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Digitalization – What We Thought Is What We Now Know

There’s been a lot of buzz about Ericsson’s recent announcement regarding the write-down of their next generation BSS Revenue Manager solution. Lots of analysis, lots of reasoning, but I haven’t seen anything that actually looks at the logic behind what happened. Let’s start the discussion with “digital transformation” — the buzzwords of the moment (remember “convergence”?). It doesn’t matter what book you read, what presentation you sit through, what speech you hear, those words are being claimed as the overriding concern of service providers as they weigh up their future. The fundamentals are key but (post-modern ironically) they have nothing to do with digital technology:

  • Engage your customers
  • Empower your employees
  • Optimize operations
  • Transform your product

As pointed out by Ericsson’s current CMO, the fundamental flaw in Ericsson’s approach was the pursuit of transforming all these pillars simultaneously — aka, the Big Bang approach. It. Does. Not. Work. Especially in the telecoms industry, where operators are diverse, multi-dimensional, have grown through acquisitions and mergers, with silos everywhere and the inherent caution that seems to permeate the DNA of service providers. In my time in the industry, I have seen many CSPs who talk the talk, but when the rubber hits the road, business as usual prevails.

With the result and impact felt by Vimpelcom (as reported in the news), I’d guess there’s a lot of these leaders who are sitting in their boardrooms saying, “told you so”.

What it does prove is what Sigma has always evangelized about digitalization — big doesn’t usually work — but targeted solutions, agile implementations with smaller, incremental (and valuable) implementations, do.

Let’s face it — through digitalization — service providers must transform. I genuinely believe it’s only a matter of time before the Facebook/Apple/Google 500lb gorillas will start up their own telecommunication networks (Keep one eye on Google Fi people). When that happens, the next generation and their purchasing power will leave the established service providers in the rear-view mirror because these gorillas will compete on a different set of factors – not on price, coverage, bundled minutes or data. They’ll compete on the customer experience and excellence in service fulfilment and with AI, Zero touch UI and predictive analytics at their disposal they will shake the market up like never before.

Fine, first step to change is acceptance. We’re there.

Digital Transformation is an elephant. How do you eat an elephant? (Expression! please do not @me.) One bite at a time. But where do we start? Forgive my bias but I genuinely believe catalog is the only sensible choice. Why?

Start from billing? Which system? Which CSP genuinely has one billing system today? Start from CRM? Which one? Start from inventory / activation / order management? Again, which one? It’s the same story. Because CSPs have grown through silos and acquisitions, there’s multiples of everything so you’re literally just adding a system into the mix and 4 years down the line you’re in another consolidation exercise. It’s happened and will continue to happen but in my meetings with service providers, when I challenge these approaches, the CxO organizations are beginning to take note.

Digital Transformation is akin to open heart surgery. No one wants to do it, it’s a necessity so do it and get it right first time. Start with the catalog — the application that literally defines the lifeblood of your company!

— Faisal Ishaq, Director of Global Channels and Partners for Sigma Systems