Last year, I wrote about the the four principle factors that would define the telecommunications industry in 2015 and explained why an evolution in B2B and B2C buyer demands would require operators to embark on a business transformation, which Comptel calls “Operation Nexterday.”
Back then, the challenge for operators was to throw out old sales, marketing and service playbooks in favour of a fresh approach. Digitalization has created a generation of empowered, engaged and demanding buyers – “Generation Cloud” – who don’t follow service providers’ rules and instead define the digital market as they want to see it.
All these customers want is highly personalized digital services and content that is served to them at the perfect moment. Generation Cloud resists mass marketing and one-size-fits-all service plans. They want to create their own. Who wouldn’t?
We argued that to win these customers’ hearts and minds, operators would need to re-think everything about how they do business – from marketing, to monetization, to partnerships, to network design, to data analysis.
That provided the foundation for the four fundamental forces driving Operation Nexterday: the need to build a highly personalized Segment of One, to design and productise new service offerings faster, to shift to a flexible, agile virtual network infrastructure, and to employ Intelligent Fast Data for automated, accurate and immediate actions. All four factors require operators’ attention. Ignore one, and you risk delivering a substandard experience and leaving the door open to competitors.
A year later, where are we? These same four factors still underpin innovative new digital strategies, and we’ve seen many operators take action.
Some are exploring new digital products, actively changing their marketing and service strategies and trialling improvements in fast data and infrastructure. In general, they are tearing down the complexity that kills innovation and speed.
In 2016, the mission for operators will be to take these efforts a step further and build the perfect digital company for their customers and not for themselves (do you see the difference?).
Here’s how we expect telcos to evolve in these four critical areas in the new year.
#1: REAL-TIME DECISIONS AND AUTOMATED CUSTOMER ACTIONS WILL FUEL THE PERFECT DIGITAL EXPERIENCE
Of course, the idea of serving a “Segment of One” has been discussed for a long time, but to this point it hasn’t worked or been very profitable for operators. We see this changing quickly in 2016 thanks to the emergence of sophisticated customer action automation technology. On top of that, operators’ unique access to historical and real-time customer behavioural data gives them an advantage in this effort over presumed competitors in the cloud technology and over-the-top (OTT) content service spaces.
With this data on hand, operators can create highly personalized customer actions based on the four C’s: by applying the right Context, the most appropriate Content can be delivered to the right Customer through the best possible Channels. These 4 Cs work as a design principle for automated actions in sales, marketing and service functions, providing operators with the tools to improve customer engagement.
#2: ACCELERATED PRODUCT DELIVERY WILL ENABLE A DIGITAL SERVICE ECOSYSTEM
In 2015, operators recognized the need to configure, test and launch new products at a faster pace so that they could serve customers’ appetite for fresh, exciting digital services. Many of these new products fall under what Mark Curtis of Fjord Accenture, speaking at Comptel’s inaugural Nexterday North, called the “Era of Living Services.” That describes an approaching period of time when individuals will be surrounded by a layer of data-driven digital services in the form of smart devices, cloud technologies and ubiquitous connectivity.
Looking toward the new year, we expect operators will seek to develop a more intelligent, accelerated and elastic product lifecycle that can help them cultivate this digital ecosystem. Operators can be the service provider that powers the “Era of Living Services” that Curtis describes, but it will require eliminating friction in the service lifecycle process and more creative monetization models, and investing in tools that shorten the time between demand recognition, product configuration and product launch.
#3: NFV MOVES FROM THEORETICAL TO PRACTICAL
Network functions virtualization (NFV) continued to emerge in the past year, with Appledore Research Group reporting as many as 250 ongoing trials and 25 early live deployments worldwide. Many more operators recognise the practical applications of software-defined networks (SDN) in both residential and enterprise environments. With NFV, operators need to learn from the past. Let’s not build the same tightly controlled technology prisons and franken-systems that describe many telco networks. You don’t know what services and business models you will need to run in 2 to 3 years’ time – no one does. Tying yourself into one “stack” from one vendor is a losing proposition, because you will either succeed or fail by their estimates.
The alternative option, which we’ll see more in 2016, is to favour an “open source”, horizontal integration that uncouples network components and allows flexibility for future changes.
Again, let’s keep the customer in mind. NFV is not a technology exercise. It is a way to make a frictionless, dynamic and elastic service delivery experience for customers. NFV will help operators automatically monitor customer service, detect poor or experience-affecting conditions, and then perform corrective actions. NFV will also form the backbone of the accelerated product delivery model, and operators will build out dynamic product catalogues that help customers customize, configure and purchase digital services on their own terms and pace.
#4: DATA ENABLES A SWITCH TO SMARTER LIVING
Right now, many operators apply intelligent, automated data-driven insights to address narrow vertical use cases, but the most compelling application for data in the new year will be in improving quality of life. In 2016, operators will begin to explore how they fit into the ecosystem of technology and service providers who are applying real-time data insights to make “Smarter Living” possible.
That might involve supporting Internet of Things (IoT) projects in healthcare, the automotive industry, or urban planning. Or, it could mean addressing humanistic causes in education, the environment, or global security. Ultimately, their access to rich, immediate data insights means operators have a role to play in the development of a smarter world, and next year, many more telcos will step up to the plate.
#5: 2016 IS ABOUT STRIVING FOR PERFECT DIGITAL MOMENTS
The post-digital era has already had its effect in creating a new generation of empowered consumers, and over the past year, many operators have made it their mission to evolve parts of their technology and business strategies one piece at a time.
We believe that 2016 will be about learning from customers to give them better experiences. In embarking on their own “Operation Nexterday” to create the perfect digital company for – and with help from – their customers, operators will align activities across all four focus areas: customer experience, networks and delivery models, the data estate and the living services model.
Walking away from Nexterday North last year, I realized that moving forward, telco can’t risk glorifying digitalisation and technology above the human experience. We instead need to recognize that technology is only meaningful when it serves real-life emotions and enables perfect moments.