Jerónimo Diez de Sollano
CIO
AT&T Mexico
/
View from the Top

Balancing Business Transformation With Digitalization

By Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Wed, 07/20/2022 - 09:06

Q: What are AT&T Mexico’s public 5G infrastructure development priorities for the remainder of 2022?

A: AT&T Mexico has a three-year plan to deploy the full 5G network in Mexico’s most important markets. While we provide some coverage across urban centers as Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, it will steadily increase until we meet our objective. Furthermore, the company has ambitions to expand this initiative to 25 additional market centers, which will be announced by the end of the year.

To effectively harness the productive potential of 5G, AT&T Mexico is working closely with the government and industry leaders to educate users on 5G technology and infrastructure. Fundamental to this educational process is our new AT&T 5G Innovation Lab, which enables companies and startups to test their 5G prototype technologies to improve and seamlessly incorporate them into their business models. For 5G to truly have a purpose, technologies and supporting solutions need to be adapted to the specificity of the Mexican market and even by industry.

 

Q: The deployment of 5G has been repeatedly postponed. What are some of the obstacles the company has faced and overcome in the past year?

A: The primary obstacle for 5G network deployment is that it demands significant investment and consequently depends on a market that is ready to both adopt and pay for the technology. In other words, building the necessary infrastructure for deployment cannot precede demand from an ecosystem that is ready to use the technology. Identifying where this technology makes sense for outstanding market needs has been the most complicated phase of development. It is a process that has been years in the making.

 

Q: How has the accelerated pace of the digital transformation influenced AT&T Mexico’s business model or strategic ambitions?

A: Like other companies, AT&T Mexico had to balance the parallel digitalization of both business operations and internal processes. The running question over the past three years has been how to successfully digitalize internally while optimizing our products and services in response to a rapidly evolving market. The weight of this reflection has fallen heavily on C-suite executives and other company leaders, who were routinely challenged by this question. Internally, this issue has changed the way that leadership handles projects and development.

On the business side, the digital transformation has accelerated our route to market now that companies have a greater appetite for the possibilities of this new technology. Furthermore, we fully expect 5G to trigger a second transformation as it continues to enable new technologies and solutions across all industry sectors in Mexico. Foreseeable, short-term applications stand to have significant productive capabilities for manufacturing, medical services, and retail.

 

Q: What business opportunities AT&T Mexico observed from industrial manufacturing with the rise of IoT?

A: Mexico’s manufacturing sector represents almost 18 percent of its GDP and there are significant performance parameters companies could advance using the 5G technologies and solutions we are testing in our lab. Moreover, while companies are excited to adopt IoT technologies, current market solutions have not been fully adapted to the Mexican market. Importing an out-of-the-box IoT solution from abroad, or even from another part of the country where the industrial maturity differs, will not be helpful and will not meet market expectations. For that reason, AT&T Mexico has financed and sponsored its 5G lab so solutions can be adapted to the existing capacity and needs of SMEs and large enterprises. This is essential in a market where the adoption of IoT has been slow because most small businesses lack qualified technicians and engineers to adopt and keep these technologies operational. Consequently, there is a large potential market for personalized solutions that AT&T Mexico is trying to support.

 

Q: How has the rise of a digital-first economy impacted the role of the CIO within AT&T Mexico?

A: The definition and necessary capabilities of CIOs are completely different from what was required two years ago. The rise of a digital-first economy forced AT&T Mexico to make tectonic changes over the past two years, starting with jump-starting an agility framework. Modifying the role and the responsibilities of the CIO and the supporting team was primordial in a market that was moving at breakneck speed; otherwise, the company risked producing business-led products and solutions that were irrelevant to the market. This process was frustrating for everyone involved on both the business and IT side because a great deal of effort was invested into, ultimately, dead-end projects. In response, the company saw it necessary to change its existing work model to one where everyone shared the same KPIs, essentially becoming technology coaches to the business. Through this process, AT&T Mexico has transformed its internal culture into that of technologists, where information is disseminated for the benefit of strategic development.

This new model and company culture has transformed the responsibilities of a CIO in three keyways, starting with talent auditing and acquisition. The CIO and IT leaders need to ensure that teams have the necessary skills to develop a project. In practical terms this implies reskilling, training and sometimes bringing in additional talent to fill existing skills gaps. Second, CIOs can no longer take a passive role in strategy development; they need to actively coach the business and push back on alternative routes, emerging trends, and functionality. Third, going back to fundamentals has become critical because now that the role and responsibilities of the CIO have expanded, it can lead to overlooking details that previously may not have been missed.

 

Q: What objectives does AT&T Mexico hope to meet in 2022-2023?

A: For 2022, we have three clear objectives. The first is keep working in the deployment of 5G. Our perspective is that its deployment is meant to be seen as a marathon and not a sprint, starting with industrial hubs and major cities. Nevertheless, we plan to announce 25 additional markets by the end of the year.

Our second objective concerns profitability. As a company, we need to make sure that we monetize the infrastructure and the technology we already have. This is a scale concern that requires us to grow our basic services, including our prepaid and postpaid normal lines. Just like our strategy to sell basic services has helped the company solidify itself as the largest wholesaler in Mexico. Finally, we are in the middle of a digital-plus agile transformation that involves more advanced tools, namely automatization as a democratized internal future.

We have partnered with multiple universities Mexico to promote the greater participation and representation of women in STEM fields. We encourage women to apply to our programs during the final semesters of their schooling. These programs allow them to gain first-hand experience and develop or hone skills relevant to current market demand.

 

 

AT&T is a telecommunications, media and technology services company serving over 20 million end-users and companies in Mexico.

Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Journalist & Industry Analyst