What are the enterprise customer journeys for adopting private networks and edge?
The telecoms industry sees private networks and edge computing coming hand in hand, but the way that enterprises explore private networks and edge differs from enterprise to enterprise. However, across our Research and Consulting practices, through primary research with industry players and enterprises across different verticals, we have seen common ’journeys’ in how enterprises approach the private networking/edge domain. This article outlines what these journeys or pathways are.
No two customer journeys are the same, but there are common pathways to deploying private networks and edge
Private networks and edge computing have created significant interest among enterprises. The technologies combined can bring enterprises the benefits of highly reliable, secure networks coupled with on-prem computing that will serve their privacy, data sovereignty, and other performance needs.
We at STL have been speaking to enterprise customers, as well as vendors, to try and understand the distinct customer journeys to adopting private networks and edge computing. The reason this is important is because it will help telcos and their partners:
- Better understand the pain points that enterprises are trying to solve with this technology
- Inform go-to-market strategies when it comes to taking joint private networking/edge propositions to customers
- Tailor messaging and approach to engage with the right enterprise customers
This article explores how enterprises are exploring combined private networking and edge solutions. In a subsequent article, we will explore different pathways that only involve private cellular networking (which we refer to as more tactical opportunities for private cellular).
Private networks and edge are often adopted through transformation projects or network-driven deployments
Through our research, it is clear that in many cases edge and private networks are explored and deployed together. This is because edge is seen as the core technological driver for the deployment of operational use cases for enterprises, while private networks are one of the connectivity enablers in the toolbox to augment the solution. Essentially, to fully reap the benefits of private networks, enterprises also need the power of edge computing to run application workloads at the required performance level.
This is not to say that there are no investments being made in private networks only or vice versa. However, the focus of this article is to dissect the adoption pathways for the combination of these two technologies.
We see two major pathways to the deployment of private networking plus edge solutions:
- Transformation projects
- Network-driven deployments
Our conversations with enterprises and other industry players, including systems integrators and solution developers, have highlighted that large-scale transformation projects often act as trigger points – nudging enterprises to look into private networks and edge. Within this customer journey, there are two smaller sub-journeys which we’ve categorised into those that are associated with C-suite driven transformation projects vs those linked to use case driven transformation projects.
C-suite driven customer journey
In this scenario, private 5G and edge are explored in the context of large, cross organisational transformation projects driven by the C-level (see below).
The budget comes from the C-suite (e.g. the CIO (chief innovation officer), CDO (chief digital officer) or CTO (chief transformation officer)), which assembles a cross-functional transformation team tasked with identifying digitalisation opportunities and needs. In this context, the operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) teams work in tandem to procure the solution. Usually, the OT teams provide the requirements that the use cases and applications under consideration need to meet. The IT teams, on the other hand, provide networking expertise and support to ensure that the enterprise invests in the right technologies to support these ambitions. In the end, a host of use cases and applications are identified that warrant the deployment of a private network and edge computing.
Use case driven customer journey
In this scenario, private 5G and edge computing come into the picture as OT teams try to drive “transformation” and deploy emerging use cases to meet a particular business driver (see below).
In this sub-journey, the budget is coming from internal innovation or OT teams who have funds to allocate for pilots/trials with 5G or edge. The IT teams get involved with expertise and support only, they do not contribute financially. As the OT teams look through business processes, they try to identify pain points and areas where improvements can be made. Once this is done and there is a clear business case around investing in private networks and/or edge, budget is allocated to OT teams for site deployments and the application stack while IT teams might get funds for cross organisational or site standardisation.
This customer journey is characterised by situations where enterprise network teams invest in (Private) 5G to drive either company-wide network standardisation (e.g. a central connectivity solution across all sites for a unified management by IT) or for coverage (e.g. for a remote site, such as an off-shore oil rig, which requires high performing network connectivity but cannot access public infrastrucutre).
Interestingly, this does not always lead to the adoption of edge computing as the budget comes from network teams and demand is not driven by the need for operational use cases. Hence, the buyer journey originates from network teams who need to coordinate with several other stakeholders to implement use cases on top of these new networks.
The customer journeys presented in this article are our attempt at simplifying the edge and private networks space and presenting a more structured view of the buying journey. In reality, there will be many enterprises which will follow a rather bespoke and unique process to exploring and investing in these technologies. It is, however, useful to try and identify the main ways in which customers start thinking about investing in private networks and edge so that vendors can support them with the relevant expertise and tailored propositions.
As mentioned, we will explore the different pathways for more tactical private cellular opportunities in a later article.
Author: Ani Keshishyan is a Consultant at STL Partners, specialising in edge computing, 5G, and innovation.