Technology Enabling Digital Transformation in the Telecom Industry

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The telecommunications industry has long been an enabler of Digital Transformation (DX) in other industries. Now it is time for the industry to transform in order to survive a challenging market, newer devices and networking capabilities, and evolving customer requirements. While the telecom industry market dynamics can be very local, we will see a widespread technology disruption in the industry as the world becomes globally connected.

 

Drivers of Transformation in the Telecom Industry

Remaining Competitive

Nokia Bell Labs expects global telecom operators to fall from 10 to 5 and local operators to fall from 800 to 100, between 2020 and 2025. Simultaneously, there are new players entering the market, many leveraging newer technologies and unconventional business models to gain a share of the pie. While previous DX initiatives happened mostly at the periphery (acquiring new companies, establishing disruptive business units), operators are now focusing on transforming the core – cost reduction, improving CX, capturing new opportunities, and creating new partner ecosystems – in order to remain competitive. There is a steady disaggregation in the retail space, driving consolidation in traditional network business models.

“The telecom industry is looking at gradual decline from traditional services and there has been a concerted effort in reducing costs and introducing new digital services,” says Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Shamir Amanullah. “Much of the telecom industry is unfortunately still associated with the “dumb pipe” tag as the over-the-top (OTT) players continue to rake in revenues and generate higher margins, using the telecom infrastructure to provide innovative services.”

 

Bringing Newer Products to Market

Industries and governments have shifted focus to areas such as smart energy, Industry 4.0, autonomous driving, smart buildings, and remote healthcare, to name a few. In the coming days, most initial commercial deployments will centre around network speed and latency. Technologies like GPON, 5G, Wifi 6, WiGig, Edge computing, and software-defined networking are bringing new capabilities and altering costs.

Ecosystm’s telecommunications and mobility predictions for 2020, discusses how 5G will transform the industry in multiple ways. For example, it will give enterprises the opportunity to incorporate fixed network capabilities natively to their mobility solutions, meaning less customisation of enterprise networking. Talking about the opportunity 5G gives to telecom service providers, Amanullah says, “With theoretical speeds of 20 times of 4G, low latency of 1 millisecond and a million connections per square kilometre, the era of mobile Internet of Everything (IoE) is expected to transform industries including Manufacturing, Healthcare and Transportation. Telecom operators can accelerate and realise their DX, as focus shifts to solutions for not just consumers but for enterprises and governments.”

 

Changing Customer Profile

Amanullah adds, “Telecom operators can no longer offer “basic” services – they must become customer-obsessed and customer experience (CX) must be at the forefront of their DX goals.” But the real challenge is that their traditional customer base has steadily diverged. On the one hand, their existent retail customers expect better CX – at par with other service providers, such as the banking sector. Building a customer-centric capability is not simple and involves a substantial operational and technological shift.

On the other hand, as they bring newer products to market and change their business models, they are being forced to shift focus away from horizontal technologies and connecting people – to industry solutions and connecting machines. As their business becomes more solution-based, they are being forced to address their offerings at new buying centres, beyond IT infrastructure and Facilities. Their new customer base within organisations wants to talk about a variety of managed services such as VoIP, IoT, Edge computing, AI and automation.

The global Ecosystm AI study reveals the top priorities for telecom service providers, focused on adopting emerging technologies (Figure 1). It is very clear that the top priorities are driving customer loyalty (through better coverage, smart billing and competitive pricing) and process optimisation (including asset maintenance).

 

 

Technology as an Enabler of Telecom Transformation

Several emerging technologies are being used internally by telecom service providers as they look towards DX to remain competitive. They are transforming both asset and customer management in the telecom industry.

 

IoT & AI

Telecom infrastructure includes expensive equipment, towers and data centres, and providers are embedding IoT devices to monitor and maintain the equipment while ensuring minimal downtime. The generators, meters, towers are being fitted with IoT sensors for remote asset management and predictive maintenance, which has cost as well as customer service benefits. AI is also unlocking advanced network traffic optimisation capabilities to extend network coverage intelligently, and dynamically distribute frequencies across users to improve network experience.

Chatbots and virtual assistants are used by operators to improve customer service and assist customers with equipment set-up, troubleshooting and maintenance. These AI investments see tremendous improvement in customer satisfaction. This also has an impact on employee experience (EX) as these automation tools free workforce from repetitive tasks and they be deployed to more advanced tasks.

Telecom providers have access to large volumes of customer data that can help them predict customer usage patterns. This helps them in price optimisation and last-minute deals, giving them a competitive edge. More data is being collected and used as several operators provide location-based services and offerings.

In the end, the IoT data and the AI/Analytics solutions are enabling telecom service providers to improve products and solutions and offer their customers the innovation that they want.  For instance, Vodafone partnered with BMW to incorporate an in-built SIM that enables vehicle tracking and provides theft protection. In case of emergencies, alerts can also be sent to emergency services and contacts. AT&T designed a fraud detection application to look for patterns and detect suspected fraud, spam and robocalls. The system looks for multiple short-duration calls from a single source to numbers on the ‘Do Not Call’ registry. This enables them to block calls and prevent scammers, telemarketers and identity theft issues.

 

Cybersecurity

Talking about the significance of increasing investments in cybersecurity solutions by telecom service providers, Amanullah says, “Telecom operators have large customer databases and provide a range of services which gives criminals a great incentive to steal identity and payment information, damage websites and cause loss of reputation. They have to ramp up their investment in cybersecurity technology, processes and people. A telecom operator’s compromised security can have country-wide, and even global consequences. As networks become more complex with numerous partnerships, there is a need for strategic planning and implementation of security, with clear accountability defined for each party.”

One major threat to the users is the attack on infrastructure or network equipment, such as routers or DDoS attacks through communication lines. Once the equipment has been compromised, hackers can use it to steal data, launch other anonymous attacks, store exfiltrated data or access expensive services such as international phone calls. To avoid security breaches, telecom companies are enhancing cybersecurity in such devices. However, what has become even more important for the telecom providers is to actually let their consumers know the security features they have in place and incorporate it into their go-to-market messaging. Comcast introduced an advanced router to monitor connected devices, inform security threats and block online threats to provide automatic seamless protection to connected devices.

 

Blockchain

Blockchain can bring tremendous benefits to the telecom industry, according to Amanullah. “It will undeniably increase security, transparency and reduce fraud in areas including billing and roaming services, and in simply knowing your customer better. With possibilities of 5G, IoT and Edge computing, more and more devices are on the network – and identity and security are critical. Newer business models are expected, including those provided for by 5G network slicing, which involves articulation in the OSS and BSS.”

Blockchain will be increasingly used for supply chain and SLA management. Tencent and China Unicom launched an eSIM card which implements new identity authentication standards. The blockchain-based authentication system will be used in consumer electronics, vehicles, connected devices and smart city applications.

 

Adoption of emerging technologies for DX may well be the key to survival for many telecom operators, over the next few years.

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The Top 5 Workplace Of The Future Trends For 2020

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As the ‘Experience Economy’ becomes a reality, organisations will look beyond improving customer experience (CX) to enhancing employee experience (EX). It is estimated that people spend a third of their life at their workplaces. This realisation will drive organisations to focus on EX over priorities such as growing revenue or reducing costs. Retaining employees is important in today’s war for talent – and organisations have started appointing Chief Experience Officers. Ultimately, workplace technology should drive employee productivity – and there is a proven link between happy and productive employees.

The Top 5 Workplace Of The Future Trends For 2020

The Top 5 Workplace of the Future trends are drawn from the findings of the global Ecosystm CX Study and are also based on qualitative research by Ecosystm Principal Advisors,  Tim Sheedy and Audrey William.

  1. Employee Experience as a Business Focus Will Drive Faster Adoption of Consumer Collaboration Tools

Organisations in mature economies already have employee experience (EX) and CX as their top business priorities. This comes with an understanding that offering a great customer and employee experience will lead to revenue growth, profit growth and lower costs.

For communication and collaboration solutions, if the experience is not right, employees will move on to the next best app for the right experience. The competition between the vendors across voice, video and collaboration is heightening. It may sound simple but that is where the innovation needs to happen in the industry. If employees do not like what IT has provided for them, they will download the application of their choice for work. This will be a huge challenge especially in industries that are heavily regulated such as Financial Services and Healthcare.

  1. HR KPIs Will Drive IT Teams to Invest in Workplace Analytics

HR teams are ultimately responsible for driving improved EX. And a happy employee is a productive employee – so an employee’s environment (managed by the Operations or Facilities team) and their technology (managed by the IT team) will have the biggest impact on driving employee satisfaction. To drive these outcomes, we will see these three teams work closer than they ever have – and not just on a project basis, but as a permanent arrangement.

Investments in Workplace Analytics will increase, and there will be more collaboration between IT, HR and Facilities Management to drive best practices for employees. Right now, there is very little collaboration between the three departments in driving better workplace practices. Workplace Analytics will help solve problems related to poor office practices around email overload, long work hours, absenteeism, usage of rooms and other facilities, employee discontent, as well as understand the overall trends on communications and collaboration solutions usage.

  1. 5G Services will Push Organisations to Rethink their Network

Today 5G is not available in many countries – and where it is available coverage is generally spotty. But this will change in 2020 as more operators launch or expand their 5G coverage. The unique capabilities of 5G to offer software-defined networks (SDNs) – designed specifically for organisations’ needs – will help businesses rethink the way they operate. They can stop thinking of their network as a physical place and start thinking of it as a set of capabilities and this takes work beyond designated physical addresses. Retailers will be able to offer complete retail environments from wherever they choose. Banks will be able to offer complete in-branch services from anywhere. Employees will be able to get access to all sorts of data and systems regardless of location. 5G is about much more than a faster network – the potential to transform enterprise networks will see a huge rethink of the network and the way IT teams provide technology services to their employees.

  1. Organisations Will Wake Up to the Need for the Right Knowledge Management Solution

IT has been guilty of dictating the knowledge management (KM) requirements and platforms to the business. Many customer teams are using tools that are inherently wrong for the job. Management is using tools that do not support their needs, and information workers are given generic platforms when they have specific needs. 2020 will see a fragmentation of the KM market as businesses start to buy based on customer and employee needs – not based on what the IT team dictates.

  1. 2020 Will See a Rise in CPaaS Adoption

Cloud-based platforms that enable developers to add real-time communications features within the workflow of their own business applications will be the next big area of innovation in the unified communications space. Through the use of APIs, developers can embed communication capabilities into their existing business applications, without extra hardware or software costs. Developers can embed it directly into the cloud platform so the time to market is fast. Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) will see greater adoption as more organisations look to build code and apply agile and DevOps methodologies.

 


Download Report: The top 5 Workplace of the future trends for 2020

The full findings and implications of the report ‘Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Workplace of the future Trends for 2020’ are available for download from the Ecosystm platform. Signup for Free to download the report and gain insight into ‘the top 5 Workplace of the future trends for 2020’, implications for tech buyers, implications for tech vendors, insights, and more resources. Download Link Below 👇


Top 5 workplace of the future trends for 2020


 

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Enabling Digital Transformation: Enterprise Applications (ERP)

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ERP serves as an important component that connects various business operations and verticals in an organisation. As a part of digital strategy, many organisations have started adopting digital tools and technologies where an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution is one of the primary components. ERP was originally applied to manufacturing systems, but today it describes the software at the core of an organisation’s business, without which it could not function.

 

ERP software has evolved significantly since it first came into widespread existence in the 1980s. Major vendors like SAP and Oracle offer sophisticated suites of software that integrate several functions. Other vendors offer ‘best-of-breed’ applications optimised for a particular purpose or market segment. The implementation, maintenance and efficient management of ERP software is a large industry in its own right. ERP services companies are a major part of the global ICT industry.

 

Enterprise applications are core to the business

All enterprises run core application software essential to their business. These include financial software and applications like human resources/human capital management (HR/HCM) and customer relationship management (CRM). They also typically run mission-critical applications like manufacturing, distribution and logistics and others, depending on their vertical market sector. ERP better integrates various business units and data flowing in departments such as backend office operations, accounting, inventory management and finance management throughout an organisation.

Some of the industries benefitting from ERP include banks and insurance companies that run vast client databases, manufacturers running sophisticated production and asset management systems, retailers, government agencies, educational institutions, transport companies – organisations in every market sector – run specialised applications that enable them to efficiently run and manage their operations.

 

Cloud transforming ERP

Like all applications, ERP systems are increasingly becoming cloud-based, or use cloud infrastructure for much of their functionality. Today, almost all the major vendors are migrating their product offerings to the cloud, using the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model.

As ERP migrates to the cloud it is changing the business models of both vendors and user organisations. It is also affecting the ERP services market. The global Ecosystm study on Cloud ERP Solutions – Best Practices and Vendor Selection finds that organisations which are planning to use Cloud ERP solutions prioritise industry expertise and local presence of data centres as a significant selection criterion for vendors.

Planning-to-use-Cloud-ERP

Cloud computing encourages a pay-per-use subscription model for ERP and other applications which are changing the structure of the industry. Users are moving their budgets from the CapEx (capital expenditure) to the OpEx (operational expenditure) model, where outgoings are better able to be varied according to use.

 

A giant, mission-critical matrix

ERP is referred to as ‘mission-critical’ applications for a very good reason. An organisation’s core business functions are non-negotiable and without them, the organisation will cease to function. In addition, they need to be robust and flexible and capable of meeting the demands of changing technologies, economics and business conditions.

In this increasingly connected world, ERP extends beyond the enterprise. Modern ERP systems are interconnected in a giant business matrix that enables a world of global commerce. ERP systems support multiple interfaces and act as a modular system to any organisations demands. Their importance to the global business should not be underestimated.

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The Digital Revolution: Impact on Enterprises

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While talking about the paradigm shift that we are seeing in the industry today, I like to use the analogy of space exploration. The aim is to make space an extension of the earth through its use in communication, tourism and for mineral exploration. This is an entirely new paradigm on how all the investments in space technology and transportation are being made – by private industries as well as by governments of major economies.

Similarly, technology is no longer a business enabler – it is now a catalyst to create and capture new value streams and to create sustainable differentiation. The relationship between customers and enterprises is now a two-way street. Customers are not just using products and services but feeding information and critical insights back to the enterprises on a real-time basis. Now, even B2B enterprise businesses must be seen more as a B2B2C.

This new paradigm has brought technology to the core of every business and is forcing enterprises to transform the way they run their businesses.

 

The Multiplier Effect

Enterprises have to look at technology with a fresh new lens now. So far, they have had to cope with any emerging technology in isolation. Now they are being hit by a number of technologies – agile network, cloud, data analytics, intelligent technologies –  each of which has its impact. But what makes it transformational is the interplay of these technologies. Big Data analytics, AI and IoT has taken in isolation can definitely impact an organisation. But when the three work together, they have an exponential impact on an organisation and on it’s Digital Transformation (DX) journey. This has two clear impacts on businesses.

 

Impact on Enterprises

 

Expanding Role of Business Functions. As organisations embark on their DX journeys, they are likely to increase technology spend. Even though some budget would go into upgradation of IT infrastructure, a larger portion of the budget is likely to go towards digitisation, business applications, cybersecurity, and intelligent technologies. These projects would require the involvement of multiple stakeholders. And consequently, a higher proportion of technology spend will be controlled by the business functions – and this proportion will only get. Let us take AI as an instance. The global Ecosystm AI Study shows that only about a fifth of AI projects now are being funded by IT. Multiple other stakeholders are involved in emerging technology projects – the key department being where the solutions are being deployed.

Building a Transformation Roadmap. Ad-hoc implementation of technology will no longer be a viable option. What enterprises will need is an interdisciplinary model of work to attain the most value out of their transformation through technology. This should lead to a clear roadmap – that melds technological capabilities with business requirements. And mind you, each organisation’s roadmap will be distinct and unique.

Wider organisational functions will have to be engaged and aligned. Managing budgets and new business models simultaneously comes with a set of its own complexities. In my opinion, a Balanced Scorecard and Lean Approach is the way ahead for organisations as they approach Transformation.

 

Irrespective of the size of your organisation, you have to focus on the three main building blocks necessary to implement transformation:

  • Defining measurable business objectives that are aligned with the organisational goals and aspirations
  • Assigning transformation owners for each of the key functions identified for Transformation
  • Using structured program management using Lean principle and the Balanced Score Card approach

Understandably, an interdisciplinary model of work and a structured program may not be easy to implement. I discuss the complexities of introducing the new wave of technology in my report.

If your organisation is embarking on a DX journey or if you wish to discuss your ongoing DX roadmap, leave a comment below or connect with me on the Ecosystm platform.

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What technologies are enabling digital transformation?

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In this rapidly evolving world, the adoption of Digital technology is transforming business and organisations through various means. People and organisations are embracing digital technology to build new products and services based on innovative business models and changing nearly every aspect of their business. This shift in technology adoption to support the business is known as Digital Transformation (DX).

 

Technologies Driving DX

There are several technologies driving the DX revolution. The foremost amongst them is the Internet, which has enhanced communication, connectivity and information sharing capabilities. The ubiquitous adoption of internet by organisations has also created technologies such as Cloud and Internet of Things (IOT), unlocking more ways to deliver and distribute software and services. It has been only a few decades since the Internet expanded from a limited low-bandwidth network with a few computers to the global matrix of high-speed connections that we have today. These technologies are fundamentally changing how businesses operate and deliver value to customers.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is another technology driving DX. AI is creating opportunities in areas such as intelligent systems, speech recognition, machine learning, and robotic process automation (RPA). AI tools and applications require a lot of data to train the algorithms which is leading to the creation of more data collection points by the organisations. The creation and consumption of piles of data, often called ‘Big Data’, is leading businesses to generate better insights, better decisions and support organisational strategy derived by combining this data with AI.

Another area making its way into digital transformation is the adoption of mobile technology, allowing us to be geographically independent. The most common application of mobility is smart phones which has transformed us in many ways. Mobility has brought new applications and services for businesses, driving a whole range of initiatives – often referred to as Workplace Innovation – to improve employee productivity and engagement. Organisations have had to adopt several Mobility solutions, such as Mobile Device Management (MDM), Mobile App Management (MAM) and Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) – and the trend is to have these solutions consolidated under one Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution. The overriding need is offering flexibility and connectivity to the business world for remote workers.

 

At the enterprise level, corporate data and corporate applications have also become untethered from the physical world. Large scale corporate wide applications (Enterprise Applications/Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)), services and even infrastructure services are now delivered on the Internet. And the digital world is meeting the physical world – drones are being used for remote applications and autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality. Even governments of several nations are delivering their services digitally and providing access of the government data to businesses to help them develop new information-based services.

 

These changes are revolutionising businesses and the way we work. Innovative technologies mean fresh opportunities, better business capabilities, lower costs, reduced time and improved customer experience, creating a win-win situation. But sustaining business integrity, data safety and protection of cyber assets is of prime importance and that is where Cybersecurity comes in play.

The global Ecosystm Cybersecurity study finds that DX is the key driver for investments in Cybersecurity solutions.

Digital Transformation Drivers

Cybersecurity encompasses a range of technologies designed to protect endpoints and networks from unwelcome intrusions and to ensure continued reliability. Cyber-attacks have become a major issue and not taking care of security can have large and long-lasting repercussions. A Cybersecurity strategy is becoming a necessity for digital business to protect the infrastructure and data assets.

 

In these early years of the 21st century we have witnessed a lot of innovations that have transformed how we work and do business. While DX allows process automation, improves accuracy and enhanced applications, there are those that are still sceptical and are concerned about the potential negative disruption to the traditional ways of doing things. The benefits that we are deriving from DX – and those that we will continue to derive – will outweigh the scepticism and positively impact businesses and society, on multiple levels. DX is sweeping the world and the future is here, now.

 

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Ecosystm Snapshot: New Zealand’s digital transformation roadmap

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To drive its digital transformation initiatives, the Government of New Zealand recently published a roadmap ‘Growing innovative industries in New Zealand: From the knowledge wave to the digital age’, which outlines the strategic objectives of the Government to uplift and drive innovation for the country’s industries. The policy is focused on achieving a sustainable and productive economy for the country. The central elements for the plan were developed in consultation with all the key industry players and include the ideas necessary for transitioning the economy.

The Government will primarily focus on four significant sectors for its Industry Transformation Plans: food and beverage, agritech, forestry and wood processing, and digital technologies. For this, the government will work with businesses, workforce, and Māori to determine the best path towards to achieve their goals.

 

Agritech Industry Transformation Plan

New Zealand’s agritech sector spans across a range of technologies including genetics, information and communications technology, machinery and equipment, including robotics. The government is working with industry body ‘Agritech NZ’ and other relevant entities to draft a strategy and action plan for agritech transformation in New Zealand. The objective is to support production, drive innovation and increase exports for New Zealand’s industry.

Commenting on the NZ’s digital transformation Ecosystm Principal Advisor, New Zealand-based Jannat Maqbool, said “the agriculture sector needs to focus on innovation in order to compete and thrive as global trends and consumer demand presents challenges in feeding the growing global population. Investment in programmes driving investment in technologies and related initiatives to boost innovation and productivity in the sector will support the growing Agritech sector including work to scale Agritech businesses internationally.”

 

Digital technology opportunities

To support the ongoing development of New Zealand’s technology and industrial sector, the NZ government is taking several actions. The government has plans for more coordinated action between industry and the Government. Including:

  • Continuing work with the IoT Alliance and the AI Forum to drive applications of digital technologies;
  • Implementing Industry 4.0 programmes to increase uptake technologies and processes across manufacturing sectors, improving productivity and competitiveness;
  • Coordinating, developing and rolling out a National Digital Infrastructure Model to generate value from data for all aspects of the economy–e.g. infrastructure management and development;
  • Supporting New Zealand digital technology firms by providing a level playing field for New Zealand firms to compete for government business;
  • Working through the Digital Skills Forum to ensure the digital technology sector, and the industries that rely on digital technology workers, can access the tech talent needed to support the growth of these sectors and the economy.

With Government setting itself for the fourth industrial revolution, there will be certain challenges and opportunities in the implementation, “the opportunity is for increased productivity and to focus more on value add to compete internationally whereas a key challenge will be finding the skilled employees that will be required as industry 4.0 is adopted” said Maqbool.

 

Journey of NZ industries for digital transformation

SMEs make up over 97 percent of enterprises in New Zealand and digital transformation presents an opportunity for accelerated growth and competitiveness, potentially contributing US$7 billion to New Zealand’s GDP. “Digital transformation requires awareness, adoption and effective change management but before all of this there needs to be a shift in mindset of those in charge or a changing of the guard so to speak to understand and appreciate that the move is necessary, not only for the business itself but for bridging the digital skills gap and supporting a region’s productivity and economic growth ” said Maqbool.

 

The Government has also created plans for tourism, creative industries, aerospace, renewable energy and health technologies for the digital push. These advances will facilitate the development of new industries in New Zealand.

“It essential that efforts through government initiatives align with other approaches already driving the move to digital in order to ensure available resources are effectively utilised and for ongoing sustainability,” says Maqbool.

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