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Emerging 5G technologies will amplify the strategic imperative to digitally transform the enterprise
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By Aviviere Telang
The digital era has profoundly redefined the customer experience (CX). Customers crave immediacy and companies need to rise to the challenge by increasingly anticipating customer need and engaging them with hyper-personalized and immersive experiences.
A few companies like Disney and Amazon are leading the charge. However, the vast majority of organizations are playing catch-up – more than 50% of organizations are redirecting investment toward experience innovation, as this article shows.
In today’s digital era – the experience has become the product
The emergence of 5G technology is a major technology catalyst that will accelerate improved customer experience. In fact, according to a Deloitte study, more than 80% of networking executives believe it will transform their organization within three years, and only a few less say the same about their industry.
5G is more than just the next release of cellular communication. It is a technology that adds exponential capacity to connect people to more things and experiences than ever before, find new sources of revenue, and unlock more value from their data. 5G will unlock the commercial viability and technical adoption of technologies that have, so far, been constrained by speed and latency.
A good example of supporting the customer experience is healthcare. The events of the past year have proven the reliance healthcare has on a combination of Internet of Things (IoT) and enhanced broadband to support telemedicine. A case in point: 5G improves diagnoses requiring multiple connections at a remote site (patient dialysis at home or remote control of medical equipment). Telemedicine and connected equipment inside hospitals will be possible using 5G. Saratoga Hospital in Saratoga Springs, NY reacted when it found itself bogged down with administrative tasks, such as taking patients’ vital signs every few hours and manually logging the results. They adopted 5G services to improve performance during the pandemic.
The digital transformation context
However, as organizations explore next-generation customer experiences, they quickly realize that they need to enhance their own digital-dexterity – by first undertaking a holistic digital transformation themselves, or risk stalling/failing in the marketplace. The traditional operating model where organizations function in operational silos is no longer sustainable; rather, the digital enterprise needs to function as a connected whole. Therefore, as 5G fundamentally catalyzes the transformation of CX, it will also exert immense “digitalization-pressure” on the operational, infrastructure, intelligence, and innovation capabilities of the enterprise.
The cloud service providers are not lost on this demand pressure from their own customers. This involves the development of an ecosystem of partnering with wireless carriers and developing 5G-enabled applications. Cloud providers don’t own the spectrum to build 5G networks, but their customers want it. At the same time, the carriers have the capability, but not the dense enterprise user base to capitalize on it. And this is where improving the customer experience for enterprises at the edge meets the need for infrastructure, creating a natural fit between the two.
You cannot transform what you don’t understand
As enterprises leverage 5G to build the next generation of customer experience, they will be challenged to match the speed and efficiency of their operations with the velocity and scale that revolutionary digital experiences demand. Today, companies that struggle to understand their customer and their operations will not remain relevant for long. Companies need to rapidly stitch together an integrated, real-time pulse of their entire value chain – from immediate customer preferences to real-time operational performance. In order to transform into a nimble digital organization, they need the ability to rapidly understand and orchestrate customer and operational insights into efficient and decisive action. So far, the initial promise of IoT has only been realized in niche, use-case specific where environments can be carefully controlled and monitored.
5G however, is set to democratize IoT because:
5G will support the bandwidth, density, and latency requirements of previously unviable IoT solutions and will trigger higher data volumes and faster data generation as devices, sensors, and instrumentation permeate the entire digital ecosystem.
5G will be the first cellular technology designed to natively converge with Wi-Fi 6. Many IoT devices that use different communication protocols such as BLE, Zigbee, etc., and had no cellular connectivity will be able to securely exchange data into 5G networks through enterprise Wi-Fi 6 access points.
5G will intensify the need to develop specific edge & data technology capabilities
In response to the opportunities 5G introduces, organizations will need to rapidly decentralize their operations and their infrastructure by developing capabilities to analyze data and decision it closer to the source. In this way, companies can transform their ability to better execute business decisions, solve operational issues, and understand customer preferences.
Due to the exponential increase that 5G delivers in connectivity, capacity, and coverage of infrastructure, it will give CIO/CDOs much more freedom in the way they deploy both computing infrastructure and communications infrastructure.
Organizations will also need to synchronize data from diverse sources internally across their external digital ecosystem in order to accelerate business decisions. Identifying and preserving the data that matters will be crucial.
Cybersecurity, compliance, and control will also be major factors that organizations need to overcome as 5G makes connectivity between devices and people more pervasive.
Accelerate your time to market by driving innovation
5G will intensify the need for organizations to be adept at continuous innovation. As 5G expands customer and operational insights across the value chain, it will accelerate the virtuous cycle of evidence-based innovation. Companies that are slow to develop a digital-mindset within their culture will be increasingly left behind in the competitive landscape.
5G will expand the available technologies that companies use to engage customers. It will bring immersive customer experiences into the mainstream with innovative AR and VR interfaces. Whereas 4G latencies of over 20ms limited the mass commercial adoption of AR and VR experiences, 5G will make these experiences feasible.
5G will amplify the need to adopt cloud-oriented posture
As I stated at the beginning of this article, there is natural synergy here for cloud service providers. The new experiences that 5G will bring online are powered by cloud architectures due to the massive speed and scale required to deliver them. As a result, organizations will need to quickly explore and develop new experiences on cloud-enabled platforms, requiring them to merge conventional and cloud-native capabilities. Integrating CRM and ERP systems with newer CI/CD platforms and experience data will be crucial to launch compelling innovative experiences.
Moreover, because 5G can process and transport data faster, AI tools will become even smarter and faster. With the surge in customer and operational data, organizations will be able to quickly train these tools to generate more accurate operational decisioning and customer insights.
5G will amplify the need for organizations to develop highly mature AI capabilities and seamlessly integrate these capabilities into their application and product development, so that intelligence gained across the value chain and/or digital ecosystem can be rapidly applied to enhance digital innovation cycles.
Modernize on-premises IT or move-out!
To support these digital aspirations, organizations will have to modernize and integrate their application and infrastructure estates. As stated earlier, 5G will be the first cellular technology that natively incorporates Wi-Fi capabilities. The convergence of 5G with enterprise Wi-Fi technologies like Wi-Fi 6 will eliminate existing data bottlenecks and intensify the need for organizations to modernize their legacy application infrastructure, network foundation, and storage platforms to keep pace with emerging 5G technology.
Is 5G the backbone to digital transformation?
Is 5G, then, the ingredient that will amplify the need to transition to an edge-to-cloud infrastructure operating model? In order to meet the “velocity” challenges introduced by 5G, infrastructure platforms will need to enhance autonomous administration, control, and monitoring of infrastructure to enable on-demand access and availability.
As connectivity and experience modalities expands across people, devices, and locations, the consumer must also adopt the technology for the previously-mentioned ecosystem to work. The rollout of 5G has continued in the last year, in spite of events, and new data, according to PWC’s US Mobile Index, shows U.S. coverage is up to 75%. But this is countered by consumer adoption of cell phones with the technology, which currently lags at 8% penetration. The network providers want it, the cloud service providers want it, and enterprises want it in order to drive new levels of customer experience. Are we really waiting for customers to catch up?
Aviviere Telang is a Global Digital Advisor and Solution Strategist at HPE. Driven to build the next generation of digital experiences, Aviviere builds innovative solutions and approaches that accelerate the digital transformation agenda. Increasingly critical to a digitalized economy, Aviviere’s current focus is on the large-scale orchestration of enterprise-wide digital initiatives that advance an organization’s digital ambition. Aviviere has spent more than 12 years partnering with organizations around the world to execute on their transformation agendas in the digital edge, IoT and workplace domains. He holds an MSc in Electrical Engineering, and an MBA from the Ivey Business School in London, CA.