Shiv Putcha, Principal Analyst at emerging tech specialists Mandala Insights, takes a look at the importance of digital transformation and how the telecoms industry is faring on their journey to embrace the emerging wider digital landscape and become “smart” organisations.
The telecommunications industry today, depending on whom you speak to, is either under siege from digital players or in a process of transition towards becoming digital players in their own right. As a fan of analogies, I am tempted to compare the state of the telecommunications industry to the once magnificent Roman Empire, which straddled the known world and was a unifying, if violent force, with significant contributions of infrastructure and institutions.
All of these contributions stood the test of time, until they began to weaken under the weight of internal contradictions and the disruptive force of external attacks. Admittedly, this none too subtle and imperfect analogy would suggest that the industry is facing the dire prospect of capitulating to the barbarians at the gate. However, there is still time to salvage relevance, if not supremacy.
The key to relevance in the emerging ecosystems for communications services is to embrace digital as a strategic business imperative. Telcos with their obsession with network availability have been steadily ceding ground to Internet, webscale and over the top (OTT) players like Facebook, Google and others who have benefited not only from the huge increases in their addressable market due to the provision of Internet access services but also from an ability to “harvest” customer data in a relatively laissez-faire regulatory environment compared to telecoms. The digital journey for telcos is daunting and immense but several communications service providers (CSPs) have already made significant strides towards digital transformation of their operations.
Smart is one of the most overused buzzwords in the telecommunications industry, with smartphones and smart devices galore. But the overuse of this buzzword obscures one fundamental point. Data might be the single most important ingredient of any digital transformation initiative, but the mere act of collecting, managing, and analyzing data is not sufficient for the CSP to become “smart”.“
Shiv Putcha, Principal Analyst
Digital as an imperative is driving fundamental changes in Telco
The Telco Digital Journey needs to be human-centric
The human-centric aspect of the CSP digital journey can also frequently be internal to the CSP. Too often, digital transformation initiatives do not bring internal naysayers on board. Organizational inertia and cross-purpose are roadkill for digital initiatives if not tackled early. CSPs would do well to start small and build from there. Boiling the entire ocean is not only impractical, but any early failures will inevitably be pounced upon, potentially sabotaging the larger strategic objectives.
The Telco Digital Journey is multi-phase
MTN is also focused on updating processes and standardizing across OpCos, which is no easy task and takes time to effect. Data assets have been audited and increasingly standardized by adopting a TM Forum compliant data model. Lastly, MTN has been investing in putting in technology assets that can handle the ever-increasing data volumes and velocity. MTN has deployed a centralized data platform called Akima (wisdom in Swahili) that integrates with all data platforms within the OpCos.
Another level of complexity that large MNC groups like MTN must negotiate is the high degree of variance between OpCo markets for privacy and other regulations. This variance has significant impact on their data infrastructure decisions but ultimately, they have settled on a hybrid data cloud scenario with their technology partner, Cloudera, that balances in country requirements.
This post originally appeared on the author’s website Mandala Insights and is reused here with kind permission