Telecom 2020: 5G, IoT, and Edge Computing

What is the future of telecom in 2020, with its focus on 5G, the internet of things (IoT), and edge computing? The Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T Business, Mo Katibeh, shares an inside look at the telecommunications industry trends with industry analyst, Michael Krigsman.


Mar 13, 2020

What is the future of telecom in 2020, with its focus on 5G, the internet of things (IoT), and edge computing? The Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T Business, Mo Katibeh, shares an inside look at the telecommunications industry trends with industry analyst, Michael Krigsman.

Mo Katibeh currently leads AT&T’s business marketing organization overseeing a P&L of nearly $37 billion with more than 3 million customers and growing. In this role, he’s responsible for marketing and product of both traditional telecom services as well as mobility and strategic services. He also oversees business solutions for cybersecurity and cloud connectivity.


This transcript was lightly edited.


Michael Krigsman: Telecom is changing our lives. Mo Katibeh, tell us about AT&T Business and tell us about your role as EVP and chief marketing officer.

Mo Katibeh: I oversee our product teams, our channel marketing, our pricing, as well as all of our traditional marketing, advertising, branding, events, et cetera. Think of that as the P&L of the business and how we do in the market, bringing all the pieces together.

Michael Krigsman: Can you give us a sense of the size, scope, scale of AT&T Business?

Mo Katibeh: Think of AT&T Business as $37 billion of revenue per year throwing off about $14 billion of EBITDA. Within the context of the broader AT&T family of companies, we're about 20% of the topline, about 24% of the EBITDA, and a material contributor of ROIC to the bottom line. We're very proud to be able to be part of AT&T, Incorporated, and the company, overall, is doing amazing things, whether that's in modern media, what we're doing with WarnerMedia, the way we come to market for our consumer base, as well as the innovative advertising platforms that we're standing up with Xandr.

Impact of COVID-19 on AT&T Business

Michael Krigsman: I'd like to speak about the Coronavirus and the impact on AT&T, the impact on your employees, your customers. What's your take on it right now?

Mo Katibeh: It's top of mind for us, our customers, our employees. I'll describe this to you and our approach through four different lenses.

The first one is the network. We're honored to be able to serve so many different consumers and businesses across America and across the world. First and foremost, we see that our network is holding up extremely well as we're seeing a shift of employees from business locations to working from home. Students are shifting from schools to being at home and trying to do telelearning, et cetera. The network, both from a wireline perspective as well as a wireless perspective, is doing extremely well. No impacts there.

The second one is obviously our employees. Every business right now is thinking through how they're going to protect their employees. What we announced just literally a few moments ago is that we're going to be asking any employee that can work from home, that can work remote, to start doing that from here for the foreseeable future. I think that's a fantastic move. I think we're going to see more and more businesses leaning in to make sure that they're keeping their employees safe, asking them to work remotely, while continuing to drive the business forward.

Now, of course, we have a lot of frontline workers. We have people in call centers and who go out every single day into businesses and our customers' homes to do installation and repair, as well as retail employees. For those folks that are not able to work from home, that have to come in to continue driving the business, we're following all of the CDC and World Health Organization best practices around social distancing, washing your hands on a constant basis, using sanitizing. We're coming in and sanitizing our locations much more regularly, as well as then asking anyone that has any sign of any illness to stay at home and not come into work at all.

The third lens is then our businesses, right? We serve three million businesses around the world today. As we stepped back and we thought about Corona and the things that we've been articulating here, which is significantly more remote workers, a significant number of students, whether it's in schools, universities, or other educational institutions who are about to be displaced, how could we lean in to help to keep the country running?

We're putting out an offer this afternoon where we're going to be providing 90 days free of our WebEx Meetings with AT&T Solution. It's an incredible solution that allows for hundreds of people concurrently to be doing video or audio messaging. It's perfect to allow for telelearning, to keep meetings and collaboration for business employees going, and it's a key way that we're going to be helping businesses stay productive in this time where people are going to be scattered in many, many homes around the country.

We're also going to be offering our IP Flex call forwarding feature for free for the next 90 days where, if someone is displaced out of their office, they can route their number from their office to any mobile or wireline device in order to keep that flowing consistently.

Then the fourth lens that I'd give to you is the art of marketing. As chief marketing officer, one of the things that's on my mind is a lot of major gatherings, big events are being canceled right now. Mobile World Congress, South by Southwest, and HIMSS are all really large events that have been canceled in recent weeks.

HIMSS is one of the largest healthcare conferences in America, and we were a keynote speaker at that particular event. As we stepped back, we saw that as we were pulling out, the event was being canceled. We said, "How can we take this same message out and keep it in front of people?" It's a very relevant message. It's about 5G and edge computing and how it's influencing the healthcare industry.

Within four days, we pivoted from taking our keynote speaker and that speech and presenting it virtually online. Live-streamed it via Twitter and other social – an incredible learning. We saw that we actually had 9X the reach over social doing this virtually than we would have if we had done it at the actual HIMSS conference.

It gave us pause to step back and say, "As we're facing the next months and more and more events that are being canceled, as marketeers, how do we keep our message front and center? There are other ways. It's leading us to be more creative around our messaging and our approach. That's really how we're approaching COVID.

Michael Krigsman: How do you manage the fear, the almost panic that so many people experience right now?

Mo Katibeh: Well, it really boils down to keeping messaging and collaboration alive. Again, when you think about your employees as well as businesses, it's being there for one another.

As we thought about, "How are we going to talk about this both internally and externally?" we came up with a sentence that I think really defines where we are as a country. It's, "We're all in this together." Everyone is facing the same challenges; the concern around their friends, their family, their employees, themselves; and, at the end of this, we are all in this together.

That's why it was important to us that, one, we lean in with our employees and make sure we're enabling remote working to drive their safety. Then, also, how do we bring solutions to market that will truly help businesses maintain as much of a business as usual moment as they can and why we're doing what we're doing with WebEx?

Then, of course, just from my own team, I'm privileged to lead an organization of a couple of thousand people. Just real human collaboration. As an example, I'm getting a message out to my team this afternoon that talks about, okay, we're moving to remote working.

All right, what does that mean? A lot of you have kids at home. You have other family members or pets. A lot of schools are letting the kids out and they're going to be at home. We're going to be trying to work.

Kids will show up behind you. They'll come in and they'll want to be part of your meeting. A lot of people are embarrassed to have their kids be part of the conversation or you're telling them, "Hey, shhh. Mommy or daddy is working."

I'm like, "Bring the kids in. Introduce your children and your family members to the people that you're collaborating with. Let's get to know one another's families."

A lot of people may not have families. They may be at home. Let's make sure that we're asking each other, "How are you doing? What's going on?"

We have to be there for one another, whether that's as a country, as a team, or as a business. We're all in this together. That's how we're going to drive this forward.

How will 5G Applications Benefit Business and Society

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about 5G. What is it? What does it mean to people? Collaboration and enabling new types of applications is certainly a part of that.

Mo Katibeh: 5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity. High level, think about 1G enabled mobile calling. 2G enabled texting. 3G started to introduce the mobile economy, Internet browsing, social. 4G LTE introduced the application ecosystem, the mobilization of workers everywhere and, frankly, drove the significant number of advances that we've seen in the last decade, created the society that we have today. 5G really introduces three key capabilities above and beyond what 4G does.

The first one that I think most people are familiar with is just massive speed, like significant increases in speed. Today, most of the mobile carriers across America are in the 20 meg to 40 meg a second range. 5G holds the promise of one gig and then up to two-gig and, from a technical spec in the coming years, up to the potential of ten-gig.

The second thing is ultra-responsiveness [and 5G latency]. Another way we think about that is ultra-low latency, how quickly the network responds to the next instruction that you give it, whether it's streaming a video, downloading music, getting a webpage to load, et cetera. With 5G, you get down to essentially the network being as responsive as how your mind processes reality. It's just incredibly fast – essentially instantaneous.

Then the third thing is massive connectivity. Most everybody is familiar with wi-fi. When you think about wi-fi, you can connect about 250 things per access point. With LTE, that gets into the thousands. With 5G, it holds the promise of up to a million connected things per geographic area.

A way to just kind of bring that to life, I think, people have experienced is when you go to a venue or a stadium. You may see full bars, but you're not able to load a video, text a photo, or what have you. You question, "What the heck is going on?" It's really about that simultaneous number of connections.

The massive connectivity of 5G, coupled with ultra-low latency and speed advantages, it's what's truly going to define this new application ecosystem that's going to emerge over the course of the next ten years. We'll define the 2020 as just like LTE and the application ecosystem defined the last ten years.

That's what 5G is. Then to your question of, "Where are we with that?" I tell you we're making tremendous progress. As of today, we have what we call 5G sub-6 or 5G deployed in over 80 markets. Over 80 million people across America are already covered and we're on a path to be able to get to nationwide coverage by about midyear.

There's another flavor of 5G called 5G+. This uses a spectrum that we call millimeter wave. Not to get overly complex, but it's truly millimeter wave that's going to enable these incredibly high speeds, this massive connectivity, et cetera. We have that deployed in 35 cities right now.

What are the Implications of Ultra-Low Latency?

Michael Krigsman: When you speak about ultra-low latency, that enables an entirely different way of relating to the network, to devices, and a whole host of things. Maybe you can elaborate on that for us.

Mo Katibeh: When you think about latency and the cloud today, so if you're on your smart device and you download a video, a song, or what have you, it's really just going out hundreds or thousands of miles to someone else's computer, a piece of compute, to trigger that and then download it, stream it, or what have you. When you think about latency, that takes approximately between about 100 milliseconds and 150 to 200 milliseconds on average, which is still a fraction of a second and, for most people, that feels really, really fast. When you think about this next generation of experiences that 5G enables, you really need to get that 100 to 200 milliseconds down to sub 20 milliseconds and even sub 10 milliseconds.

A great way of thinking about this using augmented reality or virtual reality as a proxy technology. A lot of times when people will use VR, historically, they would take about getting dizzy and they didn't like the experience, et cetera. The reason for that is the latency between the way the image or the video is being generated and the way that your mind is perceiving that image. Any sort of jitteriness throws off our brains and it's really a function of latency.

How quickly is that signal, that command happening so then we can perceive it? If it's virtually indistinguishable from reality, if you're using VR and it looks just like you're standing in front of me, you're talking to me, we're having a real-time conversation, then you're not going to have that jittery, that dizziness, et cetera. That's a great example of dizziness.

Now, let me tell you a practical example of this. This is a real story. A few months ago, it was a very cool experience. I got to be part of the first hologrammatic, 5G conversation in America. It was me and the CEO of AT&T Business. Her name is Anne Chow, an amazing human being. She was at a convention center in downtown Dallas, and I was about 20 miles away at AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play.

Using a 5G connection on both sides, I beamed myself in as a hologram and we had literally a real-time conversation, Michael, like you and I are having right now. It was virtually indistinguishable from reality. This is why latency matters.

If you've ever seen or been part of a talking head segment on the news, you will be accustom to that delay of kind of a half a second or a second where the signal is transmitting itself across the country. It feels a little bit chilted. 5G ultra-low latency solves for that. It will enable hologrammatic, real-time communication. It will enable AR and VR to be used in learning, gaming, and bringing new employees up to speed as part of guided workflows and remote experts, et cetera.

Latency coupled with the other factors of 5G is what will bring these scenarios to life. It's truly incredible.

What is the Status of 5G Today?

Michael Krigsman: Where is 5G right today relative to providing the foundation capabilities and then where are the applications?

Mo Katibeh: What I love about the last kind of year and a half, 14-15 months, is that, on a regular cadence, we've been putting out announcements with real businesses in every industry that you can imagine about bringing these sorts of capabilities to life. The short answer is, 5G is real for business customers today both in terms of what I think of as B2B, a.k.a. how do you use 5G to improve the efficiency, the operations of your business for your employees, your internal operations, as well as from a B2B2C perspective, which is, how do you use 5G to bring entirely new experiences to life for your end customers?

Michael, this is only the beginning. I'll give you a few real examples of each one of those things. Like everything else, there's no tomorrow without today. You're going to see all of these use cases continue to scale, to emerge, and to become more and more real for more people across America.

Again, like most things, it starts with businesses. They adopt it. When you think about every single aspect of your life, it is shaped in some way by a business, whether it's the clothes you wear, your employer, the entertainment that you consume, the hand sanitizer that you're buying, et cetera. All these things start with businesses.

Then as the consumer 5G networks expand—I said a little bit earlier that ours will be nationwide by midyear—the devices come out. We're going to have fifteen 5G devices be available later this year. The application ecosystem expands to match that capability and then more and more consumer use cases come to life.

Let's back up and talk about B2B and B2B2C and real 5G right now as it exists. A B2B example, and I'll build on my last answer, is Samsung Austin Semiconductor. They're one of the largest manufacturing facilities in the United States, one of the largest semiconductor manufacturers in the world, and they have a very, very interesting setup in Austin. They were curious on, how can we use 5G to really understand what the promise of this technology is in terms of the efficacy of our employees' safety, productivity, et cetera?

Working with them, we've deployed seven different tests, proof of concept use cases in Austin. A couple of examples of that are using AR/VR with what we call guided workflow to train new employees.

If you think about manufacturing as an industry, turnover is kind of in the mid-teens to low 20%. That means one in five workers, on average every year, are new. You think about a manufacturing facility. I might have hundreds of unique devices that I need to train them on either installation or repair. How can I make them more effective faster?

Guided workflow: using augmented reality, you can literally look through glasses and see a device in front of you. Then you can have a series of instructions that show you how to install a piece of equipment or how to repair that piece of equipment. This is real. They're testing it right now.

Then I think my favorite part about this, Michael, is that there's actually a button on the side of the glasses where, if the guided workflow that's taken you so far and you're stuck, you can hit the button and, using a video camera that's built into the glasses, you can call in – phone a friend. Get a remote expert. They now see what you see and they say, "Oh, Michael. I see what's going on there. You just need to do X, Y, and Z." you do it and away you go. That person can be on the other side of the plant, the other side of the country, potentially even the other side of the world.

As you think about, again, there's no tomorrow without today, these next ten years, these sorts of solutions, as they truly come to life, will help us rethink work and the nature of work. Can I now be sitting remote, very practical as we're sitting here in the middle of the response to COVID and thinking about remote experts can help me? Perhaps someone is retired, a part-time worker, or they're off somewhere for two weeks working remotely. I can still utilize them. I can still access them and take advantage of their expertise.

Will there be some sort of platform that emerges where people can go in, log their skillsets, and then businesses and companies across America and across the world can ask for expertise as needed on demand? Fundamentally, changing the nature of work as we know it, this could emerge as a platform. That's B2B.

I'll tell you another great example out of Austin that I'm quite attracted to, which is worker safety. Keepers our workers safe, for anyone who is in a service industry, is massively important. It's priority number one. They built a use case that uses 4K video as a sensor. You can position it outside of a door. It's watching your employees walk up. If they don't have hardhats on and they're trying to enter a safety restricted zone, then the doors simply do not open. To err is human.

I used to run a construction and engineering organization. Not out of any sort of intent but, occasionally, you simply forget to put on your hardhat or take the appropriate safety measures. Being able to use technology for good to enable and remind workers when they need to put on their hardhat is a great thing and it's another thing 5G can enable.

Those are B2B, how to improve the efficacy of your business. These use cases are real. Businesses across America are starting to deploy 5G cellular solutions inside their business environment. Anyone can do it at any time. Then you start thinking through IoT devices that attach to these 5G solutions and start driving these sorts of use cases.

Then the pivot to B2B2C, I'll give you a couple of fun examples there. Down the street from where I'm sitting right now is AT&T Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys, as we were going into the 2019 season, reached out on, "Hey, how do we create next-generation fan experiences using 5G? We want to give our fans another reason to come out to the stadium. Don't just watch the game from home. Come; be part of the action. What's something cool that we can come up with together?"

I'll tell you there was a lot of really fun ideation that went on around that and we came up with four use cases. I'll give you an example of one. It's called Pose with the Pros. When you walk into AT&T Stadium, on either side there are these gigantic LED screens set up with cameras built-in.

This experience is called Pose with the Pros. You stand in front of it and, again, using a high definition camera, you can select up to five players or cheerleaders that you want to do a virtual pose with. They cluster around you. You stand in the middle. You get a picture and then you can share that with yourself, text it to your friends, share it on social.

It is truly, truly a cool experience. You end up looking like the least realistic player inside of that virtual huddle.

After the first home game, we saw this thing trending on Twitter. It blew up all around the world. Twelve million views in a week, the coolest fan experience on the planet.

Right after that happened, Michael, I'll tell you, my email, my phone started blowing up. I started getting calls from leagues, teams, and venues not only around the country but around the world on, how can we use 5G to bring similar things to life?

What is Edge Computing?

Michael Krigsman: When you talk about this combination of speed, ultra-low latency, and massive connectivity, to me that immediately implies Internet of Things and this new term that we hear, edge computing, which is very important. Tell us about that.

Mo Katibeh: We talked a little bit earlier about the cloud. The cloud today is usually hundreds or thousands of miles away from where you are, either as a business or consumer. When you think about 5G, low latency, and massive connectivity, one of the key enablers of that low latency is to bring the cloud much closer to where you are.

You're going to hear a lot in the coming years about cloud becoming highly distributed and edge computing is just another term that means the cloud coming into your major metro where you live, whether that's Dallas, Seattle, New York, L.A., or Atlanta, or even to the business location itself. As an example, having edge compute at AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play or at Samsung Austin Semiconductor.

That's what edge computing is. It's bringing the cloud closer to you to act as a user plane to enable lower latency experiences.

Michael Krigsman: What are the implications of that, again in terms of business applications or consumer applications? What does that mean?

Mo Katibeh: The consumer applications are really driven by businesses that are enabling consumer apps, B2B2C. If you think about network edge compute, that is bringing the cloud to your major metro. So then, instead of being hundreds or thousands of miles away, it's one to five to ten to fifteen miles away.

When that cloud is closer, that means that the latency inherently gets materially decreased. Coupled with 5G, it generally will be under 20 milliseconds.

What does this mean for a business? This means that let's say a retailer, as an example, can have a series of stores around Dallas, Atlanta, New York, or wherever. They can shift the computes that they have in their stores into the cloud because that cloud is now closer enough to their end retail locations where they no longer need the compute there. That means lower cost compute, taking advantage of someone else's capital so that you can think about moving into a monthly reoccurring expense stream model, and creating entirely new experiences. Back to the, what will 5G drive?

As an example, there is a major retailer that we're working with right now. They're interested in using network edge compute both to create operational efficiencies as well as new customer experiences inside their retail stores.

One of the operational efficiencies that they're looking at is, today they have literally massive amounts of compute on location tied to video cameras that are being used both as protection, monitoring outside of their stores, as well as to minimize breakage, shoplifting, et cetera within their stores.

Can I take those video cameras and those feeds and shift the data of that off of the compute in my store to using a network edge compute variation? That's one: driving operational efficiencies.

Customer experience: can I enable some sort of magic mirror where instead of my customers having to go into the changing room to try on 5, 10, 15 different things and the sheer amount of time that that takes, can I stand in front of something similar to Pose with the Pros that uses a big LED screen, a video camera that's part of it, and then, seamlessly, I can put on a jacket, a blouse, pants, a skirt, et cetera. Then swiping left and right, I can try on different colors, pattern combinations. I can make helpful suggestions on complementary pieces of clothing, whether that's accessories or shoes, et cetera. I'm not a great shopper. I look forward to this becoming a reality so I can go in and take advantage of it myself.

This becomes truly an incredible new customer experience. One, you can try on infinitely more combinations of items of clothing. Two, it makes for a much faster transaction. Three, I don't have to keep as much clothing inside the store. I can think about potentially smaller footprints in terms of my retail experience. Then, using mobile point of sale devices, I can even drop ship the items to you and have it delivered in 24 or 48 hours after you're in the store.

These are the sorts of things that we're seeing edge compute will truly enable. That was network.

Now, let's talk about prem-based. Prem-based is for businesses that truly need incredibly low latency transactions. In the world of sports, sports betting and the emergence of sports betting in more and more states will likely need 5G capabilities, a slice of the network, edge computing to ensure that if thousands of tens of thousands of people are trying to do gamification bets or sports betting that that traffic is prioritized. It's routed to an edge compute locations, sub-five milliseconds so that I can make a call on the next play versus just the entire game.

Both variants are going to be critically important in the 5G world, both for businesses, operational efficiencies, as well as how they think through creating new experiences.

Michael Krigsman: You were just describing these interesting, new applications of edge computing. Presumably, then, you're working with a variety of different vendors who are in the process of developing these applications and related technologies.

Mo Katibeh: Edge compute and 5G are really an ecosystem play. We've already made announcements with Microsoft, with Google, with IBM. It really is going to require a small number of world-class companies working together to bring the cloud, to bring the network, to bring the development ecosystem, startups, hardware providers, to really make this a reality.

How Can Organizations Manage Culture Change Related to 5G?

Michael Krigsman: We have a very interesting question from Twitter. Arsalan Khan, going back to what you said earlier about working from home and the future of work, he says that culture and trust are the biggest obstacles to people working from home. How do you tackle that at AT&T Business and what advice do you have to your customers who are listening to this and saying, "Well, this is a big culture shift for us"?

Mo Katibeh: I think they are critical for any business, any leader when you're thinking about how do you enable remote working? The first one is, you still have to have a culture. The way that you enable culture is collaboration.

One of the key tactics, if you will, that we encourage on all of our folks, and I do this myself for every single meeting is no voice-only meetings. You have to use video. It's a very different experience when you can see someone talking to you.

Frankly, it stops you from being distracted by something else going on because you have to be in the ever-present moment. You have to be engaged. You have to have a conversation and be driving whatever the meeting intent is forward.

The second thing that I tell you is, you need moments of personal connection, right? We encourage everyone, as I mentioned a little bit earlier. At the beginning of the meeting, take a minute and just ask everyone, "How are you doing? What did you do this weekend?" A little personal conversation. If your kids or your pets get curious and they come into wherever your workspace is, take a moment and introduce your family members to the rest of your team. Getting to know one another personally makes us work better together professionally.

These are some very simple tactics. Use video. Have personal moments. Introduce your family and friends, especially as we're in this moment of social distancing from one another.

Having these personal moments is going to be more important than ever. We'll build collaboration. We'll build culture. We'll build trust.

Importance of Culture and Establishing Personal Connections with People

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like that cultural dimension that you were just describing is very important to you.

Mo Katibeh: It absolutely is. At the end of the day, all of us spend as much time if not more time at work and with the people that we work with than we do at home. I don't know if my wife is watching. She might be. I will tell you; I love my wife. I have two kids. They're five and nine. I love my children. They are my favorite people to spend time with in the world.

I can't imagine working 10, 11, 12 hours a day with people if I didn't truly like what I did, if I didn't truly like the people that I work with. I'm extraordinarily thankful every single day that I get to be part of a culture at AT&T and AT&T Business that really is mindful of that, that celebrates that, and is intentional about how we create a culture for our people.

For those of us that are fortunate enough to be leaders of organizations, we have a duty to try and create a culture that people enjoy being a part of. Yes. Michael, thanks. I appreciate you asking that. It is. It's very important to me.

Michael Krigsman: How does this desire to create personal connection and develop this type of culture translate into how you think about marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers?

Mo Katibeh: When you think about business-to-business marketing, it really requires a significant effort in being extremely precise. There are about 15 million businesses across America, business locations, ten million unique businesses. When you think about them, there are small businesses, the people that you interact with in your neighborhood. Your friends, family, and neighbors own them.

There are midsized businesses. There are large businesses. As businesses get bigger, their needs get more complex. The decision-makers become more varied. There are influencers. There are final decision-makers. By the way, there are lines of business decision-makers, especially as you start talking about things like edge compute and IoT, mobile, fixed, collaboration solutions.

The question becomes, how do you get the right targeted message in front of the right person at the right time? When you start thinking about it in those terms, it's no longer about business-to-business. It's about business-to-people, and so we're massive advocates in my organization of B2P or business-to-people marketing. We think about all of our messaging, our storytelling, our campaigns through the lens of, how do we tell customer stories that are tied to outcomes not just making you aware of a product, which isn't, frankly, very interesting at all, I think.

Business-to-Business (B2B) vs. Business-to-Consumer (B2C) in marketing

Michael Krigsman: Is there a difference now between business-to-business and business-to-consumer? It's kind of all melding together.

Mo Katibeh: I think that's right. At the end of the day, when you think about B2C or B2B, if you're taking a B2P or business-to-people context around that, then it becomes quite similar in terms of your approach. It's storytelling. It's human engagement. It's getting people to love your brand and see it as a relationship versus a transactional product decision. That's why one of the things we did a couple of years ago is we actually shifted all of our sales teams, our marketing teams, and even our operations, service delivery, service excellence teams to be industry-focused.

When you think about business, healthcare companies are quite different than retail that are different than manufacturing. Just think about all the use cases we've talked about over the last 30, 40 minutes. They're in very different places and they're trying to drive different things for their end consumers and stakeholders.

This shift has allowed us to move away from simply talking about products to being what I think of as trusted advisors. "Hey, let's talk about what's going on in your industry. Let's talk about what's going on in your company? What are you trying to solve this year? What are your big problems?"

Then you have a conversation around how you drive around that. You build your marketing around those items. Then it becomes about driving outcomes.

Michael Krigsman: You know for many companies, their marketing really is, at the end of the day, about pitching.

Mo Katibeh: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: Rather than collaborating with that buyer. How do you develop the mindset and share it inside AT&T Business with your culture for people working there to think about that collaboration with the customer as opposed to just selling stuff?

Mo Katibeh: This really goes back to the pivot that we made a couple of years ago. Historically, we might have had one of our folks, either in marketing or sales, frankly, that would be with a retail customer one day and then manufacturing and then healthcare. It really was a different approach. It was very product-centric, very product-focused at that point in time.

By moving to being industry-specific, as well as then, from a pure marketing perspective, thinking about not any individual product but a solution, a.k.a. a group of products together that's brought as an outcome deliverer, that is how we've made the transition because then you have to train your people to think that way. It's not about a thing. It's about this group of things together.

By the way, you shouldn't even be talking about the products. You should be talking about the outcome, the benefit to your customer, whether they're a neighborhood customer, a neighborhood business, or one of the largest companies on the planet.

It's a very interesting transition. It's been foundational to the shift that we've seen and the efficacy of our motion.

The last comment I'd make on that, Michael, is really about the innovation in marketing and how you think about what the role of marketing is within the organization. At AT&T Business, I'm very fortunate. I think, as a team, we're very fortunate that we've brought together the four Ps—product, price, place, promotion—into one organization because the innovation around marketing isn't just around the storytelling and how you're using social, how you're using TV, how you're using events, to weave together a cohesive narrative and, using those same elements in how you're arming your sales teams, but it's also the direct correlation to outcomes.

We're doing these things to be able to demonstrate and talk about, as a business, that this is working to drive that. I find that a lot of marketing organizations, and primarily in the B2C space, are removed in terms of their marketing motion from the true outcomes of the business. When that happens, I think you lose your way as a marketing organization. Then it's just about the motion without truly understanding your contribution to the bottom line of your business.

Michael Krigsman: You're a technology organization developing some of the most advanced telecommunications technologies in the world. Don't you fall prey to shiny object syndrome a little bit? I know you're focused on the outcomes, but you must fall prey to that human impulse.

Mo Katibeh: Sure. Absolutely. Everyone loves a shiny object. I think we're very fortunate in that we're part of an industry and a motion where we're at the forefront of creating the experiences that shape our society.

We were there with LTE about ten years ago. LTE gave rise to the application ecosystem, whether that's ride-sharing, Airbnb, virtual learning. My children are learning on iPads at a rate that I could never have imagined when I was a child.

In the same way, we're at that moment of the shiny object of 5G being deployed. We're working with businesses to truly understand how this technology can be used for them.

The way that we focus our teams away from that which is a distraction is, is this going to drive an outcome—back to the last conversation—for our businesses? Is this going to drive an outcome for AT&T Business? Is this something that is repeatable and can scale at an industry level? If not, set it aside and move on to that which is truly scalable.

It creates a simpler customer experience in terms of contracting, operations, billing, being able to lean in if they need help after the sale in the installation. It helps our sellers. It makes it a simpler sale because there're less shiny objects for them to have access to. Then it helps our operations teams manage the business.

Every business, every now and then, has to step back and say, "Hey, look. It's time for me to do portfolio rationalization. Take out products that have not scaled." We're doing that ourselves right now. It's been a key part of what we've been talking about in the market more broadly. But at the same time, we're here to serve our customers and bring them solutions that drive outcomes for them and it's a privilege.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like you're very disciplined in terms of your approach and focus, keeping those outcomes front and center.

Mo Katibeh: Four Ps, topline and bottom line of the business, while also ensuring that we're meeting our customers' needs.

Michael Krigsman: Mo Katibeh, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today. It's been a very interesting and fast-moving conversation.

Mo Katibeh: Michael, I always enjoy being with you. Thank you.

Michael Krigsman: We've been speaking with Mo Katibeh. He is the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of AT&T Business.

Now, before you go, please, please subscribe on YouTube and hit the subscribe button at the top of our website so we can send you our most excellent newsletter. Thanks so much for watching, everybody. I hope you have a great day. Bye-bye.​

Published Date: Mar 13, 2020

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 647