Is digital transformation only about technology?
The ITP Tech Group spoke with Atos’ CEO for the Middle East, Marc Veelenturf, and the company’s market head for MEA Telco, Media and Technology, Premit Dhawan, to discover how Atos is helping telcos to evolve into digital service pioneers
With telcos and enterprises alike fast tracking their digitalisation initiatives across the region, the Middle East finds itself on the cutting edge when it comes to digital innovation.
In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the launch of 5G will bring a plethora of opportunities for enterprises to redefine the way they do business and deliver a diverse portfolio of digital services and products to an increasingly demanding client base.
Similarly, across the greater Middle East and Africa region, the proliferation of 4G and LTE networks is kick starting a digital revolution that will fundamentally change the way people live their lives – opening up a veritable smorgasbord of digital opportunities, from remote working and e-learning initiatives, to mobile financial applications and e-health solutions.
As telcos continue to evolve their product offering way beyond the mere provision of “dumb pipe” connectivity, they will increasingly look to leverage partnerships with service providers who can facilitate their own digitalisation on an end-to-end basis.
Most of the world’s biggest and most ambitious digital transformation champions are looking to sharpen their focus on the Middle East and Africa region.
Atos is one such company looking to leverage its huge wealth of international experience to dramatically ramp up its operations here in the region.
As a company, Atos is passionate about customer success, technology and employee wellbeing, and is a proud global leader in digital transformation. It has been serving its customers for over three decades, employing 110,000 business technologists working seamlessly across the globe. The company has a presence in 73 distinct markets across the globe.
“With our recent announcement of order entry up by + 9.4 per cent year on year and annual revenues of around €12 billion, Atos is ranked across the globe as one of the main leaders in cloud, cybersecurity and high-performance computing. The company’s expertise and professional services are boosting the development of knowledge, education and research in a multicultural approach, and are contributing to the development of scientific and technological excellence,” via an undivided focus and investments in MEA said Marc Veelenturf, CEO Middle East at Atos.
“Today we have a strong investment plan in place for the Middle East and Africa. With our growing workforce from over 15 offices, I feel that Atos is uniquely positioned to serve its clients in the key areas of digital transformation, customer experience, digital infrastructure, cyber security, and operational excellence adding to the list 20+ Telco customers ” he added.
The company has invested significantly in the region and has made a number of key acquisitions in recent months.
“We have announced three strategic agreements to acquire businesses that will allow us to bring our huge wealth of international experience to our customers here in the Middle East; a global cybersecurity player in cloud-native managed detection and response; another digital security company with consulting and specific IoT knowledge; and a leading digital consulting company specialising in applications transformations,” Marc Veelenturf confirmed.
Veelenturf identified three key areas that Atos would look to exploit as the company continues to expand its regional footprint. Full stack cloud and business critical applications; digital platforms and customer experience; and digital security, will all play a key role in enabling Atos to facilitate the digitalisation of operators, service providers and a host of other enterprises across the region.
“Under the current Covid-19 situation, we see that digitalisation has delivered only a fraction of its potential globally, and the same applies to the MEA region - especially in the Telecommunication space. While the data deluge of the last decade will accelerate, it will now be topped by a profusion of data-driven services. In this new era, the customers are calling for value, experience and safety.
“Leveraging its skills and assets, Atos continues to invest and build market focused digital innovations which turn into organic growth,” he said.
Digitalisation and the shift towards 5G
The GCC nations were among the first in the world to launch 5G mobile network services last year, with a number of operators vying for the crown of being first-for-5G. Operators in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the GCC nations are looking to build out the reach of their 5G networks and use the move towards 5G as a pivot to revitalise their enterprise service offering. The sheer volume of data being transmitted over these next generation networks means that there can be no 5G without a full digitalisation programme in place.
Telcos are a fair way down the road of their digitalisation journeys but they will increasingly look to leverage automated solutions to manage their state-of-the-art communications networks.
On the consumer side, telcos will need to evolve their product and service portfolio to offer a diverse and often bespoke range of services, in order to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
On the network side, exponentially growing demand will generalise broadband, LTE and 5G essentials. To succeed, operators will need to accelerate their strategies for bundling services on top of their assets.
The fact remains that pure connectivity – the selling of voice, text and data services - will no longer be a very profitable business model by itself. Atos believe that telcos will increasingly branch out into service provision in a range of verticals, building on the relatively high levels of brand loyalty that exist in the sector. In order to deliver these new, bandwidth hungry services, the network infrastructure must be able to cope with the exponential surge in demand.
“Value will mostly come from bundled high-value services or from the resulting data monetisation streams across a wide range of use cases. This will put strong demand on telecom infrastructures and to succeed, telcos will have to decouple or unbundle services from the underlying infrastructures they currently rely on and would require strong harmonisation and consolidation initiatives to build highly standardised, agile and automated digital platforms based on NFV and SDN.
“Operators will need to accelerate their strategies for bundling services on top of their assets, which requires diversification and experimentation in both the mobility and enterprise segments, including moves into adjacent domains such as digital banking and payments, E-commerce, Cloud services. This is where our international experience helps to drive our regional focus. This is where our vast international experience helps to drive our regional focus,” said Premit Dhawan, market head for MEA Telco, Media and Technology at Atos.
“The real value will come from the way data will be leveraged to streamline customer experience, operations and create new monetisation models,” Dhawan added.
Atos is working with all major telcos in the region to help them put in place the digital systems that will help drive the evolution of their product offering.
“We have built powerful blueprints for telecom analytics, business-driven automation and NFV. Our strategic partnership in the MEA region also enables us to help telcos to be at the heart of innovation and leverage it in an open way. For Telecom, the objective is accelerating time to value while reducing the costs and risks of transformation. This is exactly what we are doing for our clients,” Veelenturf explained.
Veelenturf is convinced that customer relationships are “measured in the number of feet you are away from your customers”. Atos has plans to further invest in building and enhancing local capabilities throughout the Middle East and Africa region. It is this high level of visibility on a local level that allows the company to work so closely with the region’s telcos and service providers.
Today, Atos is helping telcos across the region to create additional revenue streams with new services such as unified communications and collaboration (UCC), IoT, and e-commerce solutions. The company can also help service providers to avoid bottlenecks and reduce total cost of ownership by up to 40 per cent with NFV/SDN solutions along with IT and network consolidation and harmonisation.
Securing your digital assets
As telcos and service providers look to ramp up their digitalisation initiatives and evolve into becoming digital service pioneers, the number one challenge will be ensuring that their cybersecurity systems remain one step ahead of prospective attackers.
Telecoms operators across the Middle East and Africa are coming under immense strain to provide the essential connectivity that underpins our digital lives. Particularly now, as the current Coronavirus pandemic forces hundreds of millions of people across the world to work and study from home, network operators are having to throw all available resources at adding the requisite capacity to cope with the unprecedented levels of traffic.
As they do so, a whole host of cyber criminals are waiting in the ranks to bring their operations crashing to a halt.
A recent report by Kaspersky suggested that there had been as many as 726 million confirmed cyber-attacks worldwide since the start of the year, putting 2020 on course to rack up somewhere in the region of 1.5 billion cyber-attacks in total.
“The geopolitical divides which our societies are facing have transformed cybercrime into an extremely lucrative business,” Dhawan explained.
“Its “borderless and visa-free” characteristics are being further fuelled by increasing global inequality in wealth and the scale of digital processes, connections, devices and exploitable data. At the same time, cybercrime techniques are increasing in complexity and sophistication thanks to a growth in computer skills and education programmes, and global access to technology and networks. In this complex political and economic context, the addition of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, will open another dimension within the cybersecurity playground. Increasing maturity in AI capability is potentially creating unprecedented attack scenarios, catching defenders completely off-guard. As a result, the negative impact of cybercrime on businesses and societies is expected to grow exponentially,” he added.
Indeed, an industry study conducted by Tenable, claimed that ninety-five per cent of businesses in Saudi Arabia had experienced at least one business impacting cyber-attack in the past 12 months.
The study showed that 85 per cent of respondents in Saudi Arabia had witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of business-impacting cyberattacks over the past two years. The research from Saudi Arabia shows a trend that is developing in the GCC and across the wider Middle East and Africa region.
One thing is for certain, any business or enterprise looking to provide digital services will need to make asset security their number one priority for investment.
The regions larger enterprise networks can expect to experience billions of potential security events every day, so the evolution of AI techniques will be a key weapon in the fight against would be assailants. Threats can come from a wide variety of sources, including security devices, network appliances, connected objects and mobile applications, and systems must be capable of processing and analysing multiple threats concurrently.
“AI techniques are now being applied to assist with the prioritisation of security alerts and automation of responses, with machine learning models being trained to identify unusual behaviour patterns that may not be identified by pre-set rules. AI will help drive cybersecurity to the next level - the Invisible Security paradigm,” said Veelenturf.
“Cybersecurity will have to be decentralised with security intelligence and automation for decision-making. Security intelligence and decision-making will be automatic and executed close to data sources. Rather than focusing solely on detecting attacks, this framework will help AI for cyber-defence prevail over AI for cyber-attack. A distributed AI approach that makes the invisible visible, will bring enterprises an unprecedented understanding about their information systems. It will provide invaluable insights into optimal approaches for visibility, protection, attack detection, response and resilience. Invisible security will foster technical progress and the evolution of commercial and industrial digital ecosystems, sustaining and safeguarding the advancement of society,” he added.
Atos employs over 5,000 security specialists across the world, allowing it to bring its huge raft of international experience to the Middle East and Africa’s cybersecurity market, offering tailor made, end-to-end security solutions which leverage the combined powers of AI and big data analytics.
Looking to the future
As telcos and service providers continue to broaden their portfolio of digital services, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics and process automation will play an increasing role in network management. Operators will increasingly look to offer cloud-based services, which will require an overhaul of their existing network infrastructure as well as real investment in network security.
As they do so, they will look to increase their partnerships with end to end digital service facilitators, who can help them become more that just providers of connectivity. For companies like Atos with a wealth of international experience, the Middle East and Africa market represents a real opportunity for protracted growth.
“Telcos in the Middle East and Africa region are looking at ways to reduce costs and become more agile, nimble businesses, while simultaneously increasing the size and complexity of their networks. Incumbent operators are going to start evolving their focus from robotic process automation to human guided automation. Market leaders will continue to explore the limits of AI and machine learning use cases, as they look to fast track a route to the autonomous networks of the future. But automation is far more than just a change in technology or a software upgrade – it requires change on a cultural and organisational level as well. This will result in the workforce becoming more proactive and creative in its daily activities,” explained Veelenturf.
Digital empowerment for the Olympic and Paralympic Games
Atos has been supporting the Olympic movement for over 30 years, and the Paralympic Movement for nearly 20 years, providing IT solutions to the Olympic Games since 1992.
The company has recently extended its contract to provide critical IT services to run the Games, until 2024. The cycle includes the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, set to be organised in summer 2021, Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024. The company is at the centre of the digital transformation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, providing integration and systems management services, core hosting services and critical applications.
Providing the key IT services to the Olympic and Paralympic Games is an epic undertaking - equivalent to working with a business of 300,000 employees, while addressing a customer base of 4 billion clients in a new territory every two years.
At the Tokyo 2020 Games over 4 billion spectators from across the globe will watch over 10,000 athletes compete at events from over 40 official venues.
“As the Worldwide IT Partner, Atos is responsible for the delivery of the overall IT technology solution including the planning and control of the overall project. Atos is the interface between the technology providers and the Organising Committee’s functional areas. From its foundation and all the way through planning, operations and post Games dissolution, the IT project management of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a lengthy and delicate process which starts 4 years ahead of the competition launch,” explained Veelenturf.