The Telco Transformation Journey: Warp Speed Ahead

Sandeep Chowdhury

When the crew of the Starship Enterprise embarked on their mission to explore strange new worlds, and seek out new life and new civilizations, they knew that success – and survival – would depend on their ability to adapt fast, adopt new ways of thinking, and take bold action.

It’s a mindset that should resonate with today’s telco industry leaders grappling to stay viable in a marketplace that’s evolving at a dizzying pace.

“Adapt or die” has become the new prime directive for businesses operating in a sector where predicting what the telco of the future will look is an almost impossible task.

One thing is for sure: Faced with the rapid rise of new digital players, “traditional” telco providers acknowledge they can no longer afford to fly their business on impulse drive alone.

New technologies, increasing competition, and growing digital disruption mean telcos need to enable warp speed innovation and ensure their core business is both efficient and agile.

That’s because thriving and surviving in multiple universes will depend on being able to move fast as the market keeps evolving.

But first, let’s explore the journey so far.

Episode 1: The trouble with Tribbles

Finding new markets, orchestrating new services, and responding to evolving customer expectations all require an adept and nimble approach.

In the last decade, telcos have had to get to grips with several new imperatives: Redefining their relationships and interactions with customers, eliminating inefficient operating models and processes to improve time-to-market, and enhancing their execution capabilities to seize new commercial opportunities fast.

To achieve these goals, telcos faced the challenge of updating their legacy IT systems. Indeed, in recent years these vital but costly assets have been the top focus of telco efforts to improve customer service, streamline processes, and enable the agility required for a sustainable future.

By and large, telcos have chosen to pursue one of two transformation concepts.

On the one hand, adopting Geoffrey Moore’s “systems of engagement and systems of record” approach to address the challenge of balancing empowerment and control in today’s increasingly digital oriented marketplace.

On the other, initiating Gartner’s pace-layered application strategy to build and deliver systems faster in selected areas of the business.

But neither approach has proved entirely successful for telcos looking to transform into fast-moving monoliths.

Episode 2: I can’t change the laws of physics, Captain

The concept of microservices, however, changes the rules of the game for telcos looking to break free of their IT legacy heritage without abandoning their investment in these important systems.

Organized around business capabilitie,s not technical capabilities, the microservices architecture views services as individual components that can be individually developed and replaced. It’s underpinned by a “‘smart endpoints, dump pipes” vision that keeps communication between components simple.

Because microservices are small separate components, it’s easier to automatically test and less risky to deploy changes. Opening the door to continuous delivery that enables a quicker time-to-market, with fewer costs and risks.

Plus, each microservice manages its own data, which revolutionizes the traditional enterprise application approach that requires telcos retain a central product catalog, a central customer master, and middleware to connect their worlds.

While that’s all very positive, when it comes to implementation telcos have found themselves facing a microservices dilemma: Should they convert a monolithic solution or start from scratch?

Episode 3: The Klingons are coming…Get ready for even faster change

Organizations like Netflix are acknowledged masters at new cloud architecture approach that takes the microservices to the next level in a bid to create fault-tolerant and highly resilient services that minimize any impact on subscribers in the event of a failure.

Using tools like Chaos Monkey to deliberately damage their production environment and ensure their production systems are antifragile, Netflix has embraced the minimize risk by maximizing change maxim.

The implications of chaos engineering are huge, especially when it comes to experimenting with new ways of working, initiating new technologies or improving complex systems.

Episode 4: Beam me up, Scotty

The rise of the connected consumer, the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine communications is stimulating new digital ecosystems and value chains that present a significant opportunity for telcos.

But the enormous variety, velocity, and volume of data traffic on the horizon means network speed, performance, and the customer experience need to be optimized.

Little wonder, then, that telcos are already entering the arms race in a bid to stay ahead of the competition, deploying software-defined networks (SDNs) and network function virtualization (NFV) to accelerate provisioning times and gain impressive scalability and flexibility capabilities.

By transforming their networks and operations with the newest technologies, mobile operators can reduce capital spending and operating expenses and move faster into new markets, centralizing the functions for controlling networks and administering changes and upgrades remotely rather than in the field.

All of which makes it faster and easier to change networks in response to new customer needs.

Episode 5: Set phasers to stun

In the last decade, telco companies have had to navigate significant marketplace change and architecture evolution. They have reshaped their infrastructures and deployed new network technologies to ready themselves for the task ahead: capturing new opportunities on the horizon and ensuring they’re equipped to adapt at the speed of light to change as it happens.

It’s been a significant telco transformation process, and it’s not over yet.

For more insight on digital transformation in the telecom industry, see Digitization: Creating New Opportunities For The Telecommunications Industry.

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.