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Customer-centric digital transformation as the edge for telecom companies in the New Economy

Catering to customer demands, identifying new revenue-generating opportunities with the latest technological opportunities helps telecom companies stay relevant, says ASEAN Managing Partner of EY Parthenon. 

Joongshik Wang is a managing partner of EY Parthenon and Technology, Media & Entertainment and Telecommunications (TMT) market segment for ASEAN. With over 25 years of experience as a management consultant at leading global strategy consulting firms in South East Asia, China, and Korea, Joongshik Wang has served a wide variety of clients within the technologies, digital media, and telecom industries. 

His experience spans across corporate strategy, M&A, portfolio optimisation, innovation and digital customer experience. Joongshik Wang has worked with Private Equity (PE) clients to develop investment hypotheses, advise transactions, and improve their portfolio companies’ performance. Most recently, Joongshik helped telecom companies to restructure their businesses with the ‘right-asset-model’ approach and rebuild their portfolio to adapt to the New Economy.

Beyond his corporate roles, Joongshik Wang is a well-known, trusted commercial tech advisor through his engagements on emerging Southeast Asian technology unicorns. Prior to joining EY-Parthenon, his professional career included a stint as a partner of Kearney Singapore, focusing on strategy, TMT, and PE practice. Now based in Singapore, he previously served as a managing partner of Kearney Korea.

Joongshik Wang’s extensive professional experience and expertise have brought him to the judging panel of the 2022 Asian Telecom Awards. Asian Business Review sat with the Yonsei University and University of Chicago Booth School of Business alum to talk about his guiding principles as an advisor in the telecom sector, as well as insights into the industry, its challenges and opportunities.
 

What do you like best about your work? What makes you passionate about it? As an industry leader, what can you recommend to up-and-coming professionals who want to follow a similar career path as yours?

In EY-Parthenon now and over my 25 years working on strategy and M&A engagements with telecommunication operators (telcos) and emerging technology unicorn clients, it is clear that every client faces a unique set of issues depending on the sector, geography or business model. This makes the work always fresh, challenging and focused on innovation and new thinking.

The risks and opportunities faced by companies in the technology, media and entertainment, and technology (TMT) sector will continue to evolve alongside new geopolitical developments and megatrend shifts. The scale and magnitude of transformation ahead for this sector present exciting opportunities for young professionals to work and grow.

My advice for young professionals is to develop a balanced set of skills. Technical skills, intelligence and knowledge alone is not enough and the sector will increasingly need creative and innovative individuals with strong people and business management skills to navigate these changes. In short, develop your IQ and EQ and DQ i.e., digital quotient.

In your role as a commercial tech advisor, how do you build trust with your clients particularly in the telecom sector? What values do you live by that guides you in your work?

Building trust demands perfect execution every single time. It also requires absolute fact-based objectivity and an uncompromising commitment to safeguarding stakeholders’ interests – both present and future.

Successfully grappling with this duality dilemma – whether to optimise for today’s success or plan for tomorrow’s disruption – is increasingly moving up as a critical boardroom agenda. To help organisations successfully navigate the heightened pressures to balance both current and future needs, business leaders need to move beyond short- and mid-term thinking. I work with clients to help them to reframe perspectives and adopt a future-back strategy approach – where we challenge current paradigms and identify the many potential futures and implications, and work backwards to understand the strategic and tactical issues of today that have long-term implications.

Our clients value the deep sector knowledge and technical experience that our worldwide team of TMT industry-focused professionals possess to help them address these myriad changes. Our geographic hub structure, including a strong team based in Asia-Pacific, enables us to quickly mobilise teams to meet the needs of clients in this region.

What challenges do you typically foresee amongst telecommunication companies that undergo digital transformation and what do you advise for them to resolve those challenges?

A future-back approach that is tuned in to the megatrends in the environment will help organisations to avoid being inward-looking. According to an EY survey of global TMT executives on their capital investment strategies, companies that are preoccupied with housekeeping issues such as data consistency or legacy system problems are struggling to generate returns. On the other hand, leading companies are prioritising investments in digital capabilities in areas that will enable them to monetise existing assets, for example by strengthening their data analytics capabilities for customer insights. These leading companies understand that digital transformation goes beyond exploring the latest technological opportunities. Organisations with the ability to identify new revenue-generating opportunities in the new economy, particularly in innovative services for B2B enterprises, will gain an edge.

One of the biggest roadblocks facing telcos in their digital transformation journey is the entrenched corporate-centric mindset. Organisations need a paradigm shift to refocus on the customer. To stay relevant, telcos need to prioritise digital solutions that are able to effectively address consumers’ evolving priorities and concerns. According to an EY analysis of the top 10 risks facing the telecommunications industry in 2021, the issues to be addressed range from users’ frustrations with their network’s performance and coverage, changing concerns over their data privacy and security, as well as new demands for telcos to prioritise sustainability and protect consumer rights.

To help telco clients manage these risks, we have developed a suite of industry-specific suite of solutions. This includes programs to help clients create high-quality secure and adaptable networks that customers demand, to better manage their capital operations and innovations, and build a digitally integrated customer experience.

As a judge in the Asian Telecom Awards, what key criteria are you considering in selecting the winners?

Winning organisations need to be disrupters – to move away from traditional revenue streams and be bold in building up differentiated competitive advantages by being innovative, creative and customer-centric. They will also need to be savvy in identifying and placing bets in markets to seize emerging and new opportunities. As well, they will need to be agile and adapt in asset optimisation to delineate core and non-core assets, as well as optimise the timing of these divestments or acquisitions.

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