Resilience remains the key word for the near and medium future

Resilience remains the key word for the near and medium future

Interview with Florin Popa, Business to Business Director, Orange Business Services

Q: The     pandemic     has     generated     an     exponential increase in the adoption rate of    digital    technologies.    How    is    this    process   seen   from   the   perspective   of   Orange   Business  Services  and  how  do  you  think  things  will evolve further?

F.P. From  the  way  we  perceive  the  dynamics  of  this  pandemic, the business leaders have become much more  pragmatic.  We  had  significant  increases  in  certain  types  of  solutions,  such  as  audio  or  video  conferencing solutions or call and contact center, as they responded to immediate, urgent needs.We  can  indeed  see  an  increased  interest  in  digital  technologies,  but,  nevertheless,  the  adoption  rate  for complex solutions has not increased disruptively. These types of solutions require a greater allocation of time and additional financial resources.Evaluation  of  the  necessary  resources  is  the  first  stage   of   preparation   and   validation   that   we   go   through,  together  with  our  clients,  regarding  the  modernization of the operational processes, and of the relationship the company has with its clients.If  we  think  about  the  final  user,  whether  we  talk  about  students  in  universities  or  about  employees  in  big  organizations,  it  is  clear  that  the  Romanian  market,  in  both  the  public  and  private  sector,  is  taking  rapid  steps  in  adopting  the  new  available  technologies      and      responding      to      increased      requirements and expectations from customers.Businesses are still very cautious when it comes to finances  and  act  on  short  term.  I  believe  that  the  critical  mass  of  digital  adopters  will  increase  and,  through  its  pressure,  companies  and  firms,  which  represent  information  poles,  will  start  long-term  transformation  projects.  Once  the  companies  take  this  step,  we  will  be  able  to  talk  about  a  systemic  transformation of the market.

Q: What  are  the  industries  that  lead  in  this  transformation  process  and  what  have  been  the  results  so  far?  What  were  the  most    important    solutions    that    proved    their    usefulness?

F.P. The change is generated by the market context, but also by users. For this reason, the industries that are avant-garde   in   terms   of   digitalization   are   those   whose  customers  demand  it.  Thus,  there  is  a  high  effervescence    among    the    trade    industry    for    consumer   goods.   In   this   sector,   companies   are   forced   to   modernize   support   systems   and   offer   digital     alternatives     to     their     customers,     by     implementing online shops and improving customer interaction.    The    projects    launched    by    public    authorities  and  central  administrations  have  also  been  very  well  received.  We  support  these  for    change    and    we    are    confident    that,    once    implemented, these projects aimed at modernizing the  relationship  between  the  state  and  its  citizens  will  also  generate  an  improvement  of  the  digital  relationship      between      the      private      business      environment and users.The most requested for technologies are also in the area  of  IT  &C  services,  but  those  that  focus  on  operational efficiency for collaboration tools (UCC - Unified      Collaboration      and      Communication),      documentation,  remote  work,  security  and  robotic  process automation (RPA).

Q: You  mentioned  earlier  that  change  is  user-generated  and  market-driven.  The  education   sector   is   an   example   of   a   sector that has deeply felt the current crisis. How does  Orange  Business  Services  respond  to  this  market need?

F.P. Orange  has  a  strategic  approach  for  educational  projects,     both     from     a     social     responsibility     perspective,    through    investments    that    aim    at    helping  children  from  disadvantaged  backgrounds,  but also from a business perspective. If technological infrastructure   is   important   for   any   digitization   process,  for  society,  education  represents  the  basis  for the development of future generations.Through the Orange Foundation, we have continued Digitaliada, a project that promotes digital education among  students.  The  value  of  investments  after  5  editions  reached  2.6  million  euros.  This  year,  more  than 30,000 students, teachers and parents started the school year on the free Digitaliada platform. Additionally, we’ve joined the effort of the Romanian authorities in supplying schools with the equipment and  connectivity  needed  for  the  online  classes  to  take place in a year that was strongly influenced by the pandemic. In the tender conducted by ONAC, we came  up  with  the  best  possible  offer  and  won  the  first 3 of the 9 available lots. We made sure that we have   stocks   in   advance   to   make   deliveries   in   accordance  with  the  requirements  of  the  contract  signed with the authorities.The educational sector is one of the most affected by the health crisis. This is why I congratulate everyone involved  -  teachers,  students  and  authorities  for  their  resilience  and  for  adapting  to  a  completely  new way of working in an extremely short time. We are  ready  to  provide  support  at  every  step  of  the  digital    transformation    process    of    educational    institutions - from auditing to defining the necessary technological solutions.

Q: From your experience, what are the main activities   in   a   company   or   a   public   institution   that   can   benefit   primarily   from   this   digital   transformation?   Where   can   important results be obtained immediately?

F.P. As     mentioned     before,     the     most     important     technologies are those that improve the relationship between the company/institution and its customers. Nowadays,   it’s   extremely   easy   to   implement   a   communication  system  regardless  of  the  medium  used  (internet,  telephone,  e-mail,  message),  and  these solutions can be both installed in and managed directly from the company's infrastructure, but also in a shared environment, in which many companies simultaneously use the same physical resource. The implementation,   of   course,   is   carried   out   in   an   enclosed and secure way.Just   as   easily,   you   can   implement   solutions   for   securing the IT perimeter of a company, and this is decided  together  with  the  organizations,  whether  we’re      talking      about      securing      the      central      infrastructure or the customer experience. Without being  limited  by  factors  such  as  physical  access,  these  technologies  can  be  installed  and  operated  extremely quickly.

Q: What  are  the  main  things  that  public  administrations   and   company   leaders   should pay attention firstly, in prioritizing technological solutions?

F.P. In  order  to  generate  change  and  bring  positive  business    results,    a    technology    must    be    used    efficiently   and   implemented   in   the   cultural   and   technical context of each company or institution. We also    provide    both    commercial    and    technical    consulting  services,  so  that  our  clients  can  take  decisions  regarding  the  implementation  and  then  the adoption steps.If technological infrastructure is important for any digitization process, for society, education represents the basis for the development of future generations.It is essential how the company as a whole - from the audit   stage   to   the   training   and   engagement   of   employees - takes on new technologies and their use. Resistance  to  change  is  part  of  human  nature,  so  the  transition  process  must  be  focused  on  gaining  the  trust  of  employees.  We  encourage  our  partners  to  consider    an    extremely    rigorous    implementation    process,  focusing  on  training  and  user  support.  You  can see that we always go back to education, but now we are talking about educating employees.

Q: Another   important   component,   for   all   sectors of the economy, is IoT, connection and     direct     communication     between     devices,  but  also  real-time  interpretation  of  data.  What are the new solutions you would recommend for this area?

F.P. We   have   been   talking   about   the   "Data   Journey"   process   for   over   a   year,   and   we   are   providing   companies  with  products  that  streamline  every  step  of this process. When referring to IoT, we cannot talk about   a   universal   solution   applicable   to   all   the   requirements  a  company  has  this  is  why  we  work  alongside customers to identify the most appropriate technology.We  are  the  first  to  announce  the  national  LTE-M  coverage, in over 3000 cities and localities, and more recently a 100% LoRaWAN coverage in Bucharest and Iasi, an IoT dedicated network that is also present in other  large  cities.  These  are  alternatives  that  have  in  common  the  fact  that  they  both  have  extremely  low  energy  consumption,  while  providing  for  different  type of applications.With the introduction of 5G, we are entering a new IoT era  and  we  have  started  to  develop  together  with  several  partners  business  use  cases  that  were  not  possible before, such as high definition video streams, real-time       communications       between       vehicles,       connecting the essential equipment in production halls.Of   course,   the   connectivity   provided   by   LTE-M,   LoRaWAN  or  5G  is  just  one  of  the  components  of  an  IoT  solution  that  must  be  supplemented  with  device  management  and  data  collection  solutions.  We  can  either   integrate   our   solutions   with   third   party   systems, but we also propose our own platform, Live Objects,  which  allows  data  management  and  meets  several  specific  needs  of  IoT  solution  developers.  To  all this we must add an element of cyber security.

Q: The  collection  of  these  large  volumes  of  data     requires     solutions     for     storage,     protection   and   also   the   possibility   to   process them. The trend is towards cloud solutions. How do you see this and what will be the evolution?

F.P. The market is increasingly moving towards specialized platforms  in  this  regard,  which  are  much  stronger,  more financially efficient and more flexible than those that   could   be   developed   and   hosted   directly   by   customers.   When   it   comes   to   Orange   Business   Services, in addition to local solutions, such as Flexible Computing,  we  offer  access  to  Flexible  Engine,  our  global  public  cloud.  The  global  cloud  can  be  scaled  extremely  quickly,  regardless  of  the  volume  of  data  processed,  and  it  includes  an  impressive  portfolio  of  interpretation  and  analytics,  which  can  be  accessed  directly by the client, for strictly for the needed period.The  approach  is  a  pay  per  use  one,  which  helps  companies   effectively   calibrate   their   spending.   In   addition,  the  interface  is  friendly  and  intuitive,  no  advanced   knowledge   is   required   to   operate   the   service,  and  customers  can  reach  to  our  specialists  when they need it.

Q: How  was  for  Orange  the  first  half  of  the  year? How do you see the evolution for the second   semester   corroborated   with   the   evolution of the entire economy?

F.P. This   year,   in   particular,   the   telecommunications   industry has demonstrated it is a fundamental service for society. We proved our agility and resilience while confronted  with  an  unprecedented  situation  and  we  helped  our  clients  to  adapt  as  well  as  possible  to  the  new reality.During the first half of the year, we saw an increase of over  30%  in  the  adoption  for  call  center  and  contact  center  solutions,  but,  as  expected,  the  demand  for  cyber  security  solutions  also  increased  by  24%.  As  I  said earlier, we look more closely at the opportunities offered by the 5G infrastructure, while also developing several  projects  in  both  automotive  and  media,  for  example.At  the  same  time,  the  contraction  of  all  markets  presents  challenges  for  everyone,  and  the  telecom  sector  cannot  be  viewed  or  analyzed  outside  this  context.  Traditional  business  areas,  such  as  device  sales,  have  declined  considerably,  and  some  of  the  ongoing  projects  have  been  blocked.  We  also  find  ourselves  in  a  continuous  process  of  adapting  to  a  situation  with  a  low  level  of  predictability,  but  we  focus on long-term investments, and the growth in the IT&C   services   area   gives   us   confidence   that   our   strategy  for  integrating  IT  services  and  building  a  convergent  offer  is  the  right  one.  Resilience  remains  the key word for many sectors, including telecom, for the near and medium future.

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