Your Strategy: Is the cart pulling the horse?

An article by Dhiraj Wazir, CEO ROCCO STRATEGY

Couple of weeks back I wrote a blog on 4 easy questions that you could ask yourself to find out if your strategy could be flawed.

The first question was:

1. Are your insights based on?

A) independent, unbiased research or

B) off free reports/white papers from a supplier

In businesses it’s often the case that important issues are over looked in favour of urgent ones. Not convinced? Here’s a quick check for you: In the last week how much time did you spend executing on your strategy and how much time did you spend on fire-fighting?

Similarly, in telecom, tectonic shifts have gone unnoticed as they happened slowly over a long period of time, whist we were all busy paying attention to much smaller changes which arrived with a bang.

As such hardly anyone noticed when the telecom industry started to put the cart before the horse and it’s no surprise that this has also cascaded down to the Roaming and Interconnect sector.

Please allow me to elaborate, and I promise to be terse.

A study that PWC conducted showed that by 2018 the average tenure of a CEO of the 2500 largest companies had come down to just 5 years. It’s an open secret that CEO’s of these large companies are basically only “as good as their last quarter”. We also know that it is near impossible to organically grow revenues in just a few quarters when a new CEO takes over, so most CEOs take the much easier route: Cut costs, find short cuts and focus on short term strategy, there really is no easier way to grow profits in the short term.

So now imagine you are the CEO of a big MNO, are you going to be patient with your strategy team to understand the trends and build your vision that is based on unbiased and independent research. This is both time consuming and an expensive exercise, for a CEO short on time and already on a cost cutting spree this just doesn’t add up. But there’s help at hand, your trusted OEMs who are experts in the field are consistently releasing white papers and publishing reports and forecasts which seamlessly make it to both your and your strategy teams’ desk.

Sounds very simplistic, but you can see by the sheer number of publicly and freely available white papers and reports how each OEM tries to sell its story (of course there’s nothing wrong with this). But what it does do is flip the natural and logical order of things.

Ideally, you’d have a situation where the MNO, understands its customers’ needs and asks vendors to develop solutions to effectively meet those needs, but instead now what happens is that this narrative of “what the customer needs” is driven by OEM’s very effectively combining two basic instincts of fear and greed: “If you jump on this bandwagon there are billions to be made (GREED) and if you don’t, your competitor will, leaving you far behind. (FEAR).”

You don’t have to take my word for it, just Google “IoT forecasts” … and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, the same attributes have cascaded down to the Roaming & Interconnect industry, Is it any wonder then we completely missed the bus on VoLTE Roaming, or why so many MNOs are ready to lease their IMSIs or even allow their Global Titles to be used by third parties, are ready to jump on the next bandwagon of a “must do technology”, with little appreciation of how the golden hen of roaming is being sacrificed on the altar of short term gain

Almost everyone has an idea where the market is going, the scary bit is when you scratch the surface and ask why do you think it’s going that way, the answer is “haven’t you read the white paper written by the provider of service X, they clearly state that service X will grow to be a Y-Billion dollar business.”

It’s a mix of two great strategies used previously in the consumer market, one by Intel, where through the “Intel Inside” campaign, they made Intel such a famous brand, that consumers weren’t buying an IBM or a Compaq PC anymore, but PC’s with Intel Inside, even when most buyers didn’t really understand what a micro-processor is or does. With this brilliant campaign, Intel completely took out any incentive of differentiation in the PC market, as the top priority for a consumer was to ensure that the PC had Intel inside.

The other strategy is the one used by the likes of Facebook, by providing a very valuable service for free on one hand, they ask you to sacrifice something much more valuable than a few dollars.

Slowly and subtly our industry is also being transformed as our “gut feelings” or “visions” or “strategic insights” are being sculpted by the constant stream of “free content” that we absorb.

So, do please ask yourself again, if you have a strategy, are the insights you used to build that strategy based on A) independent, unbiased research or B) off free reports/white papers from a supplier?

If you can relate to the issues discussed in this blog do write to us at,  we’d love to have a chat with you.