MATRIXX Software is a company fuelled by innovation and is currently leading the way in the digital commerce revolution within the telecoms industry in light of the latest cloud and 5G technologies.

Cloud helps businesses expand and grow exponentially without investing too much time and capital in their IT infrastructure. MATRIXX Software provides cloud native digital commerce solutions which allow companies to grow rapidly and transform themselves into digitally advanced businesses.

The MATRIXX Digital Commerce Platform has reinvented telco BSS and OCS by combining various IT functions into one single platform.

Telecom Review conducted an exclusive interview with Ali Harfouche, vice president and head of sales at MATRIXX Software. Ali brings over 25 years of experience in the telecom arena, having worked with both vendors and operators. He was MATRIXX’s first employee in the region and has grown the Dubai office since joining four years ago.

In what was a thoroughly comprehensive interview, we were also afforded the opportunity to speak to the regional sales directors at MATRIXX Software in an effort find out more about the markets they managed and how companies in Sub-Saharan Africa were adapting to digital transformation.

Could you give us a little background about MATRIXX and what you provide to operators?

MATRIXX Software is a Silicon Valley based technology company providing next generation, cloud native digital commerce solutions that help companies to reinvent themselves for the on-demand economy.

Regionally, MATRIXX Digital Commerce is powering innovative digital offerings brought to market by both ZAIN and Ooredoo. Around the world, we are powering many of the largest communications companies, IoT players and emerging digital providers. Our modern commerce platform easily scales to support global market places and can power evolutionary, consumption-based services.

Across the globe, and especially in the MEA region, operators are embracing the importance of digital experience. They see how it can impact every aspect of their business, and they want to harness that power to their benefit. Our platform is a key enabler of that effort - making it easier to unlock new revenue opportunities, boost competitiveness and transform operations.

There are many aspects of our platform that are really unique, but one of the real game-changers is that our software enables massive flexibility in how products and services are packaged and delivered. Not only does this completely change how our customers can design their plans to enable their customers with breakthrough transparency, flexibility and control, it also makes it possible to quickly and cost-effectively personalize at scale. Combined, they are the essential ingredients of an exceptional, on-demand digital experience that our platform enables.

Our platform also consolidates, and in many cases eliminates, dependencies on complex, expensive IT and BSS infrastructure. This is so transformative that in some of the conversations we have, this is as important as digital experience! Yes, our customers want better experience, but they also recognize that they need to operate more efficiently and more effectively. For them, business agility, the ability to respond more quickly to market events, is a direct benefit they need from digital transformation, which, because of the way our platform is architected, we make possible.

You have experienced tremendous growth in the MEA region. What do you think is driving that?

This whole region has, in fact, been our fastest growing region at the company, which I think speaks to several factors.

First, consumer expectations are changing – have already changed, really – and regional operators are eager to embrace digital as a competitive lever. Today’s consumers, especially younger ones, expect everything that comes with a great digital experience.

Capturing this change is about two very important things: boosting customer loyalty as a way to reduce churn and unlocking new spending opportunities to boost revenue. Operators across the region recognize the necessity for both and know that the only way to compete for these digitally-savvy customers is to make digital essential to their business strategies.

This brings me to the second factor. Telecom operators in the Middle East are really leading the pack with forward-thinking strategies embracing a digital first vision. Historically, these kinds of projects were viewed as IT-led. That is no longer the case. There is a recognition that, in today’s market, digital leadership is a company-wide initiative that needs to be led by the C-Suite. In fact, some of the most forward-looking programs we’ve seen are being sponsored by CEOs themselves, and Ooredoo and ZAIN groups are great examples of this; proof of just how important these transformation programs are to future success.  

The third factor driving our growth is the people we have here in the region. We have grown 10 times in size in the last two years in the MEA region - which is amazing to me! We have built an amazing team and I truly believe that they reflect everything that MATRIXX stands for in the market.

Our team truly represents the best in the industry, and we carry hundreds of years of telecom experience collectively. They are passionate, eager to help empower their customers to win with digital. They are committed, constantly helping our customers to create new possibilities with their businesses. They really want our customers to succeed, working in close partnership with them to build the right solutions that they need, which, to me, is a reflection of the integrity of our people.

Reinvention and empowerment are ideas that our founders, Dave and Jennifer, feel very strongly about, and it is absolutely an essential element of our success in the region.

Can you tell us more about the major announcements you made with both Ooredoo Group and ZAIN?

We’ve had projects go live with Ooredoo in Kuwait and Oman. Ooredoo Kuwait went live with the first digital telecom product in the history of Kuwait, ANA. Ooredoo Oman also went live last month with new digital products after the successful launch last year, and are heading towards a fully transformed digital operator. Just a few weeks ago, we had a go-live with our partner ZAIN Saudi. Every go-live is exciting for us, but these are special for us because of how these operators came to market.   

It has been well-documented that a large percentage of large-scale digital transformation projects fail. Vendors know it, and customers do as well, which is why something had to change in how companies transform. That change has been operators taking a page out of the world of digital-first business and embracing agile development and Minimum Viable Products (MVP) as a better way to get to market quickly.

This trend towards agile product development and MVP’s is, in many ways, a perfect fit for us and our platform. We come from the startup and technology world, so agile product development is natural to us.

In fact, much of our investment has been to build a platform that could power this approach by making it possible for our customers to stand-up new digital stacks alongside existing infrastructure faster than any other company. This has the effect of eliminating one of the biggest impediments to success – trying to build integrations into technology that was never designed for digital, in the first place.  

Which, to reiterate, is why being selected as the digital commerce platform at the heart of the IT infrastructure of digital leaders like these is so exciting. It is just a tremendous vote of confidence in us and the vision of digital experience that is the foundation of our platform.

As you’ve grown, how do you see your relationship with your customers evolving?

One of the things that I’ve really loved to see is how much our customers have come to depend upon the advice and experience of the team here. Of course, some of that change is due to our track record – we have earned tremendous credibility in the market for being able to deliver what we say we can, when we say we can.

The fact that we consistently deliver is not lost on the market. The other reason our relationships have evolved, I think, is the institutional knowledge that we’ve built up. Every one of our customers going live just builds the expertise and knowledge and competence of the team here on the ground that’s delivering.

The result is that our customers, and I do hear this directly from them, have really come to consider us as a partner they can rely on for advice and guidance and expertise. This speaks to our company’s commitment, overall, to helping businesses reinvent themselves because the reinvention doesn’t just happen with technology. It happens in the hearts and minds of those who bring it to life.

How is the launch of 5G driving change in the market?

I think it’s already accepted as fact that 5G is an industry game-changer, and it certainly has been great for us as it is playing an increasingly critical role in decision-making. In many respects, the MATRIXX Digital Commerce Platform was made for 5G. If you look broadly at everything that 5G will enable, and there are too many to list here, I think they really come down to three big ideas.

The first is scale and diversity. Over the coming decade, the number and type of devices connecting over 5G is expected to explode. Obviously, this puts a tremendous load on IT architectures as they must cope with an exponential volume and type of transactions that need to be handled and processed.  

The second is the potential for extremely low latency. While many people today tend to focus on the raw throughput capabilities of 5G, we believe that the potential for extremely low latency is the real game-changer. Why? Because with AR and VR, for example, it’s the latency, or delay in responsiveness, that will be the dividing line between success and failure.

The third is tuneability of the network itself. What’s particularly interesting about 5G is that it offers operators tremendous flexibility not just in how they manage their networks, but also how they monetize it and this can extend downstream to the customer, with highly configurable and personalized offers. And it can also extend upstream, with the ability to monetize any kind of traffic running across the networks!

When considered together, what all of these necessitate is a monetization platform built for high volume, low latency, highly configurable transactions, which is exactly what our platform already does.

Which I think is yet another reason why we’ve been seeing such tremendous interest in the region. When we go into talk to operators, as they share their plans for 5G and the cloud and lay out for us what they need for the future, we are able to show them how what we are doing right now can easily extend.

Do you see cloud adoption accelerating amongst operators?

For many operators in our region, we absolutely do, and it’s why we have completely embraced cloud native architecture for our platform. As I mentioned above, 5G is going to bring massive scale and diversity, ever lower latency and tremendous tuneability.

The end result is that the network itself is going to be more diverse and, in many ways more complex, then ever before if it’s going to accommodate all of that change. If that is the case, then existing IT architectures simply are not aligned with those needs. As a result, web-scale and cloud native design principles are going to be a must, regardless of how an operator chooses to deploy.

With a cloud native approach, operators will gain unprecedented elasticity. This is particularly important because they’ll need to be able to quickly spin-up and tear-down resources, whether it’s to support very large numbers of devices on the one hand, or hyper-targeted offers on the other.

The other thing that comes with a cloud native approach is web-scale resiliency. As the scale and complexity of transactions and volume increase, operators will need ever-increasing stability, not to mention transformative automation.

For our customers who have 5G on their near-term roadmap, and for us at MATRIXX, cloud native architecture is seen as essential to success with 5G. Whether it’s to be able to compete better, serve better or operate better, we think – and our customers seem to agree – that deploying in the cloud (or in a virtual environment or even on bare metal) with a cloud native architecture is really the only viable path forward.     

To close on this, our customers can choose the deployment model that suits their business best, whether it is on-premise or cloud, MATRIXX platform can operate with equal efficiencies.

You mentioned customers investing heavily in 5G. What about the others?

One of the things which makes the Middle East and Africa so exciting for myself and my team is the incredible diversity of types of operators. Of course the desire for digital experience and the urgency to lead with digital are relevant to many of our customers, but not to all of them.

In fact, particularly in the emerging markets in our region, there are still a large number of great carriers that will definitely not be moving to 5G for a while and it’s our job to be of value to them as well. When our team is out talking to operators, we hear a couple of big themes.

First, many operators we speak with are very focused on operational efficiency. Yes, new revenue is important. Yes, they want the ability to grow their digital businesses. Yes, they want something that’s future-proof for 5G. But first and foremost, they need to reduce operational overhead. They need to modernize the systems they’re keeping, even as they reduce the total number of systems overall. This is really a big deal driving so many of my team’s conversations.

Second, and this is completely related, we hear from operators a recognition that they need to be able to move faster in the market. In fact, we see this as the market-facing side of the need for operational efficiency. Competition is fierce and operators know they need to be able to develop, launch and refine offers faster than they’ve ever done before. That means fewer systems, of course, but it also means modernizing in order to eliminate customization requirements which have been accepted as the norm for so many years.

The two combined represent very real business challenges that are every bit as urgent as those of operators focused on digital experience, which is another reason I think that our company and this team have been so successful. Yes, our platform enables digital, but it does so because of how it streamlines and optimizes and simplifies how the IT infrastructure is built and operated. As a result, we can deliver results for operators at the foundational level which can then ripple out through their entire operation.

In the same context, Telecom Review spoke to MENA Sales Directors Chadi El Samad and Nagib Abboud about trends their witnessing amongst operators in relation to BSS transformations, and how MATRIXX is helping telecom operators address developed markets with high mobile penetration rates.

We also spoke to Danny Rahal, sales director for Sub-Saharan Africa, and Anisse Errguita, sales director, West Africa, about how Africa which is obviously less mature than the Middle East market in embracing digital transformation and how IT strategies have evolved over the years as the continent becomes more technologically competent.

Chadi El Samad, sales director, MENA

Originally trained as an engineer, Chadi is a seasoned sales director with experience spanning 20 years career in the telecommunications industry. Prior to joining MATRIXX, he worked for Oracle, eServ-Global and Nortel.

Which main trend are you noticing among MENA telecom operators in terms of BSS transformations?

The entire business model for the region’s operators is in transformation right now, from a legacy analog and retail-centric to next generation digital. The challenge for many operators that think in terms of legacy architectures and BSS is that, as much as they want a fully digitalized business, large scale IT transformations based on traditional thinking either fail outright or struggle to reach their defined KPIs.

The reason, of course, is quite simple. Getting to success with a new business model means that BSS transformation alone isn’t enough. Instead, operators need to rethink the entirety of their IT architecture and build systems and processes that are optimized for digital, as opposed to just being accommodating of it.

One of the things I’m most proud of about being at MATRIXX is that we aren’t just helping executives inside telecom operators to reimagine their established business models; we’re able to provide shortcuts to digitization using our next generation technology.

Nagib Abboud, sales director, MENA region

Nagib Abboud is an accomplished telecom senior level executive with over 20 years of international experience leading complex, multi-million-dollar enterprise projects across Europe, Middle East and emerging markets. Nagib holds a Masters in telecoms engineering specializing in Network Design and Architecture from ParisTech in France.

Does Matrixx address only the telcos in developed markets with high smartphone penetration?

Communication service providers in emerging markets face a very interesting challenge because they have low smartphone penetration today, but they know this will not be the case indefinitely.

This means they need to think about their infrastructure investments with three very different purposes. They need to protect and grow their existing revenues from traditional prepaid voice and messaging services, which is where today’s revenue comes from.  

Then they need to make themselves attractive to their small but growing market of smartphone users in order to better monetize data usage. And lastly, they need to future-proof for the eventual transition to next generation 5G networks. MATRIXX is the only single platform and technology that helps equally the communication service providers in the emerging markets to achieve all of these goals.  

Dany Rahal, Sales Director, Sub-Saharan Africa

Throughout his 17 years in sales, hi-tech and non-traditional sales marketing activities in newly emerged businesses. Dany has excelled in challenging, multilingual and multicultural environments by driving revenues through innovative and focused strategies. He has led numerous business development programs, with over 12 year’s expertise in the African market.

Are the imperatives for digital transformation different in Sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions?

Digital transformation is a worldwide phenomenon, and Africa is no exception. Consumers in the Sub-Saharan region are just as dependent on OTT services, social media and other data-heavy apps as everyone else.

We’re also seeing a high-level interest in IoT and other related, nontraditional use cases, which is related to the significant increase of number of data consumers and social players. As a result, we are seeing a growing trend in Africa toward digital transformation because the African executive teams recognize that the status quo no longer works.

To win with digital experience, the leaders we speak to are looking for business agility paired with seamless scalability so that they can meet these diverse demands. And, of course, they need to do both of these will lowering costs to serve. The MATRIXX Digital Commerce Platform is the only product in the market capable of empowering the region’s carriers to compete and win now and in the future.

Anisse Errguita, sales director, West Africa region

Leading MATRIXX Software’s newly opened Morocco office Anisse drives sales for West Africa region. With more than 20 years of experience working in the region, Anisse was head of sales with Ericsson West Africa sub region.

How much has IT investment strategies evolved in the region?

Operators across the region are excited to transform themselves and we hear that IT simplification is a major factor in those decisions. Yes, they are interested in offering digital journeys for their customers. However, we hear repeatedly that a bigger concern is their heavy dependence on costly and complex systems.

Simplification across the entire IT landscape is very important in order to reduce costs, move more quickly in market, and naturally, provide a better digital experience. The MATRIXX Digital Commerce Platform is currently the only option in the market capable of meeting the specific challenges like the ones of the West Africa markets.

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