Cellcos remain their own worst enemy

Phil Marshall/Tolaga Research

Mobile service providers are confronted with a culture shock that is widely reported in the industry. Traditional markets are reaching saturation and are being disrupted by over-the-top (OTT) players, networks are struggling to meet traffic demands, and the long-term viability of the industry is uncertain. To overcome these challenges, industry pundits commonly point to a variety of strategies, including the need to eliminate silos, accelerate innovation, become customer centric, virtualize and embrace open source. Often these strategies are aspirational and underestimate the skill augmentation, cultural changes, operational changes and transitional strategies that are needed for mobile service providers to succeed.

Cultural change is by far the greatest challenge for mobile service providers. It must be driven by senior management and throughout all organizational levels. To catalyze new cultures, change management strategies must be accompanied with carefully crafted incentives, clearly defined business objectives and milestones.

For example, key performance indicators that dictate employee bonuses must align and evolve with business objectives. As an example, operational KPIs need to shift from a focus on infrastructure platform optimization to customer experience management.

Business objectives must be clearly defined, measurable and achievable. For example, if a service provider announces a commitment to customer experience management (CEM), it must have a clear strategy and measurable commercial outcomes to demonstrate progress.

Pilot projects commonly provide an effective means to incubate change. Ideally these projects need to be driven from within the lines of business, rather than dictated from management.

Skill augmentation is only effective if the need is recognized within the lines of business. Here are several common areas where skills can be improved:

  • Vertical market expertise is needed to better support customers, which can also stimulate cultural change
  • Data science is growing in importance as service providers rely on data to differentiate their market offers. This not only depends on experts in data manipulation and analysis, but also requires sufficient expertise in the data analytics platforms used, such as Hadoop, Spark, Storm, Kafka etc.
  • Converged IT and network technology expertise is paramount with the introduction of technologies like Network Function Virtualization (NFV), software defined networks (SDN) and cloud RAN. Expertise is also needed in other network-based solutions that leverage commodity IT hardware, open source software and virtualized IT architectures
  • Security demands for mobile operators are increasing. Although as an enterprise mobile service providers have advanced security capabilities, these capabilities need to be disseminated into operational organizations, and must anticipate the impact of significant technology changes. Examples include infrastructure virtualization, the proliferation of smartphones and the introduction of small-cells. 

In the recent past, innovative service providers have been pursuing a slew of service initiatives, including, M2M, mobile payments, and home automation. They have also been pursing technology initiatives such as Big Data and CEM, cloud, SDN and NFV. We believe that these service providers have yet to make critical cultural changes and augment their skills for these initiatives to succeed.

Phil Marshall is chief research officer at Tolaga Research

Seven incentives to change your game:

1. Fiddling over net neutrality while business models burn

2. Goodbye telcos, hello IDSPs

3. Cellcos remain their own worst enemy

4. Mobile Money Part 1: Apple Pay will break payments gridlock

5. Mobile Money Part 2: Wireless/digital finance earns additional interest

6. Plenty of room in 2015 unified comms market

7. Getting to grips with the IoT value chain

More coverage of 2015 predictions

This article first appeared on Telecom Asia Vision 2015 Supplement December 2014 edition

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