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Tim Barber, Vice President of Global Telecoms and Media Industry at MEF Member ForgeRock shares insights into the impact of 5G and identity on “digital native” individuals and companies for whom the online digital world is the only marketplace.

Everyone is by now probably familiar with the concept of ‘Digital Natives’ – a phrase first coined by Mark Prensky in 2001, to describe the generation of people born after the advent of widespread use of digital technology. By contrast, ‘digital immigrants’ – those pre-dating 1985 – are destined to be locked in a struggle to adapt to this new digital world order.

Alongside the population of digital native consumers of course, there are Digital Native companies – organisations like Google, eBay, Amazon and Facebook that were also born in the digital age; for whom online is the only marketplace, in which customers are relentlessly tracked across omni-channel journeys to anticipate where they are going to be and what they will want to buy next.

Interestingly, for all the talk of digital native companies taking over the world, you might be surprised to read that only one ‘digitally native’ company thus far ranks in the top 50 largest companies in the world by annual revenue. Although probably not so surprised to then learn that it is Amazon. The ‘who’s who’ of very large corporations by revenue is an unsurprising list of; energy, automotive, financial services, telecoms, and retailers. When you look at market capitalisation however, the ‘Digital Natives’ feature more prominently, with the top four spots taken up by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

The comparison of company ranking by revenue vs. market capitalisation illustrates why there is an urgent desire by large, traditional companies to accelerate their ‘digital migration’ journey by investing in ‘Digital Transformation.’ Simply put, there is a direct correlation between digital transformation and market capitalisation; where successful digital transformation translates to companies being worth a lot more.

The Importance of Identity & the 5G Network

A digital native company in this context, is therefore a company that has understood, either intuitively or by transformational design, that Identity needs to sit at the centre of everything in the digital world. With the advent of 5G networks, combined with advances in digital identity technologies, telecom carriers are now presented with an excellent new opportunity; to re-invent themselves as globally trusted digital market participants by enabling ‘Trust as a Service’ at the network level.

  To become digital first means to sort through the myriad of channel silos that prevent a company from fully tracking an individual customer. They must move from ’multi-channel’ to ‘omni-channel’.”

Digital Natives and successful Digital Immigrants share a common vision of having Identity at the core of everything they do, and execute this through three strategic principles:

  • Digital first – They embrace channel shift and channel expansion, rather than trying to control or contain it.
  • Customer Centricity – A relentless drive to build compelling customer experience. They listen to feedback and act on it to continuously drive innovation in customer engagement.
  • Data Driven – These companies truly understand that data is the new oil – it both lubricates and fuels the value chain.

Where these principles are being driven together and aligned, that is the path on which you will find Identity Natives. For digital migrants setting out on this path however, there are some fundamentals to be solved along the way.

To become digital first means to sort through the myriad of channel silos that prevent a company from fully tracking an individual customer. They must move from ’multi-channel’ to ‘omni-channel’. To be customer-centric requires entire business processes to be deconstructed and re-invented with the customer journey at the centre of the design, rather than the product.

To be data driven means learning to distinguish between what is useful and valuable vs what is irrelevant and fake in a sea of data.

Identity in use

One interesting by-product of being Identity Native is the ability to monetise identity itself – people opting to ‘sign-in with Facebook’ being an obvious example, whereby people can save time filling in forms and registrations on-line by simply pulling their data through from their Facebook account.

This marks the beginning of an interesting new chapter in digital transformation, and is a compelling opportunity for telecoms companies. With the imminent launch of 5G networks, telecoms network operators have the opportunity to become trusted identity providers; not just as custodians of the identity of people, but also for their devices and connected things in the platform-based IoT ecosystems that they underpin. This opportunity holds true both in the consumer IoT world (connected homes, connected cars) and also the industrial IoT world (connected cities, connected manufacturing and logistics).

With the right tools, 5G represents a new opportunity for network providers to re-invent themselves as globally trusted digital market participants; by offering trusted identity management at the network layer they can become key enablers within digital ecosystems, providing the secure connectivity that Identity Natives need to tap into the massive opportunity presented by the billions of things with a digital heartbeat that will be powered by 5G networks, platforms and applications.

Tim Barber

VP Global Telecoms and Media Industry, ForgeRock


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