Podcast / CXO of the Future

Kevin Shatzkamer, Digital Transformation Officer for Telecom, Google Cloud

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Rapid technological advancements are going to start disrupting the telecommunications industry, led by the rise of 5G and network-centric business models. There’s a growing recognition that the network plays a very key role in the development of services and of a service delivery platform.

On this week’s episode, Gamiel chats with Kevin Shatzkamer, the Digital Transformation Officer for Telecom at Google Cloud, about where 5G is now, and where it is going. Kevin has been in the telecommunications space for the last 20 years and has lived through a number of different transitions within the telecom sector all the way back to the launch of 2G data services. He was named as one of Fierce Telecom’s Rising Stars (2019), one of Informa Telecom’s 100 Most Influential Voices in 5G (5G100, 2020), and currently serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council on New Network Technologies. Kevin has 50 patents for his work in mobile networking and has published two books on the topic.

Background

“Over the course of 20 years I’ve moved from filing patents and publishing books to leading large organizations, and most recently, been focused more on technology strategy. It’s given me an opportunity to both build a reputation, while also allowing me to continue to engage and collaborate with others who have grown up within the industry around the same time that I did. Many of those colleagues have similar roles, so we have been able to draw from past experiences as well as think about the future.”

Kevin joined Google Cloud in the middle of 2020 as a fully remote – a true COVID – new hire.

“My role as Digital Transformation Officer for Telecom at Google Cloud is to take experiences that I’ve had within the industry and apply them to building credibility and working relationships with some of the largest industry players and largest companies inside of the telecommunications sector.”

Digital Transformation: Then and Now

“We’re at a state now where the telecommunications industry overall is taking a step back. I’ve promoted the idea that transformation is technology-led, and that when you invest in the right technology, new business opportunities materialize. But in the last several years we’ve seen that idea turned upside down. Now we’re thinking about what those new business opportunities are, looking at the outcomes that we’re looking to achieve, and using technology as a fast follower on top of those outcomes. That fundamental mindset shift has changed a few different things.

“First, it has changed the way organizations structure themselves. Instead of taking technology and feeding it back into a common architecture, we’re using a business architecture led approach that yields an outcome of technology building blocks. Organizations are realizing that the implementation of a business architecture, with the underlay of technology building blocks, requires rethinking how we bring together architects, operations teams, and business strategists. We’re putting them in a room together versus having a long workflow of handoffs between them.”

Friend of Business vs. Tech Enabler

“The befriend-the-business mindset was driven by the realization that across the organization, shadow IT was popping up and moving to public cloud. There was a need to move faster, but the need to move faster was limited by corporate, regulatory and other processes that limited the ability to do that. IT was very focused on delivering a one-size-fits-all offering back to the organization rather than recognizing that each unique business has unique requirements, capabilities and needs from IT. We are now at the point where technology can provide that level of flexibility. Early on we believed that public cloud was the only path to do that, but now we’re recognizing that we live in more of a hybrid environment where public cloud is a path to do that, but on-prem will continue to be a big portion of how it is delivered. Laptops will continue to be a big piece of how we deliver capabilities to the end user. It won’t just be an all-mobile all-cloud environment. The pendulum swung very rapidly in one direction and is now settling itself back in the middle where it should be.”

Where is 5G Now, and Where Is It Going?

“We have a vision of 5G. It’s what we aspire to be in 5G as an industry, and what we aspire to enable with the technology. The reality of how you implement that vision looks very different. It’s easy to have a view of “is” versus “to be.” Getting there is not as straightforward as you’d like. But when you have a vision, you establish a stake in the ground and say, “This is where we aspire to be” and build broad organizational and industry alignment to move in that direction.

“There’s a clear opportunity to start where we are and then iterate from there rather than wait until the perfect answer is in place. In previous generations of cellular technology and the launch of 3G and 4G networks, the industry was focused on perfection. With 5G, the industry has taken a step back and realized that having ongoing and continuous proof of concepts as a path of development is important. Having an outcome that leads to production is more important than running parallel and simultaneous tests of multiple vendors and multiple technologies. There is a recognition that the end goal of 5G needs to be the interchangeability of components and reusable parts. That hasn’t always been the case in the telecom industry where we built very bespoke implementations that were very proprietary in nature.

“I think there are a number of signs that we’re starting to get there. There are many things happening. There are open RAN initiatives, there are things happening in the cloud native computing foundation and various other open source organizations in which open source is being used as a hammer to force a broader conversation regarding openness around APIs, programmability, and interoperability. The industry is now moving in that direction, with the recognition that it is providing that openness. It will change how we operate the networks and operate as a telecommunications carrier. It will also change the way enterprise organizations, application developers, and third parties interact with the infrastructure. That’s the end goal of what we’re trying to accomplish.

Working with Telco Providers

“Large enterprise organizations should be looking at the company that provides connectivity at your buildings, and the company that provides connectivity wirelessly to the devices that your employees have, as critical contributors to the experience of your org’s key stakeholders.

“It’s incumbent upon the telecommunications industry and the carriers to take a step back and start telling the story that experience matters. Experience is partially driven by how users access networks and what they access on those networks on. But it’s also about how you tie the experience of the network to the experience of the service in new ways. That hasn’t historically been possible. We’ve always thought in terms of ‘How do I experience an application that is migrating out of my own data center to the cloud and how does that materialize on the end device.’ It’s important to take a step back and realize that all that stuff that happens in between matters.”

How Will 5G be Different?

“Let’s go back to 2G. It has a very clear objective of enabling mobile data right to a data network. 3G upgraded mobile data focusing around more, bigger, faster.

“The iPhone launched during the second half of 3G. 4G enabled consumers to consume video on their devices and we recognized that the ability to create a mobile platform at the end device + link it to the cloud and a set of applications was a clear opportunity. And it’s come to fruition.

“With 5G, there’s growing recognition that the network plays a very key role in the development of services and of a service delivery platform. What’s unique about 5G is that it’s not targeting and servicing a particular use case. It is recognized as foundational to the way services are experienced. All of these things need to exist simultaneously on the infrastructure—and the fact that the infrastructure is not being built for just one thing creates a level of ambiguity and uncertainty in terms of how you architect it. As a result, the industry is taking this step back and saying, ‘How do I architect it, and where is a model in a blueprint of what I can leverage?’ Because if you’ve been in technology for long enough, you don’t tend to see a lot of new stuff. You tend to see old technology spun with a new name but using the same foundational principles. What we’re seeing now in 5G is that the foundational principle is cloud. Cloud has figured out how to build a scalable model for repeatable third-party workloads that have such high variants to be put together in an operating model in an operationally efficient way. I think we’re seeing that telecom followed that blueprint.”

How the Startup Community Can Work with Telcos

“I think it really requires internalization as an entity and looking at yourselves and asking three things:

‘What are my capabilities?’ Not: What technology do I have or what products do I have? But: What is my corporate DNA? How do I take what I’m the best at and lead with that? How do I build an ecosystem around what I’m the best at? How do I take what I’m the best at and feed it to other ecosystems?”

Takeaways

Establishing a vision and agreeing and aligning on a North Star that you want to accomplish is paramount. As you lead large transformations, be that vision-level leader, but also have the ability to move into the details and dive into the weeds. The more you invest in what’s happening at the day-to-day level, the initial output from those who are expected to implement those transformations and achieve that vision is better. Because there’s recognition that their leader is credible and will challenge them and that the level of output needs to be better in order to avoid that first level of challenge—not scrutiny but challenge.

It’s important to take a step back and recognize that when you’re transforming, the entity that you’re transforming can’t move as fast as your vision. Don’t try to push things faster than an organization is capable of absorbing, whether it be technology or process or operational change. The absorption matters more than the rate of change. For that reason, I think it’s really important to establish a set of quick wins that prove that the organization can be successful.

If you’re selling into a transformation, it’s important to recognize that third party organizations have challenges that you may not understand. If you see them moving slowly, it’s because your vision may be too big, and while a third party may buy into your vision, buying into your vision is not the same as buying into your product. You have to give organizations a road map and a journey to achieve your vision. Find the stakeholders who actually have skin in the game.

About Kevin Shatzkamer

Kevin Shatzkamer is currently Digital Transformation Officer for Telecom at Google Cloud. In this role, Mr Shatzkamer brings industry credibility, experience, and expertise to one of Google’s strategic industry verticals. Mr. Shatzkamer plays an integral role in helping the largest Telecommunications Providers in the world through industry-defining transformations, from beginning to end. Mr. Shatzkamer provides strategic leadership throughout customer transformation journeys and acts as a thought-partner on both technical and business objectives to the CxOs of Google Cloud’s customers, leads the delivery of complex transformations, and brings together Google’s technology, capabilities, and ecosystems to help Telecommunications customers differentiate and win faster.

Mr. Shatzkamer’s current areas of focus related to 5G include Cloud Native Telecom, closed loop operations (automation to AI/ML to autonomy), edge computing and vertical industry use-cases.

Mr. Shatzkamer has been recognized by the Telecommunications Industry in various capacities, including being named as one of Fierce Telecom’s Rising Stars (2019), one of Informa Telecom’s 100 Most Influential Voices in 5G (5G100, 2020), and currently serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council on New Network Technologies. Mr. Shatzkamer is also a regular speaker at many Telecom Industry events.

Mr. Shatzkamer holds a Master’s of Engineering Management degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Indiana University, and a Bachelor’s of Engineering degree from University of Florida.

Mr Shatzkamer has more than 50 patents for his work in mobile networking, and has published two books related to his work. 

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