3 Questions to Ask at Your Next Meeting

Does your organization have a single blueprint for its digital business strategy?

Does that strategy both align with and support the overarching business goals of your company?

In the modern context of providing digital services, it’s not particularly useful to think of your “digital business strategy” as autonomous or separate from your actual business strategy. When you start to think of the two as a part of the same process — as mutually informative elements of one initiative — you can start to rethink everything about how to reach your customers.

That, of course, is easier said than done. There are conceptual questions at hand.  Having a digitally mature workplace means reversing or replacing cumbersome business practices with the new breed of digital best practices.  But what are those new best practices? That’s a question we’ve spent a lot of time answering. To make it simple, here are 3 key questions your organization should ask at its next meeting to determine its digital maturity.

1. “Are we taking advantage of our data?”

It’s likely that your organization has data in abundance. Most organizations, though, aren’t aware of how best to harness the true potential of that data. Does your organization use both internal and external data to inform analytics that can predict what consumers are more likely to purchase? If not, it certainly should.

As we’ve noted before, regular systems simply gather data. Digital business systems recommend ways to execute on that data with customization.

If used properly, predictive analytics can help your business lower operating costs and improve performance. Generating new business insights in a CSP is an intricate enterprise; that’s why making your data work for you is so critical to success.

Customer data doesn’t have to be scary. When properly orchestrated, it becomes a remarkably powerful way to expedite and simplify the consumer’s journey – all while gathering more data on it for future improvements.

2. “Are we providing real-time customer service?”

Providing “excellent customer service” seems to be a default claim of any modern CSP.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a single on that doesn’t claim to “pride itself” or be “defined by a commitment” to giving their customers the best-in-class services. But the prevalence of the claim is such that it should raise some suspicion. Every CSP claims to offer a streamlined customer journey, but that’s far from the case.

Can every single organization making that claim actually be said to be making use of all the correct processes and tools to simplify the customer experience and to streamline its efficiency?

Probably not.

What are the right questions to ask with regard to an organization’s efficiency in terms of its provision of service?

If you use laborious, legacy processes that heavily rely on manual tasks, your organization isn’t providing “excellent customer service”.

The truly digital service provider has exceptionally automated customer service capabilities that draw upon a highly-orchestrated resource of quality information with an ability to analyze customer interactions in real-time.

It’s also something we know a thing or two about. Business agility means knowing how to sell seamlessly through every sales channel so you can reach customers at precisely the time and place they want.

3. “Are we agile?”

Being agile doesn’t just mean delivering products or services quickly.

In its modern definition – and especially in the context of providing digital services – being agile is about much more than the tempo of your work. Broadly speaking, agility includes a set of practices that branch towards the interrelated goals of lowering operational costs, cutting down time to market, and improving the customer journey.

The “digital natives” are the latest cohort of consumers, and as their title implies, they demand digital service.  Forcing your customers to call your 1-800 number before transferring them from department to department isn’t just unpleasant for the customer, it’s pretty obsolete.

Because digital natives expect goods and services that are sold within a simple and completely upfront process, it’s up to you to improve that process.   Many employees of CSPs spend their workdays so focused on their business performance or processes that they forget to ask what should be a fundamental question: Do our customers understand what we sell and are we making it easy for our customers to buy from us?

If so much as a hint of confusion emerges as you try to answer these questions, it’s time to think about how embracing an agile approach to providing service can change the way your organization approaches everything.

Start looking into defined processes that will help you foster innovation and agile development.  When innovation in agile digital services is well-defined and measurable, you’re already ahead of half the companies in your field.

If you work for a Communications Service Provider (CSP), it’s likely that you’re acutely aware of two things.

First, that everything you’ve learned up until this point is prone to rapid change and reevaluation. New discoveries, products, and services can arrive out of the blue, fundamentally altering critical elements of your area of expertise.

Secondly, you know that an ability to react to such change is critical to success – and even to financial survival – in the modern landscape of digital communications.

But what defines the ability to react? That capacity, of course, comes from the heart and soul of what makes CSPs tick: people. An obvious corollary is this: a CSP’s success isn’t just supported by high gender diversity among its workforce. It’s propelled by it.

Notably, most people in the industry share this contention: more than 80% of people in CSPs say that gender diversity is important in their organization.  While the statistics on the current representation of women in CSPs around the world aren’t always encouraging, there’s reason to be optimistic for change.

Why? Because diversity isn’t just a purely moralistic improvement to a company’s constitution, but an incredibly powerful professional improvement as well.

The GSMA’s recent findings show that an organization’s gender diversity is positively linked to a range of financial advantages. Moreover, a study last year by Intel found that the closing of the global tech industry’s female leadership gap could generate a boost of productivity valued at an incredible $430 to $530 billion.

A company’s ability to effectively employ female talent gives it a greater capacity to:

 

1) Capture new markets

According to the Harvard Business Review, organizations with higher levels of gender diversity are 70% more likely to report successfully capturing new markets. In more sense than one, it shouldn’t come as a shock that women have important understandings and insights when it comes to catering to female clients and customers.

These demographics are often underserved in comparison to their male counterparts; employing women to cater to new markets is an incredibly simple and remarkably powerful way to enhance business results.

 

2) Receive higher returns on investments

A company’s ability to effectively employ female talent is positively correlated with higher returns on invested capital, equity, and sales.

A healthy, gender-diverse workforce boosts B2C and B2B performance; female talent, when leveraged properly by companies, allows them to achieve a greater and more rounded understanding of what end users want and need.

And, as is well-known in the world of communications – the end user’s happiness is paramount.

 

3) Boost the success of new products

Companies with greater gender diversity can improve the likelihood of success when rolling out new products and services by up to 144%.

Teams with even just one woman dramatically enhance their ability to address gaps that have previously been missed when applying full service to female consumers, perceiving these opportunities and capitalizing on them.

 

What’s Sigma’s take?

As CSPs continue to experience more change than ever, women are set to play more important roles and exert greater influence than at any stage in the history of the industry.

Sigma Systems is delighted to be a part of that change. Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Catherine Michel, has been named one of the top 50 Women to Watch by Global Telecoms Business (GTB) this year.

Responsible for the company’s entire product portfolio and strategy, Michel is part of what she hopes is a demographic of female executives who are reversing the trend of male domination of senior roles in CSPs.

But Sigma doesn’t only enjoy its use of female talent in senior positions; It takes pride in its partnerships with other organizations that exemplify the strength of gender diversity by allowing female talent to succeed in positions of leadership. Female professionals holding important positions in these organizations – and who, like Michel, have been named among the “50 Women to Watch” in Telecoms include:

Kimberly Eubank
Enjoying her post as head of operations at Vodafone since 2016, Eubank plays a critical role in Vodafone Americas’ business unit, overseeing a range of operations including product offer management, customer implementation, service delivery and marketing. Previously, Eubank worked in various leadership roles for Wolters Kluwer and AT&T Mobility.

Hélène Barnekow
Executive vice president and CEO, Sweden of Telia Company, Barnekow previously held the position of executive vice president at the same organization. Barkenow has been instrumental in implementing broad institutional changes at Telia, spearheading its transformation into a “customer-centric” company.

Tami Erwin
Erwin has been EVP of Operations at Verizon since 2016, where she oversees the expansion of the CSP’s product portfolio. She also leads revenue growth through product launches in both the consumer and B2B spheres. Previously, Erwin worked as a SVP and group president of the company’s consumer and mass business markets line of business overseeing sales, marketing, operations and customer service strategy for voice, data and video services for the company.

Anne Chow
Since being named president of national business at AT&T in April 2017, Chow has led over 6,500 business professionals accountable for customers across America. With more than 25 of experience in CSPs, Chow has used innovative growth strategies to guide organizations through major transformations.

Maxine Moreau
In charge of CenturyLink’s service delivery, sales, and marketing for local market consumer operations in more than 30 states, Moreau also oversees the smooth operation of CenturyLink’s customer experience infrastructure. Previously, Moreau was executive vice president of the company’s Global Operations, taking charge of the end-to end planning, engineering, construction, operation and maintenance of US fibre network and international transport network.

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On being named one of the 50 Women to Watch in Telecoms, Sigma’s CTO Catherine Michel observed that “Women have historically been underrepresented in this industry,” continuing, “but I am optimistic that the tide is turning.”

With the skills and intelligence brought to organizations by women like these, there’s more than enough reason to see the tides turn further still in the years to come.

Sigma Systems was thrilled to return to TM Forum Live! this year in Nice.

An intensive, four day schedule connected over 3,000 industry professionals in a unique, collaborative and innovative atmosphere – featuring over 250 industry-leading speakers, a tech expo and eight live events.

In addition to these attractions, TM Forum Live! showcased 30 Catalysts.

What are Catalysts?

“Catalysts are rapid fire, member-driven, proof-of-concept projects which both inform and leverage TM Forum best practices and standards, connecting service providers, technology suppliers, and global enterprises to create truly thought-leading and innovative solutions to industry challenges.”

– TM Forum

Sigma offered its expertise as a global leader in catalog-driven software for the following 3 projects:


APPEX Omni Channel

Champions Orange, Vodafone
Participants Sigma, Huawei, NTS Retail, Apptium, Celebrus, MACCSA

The APPEX Omni Channel catalyst explores how service providers can use omnichannel solutions to simplify, streamline, and optimize the customer experience from start to finish. By offering customers a consistent buying experience across all channels, omnichannel solutions empower end-users and simplify the sales process for both providers and consumers.

The catalyst will also explore the pressing question of how omnichannel solutions can harness the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) while seamlessly resolving security challenges. With in-depth looks at state-of-the-art analytics that make use of crowd-sourced data from IoT devices and new developments in event stream management, this catalyst promises to give viewers an engaging window into cutting-edge developments in omni-channel selling.

Sigma’s Role: Having been a part of the project since its inception, Sigma has offered catalog-driven ordering consulting through all stages of its creation. 

Winner of Outstanding Performance in the Catalyst Program this year!

Video: Huawei’s Tim Morgan on the Appex Omnichannel Catalyst


New Business Models with Mobile Sponsored Data

Champions NTT, Orange
Participants Sigma, CloudSense, Comptel

This catalyst explores an innovative new approach to the sale of mobile data packages. Because of mobile data’s consistently high costs, a broad variety of enterprises – including communications service providers – are encumbered by logistical challenges in selling it to customers.

The modern, digital ecosystem demands a new approach. This catalyst provides a detailed view of an innovative system of exchange that will empower customers by offering better access to data while helping operators and carriers to deploy mobile data as a high-functioning commodity.

The creation of a new platform allowing operators to sell mobile data packages to enterprises will rapidly impact the industry. Find out how in the New Business Models with Mobile Sponsored Data catalyst.

Sigma’s role: This catalyst saw Sigma’s Catalog deployed to produce the various pricing models necessary for the project’s success.

Video: Mustafa Oyumi, Salesforce Director of Product Management, on the Catalyst


Offer Canvas

Champions  Telstra, AT&T, BT, Orange
Participants Sigma, Infosys, Oracle, EnterpriseWeb, Ericsson

Today, the digital market’s ever-increasing agility is putting unprecedented demand on offer managers: offer management professionals must be aware of even the slightest shifts in the digital ecosystem while also retaining an acute understanding of the customer’s ever-changing demands.

While organizations are investing huge amounts of money in IT and network capabilities, there is still a lack of support for offer managers to capitalize on those investments.

This catalyst proposes a brilliant solution: using pre-tested, pre-built, verifiable models that allow offer managers to construct new offers that are seamlessly testable and incredibly easy to launch. Find out about the Offer Canvas catalyst – and how it’s set to change the face of modern offer management for communications service providers everywhere.

Sigma’s role: Sigma’s Catalog UI provided a fundamental platform for the creation of the Offer Canvas.

Video: Telstra’s Dr. Fawad Nazir on the Offer Canvas Catalyst


Like Sigma, TM Forum is fascinated with the themes of driving digital business transformation, thriving in a connected “5G” world, and using digital services to power new ecosystems and marketplaces. Be sure to see these catalysts bring those themes to life at TMForum 2017.

Learn more about TM Forum 2017 here.

“Many organizations assume complexity is inherent,” remarks Catherine Michel in her talk at the BCN 2017 Latam Summit.  “That complexity,” she continues, “is then built up…into [an organization’s] own operating infrastructure.”

There’s no doubt the communications industry is marked by complexity; there’s little that’s simple about offering a dizzying array of digital services to a vast and ever-more-demanding customer base. But there’s also no doubt, as Michel suggests, that this complexity is often overestimated and magnified by organizations who neglect to use the tools available to simplify the systems they have in place.

How, then, might legacy systems – laden by obsolete, slow and inefficient practices – reverse these cumbersome business models?

Agility. It’s a term that seems to have invaded every CSP (Communications Service Provider) boardroom – one that is used with such frequency that its actual meaning is often blurred and misinterpreted by even the most experienced industry pro. What does agile mean, then? Speed? Certainly. Insofar as it hastens services and erases logistical roadblocks, an agile approach to B/OSS projects is, without a shadow of a doubt, defined by speed – and the inherent power of that speed.

But that’s only half the story.  

 

Defining the Agile Business

Something that’s “agile” is more than just something that’s fast. Agility encompasses a set of fundamental practices that underpin the new approach to providing communications services, all branching towards the goals of reducing costs, decreasing time to market, and enhancing customer service.

What, then, does the modern DSP do to become agile? Here are five ways that your organization can embrace agility. 

To be agile – and to embrace the power of the digital revolution – the modern CSP must:

1) Be Catalog-Driven

 

Agile business

 

The new generation of consumers – the digital natives – demand a seamless, up-front selling and servicing process.

When we talk about a service provider that embraces the digital natives, we’re talking about an organization that encapsulates their business – the things they sell, the services they offer, what they have in their portfolio – and articulates it in the clearest terms possible for the customer. Why? Because every agile digital service provider clearly defines and standardizes what they’re selling.

There are a variety of benefits to a catalog-driven approach, but few have a greater impact than simplifying, clarifying, and expediting all interactions with the customer.

2) Embrace Your Ecosystem

When you sell in omni-channel and when your services are underpinned by a consistent customer experience, your digital garden starts to grow. But these agile business processes aren’t just outward, customer-facing executions. Emphasizing the value of every end-contact with a customer lets you start to exploit your network investment, and suddenly an amazing growth in your partner ecosystem can begin to flourish.

When agile business practices are used to consistently and persistently define what your business does, your name becomes synonymous with those services, allowing your portfolio to be more easily interpreted by relevant partners.

Embrace over-the-top providers of content, devices, and new services and incorporate them back into your own portfolio. DSPs connect what they can sell with other ecosystems.

3) Be Omni-channel

 

agile business analyst

 

Building an underlying consistency around business processes that define how customers interact with your portfolio deepens customer loyalty, boosts sales, and enhances your exposure. When every contact point with the customer is driven by a consistent business process, it helps DSPs embrace create a seamless customer experience.

Being an agile business means selling seamlessly through every sales channel so you can reach customers when and how they want to be reached. 

4) Be Context-Aware

 

 

Agility is to speed what intelligence is to context. When you have a set of services that tell you – regardless of the interaction or channel – what is required to sell a product to a customer and get it delivered, you have a far deeper insight into the sales process from start to finish.

Think about it this way: when you know who your customer is, what their location is, what’s in their existing portfolio, what their financial details are, and what their availability/serviceability requirements are, you have an incredibly powerful and insightful set of data. But you have to act on it. 

Armed with this data, the agile DSP strikes – automating processes that target customers based on what offers they’re eligible for and compatible with. Regular systems gather data. Agile business systems propose actions to execute on that data with powerful customization – and therein lies the remarkably powerful difference.

5) Deliver Flawlessly

 

agile business analyst

 

You’ve simplified, standardized and rationalized what you’re selling in your catalog. You’ve created data-driven rules for what’s required, what’s compatible, and what has to be available at the time of sale and delivery. Now, by the time you create the order for upfront selling, everything’s pre- and post-validated – everything is compatible and feasible for delivery across any channel. It’s the pinnacle of an agile business: it’s governed by an orchestrated order management process that produces automatic, actionable commands.

The fallout rate is low-to-none because you’ve assured feasibility from the get-go, ultimately meaning your customer is satisfied from start to finish. Easy interaction on their terms (in their channel of preference), customers understand what you sell, have received a simple timeline, and then they get it.

4 Profitable IoT Innovations – and Why CSP’s Should Be Excited

While we’re all aware of the objects that are commonly embedded with online capabilities – smartphones, computers, and so on – the sphere of digital connectivity is expanding ever-further; the border between “offline” and “online” is shrinking, and objects we’ve always thought of as static, unconnected, or unchanging are suddenly coming online. Everyday items are increasingly being digitized, linking them to the IoT (Internet of Things) – the vast network of people, objects, and devices that possess online connectivity.

But just how vast is it the IoT? A report by BI Intelligence indicates that there will be 34 billion devices connected to the internet by the year 2020, up from 10 billion in the year 2015. Of those 34 billion devices, 24 billion will be comprised of IoT devices. It’s a digital revolution – and it’s obvious that companies want to capitalize on it before they fall behind. Of course, “falling behind” can happen with deceptive pace when it comes to technology advancements.

There are huge profits to be made among the world’s digital upheavals, and those who predict, who anticipate, and who adapt most quickly stand to gain immensely from the IoT’s redefinition of the digital landscape.  Of all the industries that are preparing for the seismic impact of IoT innovation, few will be more affected – or more empowered – than Communications Service Providers (CSPs). As communications providers around the world digitize and transform, the question of how the IoT will play into that transformation is being asked with increasing frequency.

Here are four innovations that illustrate just how the IoT will answer that question:

Wearable devices

With the emergence of the smartwatch, anyone’s wrist can now act as a hub for data – enabling a range of activity including text messaging, phone calls, and internet access. What’s more, the emergence of fitness watches illustrate the IoT’s increasing ability to actually connect with the wearer’s body – a development that has huge implications in terms of providing live, real-time data that will optimize personal efficiency, wellness, self-awareness and more.

 

Connected Cars

In an era of tech buzzwords, “driverless” is one you’re unlikely to avoid. But there’s a reason for this: the “driverless” car is going to fundamentally transform the face of daily travel, promising to make the world’s roads far safer and far more efficient. The likes of Mercedes, Audi and BMW have all announced the development of self-driving cars – a number of which will be controllable with smartphones and smartwatches.

Smart Homes

App-controlled thermostats, connective lighting, smart outlets, Bluetooth-activated locks and a range of other “smart” home appliances have contributed to a shift in public perception of what exactly constitutes a smart home. These additions don’t demand tens of thousands of dollars or extensive home customization, and often entail relatively simple installations. The end result is that homes are rapidly adopting IoT equipment and, in so doing, becoming part of the IoT themselves.

Link Systems

LinkNYC is a unique and first-of-its-kind communications network that will replace 7,500 pay phones across New York City this year with structures known as “Links”. Each Link will offer “superfast, free public WiFi, phone calls, device charging and a tablet for internet browsing, access to city services, maps, and directions.”  It’s a brilliant example of how the remnants of the soon-obsolete communications infrastructure can be reshaped, repurposed, and replaced by smarter and more efficient technologies.

Why should CSPs be excited about IOT innovations?

IoT innovations like the ones outlined above are, no doubt, impressive in and of themselves. Many of them – inconceivable ten, five, or even just a few years ago – are now redefining the digital ecosystem and disrupting the very core of how people conceive of and relate with the devices they use.

They Empower the Product

One commonly-cited best practice for the modern CSP vying to maintain relevance in the digital era is shifting to a product-centric – rather than an infrastructure-focused – approach to business. Why? Because the modern communications ecosystem is transitioning from an emphasis on the physical communications infrastructure towards an emphasis on the products used for communication themselves. In this way, the IoT – embedded in physical products – plays directly into the hands of any savvy CSP. Those who successfully embrace the conceptual shift to a product-centric viewpoint will, naturally, delight in the proliferation and ever-increasing significance of IoT innovations. It’s a fundamental, conceptual shift in the way modern communications should be understood: CSPs can now invest in creating and offering products that delight customers instead of focusing on communications infrastructure that burden them.

They Give Context

Likewise, the modern CSP’s success can be built on three pillars: create, sell, and deliver. Executing those three actions is simplified by consistency across multiple digital channels; knowing who your customer is, where they are, and what they have available means you can connect what you can sell with other ecosystems. Context is everything, and with the flood of information brought on by IoT devices, CSPs will have more context than ever. They will have more power to sell across channels than ever before, and perhaps, above all – a vastly greater ability to anticipate customers’ needs and provide a flawless delivery to meet those needs.

They Delight the Customer

If yours is a truly digital business, then no matter what the innovation or source of innovation,you can devise any type of operating model to serve customers more effectively. That’s why a true digital business isn’t threatened by IoT innovations, but excited by the new possibilities they open. With a catalog-driven approach, CSPs can harness the power of unifying their products and services so that every customer interaction is made more simple, more efficient, and more informative.

If harnessed properly, IoT innovations like these mean that CSPs can provide experiences, not just products or services. It means they can exceed a consumer’s expectations instead of just meeting them. It means they can make their services more understandable, relatable, and actionable, and it means they can integrate all digital channels so consumers can interact with them when, where, and how they want to.