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digital transformation initiatives

Digital transformation initiatives: Becoming agile and forward-thinking Communications Service Providers

Mark Jackson, Log in to subscribe to the Blog

Let’s face it, digital transformation is hard!

It was hard before the beginning of 2019, but with the global pandemic forcing businesses to change their working patterns or even shut down, it got harder. And increasingly unprecedented global events create instability and inflation, pushing up the cost-of-living and creating pressure for both consumers and Communications Service Providers (CSPs) alike – customers are wanting to move to low-cost brands and packages to reduce their outgoings and CSPs themselves are seeing the cost of running their businesses rapidly spiralling out of control.

With all this change happening it would be all too easy for CSPs to pause digital transformation initiatives. But actually, the real answer is to accelerate such transformations!

None of us can safely say what will happen in the next few years – or even the next few months - but one thing we can all be sure of is that it will be different. Tomorrows Digital Services Provider (DSP) will be different to today’s CSP. Transformation of your business is an absolute necessity. It’s no longer something that is ‘nice to have’, but instead something that needs to be accelerated to ‘pull you through’. As this Bain article explains... “Wait-and-See is No Longer an Option”!

But what to do?

Digital transformation – two simple words but, in practice, very hard to achieve.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that digital transformation requires an organisation to both ‘digitise’ and ‘transform’. I say this because all too often we see CSPs only ‘digitise’. They take an existing customer journey or process and put it into an app or expose it onto their website. Not only does this deliver a ‘new’ experience in just one or two channels, but existing processes have usually evolved over a number of years and are focused on how the CSP internally gets the work done – not on providing the best experience for the customer. Thorsten Dirks, who was the CEO of Telefonica Germany in 2015, famously said...

“If you digitize a crappy process, you’ll end up with a crappy digital process.”

Thorsten Dirks ex-CEO, Telefonica Germany

This approach of buying some cool digital tech and digitising existing processes and journeys is relatively easy to do – but it isn’t digital transformation – it’s just digitisation!

The alternative approach that many CSP have traditionally taken is to upgrade or change their existing internal Business Support Systems (BSS) in the belief that this new stack will solve their challenges. Such projects have massive costs, are hugely complex, and usually take more than three years to complete – time that given the current pressure on CSPs they just don’t have.

These approaches are fundamentally flawed - because they don’t start with the customer experience!

True transformation starts by asking simple, but hard questions like

  • “How can we make this easier”
  • “Why are we doing it this way?”
  • “What would make this quicker?”
  • “How does the customer or employee benefit from this?”

If you start with an outcome-based, customer-focused, data-driven, journey-centric mindset you will have to transform your business. Why? Because you will make it much, much simpler and easier for customers to achieve what they need to achieve.

So, how do you get started?

Over the past few years, with the advent of standard based Open Architectures and APIs from organisations such as the TM Forum, we have seen the emergence of a new layer in a CSPs architecture that decouples the customer journey from both the back-end BSS systems and the front-end channels. Sometimes called a Digital Agility Layer (or to borrow traditional Telco terminology, a CSS (Customer Support System)), such a layer enables operational and cost efficiency, as well as reduces time-to-market for new applications.

This Center-Out business architecture has three key features:

  • It is intelligent – It is data-driven and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to personalise the experience in real time based on the specific customer who is engaging with the DSP and their unique context.
  • It is journey-Centric – At its heart is the outcome that the customer wants to achieve. Do they want to move home? Do they want to troubleshoot a problem? Do they want to upgrade their handset? This capability will ensure that customers can achieve the outcome they want in the easiest and quickly way possible – irrespective of the channels they use.
  • It is agile – it uses low-code tools to allow citizen developers to manage, maintain, control, and modify the customer journeys, allowing these journeys to be changed quickly and easily as the business needs evolve.

Agile, forward-thinking organisations that have taken this approach - like UPC in Switzerland – have seen huge benefits – lowering cost to service, decreasing Average Handling Time (AHT), increasing speed to market and improving customer experience.

It is the CSPs that embrace this new digital agility layer to power their digital transformation programs that are the ones that make the successful leap from CSP to DSP - and have the best chance surviving to become the Telco of 2030.

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    Industry: Communications Service Providers Topic: Digital Transformation

    About the Author

    Mark Jackson, Pega Industry Principal for Telecoms and Media, is passionate about helping customers unlock significant business value through successful Digital Transformation and has 20+ years experience working with CSPs across the globe.