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The success of German independent management consulting firm, goetzpartners, is its DNA, says Middle East Managing Director Erik Almqvist, speaking to Telecom Review, who strongly advocates for investing in society and empowering staff in order to obtain the best results for clients. Founded in 1991, goetzpartners has become a powerful ally for telecom operators around the world looking to streamline their services, reinforce their DNA and adopt a more digital approach.

Goetzpartners was founded by Dr. Stephan Goetz and Stefan Sanktjohanser in Munich. The firm ranks among the ten largest advisory firms in Germany, according to a Lünendonk's list in 2016. With more than 350 professionals operating out of 14 offices in 11 countries around the world, goetzpartners advises clients in all key industries. The firm has shown particular strength in digital consulting and catering to the needs of telcos looking to transform.

Stephan and Stefan created an independent advisory firm for all key issues of entrepreneurial activity: strategy, M&A (mergers and acquisitions) and transformation. Having a corporate finance arm under the same roof is unusual but strengthens the firm's capabilities to deal with all CxO issues one-stop. Erik explains to Telecom Review: goetzpartners' approach includes both digital and corporate strategy as well as execution support for chosen strategies.

Superior results with unique Color Book® methodology
Digital transformation is a field where goetzpartners globally has been immensely successful, says Erik. The firm has led three global transformation projects including a German conglomerate, a top global equipment vendor as well as a global telecom operator group. The two last projects released efficiency gains in the region of 30 percent resulting in more than three BUSD savings on an annual recurring basis.

A key differentiator has been the firm's equal focus on the "how" and the "what", he says. In an industry where advisors traditionally have either been strong on the "what" (formulating strategy, delivering presentations with bullet points as to "what" a client needs to implement), or the "how" (employing industry professionals), goetzpartners has made a highly successful living of bridging these parts.

The successful firm has worked with a string of leading operators, seeking to renew themselves by becoming faster to market, less hierarchical, operationally lighter and better able to respond to the forces that currently transform the telecommunications world.

"For operators wishing to improve margins, we have the most powerful tool anywhere on the planet called the Colour Books," he said. This methodology, which is extremely granular identifying and acting on cost levers throughout an organization, has helped goetzpartners' clients, which rank as the largest operators and vendors in the world, to radically cut and then reinvest in digital capabilities.

"For the near quarter century I have been advising clients in the industry, and I have never seen any methodology even remotely as successful in realizing real, tangible results, radically improving client's financial performance," Erik says. In addition to improving financial performance and streamlining operations, any change program needs to pay close attention to an organization's DNA, reinforcing the strong traits whilst replacing bad habits with better ones.

"All organizations are ultimately people that need a guiding light; something they can embrace as their vision, making them proud. This needs to be inspiring and culturally consistent with the society in which they are a part of. Granularity and a strong focus on execution are necessary to obtain sustainable change, but alone are not sufficient. A strong and culturally consistent vision for people to feel inspired by is needed too."

Erik leads goetzpartners' Middle East region. For nearly 25 years he has been an advisor to both the telecommunications and financial services industries. In 1999, he founded Sense Strategy, a London-based advisory boutique. He is known in the industry for performing the world's first scientific calculation to ascertain the effect of broadband speed upgrades on GDP.

Erik has held partner and senior management positions at Arthur D. Little, where he led the telecommunications and financial services practices for the Nordic Region. He was also involved with advising the world's largest equipment vendor across their footprint on socioeconomic development and the role of ICT in society, and he helped TeliaSonera digitally transform its home market.

Erik moved on to head operational consulting for Analysys Mason in Dubai, a global consulting and research firm specializing in telecoms, media and digital transformation and services, where he led the Middle East and Global Performance Improvement practice. Erik carried this expertise in the Middle East to goetzpartners.

The benefits of digitization have a profound effect on specific areas of business, according to Erik, which include generating revenue and also connecting with customers. Digitization provides the ability to create greater customization, he says. Another key aspect of digitization is the way it can empower businesses to offer bespoke products and services in an industrialized manner.

"Think of Amazon, for example. The way that Amazon distributes books around the world is completely industrialized. But at the same time, when you order a book from Amazon online, it remembers your previous transactions to understand what you are interested in and it will showcase items to you that you are potentially interested in. In this way, Amazon can sell niche products via mass distribution," Erik explained. "This is what digitization has opened up, and the ICT industry is the enabler of this."

With nearly 25 years experience as an advisor to the telecom industry, Erik reflects on the past decades and today. There are aspects that are "relatively the same" and also areas that are "radically different," said Erik, who was involved with some of the very first mobile virtual network operators (MNVOs) in the world, witnessing the birth of the world's first internet bank and the switching on of 4G networks which began in Sweden and Norway.

He recalls the liberalization that emerged during the early years of his career. He also reflected on a cover of The Economist which published a story about "the end of the telco" before the end of the millennium as IP telephony emerged. "There's a lot of talk about radical change in 2017, where people say that everything is going to change and that telcos need to radically transform," he said. "This is true, but there is always a need for the superior connectivity that operators provide."

One of the main changes in the telco industry, Erik pointed out, is the move from voice to data. He also highlighted the fact that brand recognition is not always the same as brand satisfaction, so telcos must continuously work to streamline their services and meet their customers' needs.

Goetzpartners provides regulatory advice for the telco industry. Part of the reason why Europe's telco industry has lost its competitiveness, Erik said, is because of the heavy license fees that were put in place, as well as the heavy regulations that were imposed on the industry throughout the 90s and 00s. Erik highlighted the fragmentation of the industry in Europe as a downside. The European Commission "should open up for consolidation in Europe," he said.

Speaking on emerging trends in the tech industry, Erik said ‘smart cities' is an interesting concept that goetzpartners follows closely. Erik has strong knowledge on the topic, having co-founded the smart city index with Ericsson a few years back which was published in 80 countries around the globe.

Goetzpartners has actively advised in this area for some time. IoT (internet of things) will play a significant role in smart cities, and what it needs to fully bloom is lower latency which is what 5G will bring to the picture, Erik explained. "The real explosion of IoT will probably be during the widespread adoption of 5G, but also through low-powered, wide-area networks (LPWA)."

There are, of course, consequences of digitization and automation, said Erik. "Governments need to pay very close attention to the way that digitization is implemented so that it bridges the digital divide and doesn't deepen it. In some cases digitization and automation only favors a few, which is when you could see a backlash."

But looking at the way mobile technology has transformed and empowered the people of Africa, by helping them connect with the rest of the world, digitization is largely a force for good, said Erik.

Extending international presence
Because of his exposure to the Middle East, Erik has been able to familiarize with the top telecom companies in the region, which led to many exciting assignments for goetzpartners. The goetzpartners Middle East team was hired locally, says Erik, and has a "great deal of experience" having previously worked for leading telecom operators in the region.

Goetzpartners was hugely successful in continental Europe by catering to the needs of cable operators and then continued with advising mobile and fixed. After expanding in Europe, Russia and China, moving to the Middle East was the "natural next step for the firm."

In July last year, goetzpartners announced that it would open offices in Dubai and New York to extend its international presence. Goetzpartners is now directly represented in the USA and the Middle East and can provide companies with local advisory expertise.

"Dubai is a natural hub for the Middle East and Africa and for us it was natural to be here," said Erik. "Culturally, we feel very much at home, because in the part of Europe where we come from, family values are very important, and we know that the same is true in the Middle East."

The firm will be providing consulting services in the high-growth sectors of telecommunications and smart energy in the Middle East, as well as government/public sector advice. The local team - well-balanced consultants with proven industry experience - will provide clients from the region with support on issues concerning strategy and transformation in particular.

Sustainable DNA
Goetzpartners' strength is its sustainable DNA, which looks to empower employees to serve clients better. "Services evolve over time, but a company's DNA is what carries it," said Erik, reflecting on the history of the company.

"It's exciting to reflect on this, because Stephan and Stefan are true entrepreneurs that have combined very successful business track records with a strong will to do good in society and in the world," said Erik. He says the slogan "client first" should be replaced with the slogan "for the company employee first, for the employee client first."

"If you start with catering for your clients and let your employees down, at some point it will be reflected in the eyes of the people that are supposed to serve the client because those employees who have been let down will feel that they have not been empowered, that they have not been properly trained, and this will be evident by their behavior. If there is no enthusiasm and no sparkle in the eye, this will be transparent to the client."

Unfortunately, many companies today still don't invest enough in their own people, said Erik. If a company does invest in its people and makes sure that staff have a good environment to work in and are empowered, then they will be encouraged to take smart initiatives and be in a position to sustainably serve the firm's clients better than the competition, he said. This creates a ripple effect through the organization where in the end the client will get the best possible results.

"The success of our services started with this DNA - to do something good for society and to truly invest in people not just because it looks good on a corporate brochure, but because we fundamentally believe that that is how you build and drive a successful organization in the 21st century," said Erik.

"We are one of the fastest-growing elite management consulting firms in the world, growing 20 percent or better for five years in a row. This track record is difficult to find today, and some might think that this success has been achieved by being pushy - but it is absolutely the opposite."

Goetzpartners, he said, strongly invests in its staff and empowers them through training to get the best results. Throughout the year the firm's staff, located in 14 offices in 11 countries around the world, are flown into a location together to have fun and get to know each other. The staff are also sent abroad throughout the year for specialist training.

Globally, goetzpartners is not focusing on every industry but there are a number of industries where the firm is very strong, including telecoms, financial services, government sector, energy including new energy, manufacturing and automotive. In Europe, the firm is also strong in FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods). All of these areas of expertise could eventually be a part of goetzpartners offerings in the Middle East.

The company reinvests parts of its proceeds to worthy causes around the world, including help to war refugees to reintegrate in society and children with special needs, and also replants rainforest in Borneo thus reducing CO2 gases (a likely contributor to climate change) with a factor of more than 10x what it generates through its global footprint.

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