Digital Transformation can help save the world—Edotco shares its case
Digital transformation (DX) inspires “unconventional” partnerships and encourages dialogues between stakeholders from various industries. The process of transformation encourages the exchange of views, increases competencies, creates common grounds for cooperation, and helps challenge the overall status quo.
Still, some managers and organizations are apprehensive about a future that is fully-digital. They tend to perceive digital transformation as an unnecessary overhead that affects productivity and takes the focus off the market—and criticize it for being ambiguous.
Last month, at the MWC Shanghai, Apigate’s team met with Suresh Sidhu, CEO of Edotco, Asia’s leading regional integrated telecommunications infrastructure services.
Amidst the showcases of 5G technology, 8K TV boxes, and immersive media, we talked to Suresh about Edotco’s experience with digital transformation. We used the opportunity to discuss how digital transformation affects the telecommunications industry, as well as about the practical ways each company can nurture and rethink its market position while relying on technology.
DX done right—it’s about being practical
The way people communicate today requires fast and adaptive systems that cater to scores of people in a highly personalized manner. And this has far-reaching effects in those branches that are more corporate - and less end-customer oriented. In these areas, managers are re-wiring and adjusting to accommodate technologies within their processes and products.
While Edotco is an industrial engineering and services firm that focuses more on the traditional part of the telecom sector, they too have embraced digital transformation. Suresh says the reason the company keeps reinventing itself through technology is to further enhance everyday operations, as well as to add value to the industry.
This precisely is one of the key signposts that companies looking to survive during the digital revolution need to follow. It is about the continuous reassessment of aspects that could be improved, whether it’s the product itself, internal processes, or customer relations.
Otherwise, companies would be facing a sea of threats, some which could prove lethal to their sustainability.
“If Edotco, or any other company, over-relied on manual work, two things would essentially happen. One, we will eventually be less competitive because we might need too many people and the complexity of the processes gets too high. Two, we’d lose the value of the insights that technology can bring to the business as well.”
Data helps companies—both inside and out
One of the pillars of DX is its strict adherence to being data-driven. Through data, companies can detect patterns and identify threats and opportunities on time, and thus thrive in a market that spontaneously alters its course.
Analyzing data allows companies to get to know their customers better and establish a rapport with them—a feat that has become central in determining companies’ success, no matter the industry.
Edotco too is a strong supporter of data-driven approaches to business and industry. The company uses a number of outlets through which they collect and process data to then—arrive at informed conclusions about what to do next.
One of their solutions, called echo, is a platform that allows the company to capture data from all of their sites through Remote Monitoring System (RMS) units, gathering data relating to battery, fuel, generator controller, as well as data on wind and solar, power source, and the environment.
“We use data a lot in our operations. If there’s a power outage on a site, we’ll know immediately about it. These data streams allow insights across locations. Even when you’re sitting in Kuala Lumpur, you’ll know the situation in Bangladesh,” says Suresh.
How data helps Edotco lies in the ability to look into the fact-based scenarios to analyze consistent, structural, underlying problems that need to be addressed immediately.
One step at a time: go cloud-based first
Because the future is uncertain, digital transformations need not always be futuristic—which is a mistake that over-reaching organizations are likely to make during the transition.
Seeking to revolutionize their processes and products, some managers oversee lower-hanging fruit—which in fact could secure early wins and give momentum to the company’s digital transformation.
Before using drones to assess the structural integrity of sites, Edotco makes sure they utilize the benefits of a cloud-based solution.
“All out platforms, including field force, Echo, financial systems connected to Echo, as well the EEZU, which is more like an asset management tool, are built on cloud technologies. This gives us great advantages: one, we can access it anytime, anywhere; and two, everybody has access to a uniform platform,” says Suresh.
The race is already lost
The immediacy of telco modernization causes a lot of debate among industry stakeholders.
Many hope that the advent of 5G will be the game-changer, one that will propel telcos back to the top of the industry. But 5G is still far away. While the groundwork has begun, although sporadically, it will take years before an average customer feels the full benefits of high-speed networks. Meanwhile, telcos are squandering monetization opportunities that are easily accessible.
Suresh thinks the race with OTTs is lost and that the time to compete with OTTs on their own terms is gone. “What we are talking about now is a very different landscape. The role of the telco has to be clearer. A lot of it lies in managing the customer experience really well and creating linkages to life, whether physical or digital, that people want.”
Digital communication trends are rapidly changing, which to be fair—poses challenges for the telecoms industry. The best new social media, video games, or type of content changes by the day, so it’s hard for telcos to anticipate what their customers will want next.
Suresh cited social media as an example. “Nowadays, for us older people, there is Facebook, whereas my children use Instagram and Snapchat. Today, as a telco you really have no idea about what’s ‘next’. In that regard, OTTs have a far better understanding of what users are doing with their services.”
And there is a way for telcos to be of service even in the dynamic market such as telecoms. Suresh believes that the key lies in ensuring the superb customer experience. His view is that OTTs really understand the “cross-experience” and that telcos need to master it too.
“For that to happen, I think telcos have to heavily focus on customers. For example, at Edotco, we aim to automate and digitize the experience with customers and how they experience the world when interacting with products.”
Stand for something or be gone
While dishing on the topic of digital transformation and its success factors, we touched on the topic of scope and what the modern markets and customers require of telcos.
The question is should telcos branch out and become the next OTTs, by creating their own content, like Netflix does, or should instead they focus on their strengths and expand them even more.
“In the telco world, much closer focus on a narrow set of things is more likely to lead to success than being too broad”, thinks Suresh. “Just like in university, you have your major and your minor. What are your majors? You need to knock your major out of the park because that’s what determines your success.”
Suresh’s stance is that telecoms need to identify their strengths. They need to be certain about what their brand stands for.
His view is that people nowadays want brands they are comfortable with, either explicitly or implicitly. The telco that does not stand for anything will have a hard time connecting with customers, as the lack of brand and principles will be reflected in their business too.
Make small things matter first
A common misconception is perceiving DX as a primarily technological endeavor, when in fact it is not.
To digitally transform their business successfully, companies need to start with their business logic, customer treatment, and operations, and infuse tech only as a means to improve these.
Suresh shared with us that Edotco spent a huge amount of effort culturally preparing the team to serve people equally. “When I came in, the first thing I did was make sure that small things matter and that everyone will do each small thing well. If you don’t do small things well, why would people trust you to do big things? And when you commit to something, your job is to deliver on it.”
All customers are equal
Focusing on small things can help telecoms delight customers, earn their trust, and ensure a long-term customer base.
Suresh’s philosophy is that everyone is a worthy customer—whether they’re Maxis, Digis, Telenor. He thinks that companies need to prove to customers that they have a clear, transparent business model that does not discriminate against them.
“Take Edotco for example. Axiata is still our largest volume, but whatever we give to them as a customer, we need to give to any other customer. We have spent a lot of time on the transparency value proposition, the nature of how we operate and the fact that everyone is treated equally.”
And this also applies to other business partners, such as third-party vendors.
Suresh says that sometimes what it takes to succeed with third-party vendors is to take on some commercial risk to make them comfortable working with you. In his opinion, if you cannot reassure third parties that you have a viable value proposition and that you treat them in an unbiased manner, it’s not going to work.
“You need to focus on providing comfort to third parties. Soothe their concerns. Is it pricing that they’re really worried about? Or some other aspects? Provide whatever they need to get over the finish line to commit a large volume with you.”
There’s more to success than bridging the gaps
The philosophy of Edotco—which could benefit companies in the telecoms industry that are facing increasing competition or shrinking revenues—is to care about each customer.
Edotco is not operating merely to address the digital gaps of today. Instead, they are building a shareable infrastructure for the future.
Suresh pins Edotco’s success down to the fact that the company strives to show people they are unbiased and that they have the best interest for all customers whether from Axiata or not. He finds it crucial to show that making a profit is not a company’s ultimate goal, but rather that the company is here to really do something for the greater good.
“We genuinely believe that shareable infrastructure is for good—not just for the business operators but for the business of countries. It will allow lower consumption of resources and power, much more ‘green’ to share, and everything will be a lot better. We will be able to provide more community-based support for the displaced community, e.g Bangladesh, where power is still a problem.”
This approach has allowed Edotco to achieve some really impressive results, and outside of their “regular” scope of business. In some countries, the company is providing power on a more consistent basis than a power company. They share the power with the local communities, as well as with the schools, to help kids complete homework at night, and more. Nothing is stopping telecoms from following suit.
“I really believe that Edotco has created a great step forward in more than just being a business and making sure what we contribute helps the country we are operating in, let it be Malaysia or Bangladesh,” says Suresh.
Edotco is the first and leading regional integrated telecommunications infrastructure services company in Asia. The company began operating back in 2013, as a spin-off business of the Axiata Group.
It provides end-to-end solutions in the tower services sector including co-locations, build-to-suit, energy, transmission and operations and maintenance (O&M).
In just five years, Edotco has expanded its regional portfolio to include over 29,500 towers and is supported by our state-of-the-art real-time monitoring service, echo, which helps to improve field operations whilst maximizing operational efficiencies.