Embrace disruption or be left behind biting digital dust: experts

By Edd K. Usman

MACTAN, Cebu — Embrace disruption or perish. That, in a nutshell, was the overriding message of technology experts and network operators at the just concluded 12th Asian Carriers Conference (ACC) here.

Shane Minogue (left), senior analyst for Australia and New Zealand at IDC, and Isabelle Paradis (right), founder of Hot Telecom, with Manila journalists during the 12th Asian Carriers Conference in Mactan, Cebu. Photo credit: Jay-anne Encarnado

Shane Minogue (left), senior analyst for Australia and New Zealand at IDC, and Isabelle Paradis (right), founder of Hot Telecom, with Manila journalists during the 12th Asian Carriers Conference in Mactan, Cebu. Photo credit: Jay-anne Encarnado

Thus, although grudgingly at first, network operators in Asia have come to realize the need to re-invent themselves, according to market analysts.

Shane Minogue, senior market analyst for Australia and New Zealand of research firm IDC, said even IDC has started to embrace disruption recently.

“I believe that disruption is something that IDC has been looking at within the organization for a couple of years,” he said.

In the telecommunications industry, Minogue said the term was regarded as a “dirty word” in the past. “It is only now that it is starting to come around and (companies) realized what (disruption) truly means,” he pointed.

Others may interpret disruption as totally overhauling one’s business, he said. “But that is not exactly what we are saying. We are not saying to change the things that work,” the IDC exec said.

He said disruption is more about to “redefine your industry so you can move to other areas and create new revenue streams and really grow into the past unrealistic areas.”

It means completely new revenue streams, said Minogue. “And rather than allowing your industry to be disrupted, start disrupting other people’s business, or industry.”

Ernesto R. Alberto, PLDT executive vice president, acknowledged the ACC’s importance as vehicle for embracing disruption and transformation.

“Certainly the road of transformation stretches further. The waves of disruption continue to crest. The fact of the matter is, conferences such as the ACC are the key to our sustainability and survival,” he said.

He emphasized that as telephone companies, they had to go through what he described as “rather painful shift from our legacy roles.”

“We must continue to lose the sentimental baggage — the deceptive warmth and safety of what used to be our comfort zones,” he added.

Alberto recalled how PLDT itself had struggled for years before the realities of business compelled the 88-years-old company “that we unshackle ourselves from our long-form brand appendage.”

He revealed that PLDT had only in the first quarter of 2016 “painfully decided that we can no longer be ‘Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,’ a venerated name which we proudly carried for the larger part of our 88-year history.”

“We are now simply PLDT,” Alberto said.

Minogue cited to the ACC’s first plenary speaker on September 6 who called on the telco industry to not remain complacent. “If you don’t disrupt your business, someone will come along and do it,” he quoted the speaker.

Minoque urged telcos to “take the lead instead and start looking at yourself, at your business as if you are the competitor and evaluate what you can change.”

In this digital era of constant disruption, the customer should be the paramount focus, he said, even as telcos embrace technology. “But what you really need to change is your strategy. Most importantly for me is how you treat your customer,” said Minoque.

In the past he said network operators sold services, volumes of data, volumes of voice of which the prices constantly change. “But today we need to move to selling services and experiences,” Minogue said.

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