TM Forum chairman Keith Willetts says everyone gets it that transformation is necessary to boost agility and cut operating costs. The hard part is how to approach it
CEO Supplement: How has operators' perspective on transformation changed?
Willetts: The main thrust of transformation going back two or three years would have been, how do I take my legacy base of systems and processes and incrementally make it a bit better? I've been railing against that for some time, but it was received wisdom [that] that's how you should do it: eroic, big IT projects fail - therefore, the safe route is to do a little bit here, a little bit there.'
The problem with this approach is you need to unplug your billing system and go to Oracle or somebody and say, customize your commercial off-the-shelf system to fit my old infrastructure, because it has to talk to all these legacy systems. So you end up incrementally modernizing the technology but preserving all the old business processes. By default it must have the old business processes because you can't change it.
What's their new take on transformation?
The new school of thinking, the one I've been championing and one I see more and more companies willing to take on, is to build new processes that can run new services and handle existing services running on legacy systems.
It's not very radical. When Mercedes shifted production of cars to the US, they set up the first non-German car plant. They built a brand-new factory, with new robotics and a new production line. They didn't say, lets bring over the old unions from Germany and the old manual ways of doing things. They said, lets go to the most extreme form of modern production techniques we can go to.
I see that style of thinking start to come in. For example, why would you build something to deliver cloud services that looks like a phone company? You want to re-think those processes and re-think those systems.
The elements of this are to decide what in your current portfolio is just going to fade away, therefore, leave it on the old platform. You know it might now be very efficient, but it's only got four or five years or whatever. What in my old portfolio is going to sustain into the future, and what is my new portfolio of new services? So design your platform around new services and make sure it can accommodate those existing services that still have a life.