‘The core of our services is accessibility. Employees of our customers want to be able to reach each other and their own customers. That can be by phone, with an application or a website, for example. We make organizations accessible and connect people and offices so that employees can do their work flexibly, from any desired location. In essence, that principle has been the same for years. What is changing is the number of things we connect to each other. More locations, more people and also more devices.’
Does that effect your own business model?
‘We are going deeper and deeper into the offices and other work environments. Just offering connectivity is no longer enough. We are increasingly moving towards a situation where customers ask us to add extra value. More and more devices are being connected: from a smart air conditioner to an online people counter. As an organization, this gives you an enormous amount of data to choose from, which must be managed. Otherwise, you will lose the overview of your business processes. This is where we see a prominent role for T-Mobile.’
Focus on core business.
From IoT to artificial intelligence. Companies are faced with more and more new technologies. This creates new business models, but also raises questions. How does this technology work? What can I do with it? And how do I make it a substantial part of my daily business? Kroon sees companies struggling with this, as they prefer to focus on their own core business.
‘They are looking for a connectivity partner who can arrange these types of complementary services for them. This will lead to more demand for as-a-service products, which we expect will increase in number in the coming years. This also fits in with our company’s mission: connecting you to the opportunities now. We always want to offer the most relevant opportunities to our customers.’
With accessibility and connectivity as the core for new services?
‘Exactly! It all starts with being available and – I’ll just mention it – always on principle. The internet connection is crucial for many companies. Take, for example, a dental practice. Without a connection, such a company can no longer send emails. Making new appointments has suddenly become very complicated. Connectivity is their lifeline. If we, as T-Mobile Netherlands, are able to fill this in properly, trust will be created. And with confidence there is room for offering additional connectivity services.’
How did you organize that innovation internally?
‘Until a few years ago we had a fairly broad innovation portfolio, with all kinds of things in it. One innovation-process was very incremental, the other more a prospect for the far-away future. Business Models Inc. helped us to structure this process. That way, we spend our people, budgets and other resources appropriately. At T-Mobile Netherlands we have formulated the three innovation horizons as Earth, Moon and Mars.’
Earth: this concerns minor adjustments to existing processes
Moon: these are new business models for existing customers or new customers for existing business models
Mars: these are innovations that are far away and create a whole new value for T-Mobile Nederland
How has this helped you in being more innovative?
Introducing and naming this concept has ensured that people in our company have a much better understanding of what innovation actually is. By using special templates, we can always experiment with new ideas in the same way. Fast, small-scale and with direct feedback from customers. By using this process, we are also able to divide the budgets: 80 percent on Earth, 15 percent on the Moon and 5 percent on Mars. Many people like to innovate on Earth. This concerns small improvements to existing processes. I personally like to look around on the Moon and Mars. Using voice as a marketing channel, for example, or an e-bike that brakes automatically when you approach a pedestrian zone.
How do these topics arise on Mars?
‘We have our own innovation lab and work together with many different companies, who provide us with input. For example, the e-bike project was a request from the municipality of Amsterdam and we work together with The Townmaking Institute. But new ideas actually come from everywhere. The father of my daughter’s schoolfriend works at the Dutch company Tover, producer of the so-called Tovertafel. This is a box with which interactive games are projected on a table and is popular with healthcare institutions. It’s a beautiful product and we can possibly help them in making it even more connective.’
Connectivity in five years.
According to Kroon, a lot is going to change in the field of connectivity within the next five years. Everything is becoming connected and T-Mobile Netherlands wants to play an important role in this. The company has a clear strategy for that: connecting new partnerships.
‘We are already working with Cloud providers to build a direct connection, so in the future if you buy a Cloud-based SaaS solution from us, we will ensure a guaranteed steady connection. That SaaS applications then takes precedence over YouTube, for example. Conversely, they also sell their package with our connectivity. With this kind of partnerships, we are able to solve the problems of our customers in the best possible way.’
To finalize, what is your advice to business leaders?
‘It all starts with an open mindset and a better understanding of your own business. Get inspired by companies in your industry that may be a bit further with connectivity. Also look for people with whom you can spar about your business model. Take one technology, Computer Vision for example, and use it to go through your entire customer journey. How could you incorporate this technology? What problem does it solve for you and your customers? This way you can improve your own processes bit by bit.’
Egbert Kroon • Director of B2B Innovation • T-Mobile (NL)