Empowering the Smart Enterprise

Ronald Schapendonk is the creator of NEC's Smart Enterprise marketing concept, a crisp and clear idea that integrates NEC's IT and communications capabilities into attractive global business solutions, and offers enterprises the framework they need to forge a smarter way to build a resilient infrastructure and embrace latest applications for their business benefit. Built upon a solid IT platform, the Smart Enterprise framework's range of powerful technologies and business applications enable smart organizations to optimize their business practices, ensure secure and agile operations, boost the engagement of mobile workforces, and stay ahead of the competition.

The network becomes the organization

Photo: Ronald Schapendonk

--Can you explain the essence of the Smart Enterprise marketing concept?

Ronald: In essence, at the highest level, we commit to build a resilient, secure and agile infrastructure that enables organizations to provide better services at a lower cost, and empowers organizations to be more competitive. This means converging applications that empower workforces to work from anywhere. Workforces need to be connected seamlessly and securely, with access to business services and collaboration tools that empower them to engage internally and also externally with clients.

--You would need a very strong IT platform to facilitate this kind of business operation. How does the Smart Enterprise framework facilitate this?

Ronald: The fundamental point of the Smart Enterprise concept is that the framework and solutions integrate key technologies, applications and media endpoints that can be used in a number of ways. At the same time, the solutions must give organizations the flexibility to make choices in what they deploy, depending on their business needs at any point of time. The framework components include all kinds of NEC technologies from servers, to storage and network management tools, as well as technologies such as software-defined services, high availability and virtualization. Combining all or some of these technologies enables us to create a platform that empower organizations, and their workforces, to work smarter and be smarter.

The four key value pillars for smart business optimization

--You have compiled solutions based upon four key value pillars: business agility, cloud delivery, collaborative communities and assured services. Can you take us through them?

Ronald: Our "Business Agility" value pillar has been defined as empowering mobile workforces and their IT environments to be more responsive to dynamic business needs. The human resources component is critical for workforces, but the IT department is also key to helping businesses respond faster to changing needs.
We can ensure these technologies are delivered as modular services within the Smart Enterprise framework.

Figure: Four Key Value Pillars

The trend over recent years has been towards the provision of cloud services. Our "Cloud Delivery" value proposition seeks to deliver full cloud or hybrid deployment models that encourage flexibility. We help organizations make the best decisions in terms of what to deploy around the cloud, depending on business processes and the sensitivity of business data.

Our "collaborative communities" value pillar offers powerful tools to guarantee a user-rich experience and facilitate efficient collaboration across an organization, and with clients, business partners and suppliers as well. We are proposing new applications that enable communities to communicate or collaborate productively anytime, anywhere, anyhow. That is the true essence of communities.

Finally, security is a big issue on many corporate agenda. In order to deliver agile, cloud and collaborative community components, communications and applications must be delivered in a highly available, secure and stable manner. Our "Assured Services" pillar offer applications within the framework which ensure vital business continuity.

The Smart Enterprise framework in action

--How are customers reacting to the Smart Enterprise framework?

Ronald: We already have some great case studies, and customers are beginning to see the full potential of the Smart Enterprise framework. For example, one of our business partners has worked closely with universities in Saudi Arabia to deliver the fruits of the full framework to students. Powerful applications direct communication and secure storage of all data on the university servers. The universities are now optimizing the solutions by introducing software-defined networking to control network traffic more flexibly and smoothly.

We also work closely together with all the global brands in the hospitality industry and are delivering technologies from the Smart Enterprise framework ranging from communication applications, to guest and mobile services. Besides obvious elements like guest communications and Front-office integration, effective data storage is increasingly important for hospitality brands because it enables them to retrieve previous guest preferences, and improve the guest experience by offering a band of guest-specific services.

Conceiving the Smart Enterprise idea

--Looking back, how did you shape the Smart Enterprise concept?

Ronald: The whole idea started around two years ago here in the Netherlands. We started with internal discussions about how to best integrate NEC's IT and communications components within our offering, and how to market that effectively. Multiple interviews with customers and business partners revealed there was a strong demand for a combined IT and communications proposition. That's when we began building the framework. At a certain point, I said, this is a much smarter way of delivering solutions to customers, so why don't we call it the "Smart Enterprise." In other words, the framework delivers technology components in a smarter way, enables workforces to work in a smarter way, and helps IT managers and CIOs integrate components in a smarter way.

Next, we recognized the critical need for clearly defined value propositions. We determined our four key value pillars based on further research with key clients and business partners. Then, various NEC regional centers got together to discuss whether the Smart Enterprise framework and direction could also be used to market IT and communications offerings in their own individual regions.

Smart Enterprise framework to help integrate NEC global business

Photo: Ronald Schapendonk

--Your Smart Enterprise slogan is being developed worldwide. Was that hard to coordinate?

Ronald: It is an achievement, but I put it down to effective teamwork from various players. It also came just at the right time when people were searching for the best way to bring together NEC's own offerings in a coordinated way, both in terms of technologies and global business development. NEC units all over the world are undergoing transition, not only in the EMEA region. So, it wasn't too difficult to convince people of the merit of marketing NEC's combined IT and communications capabilities.

--It must make you proud to help orchestrate such a transition?

Ronald: To be honest, the "Empowering the Smart Enterprise" slogan just came to me in an instant. I had a brainwave and combined the right elements. Having said that, it is so much more than a slogan. It is the whole philosophy and thought process behind the Smart Enterprise concept which makes it a strong and viable direction for the future. Of course, I am proud that the Smart Enterprise concept is being endorsed by teams around the globe to generate more business for NEC.

--What does this whole process suggest to you about NEC as a company?

Ronald: NEC is an open and inclusive company and many people have been involved throughout this whole process. Our ideas and direction were fully supported by management throughout their two years of development, enabling us to create a great story. In addition, industry analysts recognize that, by integrating IT and communications components, NEC has a strong product to help drive an industry in transition.

--This industry transition is huge. What differentiates a technology supplier?

Ronald: Offering convincing new products and staying the course. Building a brand is not only about combining IT and communications, but the effort and time we have spent applying this direction has definitely helped. We are now highlighting success stories to help convince new organizations to build an IT and communications environment around this framework. Existing customers are content to stay with NEC because they see the full potential of the Smart Enterprise framework. Having the direct approval of industry analysts is also helping build the NEC brand, even in areas where we don't have a strong presence.

NEC is a here-to-stay company. Customers and business partners recognize NEC's reliability and acknowledge the amount of R&D spend on new development as a key differentiator setting it apart from other numerous competitors in our industry. We are one of the few global vendors that have the in-house skills and knowledge to continue developing IT and communications components within our organization, and the reputation to drive future trends in the industry.

The Smart Enterprise of the future?

--With such a strong powerhouse behind you, how do you see the Smart Enterprise framework developing over the next few years?

Ronald: I think the Smart Enterprise framework is a very powerful construct that can act as a kind of catalyst for further integration of other technology components and solutions that will enable small and large enterprises to be smart, act smart and stay smart. For example, I believe developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) domain could also enrich NEC's solutions in the enterprise arena because they fit logically into the Smart Enterprise framework.

--How can the Smart Enterprise concept help advance society at large?

Ronald: Enterprises can reinvent themselves using the huge range of options we offer. Organizations of all types and sizes are eager to embrace new technologies and solutions that drive efficiencies and give them a competitive edge, not only in times of economic downturn when budgets are squeezed and growth is limited, but also in buoyant times of economic growth. What they need is efficient management and advanced tooling. We are constantly improving our Smart Enterprise applications and solutions to help all organizations, from businesses to government bodies, become smarter. As such, the Smart Enterprise framework can serve as a strong component of NEC's corporate drive to orchestrate a bright world.

Personal inspiration and fulfilment

--What technological developments inspire you today?

Ronald: I am very interested in technologies that affect the enterprise area. I am also inspired these days by how the IoT gives people the opportunity to think and work differently. By using and combining technologies in the rapidly changing enterprise sphere, we can plot entirely new directions.

--Given your broad experience in the industry, what is your work philosophy, and how has that changed?

Ronald: My number one work philosophy is teamwork. I love working with other people and creating new ideas together. For me, teamwork is dream work. Over the years, I have learned to use the available resources more creatively. But that is also about teamwork. Making the best use of the team's resources to get the best result, taking the initiative and making sure the team puts in 100% effort, or more. Cultivating an effective and resourceful team can really change and influence things.

--Does technology feature strongly in your leisure activities? What do you like to do when you are not at work?

Ronald: I run to keep myself physically and mentally fit. It is my passion. I run three or four times a week and take part in a marathon once a year. I sometimes come up with my best ideas while pounding the streets. For me, running is the essential fuel which keeps me creative and energetic.

I love to spend time traveling with my wife and two kids. I am also involved in primary education projects that consider how new technologies are being incorporated into learning and how younger generations are developing. I am fascinated by how children use online games and applications to imagine new structures and build new societies through online interaction.

Photo: Ronald Schapendonk