18 Sep 2012

Interview with Adrian Cornelius, IT Security Portfolio Manager at MTN Business

Adrian Cornelius, MTN Business
Q: Please briefly outline your company, role there, and your recent experience of enterprise ICT services in Africa
A: I have worked in the product development field in both fixed and mobile industries, with over 10 years' experience specialising in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and  Security-as-a-Service areas. As head of MTN Business IT Security Product Portfolio, I am responsible for securing the converged product offerings at MTN Business. My main responsibility here is taking Security-as-a-Service Products in converged networks to market, in particular building Converged Cloud Based Software Services in the enterprise segment, integrating Mobile data Products with Security Products. I also have an extensive background in Content Management Platforms for Content Delivery to Consumers and Business segments of which security is an integral part.

MTN Business is a South African Tier-1 Internet Service Provider and also leverages off the MTN cellular network and provides out-of-office connectivity through 3G, EDGE or HSDPA technology. We are a leading telecommunications provider operating one of Africa’s most technically innovative, reliable and secure Virtual Private Networks (VPN). MTN bundles converged telecommunications and IT services in a single package with options ranging from managed networks and applications to innovative seamless integrated solutions. 

Q: What have been the main developments in the African enterprise ICT market over the last six months to 1 year?
A: Some of the key developments include the emergence of Cloud Service Providers and Brokers in the market. MTN together with many other ISP’s are offering fully managed ICT services including a whole spectrum of applications, managed and deployed from a local data centre.  Applications which are relevant to the business market include:
  • Mobile Device Management, which integrates the Mobile with the management systems  of the enterprise.
  • Document  and Content Management Systems
  • Storage in the Cloud, and Disaster Recovery systems
  • Hosted Mail Security including Web Filtering
  • Communication Applications including Teleconferencing and Video Conferencing
  • CRM and ERP and Accounting systems for Businesses, including the Business in a Box concept for the SME sector

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing enterprises in Africa when it comes to ICT?
A: The shortage of skills for deploying, managing applications and software, as well as customising software to cater for the particular business rules and processes needed by growing organisations on the continent. Cloud in some measure solves a great deal of the maintenance and management issues with software, while freeing up the resources to deal with efficiency and productivity concerns and integration with business processes. This has allowed enterprises based on the continent to offer richer, and more competitive products, relying on IT systems that are more responsive and tailored to their offerings.

Q: Is your business seeing challenges around enterprise customer data usage rising much faster than revenue, as in the consumer market? How do you aim to tackle this?
A: In companies that provide services in the converged ICT and Telecommunications space like MTN, the customer value proposition needs to evolve with the changing customer requirements. Data and Voice have become commodities and hence the value that companies add is to climb the value stack and offer a more comprehensive suite of managed services. This extends beyond connectivity to application management and control, system integration, where various application components are combined to offer re-usable services and other elements that are relevant to the enterprise market.  Thus to continue to be relevant to the customer, MTN offers a suite of services to the enterprise market that builds on its reputation as a telecommunications provider.

Q: What would you say is your defining 2012 ICT ‘moment’ in Africa, technology or service?
A: I believe the rollout of cloud-based services addressing needs as disparate as security, business intelligence, content management, as well as CRM and ERP via a multiple of service providers, will enable businesses throughout the continent to compete on a global scale. This is due to the productivity and efficiency that an accessible, affordable and quickly deployable IT system offers.

This together with the uptake of smartphones, which make mobile computing and applications a reality, will make digitisation of the continent an achievable short-term goal, rather than a dream. In fact, the uptake of smartphones, and its affordability, together with the computing power, make it an indispensable corporate tool.

Q: Is there enough innovation occurring in the industry? Can you provide some more examples?
A: In the ICT space we have found a new niche for local application service providers who have in some part been displaced by large software vendor companies with cloud based offerings, hosted in data centres outside the continent.

They have responded by developing a service broker model where they can scale their services and customise them for the enterprise and SME segments. This means that they can leverage the more affordable Opex based licensing of this software, and integrate it with the current offerings. The enabler for all of this has been the use of the Web as a standardised means of delivering applications.

Q: Which key message do you want to highlight during your participation at Enterprise ICT Africa in Cape Town later this year? 
A: I believe that the standardisation that cloud brings to the enterprise and its ability to add value and provide on-demand consumption models are critical for extending the reach of ICT services.  It represents an opportunity for ICT companies to differentiate their products, and transform from mere re-sellers to service brokers and service enablers, customising their products and integrating them with the business processes, rules and semantics of the enterprise segment. This can only enhance the productivity, efficiency and profitability of the entire ICT value chain.