Sep 25, 2013

Managing M2M inside an MNO

France’s Orange has a long history in the M2M market and was one of the early pioneers in establishing an M2M competence centre, leveraging the deep expertise of its M2M team, notably in the Belgian market. It was therefore interesting to see Orange Business Services’ announcement of a strategic partnership to use Ericsson’s Device Connection Platform (DCP).

Orange has operating companies in several different countries and is also a partner with Deutsche Telekom in the UK’s Everything Everywhere. Orange is separately a partner with Deutsche Telekom, TeliaSonera and Telecom Italia in the Global M2M Association. In light of these different constituents, one interpretation of the Orange/Ericsson partnership is as a neutral platform that many, if not all, of the M2M operating businesses can buy into.

If this is indeed the strategy, it would shift the responsibility for coordinating multiple platforms, capabilities and expertise onto Ericsson. Channel and account management responsibilities would then more naturally fall on to individual operating businesses.

To get a sense of the coordination challenges and operational complexities that arises in enterprise-grade and multi-platform environments, it is instructive to look at another company, Telefónica.

A few weeks ago, the recently formed Telefónica Digital business unit, solicited interest from candidates for the position of B2B Head of Service Management (M2M, Cloud Security and Security, Enabling Platforms). The breadth of responsibilities illustrates how M2M solutions are becoming highly complementary to capabilities in cloud services, security and other enabling platforms (e.g. big data, advertising, geo-location, health services etc.). Remarkably, the three main sub-areas of responsibility for the job share similarities with the organizational model that Vodafone adopted when it restructured its Enterprise Service business unit in 2012.

Telefónica’s detailed job description illustrates the layers of complexity involved in delivering an effective M2M service to corporate customers. The illustration below highlights the scope of operational responsibilities for two important activity streams – ensuring that applications are deployed and functioning effectively and, implementing tracing procedures to anticipate and resolve problems that pose a threat to the normal running of applications.

The two activity streams draw on a set of assets – M2M, Cloud & Security, and Enabling Platforms. The Applications stream deals with the design, deployment and operational supervision of M2M applications. There is a second set of activities to monitor the performance of the different applications to anticipate problems and to resolve these expediently.

In addition to the activity streams, there is also a need to marshal the underlying assets and the technical expertise in each of three asset domains to deliver a ‘joined up’ design, deployment and operational experience.

The job description makes reference to several other responsibilities. Among these, priority is given to the task of establishing KPIs. This is interesting in the sense that it does not just deal with operational parameters but also with efficiency and commercial profitability metrics.

In an attempt to streamline the implementation and support of M2M solutions, there is also a focus on standardization and quality assurance. This does not mean initiatives in the sense of Standards Development Organizations (SDOs). Rather, it is an attempt to create solution templates (akin to ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions) that can be delivered efficiently and with a high degree of repeatability to enhance financial performance.

While there is a wide breadth of responsibilities, it’s conceivable that their span is manageable as the individual business units – M2M, Cloud, Security and Platforms - are all parts of Telefónica Digital.

In a distributed corporate context, such as the multi-operator Global M2M Association, it is not difficult to envisage inter-business frictions due to potentially mis-aligned incentives and company-specific technology preferences.

Returning to Orange and Ericsson, the possibility of relying on an independent third party could well be Ericsson’s value proposition to the different operating units in the Orange footprint. After all, as a technology vendor and specialist M2M platform provider, Ericsson would be expected to be able to deliver a cohesive M2M, cloud and security and, enabling platforms service.

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