- Maxis Enterprise boosts lagging SME tech adoption with subscription model
- IoT seen bringing bigger value when viewed from business objectives, not tech
The proverbial train has left the station and if you are not aboard as a business, you can expect to be run over by the increasing momentum of the digital economy today. Either adapt to digital or risk being disrupted.
Much of this digital disruption is enabled by increasingly powerful and user friendly smart phones that are really mini computers and because of ever faster mobile networks and robust services delivered by internet companies and telcos.
However, while few businesses doubt that digital is becoming a major factor in business, digital adoption on the other hand is moving at different speeds for companies. And what’s clear to Claire Featherstone (pic), head of business solutions, enterprise, Maxis Bhd is that small and medium businesses are in danger of losing customers if they don’t respond.
As a mobile operator with a comprehensive suite of digital services, Maxis is focusing on offering solutions primarily for small and medium sized companies (SMEs) not only because it sees them lagging but also due to the clear gap in locally supported digital solutions for SMEs.
At the same time, Featherstone says the telco recognises that is doesn’t have all the solutions itself and as a result, has carefully picked solution partners to ensure a best in breed offering for SMEs with solutions such as mPOS, mDrive, mPatrol, Maxis eCommerce, etc.
Recognising also that SMEs usually have challenges with regards to tech talent, Featherstone says that Maxis has ensured its solutions are working pretty much ‘out of the box’, in the sense that they require minimal configuration/set-up. “With the Software-as-a-Service trend increasingly accepted by SMEs, our solutions are offered via an opex model with a monthly subscription for the solution, device and data access.”
Expecting e-commerce adoption to ramp up this year, especially among SMEs, Featherstone believes their eCommerce solution will make it easier for businesses to make that transition and to get started on their e-commerce stores.
With physical bricks and mortar retail increasingly under threat from e-commerce, globally, not just in Malaysia, retail businesses realise they have to seriously consider how to best build their digital commerce presence while working to retain and strengthen direct customer relationships. “For example, when selling via online marketplaces, sellers generally don’t own the customer relationship, so it is challenging for them to generate repeat purchases from the same customer,” notes Featherstone.
In addition, physical retail outlets are looking into leveraging on tech to offer an improved, personalised customer experience in-store and managing an offline to online experience for customers who shop both ways. Jack Ma of Alibaba described this as “the birth of a re-imagined retail industry driven by the integration of online, offline, logistics and data across a single value chain.”
To be sure, this is more than your average retailer can chew on. But this is precisely why Featherstone says the Maxis eCommerce solution has been designed to do the ‘heavy lifting’ for retailers.
Services such as in-store video analytics can give retailers a better understanding of the volume of customers entering their store, customer demographics and their behaviour when in store. Also, premium retailers are looking to identify key customers as soon as they enter their store. That’s not all says Featherstone. “All of these insights would need to be mapped against existing buying behaviour analytics to give retailers a 360 degree view of the consumer.” That’s a value proposition any retailer will find hard to turn down.
IoT still at early part of adoption curve
IoT (Internet of Things) is still a trend that is in the early part of its adoption curve, particularly amongst SMEs in Malaysia. While much has been hyped up about its value in helping retailers, manufacturers and logistics, to date, the most widely deployed IoT solutions are by payment service providers and banks for Electronic Data Capture (EDC) payment terminals and ATMs as well as Fleet Management providers.
According to Featherstone, in terms of ROI, customers generally focus on gaining greater business efficiencies e.g. through automation as the initial basis of deploying IoT solutions.
“When IoT is seen as a business project – and not a technology – it brings the greatest value and can transform businesses.”
She shares that customer implementations are typically driven by four drivers:
- Operational efficiency (automation) – Helps businesses achieve better productivity and cost savings. This will also result in;
- Less downtime and proactive responses to customers – Better customer satisfaction (44% of IoT adopters see this as the largest benefit as per Vodafone’s barometer)
- New proposition – This could be a service offering, like managed services or SLAs, which can be given with confidence leveraging on the insights obtained from an IoT solution and can become a competitive advantage
- New business model – Enables businesses to innovate into the “as a service” concept – e.g.Michelin who put an RFID tag into their tyres to monitor wear and tear and then moved from being a transactional tyre company to offering tyres as a service to fleets in Europe
With its flexible and broad services offered, the investment to deploy its IoT service depends on how extensive the solution is in terms of number of sensors and depth of information transferred with Maxis adjusting its proposition based on customer requirements.
Maxis also works with IoT ecosystem partners to provide complete solutions such as building a Secure Managed Network to support a bank’s off-premise ATMs with a single dashboard view of all sites and guaranteed uptimes.
“We know that our customers are very concerned about security, which is why our IoT solutions are designed with multiple layers of security between IoT devices and applications. This could be protecting them through encryption or even as simple as whitelisting IP addresses” explains Featherstone.
Meanwhile, her advice to companies that are looking to start their IoT journey is to identify a couple of key pain points from within an existing business function. “Generally, addressing a pain point will naturally increase acceptance levels. So, start small – with a proof of concept to gather learnings, rather than a gigantic leap into a planning a full deployment.” Practical advice for the CTO/CIO who may feel pressure to show quick results fast.
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