Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Kevin Taylor, Chairman of Indigo Telecom Group, offers a novel take on digital transformation.
The global telecoms industry landscape is more dynamic than ever, with change seemingly at the forefront of everything. At the same time though, many businesses in the telco space are having to live with ongoing decreases in APRU (average revenue per user) which means that many of them could end up being yesterday’s news (in the face of those who can transform accordingly). There is certainly no problem with the demand for connectivity, however it’s the content and services that are bringing in the real money.
These days consumers have high levels of expectations and want their demands met. They expect technology to deliver new experiences and adventures, perhaps even more so as we all continue to live in such strange times. Ultimately, it’s all about transformation, both from a digital point of view but also, a compelling business transformation. There are certainly many questions to be asked for the traditional telcos looking to retain their status in this evolutionary period. Despite there not being much in common between the telecoms and fashion industries, I would argue that network operators and brands from the fashion world share a common goal: keeping their place on the catwalk.
It’s easy to say transformation and it’s relatively easy to understand. However, like most of the good things in life including the high-end clothing brands, it doesn’t come cheap. Such transformation demands a significant level of investment. And don’t rely on a unicorn product or service that will magically return on your huge investment. The point here is that if you don’t actively pursue transformation, you’re in real danger of being left behind. But it’s not all ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’, there is a way forward. Looking at some key areas in the business can help to deliver a business transformation that can ensure telcos stay relevant and ahead of the curve.
Transformation from the bottom up
If you facilitate a transition from the bottom up, (whilst keeping some key leadership goals and metrics to align to), you thereby empower employees to feel that they are actually part of that change. Also, this bottom-up approach secures a transformation that is driven by the subject matter experts and those closest to customer demands, thereby delivering results that drive a truly effective change. This course of action also quickly highlights skills gaps, workflow misalignment and potential cost savings that come about as part of the transformation. When you have a business transformation strategy that is created by senior management with unclear vision and riddled with corporate buzzwords, then the rest of the organisation is hardly left feeling empowered.
Keep the customer in every step of your plans
Any successful business transformation strategy should start and end with the customer. What are their needs, challenges and expectations? It’s not just about what the customers are asking for, but rather having a deep understanding of the customer that enables the creation of new services, applications and features that meet their needs – even if it’s not something they would have initially considered. Creating new services is only half the battle. Making the full-service catalogue well known and well understood – both internally and externally – is vital to ensure it is automatically included into the potential set of offerings that form part of a sale or deployment.
Enacting a transformation like this doesn’t mean that every telco needs to do everything for themselves in-house. New capabilities, services and workflows can be brought in through acquisition, partnerships, licensing or outsourcing, Regardless of source, telcos need to be ambitious in ensuring that they are directly involved in the delivery of the content, applications and services that their network provides and that the ambition needs to be measurable and have real interventions around it.
Digitisation of the business can be a key enabler of this ambition. It’s no use if a telco transforms its services and capacity, only to frustrate users with outdated customer service, billing or other backend office functions. Fortunately, we live in a world where these types of functions can be overhauled much more quickly and efficiently than in the past when a large CRM or accounting system overhaul would be a multi-year, multi-million-pound endeavour.
The pace of change in the telco industry has accelerated massively over the last decade, with new ‘fashions’ coming ever faster. 5G, fixed/mobile convergence, OpenRAN and network slicing, telco edge cloud, IoT, AI, SD-WAN, Segment Routing, Fibre-to-the-home and others are all jostling for space on the runway.
To keep up with the pace of change, telcos need to evolve not just to adapt to these new trends, but to rewire themselves to work in agile ways and make data-driven decisions that mean they’re ready for next season.
Kevin Taylor MBE is the Chairman of Indigo Telecom Group. Kevin’s expertise in emerging and growth markets, investor and government relations, and in early stage ventures was honed during an international executive career spanning over 25 years. Latterly, Kevin was President, Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Turkey in BT and a Member of the Global Services Leadership team reporting to the CEO. His career at BT involved international leadership roles in emerging markets since 2003.