In a surprise twist, digital transformation took the top spot at this year’s Mobile World Congress.
The usual suspects (i.e. the big handset vendors) just couldn’t make an impact this year. With Samsung still reeling, LG and Huawei were left to plug the gap, but the shine just wasn’t there.
Digital transformation, however, was the showstopper this year. Operators from Telefonica to Ooredoo, Orange to Vimplecom, and vendors galore – Ericson, NEC, Huawei, ZTE, SAP and the likes of Accenture, etc – were talking it up.
So why was digital transformation so popular? It has a similar attraction/detraction to the MWC17 theme, “The Next Element”. What does it actually mean? Everything and nothing. Innovation, possibilities, growth, the future… People use the digital transformation term to cover everything from 5G to IoT, VR to customer experience, BSS/OSS to engagement, and the list goes on.
While some people are not big fans of such amorphic adjectives, I think it’s a breath of fresh air for an industry is desperate need of some creativity, imagination and yes, transformation.
The New Order (a.k.a. Hall 8.1)
If you were at MWC this year, and like many old timers you spent your time plodding between Halls 1-7, you missed the “new order” up in Hall 8.1.
Back in the old world (Halls 1-7) you have the multitudes of operators wanting to be Facebook, Google, Amazon, AirBnB, Uber, etc, and vendors lining up to facilitate their digital transformation. Hall 8.1, the App Planet, is where MWC’s equivalent of Digital Natives hang out. Those folks up there don’t need a digital transformation – they were born digital.
The big question is, can operators (and their vendors) really rise to the digital telco challenge? It could always, after all, be just another marketing tagline. However, if we can envisage a world without halls, a single integrated, cohesive ecosystem, then digital transformation could become a journey into something very real.