Vodafone creates pan-European tech team, plans to add 7,000 software experts by 2025

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Oct 21, 2021

  • Vodafone is ramping up its digital R&D as part of its efforts to become a ‘digital enabler’
  • It has created a pan-European unit called Vodafone Technology
  • Vodafone will add 7,000 software engineers to the team, many of which will be reskilled existing employees
  • Those developers will make use of the operator’s internal R&D process called ‘OneSource’

Vodafone has formed a pan-European R&D unit called Vodafone Technology that, as part of the operator’s plans to “transform from a traditional telecommunications company to a new generation connectivity and digital services provider of scale across Europe and Africa,” will add 7,000 software engineers to its roster by 2025. 

But not all of those 7,000 will be new recruits – more than half will be existing Vodafone staff who will be retrained, while the rest will be either insourced (bringing in-house some tasks that have been done by external partners) or join as new recruits. 

Those 7,000 roles will be added to the existing 9,000 software engineers Vodafone already employs and, by 2025, at least half of the Vodafone Technology R&D team will be software engineers, up from about 30% currently.

The operator believes the move makes business sense as it will be able to develop more of its own unique, differentiating applications (for which it will own the IPR) and at a lower cost than outsourcing the development (Vodafone estimates that ‘insourcing’ is about 20% cheaper on average). 

The operator’s group CTO, Johan Wibergh, noted during a media briefing in London on Wednesday evening that Vodafone has “been on a journey for a while to change from only being a telecoms company to being a digital enabler for our customers... in addition to providing basic connectivity to our customers. we're trying to wrap a number of things around that to provide more value. It’s very important for us to change and evolve the company because the connectivity business is very competitive and a very low growth business. And we've been in that for a very long time. But if you look at the things that you wrap around the connectivity, there’s decent revenue there,” noted the CTO, who added that the software engineers play an important role in making Vodafone’s connectivity services “faster, better and cheaper by using the engineers to do more automation, intelligence, identifying problems before there is a problem,” as well as developing new applications and products, particularly in the enterprise services sector.

Wibergh also added that having a single, pan-European technology unit, which has been running since April this year, will improve efficiencies and time-to-market. “Before, we had a complete technical organisation in every country, supported by a couple of service centres,” but now the centralized team can have “more specialized domain skillsets and move much faster” under the watchful eye of Scott Petty, who become the operator’s Director of Digital & IT earlier this year, and who also attended the briefing. 

Petty cited what Vodafone has been doing in IoT as an example of Vodafone’s ongoing “digital transformation.” He said the operator is building on top of its existing core platform for managing IoT devices, for example using blockchain to “allow IoT devices to communicate with each other and authenticate services, manage payments... all of those require software engineers to develop code, capability and solutions, to be able to do that degree of automation and do that effectively – that’s the reason for our insourcing strategy and our investment in software engineers.”

He continued: “But, of course, if you're going to have 16,000 software engineers, how do we make sure that they're working effectively together in a distributed development model? Vodafone's a little bit different to other tech companies... we have a distributed model for our organisation, we have developers in every country in which we operate [and] we want all of them to contribute to the community and be able to leverage our capabilities. So we've built an internal concept called ‘OneSource’, which is built on open source concepts of open platforms, to which developers contribute capabilities, take capabilities from, and are able to contribute and build software that is used throughout our environment,” said the Vodafone man.

Petty went on to talk about the operator’s use of the public cloud and Vodafone’s “common infrastructure platform” that is used by its developers – you can find out more about that in our corresponding article, Vodafone gains scale with a multi-cloud approach to R&D.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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