Digital transformation (DX) is a very hot topic nowadays. 62,500,000 results in 0.43 seconds are what you get from Google for this specific search. Many companies are facing challenges on how to start their potential DX implementation steps. Telecom operators/CSPs in the region are among them.
In our data-driven world, the objective of digital transformation is to provide an immersive customer experience via an improvement on the way how individual subscribers and corporates engage with a telecom provider. In return, telecom providers expect opening new profitable sources of revenues, ensuring a better network usage, and creating competition differentiation points.
Indeed, as much as your mobile device supports your digital lifestyle (you most probably access your bank account and other services such as Facebook, Messenger or LinkedIn on your mobile), digitalising the services that telecom operators provide to their customers is not a straightforward move.
Here below are some common and repetitive key points I came through during my discussions with several telecom operators in the MEA region. In fact, it looks fundamental to run a profound assessment of the following insights.
- Most of the decision-makers consider that the “W”s (Why, What, Where, When) and the How, should be investigated in a parallel way to avoid moving into siloed approbations. This is strongly recommended to align the interactions between the “W”s that impact directly the implementation cohesion steps to move forward and the investment overlaps.
- Digital transformation (fractional or complete) is subject to a deep evaluation of the end-of-state objectives that business-driven organisations are targeting to reach (such as customer experience enhancement, retention, revenue growth versus investment, profitability, NPS/CES …etc.).
- ROI assessment is a very sensitive point for the main reason that telecom operators have to deal with their legacy. It can push them to simply add a “digital” front desk User interface at the top layer of their existing systems to avoid an exposure to a high risk. Changing their full legacy systems looks to be a challenging direction to opt for considering the heavy investment already in place that is not absorbed yet. To keep running their existing business on their conventional systems, we have seen some middle-east operators preferring to launch a new separate digital brand (such as MVNOs…) that uses their same network infrastructure.
- The end-user interface (on smart devices to facilitate the servicing of online transactions between subscribers and service providers- such as transaction ordering, selecting a plan, payment ...etc.- is for a deep digital transformation what Uber User interface is for Internet Protocol (IP). The User interface aspect is at the upper business layer and the second aspect is at the lowest technological protocol layer. A profound digital transformation may start from the lowest layer up to the most top business layer to take advantage of innovative protocols, disruptive technologies, new processing software, and an end-to-end rethinking of almost all the technical and business processes. Digital transformation/services require a seamless integration, automation, and communication at multiple layers.
- The digital customer experience is obviously an exciting journey from both business and technical perspectives. However, and even if the “Why” high-level objective is the same, the “How” framework cannot be a simple replication for any country/region. Even if disruptive technologies are pushing operators to reinvent themselves to align with the market requirements, the “digitally-savvy” maturity of a targeted end-users population or market segment is one of the major measurement points to assess a digital transformation suitability and feasibility. Cultural aspects, local regulations…etc., can be additional components of this assessment which will help to balance the real market requirements and the appropriate technology changes.The projected and tangible potential business benefits are undeniably a priority.
For business-driven organisations, expected revenue-generation/benefits supported by a bold vision of the digital services/roadmap, help a lot in re-adapting mentalities of the decision-makers in place, stabilising the focus, and optimising the magnitude of the innovation. These reduce the inducted entropy around the subject and inject more clarity on appropriate business models/approaches (full re-invention of business processes, bi-polar approach, Iterative adjunct or digital additional layers).
Each telecom operator has its ecosystem specificities based on its local business environment and each approach has its contextual advantages and inconveniences.
I personally believe that pro-active business assessments of these overall aspects are the key to a successful path forward. However, and considering the fast-paced evolution of technologies and systems that can catalyse a larger vision of new business directions or adoption of emergent/innovative technologies (such as IoT platforms, AI, Machine Learning…), the time-frame to absorb the ROI is currently becoming a key factor for the appropriate path to move forward.