The three top habits of tomorrow’s successful service provider

This blog was first posted by Gabriele Di Piazza on LinkedIn here

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Fit for purpose

There will be two types of Communication Service Provider (CSP) in the next few years: those who will have embraced transformation and championed change within the organisation, and those who have adopted a follower approach. Success is most likely to lie with those embracing transformation and change. Within these organisations, preparations underway now will see the gap widen between them and those following as they begin to realise the power of a software-defined service capability and deploy different strategies and tactics to the CSP of todayThey’ll have different teams, skills, and services.

Sometimes technology just isn’t enough

The purpose of the network has already changed. Private and public sector organisations are looking for greater agility and scalability in their applications and high performance for mobility. Strategies around greater personalisation for and interaction with customers and citizens form the main thrust of digital transformation.

CSPs provide the means of enablement for these strategies. They make digital transformation possible. It’s reasonable for customers to assume, therefore, that the service provided by their CSP should be heavily focused on innovative technologies to deliver against often highly sophisticated operational requirements. While solution architectures such as SDN and NFV fit the bill and offer new ways of designing the network infrastructure, new skills are required to realise the full potential of such technologies.

The tricky part is in deciding which skills will bring appropriate capabilities into service provider cultures. Many organisations remain entrenched in legacy architectures. They carry large teams to support these ageing technology approaches. They have a continuing need to cope also with the other ‘legacy’ of huge investment. With start-ups and disruptors, the financial and technology legacy issues are less of a burden as they currently run their applications over the top of the network.

In order to stay relevant, service providers need to go through a change of culture. It doesn’t need to be as monumental a task as it sounds, as long as they can accept that they have to do it, and gaze into the very near future to assess the practical steps they need to take.

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DevOps to the rescue

Also at TM Forum Live! Easwaren Siva, General Manager, Technology, Strategy and Governance at Vodafone Hutchison Australia stated:

“Operators need to think about the role they want to play, before looking for a role for NFV and SDN: Do they want to be an all-encompassing provider or part of a jigsaw where they enable others?”

Traditional siloed IT and network team architectures are losing their relevance. The business needs people who understand new technologies and how to manage them. Above all, it needs technologists who can think like business people rather than technical people. The DevOps team of the future is a unit that can and should be configured to embrace a holistic approach to market trends and customers’ needs. The holistic aspect must permeate the business internally as well as in the services and capabilities it goes to market with, as the CIO of GoDaddy says, regarding the adoption of DevOps into his teams:

“In order for the transition to work, we needed everyone to be on the same page, from the CTO and CIO, to the front line developers and engineers.”

Vision is the all-important factor; this ability to gaze into the future and decode what you see into realigning how the organisation works today. It’s really not a complex process to create a definition of the new purpose of the network as a full-on end-to-end business enabler. Once such a vision is formulated, the direction to take you there can be translated into short and long term targets for your teams.

Revealed: The top three habits of the successful CSP

Once you accept the immediate requirement to amend the ways of doing things, there will need to be an assessment of the alignment of your in-house skills to the sophisticated demands of digitally focused customers. With an acknowledgement that Over The Top (OTT) players derive their agility and innovation from a lightweight and flexible style of operation in touch with customer demands then the way ahead unfolds. Here are the three top identifiable habits of tomorrow’s successful service provider:

  • Translating the vision: Over recent years your teams have probably focused on cost reduction and optimising the return on any investments made. R&D and Innovations were probably sidelined given their apparent vagueness. One of the biggest cultural changes to embed in the organisation is about embracing new business models: the rapid development of new ideas on how to optimise the infrastructure to generate new revenue streams and head off competitive threats. It will take time. That’s why it needs to be a top agenda priority right now.
  • Identifying digital champions and breaking down silos: NFV and SDN strategies require new skills from IT professionals. These are around understanding the challenges and security expectations of their existing physical infrastructure, while delivering expertise and vision for the digital world. New thinkers – whether freshly recruited, or nurtured from within the organisation – should assume integrated roles within existing teams. Existing development teams must be reassured that they have a place within the new IT roadmap. They have deep insider knowledge on how existing architectures/infrastructures can be migrated to the cloud whilst maintaining current services and applications portfolios and support.
  • Turning IT into a revenue generator: The teams now have an opportunity to directly contribute to the generation of new revenue streams, products and services, which they’ve probably not done before. Getting your teams on board with the direction and opportunities will be essential if the C-Suite is to translate its vision into action.  Some of the above strategies require honed skills themselves; not always readily on hand within the organisation simply because hitherto they have not been required. This is where the business would be well advised to identify and work with vendors to gain the benefits of proven and specialist skills. You’ll find that many are committed to helping service providers embrace transformation. They are working more closely with their customers to help bring the new developer mind-set into the existing culture quickly and successfully.

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The caveat is to be wary of vendors who offer to pursue the end-to-end transformation strategy on your behalf. They may not only exhibit a tendency to ‘take over’ but may also work in a ‘bubble’; delivering the results you require but leaving you dependant on their ongoing input (the traditional ‘lock-in’ style of operation). Collaboration with internal teams is essential to enable you to absorb new skills and enrich the capabilities of your internal teams through knowledge transfer. It’s a delicate balance but one that can be struck through careful identification of each step on your roadmap correlated to specific skill sets for specialist external organisations.

The telecommunications business is experiencing the same period of change as not long ago substantially revitalised the financial services industry. Those traditional organisations that tried to wait it out and continue on their cost-reduction strategies were caught out by the raise of the FinTech: agile and lean start-ups free of legacy issues or old-school IT mind-sets.

The same scenario has begun to open up in telecommunications, the transformative capabilities of the network, and the business value that customers are looking for from service providers. Pretend your organisation is a start-up. Act accordingly because the fact is that playing a waiting game will not be a leadership strategy. It will result in responsive actions to catch up. Once the initiative is taken by the competition, the gap between first-in and followers tends to open up large and fast.

If you’d like to meet with the VMware team in Barcelona please email NFVMWC2017@vmware.com. We have some solid ideas about aligning the abilities of today’s Telco with tomorrow’s world.   


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