Summer Madness. Beware those heralding digital transformation and API business models

summer madnessIt must be the additional heat from global warming bringing the summer madness out early. This is just a selection of the silliness I see pass through my inbox today on the way to the deleted folder.

Digital Transformation still keeps being used as if it means something. Digital was cool in the ’70s, just like when telecom services became digital with digital exchanges, ISDN and later video and internet services. The internet has been digital since it was created in 1969. And transformation is yet another nonsense word for pretending to change. When really it means load all your IT and operations budgets into one vendor, only to realize 3 years later you’re still suck with costly inflexible systems out of touch with market reality. The solution: set your vision, and build for your vision. Its OK if your vision is a subscription internet access model, with all services operated by partners for which you receive a small share given your customer reach in that country. Just build to that, rather than a pretend vision created to maintain today’s stock price. You don’t need to publish your real vision, just build to it today.

API Business Models. Consider this analogy, do you talk about HTML business models? Of course not, that would be silly, HTML is one of many technologies you build businesses on. The same is true with APIs. An API is simply a way to enable software packages to work together easily, that is it. More specifically with external APIs, for customers to easily use your SaaS services. There are so many other ways to use those services such as, SDKs, web forms, web hooks, etc. The API is almost irrelevant. Its the service, the business proposition to the customer that matters. We were talking about Telecom APIs in the ‘90s, 20 years ago. The world is moving on, moving PBX from cloud to web, as shown by Its all about the services, NOT the f&$%ing technology, and those services are getting ever easier to consume. So avoid drivel about API Business Models, and focus on solving your customers’ problems using appropriate technologies. And if you do not have a legacy entrenched business with those customers, the better, as you can slash the incumbents’ price structure.

Digital Services. I’ve already covered why digital is a silly word. What I find interesting is the use of Digital Services as a comfort blanket to avoid focusing on the challenges in the specifics. In Digital Service projects, sometimes called Digital Service Transformation projects as you can never concatenate enough buzz words. I see IPTV offers that pale in comparison to what’s available for free or VPN for a small fee on the internet. I see digital service enabler projects that use millions of dollars with a “strategic supplier” that doesn’t seem to go anywhere as the value to the customer was never strong enough. Its all gets bundled up a dash of wishful thinking that it will be attractive to the customer and profitable for the Telco.

I do not pretend it is easy to win new services revenues, but it is possible. Copy what’s relevant and working in other markets (its tough but possible). Encourage lots of experimentation with customers, some will love you for it. Buy firms that are doing the right thing, M&A is how most large companies grow. If I was Orange or Free I’d buy Apidaze before they get much bigger. They have the SaaS to API game sussed. Make it easy for enterprises to use some SaaS services, and then as the volume of business grows move them onto an API. Sweetly aligning the customer’s and Apidaze’s needs.

Technology Disruption. Technologies do not disrupt, people disrupt. Telcos tried APIs and failed because of people and process issues. Twilio, Nexmo, Tropo, CMTelecom, Apidaze, Voxbone, Flowroute, Plivo, CLX Networks, Bandwidth, Clickatell, the list goes on and on; succeeded as they delivered what the market needed: value, ease of use, online support, speed, flexibility, understanding, and so much more. The technologies behind them are world-class. But its not the technology that disrupts its people.

SMS remains a key mobile communications channel for enterprises. Yes and No, SMS is globally universal so if that is important to your application then A2P SMS is the answer. But we see the rise of IP Messaging. And particularly in an enterprise there is a degree of ‘Do what you’re told not what you want.’ So IP Messaging whether Spark, Unify, Slack, WhatsApp or WeChat should be given consideration for internal enterprise projects. Nexmo (now Vonage) even has a chat API to make it easy when the decision between SMS and IP messaging is not clear. I could also rant about why limit the communication to mobile, why not communicate to the customer or employee wherever they are, regardless of form factor, its mostly IP these days.

OTT Players delivering over the telcos network. How many times does this dumbass phrase get said. Telcos provide internet access, that is access to the internet, the internet is a wondrous place with services galore that the telco has little to do with. Telcos are NOT providing the internet, only access to it. Google has more claim to providing the internet given the volume of specific services’ traffic it delivers to everyone around the world. There are IP–based services like Skype, WhatsApp, Slack, Wire, Vonage,, WeChat, LINE, Kakao Talk, Telegram, Spark, etc. They are NOT going over the top of the telco’s PSTN network. They are going through the access Telcos provide to the internet, for which customers have paid. Telcos too could offer such IP communications services, they could in addition offer an open interoperable multi-channel communications service and platform. But the GSMA failed the industry, seriously guys they’re selling your soul to Google at the moment. Downsize the GSMA, and get some regional / country-wide collab going as a matter of urgency!

I could go on and on about the weak-minded jabber in my inbox today. I know when you’re a non-independent consultant / analyst / writer you have to generally say what the customer’s paid you to say, else they’ll find someone else to pay. But for the sake of your professional-pride and sense of self-worth step up your game!