials for the second quarter of 2012 and for the first half of the year as a whole. This is a personal milestone for me, as it marks my second year fully immersed as CEO — and as you’ll see from our mid-year highlights, I’m confident in the direction the company is moving.
This past quarter, our order backlog rose to a record high, as we won a significant EUR 5.4 million project to consolidate the mediation systems of a leading operator in Western Europe.
The upfront investments in the customer interface have yielded results in our largest regions, Europe and Asia, and we won seven new customers globally. Although our net sales have not yet met expected levels, they stayed on par with last year’s numbers, EUR 20.3 million (EUR 20.0 million). And we are optimistic our investments will grow our 2012 net sales approximately 10 per cent from the previous year. Integration of the advanced analytics expertise acquired in February 2012 has proceeded exceptionally well, resulting in winning our first deal for Comptel Social Links software.
We continued to bring new products to the market as key strategic initiatives. The major launch of Next Generation Comptel Fulfillment 8 software this quarter was received remarkably favourably by the OSS/BSS industry. We also unveiled our Contextual Intelligence for Telco (CIQ4T) concept this quarter, providing communications service providers a framework for bringing customer experience to the next level. This innovative approach truly differentiates Comptel in the market.
Our business mix of licence and services sales was impaired by the personnel, project delivery and marketing costs, causing lower operative results than expected. To remedy this, we initiated first productivity action by streamlining R&D in Norway and further cost saving initiatives will bring us approximately EUR 10 million on annual level. During the second half of 2012, we will realise EUR 3-4 million savings. These initiatives will secure our competitiveness, sustain the execution of our strategy, and deliver an estimated 0 – 5 per cent operating profit of net sales, excluding one-off items.
Beyond the figures, we also concentrated the first half of the year on executing our new strategy. We opened new offices in Istanbul and Cairo and announced several major customer wins around the world. These included, Telefónica Central America’s mediation consolidation that enabled the efficient management of more than half a billion daily transactions, Thai mobile operator Real Move’s deployment of Comptel’s Fulfilment solution to gain customers from the 3G market, Kcell Kazakhstan’s replacement of its provisioning and activation system with Comptel’s Fulfilment suite to support its 3G rollout, and Kuwaiti’s Watanya Telecom improvement of its customers’ first use experience with Comptel’s Dynamic SIM solution.
Overall, the first half of 2012 has been largely focused on executing our strategy, investing in bringing new products to market, winning new customers and developing our Services Business. As we move into this next quarter, we’ll continue onwards building on our stated strategy and remain confident the productivity programme will secure our competitiveness. And I’m honoured to convey, on behalf of Comptel, that we are looking forward to continuing to deliver on our promises to the market in the second half of 2012.
Microsperience… First Touch, Last Touch, Every Touch
Analyst Teresa Cottam explains why every interaction that takes place between a communications service provider (CSP) and a customer is important. The CSP often perceives the first touch, or first customer engagement to be a sales transaction where it signs up a customer to receive a service. However, customers believe that their relationship with a CSP doesn’t just begin with a simple sale—it takes a longer period of time to cultivate.
Teresa uses a personal experience with an old broadband operator to explain how CSPs should build better relationships with customers. After mishandling her service transfer process, the operator made her wait 30 minutes on the phone, and a support assistant accused her of signing up for the wrong package and dismissed her concerns.
Teresa says this example emphasises issues that currently exist in the market, and proves that CSPs need the ability to analyse data in real time to get a better understanding of and retain their customers. CSPs need to focus on not just the first touch but any and every touch in order to build loyalty. She also notes that in today’s competitive market, even forgetting that ex-customers could be future customers is a missed revenue opportunity and could hinder CSPs’ success.
telecomasia.net… APAC Telcos Concentrate on Quality
Joseph Waring gives an overview of a recent Telecom Asia-Ovum survey of telecom executives in 19 countries across Asia Pacific. The results revealed quality of service (QoS) to be the key distinguishing feature for operators in the region.
Interestingly, the survey also found that fewer respondents (38% compared to 54% two years ago) viewed unlimited data rates as the most effective way to charge for mobile broadband services. But Ovum analysts believe that the percentage of people who agree with this method is still too high, and urges operators to steer away from flat rates, which can over-burden networks and negatively impact QoS.
Additionally, survey respondents indicated that they believe video will be the key driver of continued mobile broadband traffic growth in Asia Pacific. Like Comptel, Ovum believes that operators must look to balancing the management of resources like bandwidth, while controlling customers’ data services, in order to maximise the customer experience and monetise their offerings.
CommsMEA… Right Path for Roaming?
Industry experts wonder if recent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) regulations could potentially cause more harm than good. These called for telecom operators to slash mobile phone roaming charges to consumers by at least 50 percent beginning 1 February in a bid to bring costs in line with those in Europe. Roaming revenues account for a significant proportion of overall profits for many CSPs, and a sudden forced reduction in tariffs may, unfortunately, lead to price increases, less investment in other areas and other unintended consequences.
But, there is evidence that Gulf operators are already moving in the right direction towards decreasing roaming tariffs without the regulations. Peter Lyons, director of spectrum policy, Africa & Middle East for the GSM Association (GSMA), says that operators responding to the competition are driving roaming costs down and that they are making an effort to increase the transparency of roaming rates. On the other hand, some point out that regulation is needed to protect against distortions in the market that can be created by dominant players. What do you think is the right path for the Gulf in terms of roaming?
Broadband Traffic Management… Analysys Mason: MNOs Need a New Approach to Compete with OTT VoIP A report from Analysys Mason forecasts that third parties could account for as much as 16 percent of mobile service revenue in Western Europe by 2017. Consumer interest in over-the-top (OTT) mobile VoIP applications, such as Google Voice and Skype, are forcing operators to address the issue of how to charge for these types of services. Principal analyst Stephen Sale and research director Tom Rebbeck state that short-term measures like blocking or charging a premium for OTT services fail to address the issue in a sustainable manner, and operators should instead use a scenario-based approach to engage with longer-term market developments and effectively compete. As the report notes, common themes across each scenario include the need for operators to use policy control to manage the price and value of third-party applications, along with the need for them to pay attention to customer behaviour.
Tech Central… The State of Telecoms in Africa Africa is quickly moving to high-speed broadband, yet the continent’s ability to offer more Internet services and data access could be hindered by the inability of operators to deliver reasonably priced, fast and reliable bandwidth. Russell Southwood, head of African telecom consultancy Balancing Act Africa, says migrating to LTE may be the solution needed to overcome this roadblock.
Despite the challenges outlined in the article, Africa’s fastest growing sector is the telecoms industry, as noted in previous highlights, which gives hope that operators will spur innovation through continued expansion and better service and greater rural coverage. In addition to LTE, what game-changing technology do you think is needed to achieve a high-speed Africa?