Telcos are increasingly adopting a customer-centric approach as the world prepares for the 4th industrial revolution. A seamless customer service is now their ultimate goal, and in order to achieve that, improved network quality is, of course, their first recourse. For the network to enable such a great experience, a complete makeover is required.
The network is considered the telcos’ largest asset and the greatest source of data. That is why it should be reinvented in order to fully leverage it to serves customers’ needs. Companies often link the network with cost cutting while the real change is led by commercial units or the IT team. However, the approach to networks has now changed given that it can be more digital and customizable.
Artificial intelligence and data analytics will allow the network to become the key enabler of any telcos’ digital journey. According to McKinsey, telcos can fully realize the potential of the network of the future by ensuring that it is defined by five key characteristics: modular, agile, automated, personalized and insight-generating.
The network of the future will be software-based and modular, or network as a service (NaaS). It will be able to adapt to customers’ needs quickly and more efficiently. Modularity, however, requires end-to-end process changes and simplification, notably with the deployment of new technologies such as NFV and software defined networking (SDN).
The network and business teams should collaborate to establish the use cases and roadmap that will facilitate the deployment of technology solutions. Furthermore, adopting the NaaS model requires focusing more on service management development and software development rather than on engineering and operations.
Network teams’ organization is essential for telcos to leverage the new network model. Nowadays, the major functions include planning, engineering and operations; however, in the digital era, a team’s organization should be overhauled. The new structure should be agile to be able to respond to customer demands immediately.
An article by McKinsey highlights two potential models presented to telcos to choose the scope of agile transformation within the network team. The first model is based on the nature of activities. Functions that have shorter lead times and are closer to the customer, such as provisioning and configuration changes, move to an agile model, while infrastructure changes that require longer lead times remain traditionally managed. In the second model, all functions are moved into agile tribes.
Several choices exist for the agile organizational design such as flow to work, self-managing teams, end-to-end cross-functional teams and agile overlay.
Automation is also one of the key characteristics of the network of the future. The adoption of analytics and automation is increasing which is why network teams have to embark of their automation journey. In order to succeed, ensuring end-to-end digitization across the network lifecycle, as opposed to tactical automation of a single process, is essential. In addition, a great attention should be given to the digital architecture that supports network deployment.
Network teams should consider how they can build a modern, future-proof digital architecture that allows them to reduce their technical debt, adapt rapidly to new technologies, and capture and build on a wealth of data about the network, according to McKinsey.
NaaS will be accompanied by high demand on customized bandwidth for different types of services. This is where network slicing plays a key role. In fact, it gives operators the ability to offer personalization at different levels. At the B2B level, they can provide different services such as IoT; whereas, at the B2C level, operators can differentiate among the bandwidths being offered to various customer segments. Therefore, operators will be able to adopt new business models based on hyper-personalization that requires close coordination with business teams.
Valuable information on customers is stored in the network which includes mobility patterns, call-usage records and credit information, among others. Advanced analytics solutions are providing operators with insights on consumers’ behaviors. In order to benefit from these insights, a cross-team collaboration is needed between the network teams and other teams such as the marketing and finance teams.
When it comes to data architecture and strategy, and in an environment dominated by budget constraints, network teams should optimize value from existing investments which can be only achieved through the evaluation of data strategies.
Network transformation should happen in parallel with the enhancement of the CTO’s role which should revolve around driving digital transformation. Concrete actions should be undertaken by network teams now to achieve this long-term vision; otherwise, network teams might face an increasingly uphill task, and offering the best network to subscribers might come at a heavy price.
According to McKinsey, “Network teams should define a holistic end-state idea for networks based on the five elements of the network of the future, their own guiding principles and the operating models required to achieve them. Network teams should also consider conducting proofs of concept in selected areas (for example, agile B2B provisioning or analytics-driven field dispatch) to start making the vision a reality.”
Changing mindsets is the first step towards this long-term transformation. The whole future of a company can rely on the reinvention of the network which can only be done with the commitment and dedication of CTOs and network teams. The whole future of a company depends on customer satisfaction and the network is a key.