BR INTERVIEW. Florin Popa (Orange Romania): Technology builds proactive long-term strategies for companies

Newsroom 17/10/2019 | 07:00

Florin Popa, Business to Business Director at Orange Romania, talked to Business Review about the main digital trends seen on both the international and local scenes and how the company meets the changing needs of businesses, individual customers and local communities.

By Anda Sebesi

What are the main digital trends on the international market?

First of all, probably one of the most prominent trends in the consumer and business environments is hyperconnectivity. Two-thirds of the world’s households own a smartphone and ubiquitous connectivity is giving individuals access to more information than ever before. Also, it is almost impossible to imagine a business that is not connected with its customers, suppliers or employees almost 100 percent of the time. From consumers to governments, communication and interactions are constantly evolving, shaping perceptions, priorities and attitudes.

In today’s connected society, data is a highly valuable asset. Moreover, it is said to be the new currency of the digital economy. We call it the “Internet of Enterprises” era, a third phase that follows the first internet revolution we witnessed in 1985 and the era of mobile and social media, which emerged around 2000.

The Internet of Enterprises is about the use of data to fuel faster and better educated business decisions based on customer insights and instant access to transactions, also helping to shape new business models.

More obvious lately is also the people’s quest for simplicity. Customers want one point of contact for as many of the services they use as possible. Convergence delivers this factor.

Importantly, the competition for resources and increasing awareness of environmental challenges have a transformational effect on consumer behaviour, sometimes at a rapid pace. This brings both challenges and opportunities for business.

Which of these trends can be noticed in Romania now?

I believe all of them can. Connectivity is the new normal, as the number of internet users has more than doubled over the last decade, giving way to a more connected society. It is estimated that 3/4 of the global population will have internet access by 2030. Romania is no exception, as each year we see an exponential growth of mobile data consumption. For example, in the second quarter of 2019, Orange Romania registered 40 percent more data traffic comparing to the same period of 2018.

The use of applications, websites and smart devices has considerably increased, therefore the amount of data generated has grown exponentially.

We have the know-how and resources to help companies get to know their customers better and to grow their business, while optimizing the resources they invest. Data can determine the success of a company on a competitive market.That is why we offer our clients new ways to better use their data, both by consultancy, as well as in the design and management phase of the systems they need for this purpose.

We are the travel partner of our clients in what we call “Data Journey”. On this journey, we can accompany our customers to collect, transport, secure, store & process, analyse their data and then make the right business decisions at the end of this cycle.

Integrated services that bring simplicity to end users’ lives was another global trend reflected on the Romanian market. That is why, in 2016, we decided to provide a complete fixed-mobile consumer offer, made steps into the financial services field by launching Orange Money and set convergence as one of our strategic priorities.

Just as all over the world, the rapid urban development and the migration of population to large cities has created environmental issues Romania must tackle, such as air pollution, traffic and waste management. The substantial challenges they pose demand different perspectives that also bring opportunities. Such opportunities are smart city projects, which use technology in order to address issues like deficient consumption of electricity or water.

In the last years, numerous smart city projects have been deployed in several Romanian cities, of which I would particularly mention Alba Iulia Smart City 2018, an initiative Orange adhered to in 2016 and delivered the first integrated smart city project in the country. Two years later, we finalised the implementation, with more than 600 operational sensors all around the city, connected through mobile, fixed and IoT dedicated networks. The data collected is available to local authorities and their business partners for better management of city resources or for the improvement of their citizens’ quality of life.

How do these trends change businesses and consumers?

Technology plays a crucial role in the customers’ decision-making and also in the ability of businesses to meet the needs of today’s consumers. Local companies are facing pressures to digitize their customer journeys and adopt flexible IT infrastructures, able to cope with fast changes.

The way people interact has also changed inside companies. Employees, customers, suppliers and business partners are teaming up across the city, the country or the world, whenever necessary, from any device. This is why at Orange, we provide tools to facilitate better collaboration and take advantage of digital transformation. Once accustomed with new technologies, you can more efficiently manage your resources – time, budgets – or find easier ways to source them.

Technology forces companies to adapt to the new context. In light of this, what are the main solutions that companies look for when it comes to technology?

In today’s competitive landscape, companies need partners that bring industry knowledge and data-driven customer insights to foster co-innovation.

At Orange, our products are designed to allow companies to be up to date with the latest technologies, but also to build a long-term strategy that is proactive rather than reactive.

More precisely, together with customers, startups and technology partners, we create products that address users’ specific needs. Orange Fab, a startup accelerator developed by Orange, is a programme based on the concept of co-

creation. We support young entrepreneurs with mentoring, technology and access to clients, as well as B2B clients, through innovative solutions that transform the way they work. So far, our overall investments in startups has reached EUR 700,000.

As mentioned earlier, our business customers are becoming more aware about the risks associated with the business digitalization process and therefore are willing to invest in solutions that protect their business against these risks. For example, our cyber security solution, Business Internet Security, is a highly appreciated tool as it can detect and prevent complex threats in real time.

We’re seeing a higher demand for security solutions, both in the central area of IT architecture as well as in the mobility area. In the first half of 2019 we saw a 50 percent increase in revenues generated by this type of services compared to the same period of last year.

Whether we’re talking about securing mobile terminals or securing fixed networks, these security solutions are increasingly sought after, alongside data centre hosting or cloud migration and smart Wi-Fi solutions. At the same time, there is high demand for new technologies in the area of unified communications and solutions designed for customer interaction and engagement. In this respect, Orange Business Services is a reference provider for contact centre and call centre solutions.

How has Orange adapted to the changing needs of the local business community?

On the local market, Orange already has over two decades of experience as a digital transformation partner for companies.

For our business customers and the public sector, we have developed over the past years products and services to help organizations’ digital transformation in order to help them become more efficient, agile and productive. But optimization is no longer the only key to success, as digital technologies and the use of data can play a significant role in business development, creating new customer interactions, sales contexts and personalized offers.

This is why we’ve unified an end-to-end secured ecosystem of technologies, solutions and partners able to assist our business customers to better monetize the data they generate every day. Moreover, starting July, we’ve combined our experience in the Romanian business environment with international expertise in business solutions integration, as our dedicated business division became the local representative of Orange Business Services (OBS).

The association with Orange Business Services , an international organisation within

the Orange Group that is specialized in business transformation solutions based on IT&C, will enable large companies, SMEs and public authorities to transform their organisations through the use of technology and digital information. OBS is known as a global infrastructure operator, technology integrator and value added service provider force, with over 25,000 specialists in IT&C operating in 220 countries and territories.

These enlarged capabilities provide our clients with access to  best-in-class solutions developed in no less than 18 global research & development OBS centres. Public authorities, large companies and SMEs will benefit from innovations in areas such as smart networks, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, cyber security, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

How has Orange invested in technologies so far? Do you have any novelties?

Investments in network infrastructure are a prerequisite for service quality and customer trust. At the same time, they represent the foundation for technology developments. We see that the network reliability is one of the main satisfaction drivers for almost half of our clients.

That’s why a significant part of the EUR 3.5 billion invested by Orange over the past 22 years went into networks and allowed us to sustainably create the best national mobile telecommunication infrastructure.

The connected objects are not only enabling work, access to information or entertainment, but they also lead to industry changing services like real-time monitoring, instant mobile banking transactions or connected cities. This brings a long-term benefit for both the final customer and to the country as a whole, by creating an environment that is favourable to investments, a climate which stimulates value creation and stability.

For this, customer experience and innovation are key. In our journey on the Romanian market, we at Orange have brought new technologies and new capabilities year after year, and we are proud to be recognized as an innovator within Orange Group as well.

We’ve continued the effort to test and prove the technological feasibility of 5G in Romania. Following the first real life 5G test in Europe, which we ran last year in Florești, Cluj County, this year we enabled live transmissions from the main stage of the largest music festival in Romania, using the same 5G technology, which will become part of our day-to-day lives.

New in our technological portfolio is also Live Objects, a platform dedicated to IoT projects which allows for new business models through the use of connected devices and process automation.

We’ve also added to our national portfolio some of the technologies developed internationally by Orange Business Services, which are currently being implemented for clients in banking, retail or agribusiness.

For example, the smart networking solution SD-WAN, the latest development in the move towards the latest development in the move towards software defined services in networking. For a CEO who needs an infrastructure able to cope with rapid market changes, mergers and expansions, or the implementation of new processes and customer interaction tools, it is a platform for business transformation.

Another example is Flexible Engine, which is a cloud computing platform as a service that uses machine learning algorithms to allow for big data and predictive analysis. The business applications of such predictions are virtually limitless, from the anticipation of customer behaviours in marketing campaigns to process optimizations in manufacturing or crop harvesting time optimization in modern agriculture.

Last but not least, starting this year we’re offering Flux Vision. It is a data analysis platform that provides information on the mobility of different population segments in order to optimize communication with customers and create dedicated geo-marketing analyses or campaigns.

The digital revolution requires cohesive solutions with a high degree of service personalisation. This is why we’ve partnered with international and local innovators who share our vision – device manufacturers, platforms, integrators, and technology providers. We also help startups to gain traction and become commercially viable through incubation and acceleration programs such as Innovation Labs and Orange Fab.

What should we expect in terms of innovation in technology on the Romanian market?

Orange has been operating on the Romanian market for over 20 years and in this timespan, we’ve seen a total reshape both in terms of technological advancement and the way the society uses it.

On the local market, one of the hot topics is the deployment of 5G, a technology that promises to create the premises of a fully mobile society. A 5G network can simultaneously support applications such as 4K video, AR/ VR, self-driving, applications that require increased operational efficiency. For example, low energy consumption and a dynamic allocation of resources. Switching to 5G will allow simultaneous connection for a large number of devices (sensors, connected objects, industrial robots), unlimited access to different wireless technologies and a very low latency. We are speaking of unseen technical capabilities, a huge potential for high-performance technological solutions such as connected autonomous machines, eHealth, cloud VR or AI support.

Forecasts say that, in coming years, the telecom industry will be redefined by the accelerated adoption of Cloud, Big Data analytics or IoT solutions. As part of our IoT ecosystem, in November 2018 we launched nationally the Orange LTE-M (Long Term Evolution for Machines) network, dedicated to connecting low power devices.

The telecommunications infrastructure brings a great potential for the development of all other industries, from energy to services, thanks to the countrywide span and speeds that place Romania among the top countries with the best internet connections in the world. There is still room for improvement in terms of digitalization. More than one fifth of Romanians have never used the internet and when it comes to digital public services, Romania has the lowest performance among the EU member states. In order to unleash the potential, the further evolution of the industry is closely related to investments. Romania has to keep up with the European market, which is currently investing in implementing new technologies that allow automatization in each and every industry.

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