By CloudSense CEO Richard Britton

Most of us in telecoms know about threats and opportunities and how sometimes they can turn out to be the same thing.

The current shift to digital is a case in point. Either operators rebuild for digital and take the risk of venturing into new, but less well-defined, areas where competition can be fierce, or cut costs, harvest mature revenues and manage a controlled decline. 

The status quo may be under threat, but where would we be without a major shake-up from time to time to create new openings for success?

The problem is that too many within the telecoms industry suddenly feel the impact of this step change - especially those focused on technology, such as the CIO and their department.

IT architecture installed during the growth years already seems too cumbersome to keep up with the new, accelerated changes in product, pricing and customer information, let alone multi-channel customer interaction.

There’s always the cloud – but then what about all that investment in legacy systems? And what will happen to the role of the CIO?

The opportunity for the CIO is now. After all, who better to lead a technological revolution but the technology expert?

But it will take a leadership to divest the commoditised world of maintenance and IT support and take the lead for strategic planning and decision-making.

As someone who has both been a CIO and now helps CIOs to rebuild for digital, there are four key steps I would counsel them to take to drive this transformation:

  • Get to the front and lead the charge. The business needs to innovate by bringing apps, digital services, new tariffs and offerings to the market. But if, for example, application micropayments rather than calls, data and hardware are where new revenue streams are coming from, then an organisational strategy and structure based around the future of the business is key. No more silos with digital services run as stand alone divisions, but rather integrated fully with data sets and a single source of information for each customer to enable cross and up-selling and “next best action” marketing techniques based on individual purchasing histories. Now CIOs need to be more than just an enabler for selling, supporting and tracking telecommunications services – instead there’s a new role for an architect of a common vision where digital services are the core product. Far from cloud and digital diminishing their influence, CIOs should find themselves very busy indeed.
  • So, rebuilding for digital is not just about the products and services a mobile operator sells, it also involves the tools used to help make these sales and provide the flexibility needed. Accept there are now no sacred cows. In other words, don’t be overly wedded to legacy systems and their suppliers. Instead, realign by merging the old world (legacy systems and processes) with cloud-based systems that provide a new agility on top of your existing architecture. You aren’t just rebuilding for a digital customer but also a digital workforce. The ecosystem required to achieve this is expanding so flexibility is key in finding the right tools and bringing them in to the solution.
  • Recognise the need to increase innovation velocity. No one can define the right mix of products and services for the future, nor the best systems and processes. So the agility to quickly and cost-effectively evolve with faster iteration cycles of new services, bundles or tariffs is essential. If new products are going to fail, they have to be able to fail quickly and be replaced with the next idea. Cloud-enabled software can provide a quicker time to market coupled with financial agility. You can capitalise the big purchases but also have to commit much less upfront if needed and then scale.
  • Manage the resistance to change. Because cloud-based technologies maintained by the provider, the IT department may believe its role is being diminished. But it’s the skill requirement that’s changing, as the IT work moves up the value chain. This may involve re-training tech-focused staff to take on a more consultancy type approach. Fast action is essential and communications skills will be needed to convey the new vision without impacting morale or risking the loss of talent.

Far from being a threat, the rebuilding for digital is an opportunity for CIOs to take the spotlight. It is a challenging and uncertain time for many operators who have succeeded because the growth of telecoms technology.

Luckily in the CIO they have someone who has the skills and knowledge to help them succeed in a digital future.

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