Following the prime directive?

Hugh Roberts
25 Apr 2011

Ever since telecom operators ceased to exist as the provider of utility service as a government monopoly, there has been a dominating directive - under a wide variety of acronyms and abbreviations - for business transformation. In our current state of rapidly evolving technology, it might seem as if this was years ago, but even in the most liberalized of markets, this process has been underway for little more than a generation in the workplace.

It really isn't all that surprising, therefore, that our efforts to actually transform business operations into something competitive, fit-for-purpose and future-proof have remained largely immature.

From the point of view of a strategist, the biggest issue for industry evolution is the one-size-fits-all approach to business transformation at all levels of the telco's business and operations. Quite apart from the impact of disruptive technology, while systems or infrastructure may require a "big bang" implementation strategy to minimize risk and optimize concomitant service or data migration, the same is not necessarily true for all business, marketing and customer interaction processes. Critical failures often occur through the mistaken assumption that the timeframes for a cultural change in the business mindset will neatly match those of the underlying re-systematization project needed to deliver on a newly developed business model.

Nowhere is this catch-all approach more obvious than in the application of the concept of 'customer-centricity' to anything and everything to do with business transformation. Even a moment's thought will clarify the fact that while the business mindset will undoubtedly benefit from a shift in the direction of customer awareness, and that this will have a knock-on effect in determining the strategy and roadmap for systems design and deployment, it is quite clearly a ludicrous idea to develop a 'customer-centric billing system' We make our money by billing for products and services, which we bill to customers.

Multiple views

What we really need to do is to maintain multiple views: 'network view' to identify and manage costs; a 'marketing view' to price and bundle services into profitable packages; and a 'customer view' to determine the customers' perspectives of value (which are typically quite different to either the 'highlights' of the marketed service package or the costs of the network resources consumed).

It is this last view with which we are struggling, and with which the OTT players, such as Apple which have typically evolved within the context of a more mature competitive business environment, have their greatest advantage over the telcos. The primary function of their CIM (customer interaction management) systems is to identify "what triggered the value-generation episode" - the one piece of information most valuable to the converging communications and media value chain and currently underpinning revenue growth from all two-sided business models that create compelling customer experiences, most noticeably for those involving entertainment.

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