Trying to guess trends in the telecoms industry for the coming year may be trendy, but looking back at 2014 and what we got right and wrong may actually be of greater value.
Last January I highlighted the need for Communications Service Providers to better manage the rollout of new products and services and that any lack of preparedness could cost them dearly (check PLM provides profits). The introduction of any new product, whether developed in-house or acquired from third parties requires careful planning and execution if it is to succeed. Equally important is what to do when a product reaches the end of its serviceable life.
Maintaining defunct products can be more costly than simply cutting them from the company’s catalogue.
“CSPs have had to quickly come to grips with the science and process of product lifecycle management (PLM) and the associated functions of business process realignment and the type product data management it entails.”
Wise words at the time and we did see a number of headlines in 2014 critical of CSP products that missed the mark, had to be withdrawn or were simply billed incorrectly – all generating customer dissatisfaction, some regulator attention and ultimately, loss of revenues. Better PLM and perhaps a little less haste to get to market may be equally good advice for 2015.
Big data dominated market attention for the first half of 2014 but it seems to have been adopted and utilized in most enterprises already, mainly with the help of cloud service providers only to happy to show the way. Marketing departments were the strongest drivers of big data early on as they tried to ascertain the success of campaigns and master the art of profiling customers. (check Marketing means Big Data)
2014 saw much more extensive use of big data to help in network planning, truck rollouts, determining poor coverage areas, optimizing distribution and even determining profitability at plan and customer level.
CSPs themselves also took up the challenges of providing cloud services to their customers but the clever ones worked closely with partners already in the space to be able to roll out services quickly and effectively. As they mature, they may decide to go it alone but disrupting existing partner relationships may not be the best option in such a competitive space.
I also touched on the subject of ‘Social CRM’ or combining existing CRM resources with social media. More and more customers are venting their feelings to the whole world rather than approaching their service provider when they need help. I noted this would be putting more stress on the CSR and a much higher dependency on access to accurate and timely information for the customer. There is no doubt big data will play an ever-increasing role here, and even quicker resolution will be demanded in 2015.
As standards for software defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) start rolling out in 2015 we should see CSPs leading the way in yet another transformation program of sorts. The new world will do away with a lot of the existing systems, especially those large, proprietary platforms that are becoming increasingly difficult to scale, manage, and operate. These legacy systems will give way to standard high-volume ‘off the shelf’ hardware but it will need some very careful planning and execution to maintain operation levels during and after their implementation
It will obviously not be possible to make everything NFV compliant overnight. Coordinating the multiple vendors, systems integrators and internal staff will create new challenges for most network operators. Hopefully they have learnt form experience and years of constant network and IT upgrades.
Nevertheless, NFV and SDN will be the most extensive and encompassing projects to date and keeping key staff will be paramount and most challenging in 2015.
But the most interest in 2014 came from the discussion on ‘monetization or optimization’ and the thoughts echoed back in August still hold true for 2015. Monetization, particularly in the digital services space, is easier to talk about than to achieve. Many avoid the risk of early adoption but they take the greater risk of missing out altogether.
As noted back then, the network operator’s strength and greatest asset is optimizing the connectivity between users and services, whether or not they own the users or the services. Is it best to ‘stick to one’s knitting’?