Mobility—the word in itself encompasses a whole new way to communicate. And countless companies are jumping head first into the industry, as these solutions can help to empower not just the workforce but individuals as well.
Recently, TMC’s CEO Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) had the chance to speak with Rene Sotola, vice president of CGI, a company that is an information technology and business process services provider to government and commercial clients worldwide. In addition, CGI (News - Alert) will be speaking as a session titled, “Cloud Billing – The Missing Link,” at ITEXPO East 2012, which is taking place from January 31-February 3 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, FL. Sotola leads telecom marketing and provides strategic direction for the next-generation offering development expertise. He boasts extensive business, innovation, architecture and development experience, serves on CGI’s Technology Council and leads CGI’s International Telecom Sector Council and CGI’s Mobility Council. In addition, is a regular speaker at numerous U.S. and international events and a contributor to various publications and analyst briefings. See the full interview below.
1. What was the most significant technological advancement in the past 12 months and why?
Mobility from the technology perspective and cloud enabling technologies from the business side. The pace of the wireless technology is breathtaking: Apple’s (News - Alert) iPhone and iPad went from nowhere to 72 percent of company revenues in five years. On the other hand, yesterday’s mobility giants are either gone or struggling, and the struggle cost their CEOs their jobs (HP with Palm, Nokia, RIM). This shows the only guarantee of success is constant innovation.
Cloud has been changing IT and as it moves from hype to reality and promises to be the biggest shake-up in the industry. CSPs, SIs and product vendors see this as a revenue enhancement.
2. What has been the biggest trend in your market segment and how is it impacting your customers?
We serve customers in government, healthcare, telecom, utilities, financial services (banking, insurance), retail, distribution and manufacturing. The biggest client trend as well as the biggest challenge in telecom for CSPs is reinventing their OSS/BSS. The pace is critical: CSPs need to consolidate the systems and ensure their OSS/BSS supports their future offerings, which are yet to be defined. Doing a refresh in a fragmented way per “silo,” which takes years will no longer work. The pace is too slow. Think about it as transitioning from “bellheads” to “googleheads” and where new products can be introduced in days and weeks at the longest, rather than months and years.
3. What is the biggest challenge facing your customers today and how is your company helping address that challenge?
Our customers need to do more with less, while growing revenue and market share at the same time. CSPs are pulled in two opposite directions: they need to invest for the reasons stated above, but also to expand their offerings to gain more revenue, as voice and messaging revenue and margins decline. This means not only cable competing with telecom and vice versa, but also competing against new market players, e.g. OTT players. Everything is an application in an IP world, which means the barrier of entry is low, which in turn fuels higher competition. We are in the beginning of this cycle. There has been a big change for us as an SI. We have to not only be competitive in bids, but need to also provide ideas and vision which help our clients cut costs and increase revenues.
4. How has the cloud impacted your business? How has it impacted your customers?
Cloud has impacted us big time, as it has impacted everyone. We are seeing significant new opportunities in the cloud not only in the enterprise segment, but we are now one of the leading providers of cloud services to the U.S. Federal government. We are one of the awardees under GSA’s IaaS Blanket Purchase agreement and provide federally certified secure cloud services to the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor and many others. Cloud has impacted our customers significantly – many of them put their toe in the water to try it and when they gain positive experience they come back for more. Cloud security was the number one item in an external survey we ran on our website. We have a very strong security practice providing services to both commercial customers and federal agencies and have seen increased interest in this area.
The cloud will continue to evolve. We have a number of white papers on our website on different cloud topics and I look forward to the discussion on the cloud billing panel.
5. Will cloud-based communications expedite the end of the premises-based PBX market?
Most likely. It’s all about economics, combined with features and SLAs. When an enterprise or government finds they can save money in this climate, they consider the proposition. Why keep IT staff focused on non-core activities which others can do better and cheaper? However, we shouldn’t forget that the alternatives to premises-based PBXs came long before the cloud with Centrex, followed by unified communications. Both were hosted models, though at the time not called cloud.
6. What approach has your business taken to social media? If you have implemented a social media program, have you been able to evaluate your program’s success?
We have recently implemented CynerGI – our collaboration platform – internally. We haven’t done a formal evaluation yet, but early signs are that it is a huge success, enabling much better collaboration among our 31,000 professionals.
7. Does every business need a social media presence? Why or why not?
It helped us to collaborate internally across all of our verticals. Social media can also provide useful external feedback and information. CSPs serve the consumer markets as well as enterprises and understanding what’s going on with their customers and the feedback can be an important differentiator, especially if CSPs can link it with BI and target their offerings to keep or gain customers.
8. With Microsoft (News - Alert) touting tight integration between its mobile and desktop OS, can it become a major competitor in the enterprise mobile market?
The tailwinds for Microsoft are its large enterprise presence and an understanding of that market. The headwinds are the innovation shift, as it used to be that enterprises trail blazed mobile technology (e.g. RIM), which then found its way into consumer markets. This has totally changed – consumers now bring their devices into the enterprise, hence the market success of Apple and Android-based devices, where both platforms are getting into the enterprise by consumers/employees bringing it in. Due to this, the recipe for Microsoft to succeed is no different than for previous disruptive technologies from Apple and Google which displaced Nokia, Palm and RIM: differentiate – especially on usability, innovate and ensure attractive applications for both enterprise and consumer markets exist.
9. What can attendees expect from your company at ITEXPO?
I look forward to speaking on the cloud billing panel. This is a key topic so often overlooked, yet it’s key to cloud customers and cloud providers, given one of the key promises of cloud is usage based billing, which has a number of interesting issues. Many overlook it altogether, others underestimate its complexity.
10. Make one technology prediction for 2012 and consider its impact.
The mobility trend will continue, supported by M2M across different verticals. Sales of mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – will continue to outpace those of PCs. Given the continued consumer move to mobility, enterprises and governments will continue to increase mobility support for their customers and workforce. Cloud adoption will continue to grow and the overlap between mobility and cloud will increase. Inter and intra-cloud integration will become a key skill as well as multi-cloud portals and providers, as enterprise and government customers will want to consolidate the number of cloud providers. Security will continue to play key role, it’s one of the key areas of concern for the cloud as will BI, the use of which can significantly increase clients’ competitive advantage.
To find out more about Rene Sotola and CGI, visit the company at ITEXPO East 2012. To be held Jan. 31- Feb. 3 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Fla., ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. Sotola is speaking during “Cloud Billing – The Missing Link.” For more information on ITEXPO registration, click here.
Jamie Epstein is a TMCnet Web Editor. Previously she interned at News 12 Long Island as a reporter's assistant. After working as an administrative assistant for a year, she joined TMC (News - Alert) as a Web editor for TMCnet. Jamie grew up on the North Shore of Long Island and holds a bachelor's degree in mass communication with a concentration in broadcasting from Five Towns College. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves