New normal. Work from home. Seamless collaboration. Always on. Constantly connected. Physical distancing with enhanced social connectivity. These are a few of the myriad factors that have led to a surge in wireless, voice, and data-based network traffic in the last few weeks. So intense is the demand for network facilities that the Brookings Institute recently published a verdict, COVID-19 shows that America’s broadband plan is still in beta, indicating how countries with seemingly the most developed infrastructure are also lagging.
We spoke with industry leaders to understand the most critical themes related to the telecom sector in the current environment. Our findings indicated increasing concerns around the anticipated loss of revenue from roaming services, an increase in number of defaulters, and the need for increased digital presence across customer touch points. They also brought to the forefront three themes that every operator / communication service provider (CSP) needs to focus on, as a part of their digital transformation journey:
- Operational transformation: New use cases will continue to emerge, as customers find newer ways of leveraging the network, creating a constant need for reliable and resilient network services
- Customer experience: Constantly evolving customer usage patterns will create the need to better understand the shift in behavior, develop targeted offerings, reduce GTM, maintain margins, and optimize operational expenses
- Business model transformation: Collaboration with new partners, both traditional and new age (OTT, etc.), by devising and readily adopting new business models will help monetize existing assets
So, what do these themes mean? How can CSPs operationalize their strategy to respond to these new themes? What are the business-critical use cases that need their immediate attention? Let’s take a look at what CSPs have identified as critical to their digital transformation journey, as they adjust to new business challenges and realities.
Customer experience transformation through hyper personalization
Conceptually, pre-empting the unmet and unarticulated needs of customers may sound straightforward. Moreover, better service across online and offline channels may theoretically seem easy to implement, with many products already claiming to help operators. However, our engagements with operators show that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. This is especially true in view of change elements, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic or even a simple change in internal processes.
- Therefore, operators need to adopt technology as an enabler and work with partners that can offer solutions that have a strong data engineering layer, are easy to plug into existing enterprise architecture, and comprise pre-defined workflows / containerized solutions across critical areas (such as customer analytics, and revenue assurance). Such an approach will not only enable operators to undertake bespoke solutioning but also provide an opportunity to combine their experience with that of their partners to solve business problems.
- Operators looking for technology excellence also need to map their strategy at three levels – enterprise > analytics > data – to create a roadmap with priority assigned to each use case, identify enablers, and detect gaps that need to be bridged. Even though the Telecom sector has been the fastest adopter of the digital ecosystem, but not all decisions are still data-driven. Operators need to create a single / unified team that manages the ‘Customer Journey’ and has the skillset to fully utilize technology made available by partners, update solutions in view of evolving business needs, and use knowledge management platforms to retain vital information.
Operational transformation through improved network control tower
‘Industry 4.0’ elements enable complete visibility of a supply chain network. The same concept can be applied to the backbone of a telco business, i.e., a network. While operators have differing views about 5G rollout, there is a consensus on increasing time being spent on a network by users, network usage use cases, device upgrades to support different technology, etc. This creates the need for a more reliable network. Operators have been able to live up to the expectations only by making adjustments, such as decreasing streaming quality, and network change for the quality of voice calls. They need to ‘monitor’ the health of the network through effective data management and visualization, plan their investments by combining best practices and ML algorithms, provide a better experience to customers by designing and monitoring KQIs (by using payload and transactional data), and expedite their digital journey by using industry-standard solution frameworks.
Business model transformation by external data monetization
Traditional businesses are expected to register a significant drop in key RGAs, such as roaming, and voice. This increases the need for collaboration, potentially by partnering with traditional businesses such as retail, banking, and new age like over-the-top (OTT) services, with elements of localization. This is a space where we expect to see a lot of action. An ideal solution framework must combine the ‘Outside In’ and ‘Inside Out’ perspectives to solve three of the biggest challenges related to operationalizing solutions:
- Finding the most suitable partners and use cases
- Creating a robust business model that includes data as a service, insights as a service, and platform as a service
- Ensuring data governance and security, without calling for elephant investments
Telecom operators need to scale up speedily to gain a competitive edge. They need to consolidate their technology investments (data and analytics) and map them with short- to mid-term business priorities. They must also identify partners who can complement and cover the last mile, with regard to both ideation and implementation. The bottom line is that operators must quickly identify digital transformation in totality and not adopt a piecemeal approach.
This is the first in a series of articles assessing the criticality of digital transformation for telecom operators, and how they adjust to new business realities.