Swisscom hopes to use its data to create customer-facing products and experiences in a similar model to Facebook by 2016, its IT lead revealed.
The leading Swiss teleco is using APIs, code that grants access to each application in a system, internally and externally, in a bid to open up new revenue streams.
The firm is currently functioning as what is defined as a 'product platform' - a concept that has been around for several years. 'Product platforms' allow rapid devlopment of new products at a low cost using common components.
Swisscom will develop an ecosystem to compete as a 'partner platform' similar to iTunes, and eventually evolve to an 'experience platform' business model in a simlar vein to Facebook through use of APIs.
“Moving from left (product platform) to right - we want to be on the right side of experience platforms in two years’ time. But it is a hard journey that we are experiencing as we speak on the left side (product platform)” John de Keijzer, Swisscom's head of enterprise architecture & technical strategy told the I love APIs conference in San Francisco.
Swisscom has a $12 billion (£7.5 billion) revenue per year and is a market leader in areas like fixed network and net connectivity. But with voice calls and messaging in decline the firm is now turning to smaller business streams and working in an agile manner.
The firm will do this by opening up its 120 internal APIs to external partners to use their data assets, de Keijzer told the API software company Apigee's flagship conference.
De Keijzer had been working on deploying APIs for Swisscom's internal IT systems over "the last few years" when he found that they could be the key to securing the business' position as market leader.
But this move will be a huge challenge for a firm of Swisscom’s size and dependency on legacy IT systems, de Keijzer admitted.
“We have a very traditional IT model”... “In order to be a digital operator or enabler and become a utility platform, touching into the experience platform - you need to take that architecture apart.”
Despite the high security and data governance intrinsic to telecommunication firms, Swisscom is in the process of opening up these APIs to external developers.
De Keijzer’s team is looking at how it can promote data assets to external partners “in such a way that they do not need an engineer or architect to develop” he said this morning.
“We are going against tradition” he added.
De Keijzer said that Swisscom has weighed up the risks of opening up their data assets to developers against stagnating in terms of digital platforms.
“we are known as a brand, in Switzerland, that delivers a lot of trust and we can no way compromise that, which means we have to look at each case individually”
“Opening up ecosystem and giving APIs out to every developer and any kind of experiences being built is a nightmare for us in some aspects” he said.
But the firm has taken on a governance process to look at each case and quickly decided whether to pursue it.
“If you take that step there might be some risks but you should embrace it - it’s just a fact. Better that you take some risks and play an important part in the future than just stay and stop moving.”