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Orange CIO Faced Board Concern on Digitalization

Iain Morris
5/12/2016

NICE, France -- TM Forum Live! -- Orange CIO Pascal Viginier had to address board-level concerns that lack of IT sophistication would be the downfall of the Essentials2020 strategy the operator unveiled in March 2015.

Under Essentials2020, the French telecom incumbent aims to generate about €1 billion ($1.14 billion) in revenues from Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile banking services by 2020. (See Eurobites: Orange Plans €15B Networks Upgrade.)

Speaking at a Huawei breakfast briefing at the TM Forum Live! event earlier this week, Viginier revealed that Orange's Board members were initially worried IT shortcomings might derail the Essentials2020 project, which calls for the digital transformation of the operator's entire business.

"When we chose the strategy the board of directors was worried that IT would be the thing that blocked it, and we had an emergency meeting so I could report on what we are doing," he told an audience of service providers and other industry executives. "At the end of that session, though, the board was confident we could deliver."

Viginier disclosed details of seven internal initiatives that appear to have reassured board members and now represent building blocks of the digital transformation strategy.

Those cover the areas of customer experience, security, skills, big data, APIs, IT excellence and the internal environment for Orange employees.

Seven Steps to Heaven
Pascal Viginier, Orange's CIO, had to convince board members that IT would not be a barrier to digital transformation.
Pascal Viginier, Orange's CIO, had to convince board members that IT would not be a barrier to digital transformation.

Orange's situation is clearly not unique. Numerous other service providers have recognized a need to overhaul their back-office systems and processes if they are to prosper in a digital-services future.

For the French operator, however, digital transformation appears to be an even bigger priority than it is for some other "Tier 1" players because of the particular focus on IoT and mobile banking.

In France, Orange is building out an IoT network using LoRa, one of several low-power, wide-area (LPWA) network technologies on the market. It has also developed a data management platform (called Datavenue) that is supporting its rollout of IoT services and helping to attract new partners in this area, including healthcare player Harmonie Mutuelle and insurance specialist AXA. (See LoRa May Not Be for Long Haul at Orange and Orange Hails LoRa Breakthrough as Bouygues Ups IoT Game.)

Earlier this year, Orange also completed the takeover of Groupama Banque, a banking subsidiary of insurance giant Groupama, and in 2017 it plans to launch banking services in France under the Orange Bank brand. Service launches in Belgium and Spain are set to follow. (See Orange Becomes a Bank With Groupama Deal, Orange Claims Customer Interest in Bank Move, Orange's Paillassot Banks on Groupama Move and Orange May Become Bank With Groupama Takeover.)

"We must raise the bar dramatically on the reliability of digital services and disrupt the way we execute and deliver," Viginier said in Nice. "We have to move forward rapidly but also strengthen the base."

Expounding on the seven initiatives, Viginier said there was a need to continue making improvements to customer experience with the push into digital services.

Viginier also emphasized the importance of security in areas such as IoT and mobile banking, indicating that security features would need designing into products and services in these areas to reassure customers and minimize risk.

In addition, with the introduction of New IP technologies like SDN and NFV, Orange is trying to inculcate new and more "agile" working practices in its IT development team. Earlier this week, Laurent Herr, the vice president of OSS for the Orange Business Services (OBS) division, spoke at TM Forum Live! about the need for a "human revolution" as OBS embarks on a more widespread deployment of NFV-based services this year. (See NFV Needs 'Human Revolution,' Says Orange.)

In the area of big data, Viginier claims to be making investments in the ecosystem that will support this and says the artificial intelligence behind it "will come." Orange Business Services has already rolled out a big data offering called Flexible Data, based on its Datavenue platform, and in February told Light Reading's Telco Transformation website it was then managing more than 4 million data points every minute. (See Orange's Olivier Ondet Aims for IoT Supremacy.)


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The APIs strategy received a lot of attention at TM Forum Live! this week following the announcement that nine of the world's biggest telcos, including Orange, are backing the TM Forum 's Open APIs initiative. (See 9 Global Telcos Back Open APIs Scheme.)

The idea is to simplify the process of developing different service and IT platforms by using a common set of open and standardized APIs.

Along with other operators, Orange believes the Open APIs initiative will enable it to reduce the number of internal systems it maintains across its geographical footprint, but it also sees a business opportunity in the scheme. "The second reason for doing this is to extend our business through partnerships," said Laurent Leboucher, the vice president of APIs and ecosystems for Orange, during a press conference on Tuesday.

When it comes to IT excellence, the sixth of Viginier's initiatives, the intention is to get rid of old technology and "cloudify" the business. That means supporting future customer requirements for public, private and "hybrid" deployments of cloud-based services.

On the internal environment for Orange employees, of whom there are currently about 180,000 globally, Viginier said it was important to ensure staff members have "a good experience inside the company" if Orange is to provide an unmatched experience to the customers buying its products and services.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
5/13/2016 | 11:49:54 AM
Re: Morale
Luck has nothing to do with it. That ability to communicate is essential to the CIO job, or any senior leadership position in IT. 
Ray@LR
[email protected]
5/13/2016 | 7:04:39 AM
Re: Morale
Fortunately it was very short-lived.

The key takeaway here is that while the CTO and CIO and IT and network operations folks might understand how things need to change to get technology to underpin and drive today's businesses, that's not always immediately understood by the rest of the organization, including the senior management team or board.

There's a lot of education that needs to be done - at Orange, it is lucky it has a CIO that can communicate the benefits of what he wants his team to achieve for the business.  
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
5/12/2016 | 12:48:24 PM
Morale
The lack of faith from the board must have been quite a blow to morale for IT
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