Digital transformation is a hot topic for most businesses today, but what does it really mean for network operators? It’s a worthwhile question, especially as some analysts try to make the term sound old-fashioned.
Is digital transformation a matter of offering digital services, cultivating digital sales channels, automating customer care processes and virtualizing their networks? Yes, but there is more to it than that. We think it means reworking a company from within in order to create more valuable services and make internal processes more efficient.
That’s the distinction. It’s not about how much or how little virtualization is involved and it’s not necessarily about how many copper landlines are still connected. Digital transformation starts with looking closely at organizational and operational processes. It doesn’t take long to see that traditional telecom business structures are not fit for the digital world. In the past, service providers had separate departments for network operations, IT and customer care. But evolving technologies are blurring the lines between business functions, which means structural divisions must be removed.
Service providers can break down these barriers by organizing teams of people that cut across marketing, sales, customer care, networks and IT. Focused teams with skillsets from across the organization can react quickly to the market by offering newer and more relevant services and understanding the customer better. This will give service providers greater visibility into customer interactions at every point—from when customers subscribe to a new service to when they pay their bills each month.
Management must be able to use data from across the entire organization to understand what their customers want and the quality of their experiences. With insights from across the company, service providers can offer more personalized services and support.
But this holistic view is not possible when business processes are siloed; structures and processes must also change if companies want to create new services. Rather than having separate development and operations processes, for example, service providers should adopt a DevOps approach, enabling services to be launched more quickly—potentially in days instead of months.
Of course, the prospect of virtualizing network and IT infrastructures is one of the biggest drivers for revamping internal processes and rethinking how services are developed. Although there has always been a clear distinction between IT and network operations, the continued shift to move everything to software in virtualized environments has caused the lines between IT and networks to fade.
From an operational perspective, network virtualization has a huge impact. Service providers need to change how they deploy, manage and assure services on new, virtualized networks. This is going to be a major challenge for providers because they’ll have to completely change their traditional assumptions about how they run their companies.
Gradually, a new kind of digital service provider will replace the traditional telecommunications provider. But without a change in the service provider’s business, the technologies and network improvements that can enable this transformation won’t make a difference.
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