From my decades-long perch as an observer of leading edge technology (no kidding – I used to write a column called The Observatory for Internet World back in the day – hmm, in fact I may revive it) I have witnessed many technology-driven business transformations. Some of those transformations were driven by “killer apps” of course, and some emerged over a fairly lengthy period of time.
Over time? Yes – think for example of the “Year of the LAN” mantra many of us witnessed from 1990 – 1992. I believed in it so much I left Microsoft to become part of the startup team for a tech journal dubbed Network Computing (NWC as we fondly knew it) in 1990 to capture the moment. The truth of the matter, however, is that we never had a year of the LAN. Rather it sneaked up on us and one day in 1993 we all woke up to discover that sure enough, we were all LAN-enabled – it had become the “age” of networking. Interestingly, NWC’s own journey echoed that path – we floundered financially (well, we broke even anyway) from 1990-1992 but then became highly charged and immensely relevant once LANs and networking technology became pervasive and business-transforming.
I can say the same for mobile technology. I became a mobile research pioneer (along with a small handful of other brave souls) back in 2002-2003, anticipating a revolution driven by enterprise mobility. Eleven years later, in 2013-2014, enterprises finally woke up to the strategic uses of mobility and are now finally driving the age of mobility.
That bit of personal history now brings me to another technology – Telecom Expense Management (TEM) – that is finally undergoing a unique renewal, at least among some of the more savvy industry players. Now let me be quite honest…some of us – ok, I – have long thought of TEM as the green eye shades end of technology. By this I mean a sleepy cohort of accountant-types reviewing endless wireline, landline and fax expenses, telecom bills, and analysis driven in large part by offloading most of the number-crunching and report generation to TEM vendors.
A somewhat more modern era of TEM began to emerge in parallel with the emergence of the Internet and Web yet the core functionality of “green eye shades TEM” remained essentially unchanged. Yet another age of TEM began to emerge in parallel with the maturing of smartphones, tablets and cellular-equipped laptops but the core functionality of TEM remained entirely unchanged. For me it has long been the case that just as history does green eye shades TEM simply likes to repeat itself. It was safe and reliable to stay the course.
It didn’t help the pace of TEM change that, as I noted earlier, enterprise mobility took over a decade to become relevant at a large enterprise scale. Sure, we had lots of technology change but the changes were not disruptive to businesses but merely evolutionary. Mobile-driven disruption has tended to occur on the consumer side – it did after all give us BYOD. Business technology however generally moved forward incrementally rather than disruptively.
Dig a little deeper into the TEM space and it is utterly clear that TEM has undergone a very long term evolution of incremental improvements since the 1990s but it has never needed to deliver business services that required it to be disruptive in any real sense. Traditional TEM capabilities – green eye shades TEM – have continued to serve businesses well.
But…The TEM Times are A’Changin’ at a Supercharged Pace
Ah, but the safe harbor of incremental TEM technology improvements suddenly disappeared over 2013 and 2014. Actually and more accurately it became disrupted.
Enterprises found their way to becoming fully mobile-aware, cloud-driven infrastructure and services adoption (ITaaS and MaaS) grew at lightning speed, big data became really big, and the Internet of Things (IoT) became not only real but profoundly real. Under the covers processors and memory became many orders of magnitude faster and richer in capabilities, and newer technologies such as software defined networks (SDN, SD-WAN), in-memory databases, business intelligence/analytics and machine learning all became enterprise-ready – and deployed.
“Real time” literally became real time…in the moment, of the moment, at the moment. Even simple decision making became disruptive – and a strategic advantage.
These technologies, among others I haven’t noted, suddenly became highly disruptive in nature and began driving enterprises to rapidly adopt the technologies and adapt to the fast-paced technology changes taking place. Enterprises that are seeking to embrace today’s new technologies – and in particular those companies that recognize that today’s technology disruption cycle makes it vital for them to do so – are now declaring “green eye shades TEM” as inadequate for meeting the needs of today’s transformative business ecosystems.
The TEM market in turn suddenly found itself in need of stepping up and greatly broadening its own capabilities, especially in the wake of realizing that there is now a wealth of new opportunities to extend its services beyond core green eye shades TEM to managed mobility and IT Expense Management (ITEM). The industry’s key association, TEMIA, is itself in the process of defining ITEM and the significant shift it entails for businesses.
History is actually beginning to change for TEM instead of repeating itself. Blue Hill Research has noted these emerging opportunities for TEM vendors – which now includes the need to seamlessly monitor and manage recurring telecom, IT and mobility expenses, including the emergence of IoT expense management.
Our research team has taken a strong stab at looking underneath the covers of what it takes to transform from TEM to ITEM – check out “Applying TEM Best Practices to Optimize Your Cloud Investments” for the inside look on this.It provides a great blueprint to assemble the right enterprise strategy to ensure both your TEM and cloud platforms are fine-tuned for both your present and future needs.
We’ve also been investigating which TEM vendors are best positioned to take advantage of this wave of technology disruption and emerging opportunities for their own business growth. We’ll deliver a research report in the near-future on it.
I’ll wrap this up by also elaborating slightly on the two acronyms I casually dropped earlier – ItaaS and MaaS. “IT as a Service” is a useful term to define the general underlying platforms TEM vendors are now launching to meet the challenges of transforming from TEM to ITEM vendors. In great part this is important as well because a key enterprise consideration for TEM vensor-driven ITaaS is to deploy it to optimize enterprise investments in cloud computing. I recently delivered a webinar on this topic for Calero’s Calero World 2017– check it “Utilizing TEM Best Practices to Optimize Your Cloud Investments (http://connect.calero.com/utilizing-tem-best-practices-optimize-investment).”
“Mobility as a Service” is the emerging means of describing the end to end Managed Mobility Services (MMS) solutions vendors such as Stratix are now deploying. More on this in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned!