The telco opportunity amidst challenges: A holistic digital strategy for success

(c)iStock.com/Leonardo Patrizi

Today, the world of communications and collaboration is undergoing a radical shift with the potential to disrupt the dynamics of the telecom industry forever.

A plethora of disruptive trends have taken over the entire ecosystem, significantly altering the rules of the game, impacting business, operating and financial models, measurement metrics as well as customer experience and expectations. For examples, players such as over the top (OTT) are bringing in a fresh wave of competition to the industry, altering Opex and Capex scenarios. Some of the disruptive OTT providers are growing at rates that are 10 times faster than traditional TSPs. Non–traditional organisations are entering the industry, offering superior customer experience, innovative business models with global reach and significantly reduced cost–landscapes. Intense competition is resulting in rate cuts, plunging ARPUs and widespread revenue cannibalisation, impacting market shares and margins of all the players.

While the industry is grappling with these challenges, multiple opportunities are emerging for future growth. With the proliferation of devices and connectivity, customers are increasingly adopting emerging technologies to collaborate better, changing the way they communicate with each other and the world. Connectivity is no longer limited to smartphones, laptops, and desktops but also expanding to home appliances, wearables and automobiles.

This is creating an opportunity like never before for telecom service providers to build robust digital supply chains and transform their operating and business models to add new revenue streams and build long–term sustainable models.

Building a successful digital future

The digital future promises several innovative opportunities for telecom providers to transform end–user experience, create new revenue streams, innovative operating models and significantly reduce operating costs. This requires telecom providers to look beyond just the front–end user interface systems and embrace a comprehensive end–to–end digital strategy. This will involve a digital–led transformation across the chain from front–office and middle–office to back–office technologies.

In order to undertake this digital journey, providers need to holistically align their networks, operations and systems to function as part of an entire digital ecosystem, which necessitates a smart combination of the ‘right people, processes, and technologies’. Organisations need to adopt a customer–centric approach in order to map network changes and initiatives on the features and functionalities demanded by consumers.

While front-end systems could be the beginning point for the transformation; the following components need to be worked upon for a holistic digital overhaul.

Virtualised networks

By virtualising networks, telecom providers can not only reduced costs, but also foster innovation by gaining agility, adaptability and scale in operations. Virtualisation instantly allows providers to configure and deploy new services in real time. Network advancements contribute to enhanced customer experience by revolutionising the way cloud, networks, and managed services are deployed and consumed. As an example, AT&T’s vision of next-generation network comprises software–defined networking and network function virtualisation, and by 2020, the company plans to virtualise and control over 75% of its network using these technologies to meet the growing demands of data and video of the digital users.

Operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS)

Network transformation is critical to launching new services, driving ARPU, adding new revenue streams, strengthening engagement and enhancing end–user experiences. In a digital world, as companies look to reduce costs and gain flexibility, new age OSS/BSS technologies can be deployed using cloud computing models, allowing smoother integration and leading to simplification of IT landscapes. With the adoption of next–generation technologies, telecom providers can deliver enhanced experience through self-service apps and widgets on multiple devices, enabling real-time billing and spending controls, differentiated offerings, quicker and smoother activation of service, optimised packages based on individual needs and other elements of a holistic customer experience journey.

Automation and artificial intelligence

As the automation and AI technology matures, automated models and operations can be leveraged and implemented across the entire customer, network, operations and IT lifecycle for faster time to market, reduced costs, and ultimately superior customer experience. Through the effective use of automation and AI, telecom providers can fast track new products and services, implementing new business processes such as Agile vs. Waterfall, DevOps, shift-left, test automation, automation of provisioning and configurations, sales processes, customer support, and more.

Data analytics and insights

As the customers change the way they interact with the world, advanced analytics and tools need to be deployed to track and analyse each subscriber, their behaviour, experience and interaction over multiple channels. Predictive insights and analysis based on customers’ buying behaviour, past history, spending patterns and their network activities across locations, devices and applications help foster deeper insights for superior decision–making.

User experience design and interface

As the expectations are increasing, customers are consistently pushing the providers and players within the communications ecosystem to provide superior and innovative digital experiences across a range of devices and channels. In order to achieve this, a ‘design thinking’ based approach is required to deliver a unified omni–channel experience, creating a decisive impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Conclusion

Telecom service providers must adopt a holistic digital strategy for enhanced end–user experiences and services innovation, expanding opportunities to create new revenue streams and reducing operating costs. However, the digital strategy needs to be implemented as a comprehensive strategy, where processes, resources and networks need to be holistically aligned to function as part of an entire digital ecosystem.

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