By Małgorzata Siwiec, Marketing Director, Telecommunications Business Unit, Comarch SA.
While this may be the ‘age of the smartphone’, many of the telecoms innovators that enable mobile computing still use manual processes to run their own businesses. Yet the industry also has some of the most advanced businesses in digital transformation, ahead of financial service providers and public sector organisations.
Comarch recently released research (conducted by Heavy Reading) examining the state of digital transformation in the telecoms industry. It’ll come as no surprise to telcos that the biggest road block to digitalisation isn’t that they lack the drive to change, it’s the process of changing.
The telecoms industry is a mixture of old and new. For those operators who’ve been in business for decades they have legacy systems and processes. Operators exist in a strict regulatory environment, as opposed to the OTT providers they now need to compete with. They’re trying to survive in an industry that’s seen rapid innovation over the last 20 years. But how can they rise to these challenges?
Competition and regulation
Telco operators are in a tricky position. While they face competition from apps like Skype and WhatsApp, and are often unavoidably compared to tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, they’ve traditionally been equated to utility providers.
They have similar legacy systems, and face the same sort of regulatory scrutiny. Yet now, they are being challenged by businesses and services created in, and for, the digital age.
However, operators are looking for ways to adapt. Comarch’s research found that 42% of respondents weren’t trying to tackle OTT providers (like WhatsApp) head-on - they were partnering with them.
The telecoms industry knows that it needs to adapt to meet the changing challenges of the digital world, and the research shows that many are prepared to make significant changes to the way they operate to thrive in this new age.
Telco’s top digitalisation priorities
1. Process automation
Respondents reported that process automation was the most critical element of digital transformation for their organisations, with many asking how they take their processes from depending on legacy systems and human operators, to (as Deloitte describes) robotic process automation and eventually cognitive robotic process automation.
By switching to more automated processes, telco’s can free-up their experienced employees to provide more intensive, and tailored, customer support. As an operator’s relationship with its customers is one of its strongest advantages over OTT rivals (and partners) this is a benefit that the telco industry can’t afford to miss.
2. Network virtualisation
Comarch’s research also found that network virtualisation was a top priority for telcos – paving the way for a massive push into cloud computing. More than 70% of survey respondents expected that over half of their services would be cloud-based by 2022.
3. Big data analytics
Big data analytics was the third biggest priority of survey respondents. Telco operators have access to rich sources of data, but not all have plans to monetise it.
While 28% of respondents to the digital transformation survey planned to use big data to create more targeted direct marketing and advertising, 26% simply wanted to use the data to gain a better understanding of their customer’s needs and wants. In total, 20% planned to use big data analytics to create location-based services.
As customers place increasing demands on telecom networks, operators will feel increasing pressure to create systems and processes that can support this extra demand. The demand created not just by our growing need to share more data, but from the millions of connected devices that will be using the same networks to send and receive data.
Operators will need networks that are agile, adaptive and can meet the demands placed upon them to thrive in the new digital landscape.