In a fascinating and lively interview, Kevin Jacobson, the general manager for enterprise marketing at MTN Business, explains how the business world is changing, and what the company is doing to take advantage of this shift.
For the world of business this may well be an unprecedented time due to the rate of development moving at such a quick pace. This sentiment is echoed by Kevin Jacobson, general manager for enterprise marketing at MTN Business, who began by pointing out that we are in the midst of a number of “explosions of change”. These include the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), convergence, cloud technology and the increase in machine to machine (M2M) communication.
For MTN Business, and for the business world at large, the rise of small and medium enterprises cannot be underestimated. Jacobson pointed out that most companies today are considering downsizing, which invariably is to the detriment of the economy as it results in fewer consumers. Furthermore, difficulties in finding jobs make it even more imperative for workers to become entrepreneurial. “Our thought process around SMEs is to provide them the tools to get started, and enable them to focus on what they need to do in order to build a business,” he explained.
The good news for SMEs is that they are now more than ever before able to operate on a level playing-field from a technology point of view as compared with their larger, corporate counterparts. Part of the reason for this is cloud technology, which is quickly becoming a great equalizer, if not a critical component of starting up a new business. “If you are starting up a business, do you really want to layout all your capital on licenses, software and services?” posed Jacobson. “If as a business owner I want software, Exchange or Office, why can’t I just pay it on a monthly basis? If I need licensing for anything, let me decide – if my business scales up from 5 to 10, well I pay more when it gets to ten, and if I lose three people I pay less immediately. All of that potential is there,” he continued.
A helping hand
From MTN Business’s side, the company is making a concerted effort to tap into this potential and offer SMEs what they need to flourish. This includes new products, such as ProPack, being made available to SMEs. ProPack boasts a number of extra benefits including the BizAssist concierge service, R800 of Google Adwords, Fax2email, and free voice mail when overseas amongst others.
Jacobson added that the rise of the SME is changing MTN Business as well, which has traditionally concentrated on long-term contracts. Now the company is adjusting its strategy to take into account short term or monthly contracts in order to enable businesses to scale as required. As an indication of MTN Business’s efforts to assist businesses, whether small, medium or large, to get from where they are to where they want to go, businesses can visit shop.mtnbusiness.co.za and try Cloud Solutions for thirty days; if they don’t like it they don’t have to continue, if they do they can subscribe on a month-to-month basis and scale it as needed.
Everywhere you go
Beyond that, Jacobson noted that for MTN Business, convergence had become a large focus. This includes voice and data, fixed and mobile communications, as well as home and work. With regards to the latter, he explained that this all-encompassing convergence meant businesses could break through the boundaries of an office mentality, and instead pervasively “do anything from anywhere”. In practical terms, for a business this could mean the ability to enter important data into its CRM (customer relationship management) sy-stem without requiring a person to physically be at the office, or running a call centre from anywhere in the world thanks to IP (internet protocol) connectivity.
SIM cards everywhere
In a similar vein, seamless connectivity between machines enables people and organisations to access a variety of machine-based information, for example, monitoring information, customer information, weather information or traffic information remotely. This has significant implications for certain verticals, such as in the utilities space. Jacobson pointed out that with a SIM card in a meter, it could be remotely monitored, and no longer require a meter reader to ever enter someone’s property. Furthermore, Jacobson believes that we will see an increase in this M2M communication, particularly as everything from fridges and TVs, to cars and digital billboards take advantage of an integrated SIM card.
He stressed an important, but perhaps too often overlooked point – that now more than ever, communication is “the lifeblood of the business,” adding that without it, productivity grinds to a halt. With this in mind, he explained that MTN Business has gone to great lengths to ensure that it has multiple redundant systems in place, which will ensure that if one failed for whatever reason, customers would be unaffected as an alternative took its place. Indeed, he pointed out that one of MTN Business’s main strengths was an extensive fibre network, as well as able to lay claim to the distinction of being the largest investor in undersea cabling.
The final shift that Jacobson alluded to with regards to MTN Business’s focus moving forward was taking a more co-creative, cooperative approach to businesses. “I think the days are gone where you develop based on what you think customers need; we now need to find out what do they really need and how to construct something that will meet those requirements,” he explained. Rather, the company was endeavouring to understand what was keeping its customers up at night, and offer solutions that cater to solving their problems.
Whether it is the adoption of cloud technology, taking advantage of M2M communication, embracing remote working or understanding one’s customers and working together, one theme prevailed: all this change needs to be accompanied by a change in mindset and attitude on behalf of companies to accept and embrace the changing business environment. However, Jacobson made it clear where and how he would like to see MTN Business’s role moving forward – making a difference in its customers lives and thus, contributing to advancing the country as a whole.