The Quest for Digital Telco


The notion of Digital Telco remains hazy at best to many in the industry. And the few that do understand what it takes to digitise operations they are overwhelmed by the enormity of making it happen. Yet any self respecting Telco man who neglects to drop this word “ DIGITAL “ into a coffee conversation is considered..well…. Antediluvian !!

Telcos have a number of attributes that give them a potential marketplace advantage in the new Digital world of commerce and communications : an extensive customer base, distribution muscle , knowledge of customer preferences through CRM and billing systems and hopefullt an elightened leadership team. Perhaps the best way to start understanding this digital animal is by doing some deductive thinking…meaning highlighting a digital Telco’s TO BE STATE and then work backwards to know what needs to be done.

  •  Digital Telcos aim to provide the digital products and services which will help to improve the lives of our customers by leveraging the power of technology. This ranges from developing new technologies for consumers to communicate with friends and family through to helping businesses and governments address new opportunities, improve operations and increase efficiencies.
  • Digital Telcos implement a new organizational structures that is completely focused on clients and incorporates this digital offering as the main focus for commercial policies. The structure gives greater visibility to local operations, bringing them closer to the corporate decision-making centre, simplifying the global structure and strengthening the transverse areas to improve flexibility and agility in decision makings.
  • Digital Telcos deploy a new breed of IT-centric services that involve the use of data, analytics and digital content. CIOs transform business-only, support IT to effectively deliver customer-facing digital services.To transform CSPs into diversified service providers CIOs harvest business value from existing networks, IT and information assets, and hunt for new opportunities using digital services.
  • Digital Telcos are geared to deliver high quality, integrated product offerings across a number of more established digital service areas, including Machine-to-Machine, Cloud Computing, eHealth, Financial Services, Advertising and Information Security. It also brings together all capabilities in media services ranging from IPTV and satellite TV to over-the-top video, ensuring that the Digital Telco is a leading video broadcasting company as well.

Most experts concur that the pioneer and still champion of becoming a Digital Telco is Telefonica. That is not to say other Global Telcos have also digitised parts of their operations. However Telefonica put their money where there mouth is . To seize new opportunities in the Digital World Telefónica Digital was formed as a free standing business unit. Telefónica Digital had four main focus areas:

  • Product Development and Innovation – the development of proprietary products and services through Telefónica R+D and other R&D operations
  • Partnership & Venture Capital – Telefónica is committed to open innovation and where it cannot build products or services it will partner with, invest in or potentially acquire other companies large or small
  • Innovative Digital Services – bringing to market, directly or through Telefónica operating businesses, new products and services across seven key segments – financial services, M2M, eHealth, advertising,video & media, security and cloud computing.
  • New Business Areas – creating new business opportunities in areas such as over the top communications (TU), Big Data (Telefónica Dynamic Insights) and HTML5 (Open Web Devices).

Clever Telcos know that going Digital is backboned on the knowledge that they have about their customers coupled with their skills and assets in identity and authentication, payments, device management, customer care etc. meaning that the networks can be enablers in digital transactions between third-parties – helping them to happen more efficiently and effectively. Think Platforms here.

But going Digital means Smart Networks with enabling platforms, ecosystem integration, and customer analytics to : foster participation and encourage collaboration among an array of multimedia players and provide real-life insights into how customers behave in the digital world and allow for tailored, timely, and relevant growth. And yes…going Digital means new business models.

Any ” digital ambition ” must be scrutinised by asking some difficult questions. How ambitious are your goals and what is the strength of your budget ? What do you plan to focus on when rethinking the customer experience? Are they ready to disrupt their entire business model, perhaps expanding into unknown territory? 

What is the state of your I.T Core ? How will you dovetail existing transformation and rengineering processes into a Digitised Telco ? For starters Digital means you will have to transform your OSS/BSS …Going Digital means retooling the network for Virtualisation , Cloud , CXM, reconfiguring the Organisation structure , revamping the IT Core with analytics capability ,NFV , SDN… AND AND creating a new business model based on thorough understanding of the digital consumer….YES EVERYTHING AND MORE. HEY , WHO SAID IT WAS EASY ?

So here are 4 critical you gotta do’s :

1. Understand which software architectures  a Digital Telco must  establish for real-time service delivery and activation processes and  effective management of data assets to deliver the highest levels of  customer experience

2. Learn the holistic approach that reinvents the telco operating  model so as to avoid major business model disruptions, and realize the  digital telco vision by integrating the Digital services ecosystem

3. Appraise the critical planning process so as to formulate  a  roadmap based on  people, process and tools – which will help steer  the Digital transformation journey.The transformation goal can only come as a result of a real passion to change the Operator’s role in the digital consumer’s lifestyle

4. The digital transformation journey will oblige you to appoint a champion reporting direct to the  CEO without whose backing you might as well continue impressing your industry peers with big words at the coffee table.Going Digital is a result of changing the mindset, operational structure and processes as well as transforming the legacy IT stack.

And whats the final destination ? A Digital Telco develops an intimate understanding of their customers, become more responsive, improve satisfaction and fulfills diverse needs on a personalized basis.So if your CxO team lack the intestinal fortitude for a difficult transformational journey to become a proudly Digital …my sympathies… because if you don’t you will become extinct 🙂

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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