Attendees might have overlooked it, but the theme at the recent Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto was “Future-proofing Our Place in a Digital World,” and for Raymond Lahoud, it’s a very particular space has some highly specific needs.
Lahoud, who became Allstream’s vice-president of network and IT services earlier this year, was part of a panel discussion with his CIO peers about key priorities and business challenges in 2014 and beyond. He suggested that as a service provider, Allstream’s internal IT strategy is as influenced as much by what’s happening outside the company as anything else.
“We need to change and become more of the broker between the traditional connectivity-based service and emerging cloud services,” he told the CTS 2014 crowd. “We’re very focused on that internally, doing a lot of system and core operation upgrades to give us the flexibility and give the customers the control and the kind of portal interface they need to evolve to the new world.”
As Lahoud explained, Allstream has been moving quickly to offer advanced forms of unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) products, but that shift has implications for what the firm needs to be able to deliver along with them.
“We have taken some of the network functions to the cloud. On its own, that has helped us to improve our cost structure, but it’s also made us more competitive along the way,” he said. “There are services that today might not be within reach, especially to smaller business market. But that brings new variables — we have to think about how to provision, how do we do the building, how do we do the service assurance and control? When you go away from a physical customer premise type of service, the expectation (among customers) is to have the same control they have today. We have to provide that functionality to our customers.”
Ultimately, Lahoud said IT trends such as cloud, software-defined networking and the Internet of Things (IoT) will allow a company like Allstream and service provider CIOs in other organizations to extend beyond what customers think of as “telecommunication services” today. It’s also going to cause a lot of work to get it right, particularly in providing customers an interfere or view into how to dynamically manage compute and network resource needs.
“There will be some flexibility required. Your network routing parameters are going to change,” he said. “A lot of companies have been building out their data centres and looking at how the data goes into the branches. With things like the Internet of Things, with big data, the data is going to be coming the other way around.”
For Lahoud, in other words, it’s not just about future-proofing, but proving a company like Allstream is the best service provider to take on the needs of any business.
“What I like throughout the process is moving IT from operating on that basis of spending 80 percent of the time on keeping the lights on to becoming the facilitator of technology to help the company to be successful in the new digital world,” he said. “IT will become a leader in the transformation of the business.”