Verizon Consulting is an interesting venture, a $2 billion business consultancy spawned from a telco. As you might expect, the core of their work is communications technology: next generation networks, cyber security, advanced communications, and IoT. In fact, many of the key elements of digital transformation.
A focus on people
But the approach isn’t what you might expect. Instead of a focus on technology and physical products, the focus is on the experience of the end users of the technology – hospital patients, retail customers, company employees. Arun describes this as “experiential outcomes”, and he acknowledges the crucial need to understand and respond to the end-to-end journey of the ultimate user of the technology – you and me.
For instance, in a health setting, the focus should not just be what happens at hospital. The question health service providers need to ask should be “How can we keep this patient safe and comfortable from the moment we pick them up from home to the moment they get back home”. This means that the patient, their family, doctors, nurses, ambulance staff, administrators, catering staff, cleaners and pharmacists all need to work together.
You don’t hear people from telcos talking the language of service design often enough; and it’s even rarer to hear them talk passionately and with a deep understanding of what a well-designed service really means for consumers, as opposed to business intermediaries.
In fact, Arun doesn’t see himself as providing technology for his business customers. Instead he is providing “expertise as a service”. Expertise that is delivered through internal processes such as innovation labs and through strategic acquisitions such as Yahoo and AOL (run by Verizon’s Oath division), as well as through their understanding of, and involvement with, communications technology.
This appreciation of the importance of data beyond the data provided by communication networks is important. Take the Internet of Things. It is made up of integrated systems of machines, sensors and instrumentation. But the effectiveness of an IoT system could potentially be made far better by looping in an additional data set - “sentient” data from social media and human behaviour.
One area where Verizon has particular strengths is cyber security. Arun was in London for the launch of the Data Breach Investigations Report. This report started as a very useful standalone review of cyber threats derived from Verizon’s experience as a provider of internet services. Now it underpins an innovative service designed to enable organisations to rate and benchmark their cyber security status.
It does this by reviewing three areas:
The status and behaviour of employees (internal threats)
The threats that are circulating in the outside world from hackers and criminals (external threats)
The culture and governance of the organisation.
This three-pronged approach to cyber security provides a comprehensive picture of where an organisation is at risk. It provides advice about what the organisation can do to mitigate that risk in terms of stronger cyber defences. And it helps the organisation make preparations to repair the damage caused by any breaches, should they happen.
In other words, this isn’t just a service to provide software defences against external threats. It is a service that examines the current security posture of an organisation including culture and governance and then delivers pragmatic advice about how to defend against all threats and how to prepare for the inevitable breach. Expertise as a service.
Creating a genuinely useful consulting service isn’t easy. There is a need, Arun says, to “move the stack” when it comes to skills. Consultants don’t just need the traditional skills gained in business schools. They need a set of new skills that are fit for a digital age, including a better understanding of what drives the end-consumers of technology.
This need to change skill sets doesn’t just apply to the 2000 plus consultants Arun manages. All employees need to embrace an understanding of what digital technology means to business and society. In the face of increasing automation and insight driven by big data, jobs are changing. Who knows what jobs we will see emerging in 5 years’ time, let alone in 20 or 30?
There is nothing new in this. Jobs have been changing since the early days of the industrial revolution. You don’t find poolers, fullers, knocker-uppers and night soil men any more. That’s not a bad thing. Technology is moving jobs away from “dirty, dull and dangerous” and creating new opportunities, opportunities that require new skills: drone pilots, data analysts, robot minders, bug fixers.
Businesses need to accept this transformation more deeply. In a time of rapid change, encouraging life-long learning is essential if you want a workforce capable of dealing with challenges of the near future.
New technologies, such as cloud computing are coupling with new employee behaviours such as personal device use at work. The result is new opportunities, new ways of doing things. As an example, Verizon has migrated away from corporate email services to Gmail, which is used by everyone except those in data-sensitive positions and which provides greater flexibility at a lower cost.
Of course, some workers, and not just older ones, are not happy with the need to learn new skills around technology. That’s a problem. But one that can be addressed by making technology fashionable: the “Apple mechanism” Arun calls it.
This is all part of crossing the chasm from technology to consulting, from providing products to providing wisdom. A “transformed” telco doesn’t just provide switches and cabling. It provides business insight, underpinned by an understanding of diverse end users and of how technology can be used to change their lives for the better in a sustainable manner. This “humanized” service is the glue that links all Verizon’s products.
The freshly released 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report highlights that financially motivated cyber-attacks are on the rise, C-level executives are increasingly targeted by social breaches and one quarter of …