For Orange Business Services, the enterprise arm of French telco Orange, digital transformation is being guided by the changing needs of the multinational corporations it counts as customers.
The company, which has about 21,000 employees globally, has been a pioneer when it comes to software and virtualization, and plans to roll out a series of on-demand network offerings for customers later this year. Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things have also emerged as priorities for the operator as it expands its portfolio of services. (See Orange Ups Security Game as Threats Mount and Orange Plots Mass Network-as-a-Service Rollout.)
Telco Transformation spoke with CEO Thierry Bonhomme about digital transformation and how this is forcing Orange Business Services to evolve its modus operandi.
Telco Transformation: What does digital transformation mean to Orange Business Services?
Thierry Bonhomme: Orange Business Services is targeting only B2B customers and particularly the top 2,000 multinational corporations globally. We deliver connectivity as well as communications services that are related to the way our customers design collaborative tools for their employees and the relationship they have with their own customers.
There are two examples of what digital transformation means for two very specific customers. The first is AngloGold Ashanti, one of the leading companies in the mining industry, based in South Africa. They have more than 45 sites around the world and many are in remote areas where employees are isolated for long periods. So communications tools are critical. We provide worldwide connectivity across four continents and on top of the network we offer workspace capacity allowing employees to use their business applications. There is one, for example, provided by SAP -- a cloud-based service that sits on top of the connectivity services we provide.
A second smart-city example is what we have been deploying for a few months in the center of Doha in Qatar. That is being completely regenerated combining the power of digital transformation through the network, the service platform and the design of the applications for end users. We are the partner of this smart-city transformation within Doha.
When it comes to any digital transformation project, we start by raising some questions and issues with customers. First, do you know the end users within your project and what they are expecting and what are their constraints? That is critical. Second, there are many technologies but it's a combination that will contribute to any solution. Within Orange Business Services, we do not follow any particular religion and have the means for working on any technology.
Third, it's about the people. Yes, there are a lot of technologies but they need to work on a 24/7 basis and so we need an organization and staff that can operate everything. Sometimes this is like changing the engine of a plane while traveling over the sea, because the end user's needs change and the technologies are changing constantly. So we have an R&D innovation team within Orange that comprises about 5,000 people and has locations in all the big cities. We also have people with consulting capabilities to help answer customer questions. We have a subsidiary with more than 1,000 people in charge of cyberdefense and managing the end-to-end competences for security. And through Orange Applications for Business, we have about 3,000 applications developers for the mobile ecosystem and the ERP and traditional IT environment.
TT: What kind of partnership ecosystem does OBS need to build as it embraces virtualization?
TB: There are different aspects. The first is the innovation ecosystem where we have Orange Digital Ventures, a fund of about €100 million [$110 million]. We are investing €1 million [$1.1 million] to €3 million [$3.3 million] per case in small startups all across the world. We have one in the US specializing in blockchain, one in Europe working on the networks for IoT, one working on application as a service for retail companies. When it comes to open innovation, we have our R&D team interacting with the big vendors of this world, from Accenture and Capgemini to the likes of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, VMware, Cisco and Juniper. But we also have the capacity to understand the job of the operators, because that is part of our DNA. We have more than 900 operator partners across the globe, giving us landing capacity in 220 countries, and a physical presence in more than 180 countries.
For security, we've been operating a club of experts with expertise about the threats that are emerging. That allows us to be always on the competitive edge when it comes to cyberdefense. And in the cloud, we're part of an open community that's sharing versions of line code to be integrated on a continuous basis within our solutions. It's important to develop strong relationships with the small companies as well as the big animals of this world.
Is there an opportunity for OBS to compete with big cloud players or will they always play more of a partnership role?
That's clearly the co-opetition world. We have Microsoft, Google and Amazon as partners for some of our services but in other cases we are competing against them. We need to have this flexibility to understand the context in which we are interacting.
Next page: The SDN and NFV opportunity