Service providers are often accused of having siloed thinking and business practices; however the dynamics of the digital world, coupled with a necessity to streamline the internal processes, means that the service providers board room of the future has to change significantly and include clearly distinguished roles and responsibilities.
The virtualization, commoditization and automation of the extended infrastructure formed out of formerly separate IT and networking elements is a clear case in point. In the past, the CTO ruled while the CIO and IT systems played a subservient role. With the move towards a more software and services centric view of the world, the CIO would appear to have the upper hand going forward.
A move to more agile IT practices is also needed in order to bring new products and bundles of products to market in digital time rather than telco time. Hence, the lines of demarcation between network and IT blur, with a strong case of bringing them closer if not together.
Converging Roles and Responsibilities
Outside of the technology element of the board room, there are other converging areas of responsibility. With the end customer being ever more digital, the product development links to marketing are obviously brought into focus. Formerly distinct products and features from different lines of business can suddenly be required in a package to suit an emerging market segment. In fact, the consumerization of business services meets the industrialization of consumer services, and the portfolio of products begins to look very similar: fixed and mobile broadband with a variety of applications and content services surfing across both.
The HR representative around the table needs to be aware of the talent required to develop, deliver and support this new environment. And, of course, the interface point with the customer is now across a multitude of channels with voice not the primary channel of choice anymore.
The CFO now needs to look at lifetime customer value and not just services from a technology defined product set. Investment therefore has to cut across a number of departments and lines of business.
The point of innovation at this digital board level also comes into focus. Should there be a Chief Digital Officer or a Chief Commercial Officer? And where should strategy sit?
The answer sits with the CEO and he or she wants to drive the company. Messaging from on high and disseminated down through every level of the service provider has to be a customer-centric view. This is a major change as the balance of power has shifted in favor of the customer as well as to third parties who may well deliver the actual service, app or piece of content with the service providers playing more of a supporting role.
Getting a Seat at the Digital Table
Fundamentally, the board room now has to have an overlap of knowledge among the different participants around the table. IT must know enough about the network; marketing must understand the realistic constraints as well as opportunities of the new digital infrastructure; and finance has to think about how it all fits into the new economic reality of connectivity supporting the digital economy.
Finally, with the number of suppliers and advisors claiming to have a seat at the table, service providers must learn how to distinguish among the different offerings of advice and partnership and settle on a strategy that includes austerity as well as truly sharing the burden of investment moving forward.
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