Last week, TM Forum and Open ROADS Community staged a half-day workshop explaining how their ‘Digital Mastermind’ framework can guide telcos on their digital transformation journey. The message: you need to start now, and that means knowing where to start.
It’s almost become a cliché at telecoms industry events: everyone talks about digital transformation, but no one does anything about it. Or at least they’re not doing it quickly enough. There are various reasons for this, but a key reason is that telcos often have no idea where to start – and consequently start in the wrong place.
The new alliance between the TM Forum and Open ROADS Community – revealed last week at Digital Transformation Asia 2018 – aims to change that by providing telcos with a comprehensive framework and an arsenal of tools from both camps to plot their transformation strategy. The two organizations staged an executive workshop at DTA 2018 last week to explain how that works. And it starts with a deceptively simple concept: know yourself.
Put simply, telcos can’t formulate a transformation strategy until they know where they stand on the path to digitalization. Just because you’ve been upgrading your networks and backends to the latest technologies doesn’t mean you’ve started down the transformation path, said Open ROADS Community managing director Trevor Cheung.
“Modernization is not transformation,” he said. “Digital is not the same as digitalized.”
The TM Forum/Open ROADS partnership offers a way to identify starting points, what to do next, and how to adopt right mindset that will enable telcos to become the customer-centric ‘digital business’ they need to become.
Take our test
The natural starting point is to assess the organization’s progress in digital maturity. The Open Digital Maturity Model (ODDM) benchmark test from Open ROADS rates your digital progress in six strategic areas: strategic dynamism, customer-centricity, digital culture/talent/skills, delivery, big data/AI and technology leadership. The model can assess which areas (or subcategories within those six areas) are strong and which need improving, and what pathway the company can take to beef up those weak spots.
However, it’s important to remember that these pathways to improvement are part of a much broader picture. The Digital Mastermind framework that Open ROADS offers is designed to transform companies into proper digital businesses that incorporate ‘digital thinking’ (identify a scenario, start small, think big, align business & IT and scale fast) at every level – ICT architecture, operations, business design (who controls key decisions such as brand, price, data ownership, etc) and customer knowledge.
In fact, customer-centricity is a core tenet of being a digital business that goes far beyond standard KYC metrics – it means having an empathic relationship with customers and understanding their emotional, structural, social and financial bonds with your company’s product or service.
An interesting example of this is ‘persona analytics’, as demonstrated during the workshop by Ogilvy Consulting managing director Angela Chou and Huawei digital transformation consultant Tanya Cheng. By fleshing out the profile of a customer to a persona (as opposed to a collection of demographic data and online shopping histories), the company in their case study was able to engage the customer enough to raise the their video consumption time from 15-16 minutes of video a day to 60 minutes a day.
That said, empathy is necessary not only to understand customer needs better, but also to bring together different teams within an organization, says Trevor Cheung of Open ROADS.
“[Here’s] a true example from my project team – everyone went to get [digital transformation] certification, but they were not really listening to each other,” Cheung said in an interview on the sidelines of the workshop. “Using the right tools, understanding how everyone can work together, I think that’s the key success factor.”
Other components of the digital business include AI and analytics – which will start to see real take-off in the next couple of years, said Damien Dujacquier, senior partner at Roland Berger – an open digital architecture (as designed by TM Forum), and digital operations powered by agile and ‘platform’ thinking.
“To be agile, you need to start by simplifying your business model from the customer point of view,” explained Ran Xiao, head of innovation and consulting at ThoughtWorks. “All of this requires a platform to support it, but that also includes ‘platform thinking’ – in other words, your organization mindset should also have a platform ecosystem point of view.”
Dynamic network planning
For telcos, even network planning processes needs to be digitally transformed from static to dynamic planning. Lim Chee Siong, head of strategy marketing in South Pacific Region at Huawei, explained how the Strategy, Infrastructure and Product (SIP) portion of the TM Forum’s Business Process Framework (a.k.a. eTOM) – where operators do their strategy planning for network rollouts – should be fully digitalized and driven by data analytics to reduce planning cycles from 12-15 months to at least six months.
This involves three basic steps, starting with the application of AI to traffic forecasts so operators have a more accurate idea of data demand for existing and planned base stations in the coming 12-18 months. Lim said this isn’t theoretical – Huawei has been actually doing this for some customers in Asia-Pacific and has managed to boost prediction accuracy from 50% six months ahead to at least 80%.
The next step is to digitalize planning and design.
“For any tenders, the operator does the high-level design, and the vendor does the low level design. The problem is we have to wait for the high-level design before we can do the low-level design, so this takes at least six months,” Lim said. “Rather than do high and low level design sequentially, this should be done in parallel with tools to build a virtual twin network.”
Lim said that operators must also digitalize order and delivery so that the vendor, operator, contractors, subcontractors or anyone else in the ecosystem can track the process and see that everything is delivered and installed on time. “So digitalization of this process is not just for the benefit of one party but the entire ecosystem.”
Put another way, digitalizing this whole process not only makes network planning more accurate, but also transforms the working relationship between vendors and operators from a straight supplier/customer relationship to more of a partnership model, Lim said.
Later is now
It’s a lot to take in, especially for companies just getting started on their digital transformation journeys, but then transformation was never supposed to be easy. This has been particularly true of telecoms, admitted Andy Tiller, EVP of collaboration and innovation at TM Forum, primarily because telecoms is a complex industry with equally complex products, offers, business processes, backend systems and networks – and that’s not counting the operators whose operations have been complicated further by M&As over the years.
“Yes, it’s true that at least some of that complexity is self-inflicted, but regardless, the point is that complexity is not sustainable with 5G coming,” Tiller said. “Connectivity alone unlocks just a fraction of the potential value of 5G services, and telcos can’t unlock that value unless they transform into digital partners.”
Trevor Cheung of Open ROADS said that no matter what your starting point is, what matters is that you get started. “Now is the time to go digital. Telcos will not dominate 5G if we don’t start now.”
BONUS TRACK: Trevor Cheung talks to Disruptive.Asia managing editor Tony Poulos about Open ROADS and the Digital Mastermind framework in this interview (courtesy of TM Forum).