Vodafone NZ has always stuck pretty close to its telco knitting, unlike arch-rival Spark, which has built strong businesses in ICT, but that could be about to change.
Where Spark built a substantial base of ICT infrastructure through its buyouts of datacentre and services providers Revera, CCL and others, Vodafone NZ is banking on the rise of public cloud — and the arrival of global public cloud players in the local market — to nullify its rivals' infrastructure advantages.
It also seems possible that Vodafone would seek acquisitions of its own, too, to supercharge its drive into cloud services.
Vodafone NZ's strongest current ICT businesses - unified communications and contact centre technology and consulting - is still not that far from its telco core. But the shift to the so called modern workplace, is creating large new opportunities.
That will remain part of the foundation of the company's future public cloud business, said head of cloud and partners Murray Osborne, but it has been joined by three other pillars: cloud, security and IoT.
Osborne, now an 11-year Vodafone veteran who joined the company to manage public sector and enterprise clients, has been instrumental in moving government agencies to the all-of-government telecommunications-as-a-service (TaaS) platforms.
That prompted the company to analyse the other ICT services adjacencies available to it and where it made sense for Vodafone NZ to play.
"It was pretty clear, even in the public sector, that while we'd done a reasonable good job to move customers across to the TaaS platforms, it was quite limiting in terms of what you can do adding new products and services," Osborne said.
"There were a lot of customers talking about cloud and what have you and we were pretty much not in the conversation."
That led to the creation of a cloud and partners team and a recognition that Vodafone NZ was going to have to partner rather than build to make the most of emerging public cloud opportunities.
The first cab off the rank was managed security, in partnership with Telstra, and building a security operations centre (SOC) and security incident and event management (SIEM) capability, initially again for government clients.
That white labelled service lifted awareness at the executive level that there were other options than Vodafone building everything itself.
The fact the service was hooked up to both Telstra's network in Australia and Vodafone's globally also delivered a vast level of threat intelligence that customers might not receive if they implemented a SOC or SIEM themselves.
Osborne said the acquisition of TelstraClear by Vodafone in 2012 gave it "total telco" breadth and depth at the top end of town but less so at the mid-tier corporate level, not helped by separate billing systems in use for a period after the buyout.
"One of the advantages that Vodafone has in this new world is we don't have a lot of legacy ICT that we are trying to protect," Osborne said. "We definitely don't have datacentres or old-style desktop management practices or procedures."
That leaves Vodafone unencumbered, able to focus on reinvention and disruption in the ICT space at a time when core telco revenues are in decline.
"If we focus only on that space then we are effectively only able to affect the rate of decline," Osborne said.
Cloud creates a future way of working that is core to Vodafone's strategy, especially since mobility is an integral part of that mix.
"Even before COVID we've always been very flexible in terms of our work practices and the technology that allows us to work from home," Osborne said.
That was not necessarily the case for other large organisations, especially in government.
Microsoft cloud-based productivity suites and tools are central to the mix, driving back into Vodafone NZ's core mobile capabilities. On top of that is a partnership with CoreView to help optimise the use and licensing of those Microsoft environments and tools.
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