Orange Maps Out Ambitious Digital Transformation Plan
--Orange wants to be the most preferred digital company in Africa by 2025. Under this ambition, Orange Middle East and Africa (OMEA) has embarked on what it calls a ‘RUN OMEA’ program, which adopts ‘Mutualized services’ where digital offerings can be delivered from a centralized location to multiple geographies. In this article, OMEA will share with you how it improves operations efficiency and saves on the cost of each African market developing its own digital services portfolio through this way.
Brelotte Ba, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Orange Middle East and Africa (OMEA), does not lack ambition.
In line with the 4th pillar, dedicated to OMEA, of the new strategic plan Lead the Future, “Orange wants to be the most preferred digital company in Africa by 2025,” Mr. Ba said in an in-depth interview with Dario Talmesio, research director for service provider strategy and regulation at analyst firm Omdia.
“Around 20% of interactions with our customers are digital today, but we aim to reach 80% by 2025,” Mr. Ba asserted. “We’re on track to achieve that.”
The COO envisaged OMEA not only blazing a digital trail in the delivery of traditional telecoms services, but as a ‘multi-service operator’. Meeting the needs of a large, digital-savvy youth market with “app marketplaces,” is one of the compelling drivers of OMEA’s digital transformation push. Half of the continent’s population, Mr. Ba pointed out, are aged under 18.
“Our customers have already seen we can provide attractive experiences in mobile financial services, through Orange Money, which has led us to stretch the range of services we’re providing,” he said.
Mr. Ba referenced energy – the operator offers Orange Energy solar kits in various African markets – and digital education initiatives (and helping start-ups to grow) through Orange Digital Centers, as among the areas OMEA is diversifying into. Digital inclusion, financial inclusion and energetic inclusion are indeed among the top priorities of OMEA, as announced by Orange Group CEO, Christel Heydemann in February.
More agility and lower costs through shared services
The scale of Mr. Ba’s digital ambition is huge. OMEA has a presence in 17 African countries, plus Jordan in the Middle East, and serves more than 140 million customers (over 80 million of which have opened an Orange Money account).
Offering multiple digital services with top-notch customer experiences, across such a vast footprint – and all without operational costs spiralling out of control – seems a tall order. Africa, after all, is a highly pre-paid continent with ARPUs firmly on the low side.
Mr. Ba, however, did not seem fazed. Working in tandem with Huawei, OMEA has embarked on what it calls a ‘RUN OMEA’ program, which adopts ‘Mutualized services’ where digital offerings can be delivered from a centralized location to multiple geographies. In this way, OMEA improves operations efficiency and saves on the cost of each African market developing its own digital services portfolio.
To this end, and in cooperation with Huawei, OMEA has established a unique Global Network Operations Center (GNOC), although it’s based on two sites: Dakar (Senegal) and Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire). The GNOC currently serves ten OMEA markets across the African continent. According to Mr. Ba, this mutualized services approach is delivering big time when it comes to boosting “net promoter scores”, and enhancing network performance. It also perfectly illustrates the anchorage strategy the group is promoting on the continent.
“This GNOC Program (RUN OMEA) is all about putting automation in all the processes, enabled by Huawei AUTIN solution deployed over Orange Flexible Engine Cloud, both in Core and RAN networks supervision and operations,” Mr. Ba said. “This is key because we are improving by using digital tools in all our processes,whether it be network monitoring or to send people onthe-ground to fix issues. For customers this means less downtime and greater network availability. It has a big impact in terms of a customer satisfaction.”
A more centralized and mutualized approach, added Mr. Ba, also helps tackle the challenge of shortages in digital skills by focusing recruitment and training efforts at fewer sites rather than across multiple geographies.
Moreover, he’s firmly in favour of using online platforms for digital upskilling, either at training centers or for individuals working at home. “Covid has shown more and more how we can work remotely,” said Mr. Ba.
Digital work in progress
Mr. Ba, throughout his conversation with Omdia’s Talmesio, stressed the importance of “simplicity” and an “endto-end journey” when it came to customers’ digital experiences. He conceded that OMEA was not entirely there yet in delivering on those requirements.
For one thing, Mr. Ba said, pre-paid customers are often prevented from topping up their accounts digitally at OMEA’s some 750,000 points of sale because they are not equipped to do so. “Digitalizing our sales is a huge challenge, but, working with our partners, we’re tackling it,” said Mr. Ba.
Another challenge is Africa’s usage gap. According to OMEA, more than 500 million Africans remain unconnected to mobile networks despite being withing reach of a cellular signal.
“One reason for that is there’s no ecosystem in place to provide applications that are relevant for them,” said Mr. Ba. “Going digital for us means addressing this issue and working with partners to provide affordable handsets.”
Regarding migrating OMEA’s digital transformation efforts to the cloud, “We’ve started on the journey of moving to the cloud,” he said, “but the first approach is more private cloud driven to have a step by step approach especially for some critical applications, and we want to master all these technologies."
This may change in the coming months, Mr. Ba indicated, with a move to a more hybrid and resilient approach combining private and public cloud.
“At the end of the day what we are targeting is to have more scalable and efficient processes,” said Mr. Ba.