Saturday 1 October 2016

The super migration: Vodafone follows its customers to the Cloud

Published 01/03/2016 | 11:12

Liam O'Brien Head of Product Management at the Business Division in Vodafone
Liam O'Brien Head of Product Management at the Business Division in Vodafone

As recently as six or seven years ago Vodafone was known as a mobile phone company. However that has changed and changed utterly. Vodafone now provides a broad portfolio of voice and data services across fixed and mobile networks, M2M services, unified communications solutions and even data centre services. More and more, “voice” is just one of many applications that run across these networks.

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You might be reading this on your smartphone. We call it a phone, but it would be more apt to call it your powerful pocket computer. It’s therefore crucial that your mobile service provider is fully capable to provide you the full range of services for which your phone is equipped.

The same goes for business customers, we work in very different ways than we did just a few years ago and Vodafone is both enabling and responding to this change.

Liam O’Brien, Head of Product Management at the Business Division in Vodafone tells us about the journey Vodafone has been on over the last few years and about where, along with their customers, they are going.

The Vodafone Cloud App
The Vodafone Cloud App

“What’s of interest is over the last seven or eight years is we’ve moved away from being just a mobile company. The breadth of products and services we have on the market is quite significant. It’s fundamentally all about connectivity, but it’s not just voice and text communication any more. It’s about data communication and connecting people, connecting places and things,” says Liam.

“Like any company you have to evolve with your customers and your market. Having a mobile heritage is very good for us, as one of the two key trends at the moment is the mobilisation of the workforce. People are working on the go, working from phones, tablets and devices. A smartphone is no longer just a phone, it’s a powerful computer with a phone application on it. If you go back seven or eight years ago we were selling mobile phones, today we are selling mobile computing devices, as a lot more besides. As a result, our customers are looking to us to help them to work in an agile and flexible manner, and that opens up a whole new world of opportunity. For the customer it’s not really a big shift, they see Vodafone as having provided them with their mobile communications for decades, so actually to then provide them with their mobile applications for working, mobile computing devices, in the customers’ minds it’s a natural progression.”

We’ve heard a lot about the Cloud in the last few years. It seems an omnipresent concern for businesses of all shapes and hues. However, Liam explains that the Cloud means different things to different people.

“The other key trend the move to the Cloud. In our consumer division we’ve moved to television recently. People consume television now as an application on their TV or their phone or tablet. But in the very same sense business customers need access to their content, it may not be TV, but it could be access to their emails, corporate account systems, their ERP platform their billing systems, their development systems… that’s their “content”.

Vodafone Cloud and hosting services
Vodafone Cloud and hosting services

“The two trends: mobilisation of the workforce and migration to cloud are actually quite complimentary. Because as you move into a mobile centric workforce with people working on the go on any device they have to have access to their corporate applications. Having those applications delivered out in a legacy fashion, by an in-house IT department becomes very difficult. Moving applications to a cloud based infrastructure is very complimentary to having a mobile workforce. That’s a big area of opportunity for us to help our customers on their journey to Cloud and mobilising their workforce.

The old-school in-house IT services functions can now be outsourced to Vodafone, meaning greater flexibility, reduced costs, always up-to-date technology and the knowledge of having a telecommunications heavyweight on your side. However there is a full range of cloud migration stages and different business need different things.

“One of the challenges with the cloud is that it means different things to different people. If you ask people have they got a ‘Cloud strategy’ they will all tend to say yes, but what this actually means in their own context can be quite different. But that’s ok. The Cloud in itself is multifaceted; there are varying degrees of what it means to migrate things to the Cloud. So for some of our customers the first step would be migrating all their legacy IT hardware out of their building maybe into a third party data centre where they have more confidence that it’s going to be maintained with state of the art power and cooling solutions, and it’s going to be secure. Others might be look at migrating from their legacy hardware to modern infrastructure, virtualising the hardware and getting into a shared storage and shared computing environment. Ultimately others are looking at migrating part of their estate to a public cloud like Amazon or Microsoft Azure”

“Different customers are on different stages of that journey. We did some research last year and the results compiled a ‘Cloud Barometer Report’. We just asked our customers where they were on their journey and how relevant the Cloud was for them. Our  research showed that 89% of business customers anticipate using some kind of ‘cloud’ by the end of 2016, up from 77% in 2014, with over 70% of businesses saying they would use or would consider using cloud for mission-critical enterprise applications, such as business intelligence (BI) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). For customers it’s something very relevant and real and they see a tangible link between their Cloud strategy and mobility strategy, they see them as two sides of the one coin. What’s more 87% of organisations confirmed that their mobility strategy was intrinsically linked to their IT and Cloud strategy”

There has been a tectonic shift in the mobile services landscape and all in the space of a few years. Vodafone have been on point to migrate into new areas just as their customers have been demanding them. It’s a huge change, a superfast evolution for a huge company and they’ve come a very long way. But how far are we the customers going to go on this journey?

“The reality is that Cloud is a journey, not a destination - with adoption of cloud approaching saturation level; the question is not whether you’re using it, but how extensively and in what areas you’re using it. The next phase of adoption will be the degree of cloud’s penetration within the business, across departments and workloads. The journey to the ‘cloud’ is going to be with us for many years to come”

But how are Irish business customers responding to Vodafone’s offerings?

“For a business to outsource business critical IT solutions to a partner, trust in that partner is a key imperative. We are fortunate that Vodafone have a firm foundation of trust with our customers. Vodafone have a decades long reputation in the communications sector, for example building and managing large scale and complex data communications networks, across Ireland and the world for our customers such as Sisk, Ryanair & Aviva.

Customer trust that as a market leader in the global communications market, Vodafone can help them on their journey with IT services and Cloud services; whether that’s a small businesses moving into using Office365 so they can use their applications on the go, or whether it’s large companies looking at taking their applications and putting them into a data centre so they can focus on running their business,  we’ve got solutions that fit both the small business and large business market. Our customers see Vodafone as a strong and credible player that help support them as they evolve their business.

Vodafone are on this journey for the long term – evolving with our customers for years to come”

 

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