Why telecoms need to centralize digital ops

A conversation with Accenture’s Peters Suh

Telecoms need to design and execute digital technology to be centralized to reach growth goals.
Peters Suh Accenture

These are bullish days for American communication services providers. They benefit from a pandemic-triggered boom in streaming services at a time when many are exploring 5G network opportunities. Yet the telecom industry is also struggling with rising costs, slumping margins, and cranky investors.

Many telecom providers, known as CSPs, are split between two strategies to address those problems, says Peters Suh, a managing director and communications industry lead for Accenture. Some are focusing on growing top-line revenue; others are launching digital technology initiatives to improve customer satisfaction and retention.

Despite constant pressure to lower costs, says Suh, the smartest companies shouldn’t view it as an either/or proposition. “If you design and execute well with digital technology,” he says, “it is possible to achieve both goals.”

In a recent conversation with Workflow, Suh described the opportunities CSPs have before them.

[Read also: How telecoms can reduce churn and spur growth]

How are CSPs applying digital technology to address their big challenges?

Primarily by moving services to the cloud, which reduces the kind of complexity and inefficiency that often interferes with delivering outstanding customer experience.

When I started my career, there was always this prideful view that you had to have everything behind your own walls. Today, that operating model no longer makes much sense.

The more enlightened view is that you’re better off converging technologies. CSPs have been going through a consolidation of data centers and network operations centers (NOCs). They’re also saying they don’t need a technical presence on a country-by-country basis. They are even questioning whether it makes sense to differentiate between commercial networks, internal networks, and IT networks.

How can providers deliver more for enterprise customers, which will generate more revenue in the years to come?

You’re seeing investment in two areas. First, enabling enterprise customers to make service changes without having to call anyone. Most enterprise customers just want to log into a system and track where their request is on their own.

Second, with enterprises that desire that “glass touch,” you can get service without a field-ops person having to physically come on-site to provide it. And when field-ops people are on-site, they’re looking for better visibility into what they’re doing because it’s expensive to roll out trucks or manage people in the field.

How far along are CSPs in digitizing workflows in operations centers?

Unfortunately, because everything has moved so quickly in the industry, many CSPs developed their own one-off solutions. Many larger operators broke up their NOCs into regions. What you ended up with was a multiplier effect where you have a lot of disconnected homegrown tools in each of these regions with no way to track them internally.

What they need to start asking is how they will design and deliver that transformation. Some are looking at this from a toolset standpoint, replacing individual tools as they go along. That isn’t looking at the overall experience. They need to consider a centralized platform approach that covers all systems and all user experiences. CSPs need to shift the mindsets from systems lifts to experience transformation.

How does a centralized approach improve customer satisfaction?

One CEO told me that his company had a churn issue. When they interviewed customers and looked at Net Promoter Scores (NPS), one culprit was network quality. NPS is a leading indicator of customer satisfaction and not always mentioned in network operations. Focusing on NPS in network operations highlights the need and value of looking at operations from a holistic perspective.

When outages occurred, customers weren’t given enough insight into what was happening and how it would be resolved. NOC teams couldn’t do much because they didn’t have a clear view into the root cause. They just wanted their systems back up.

What we found—which was shocking—was that a third group, unknown to those trying to get systems back online, was conducting site maintenance around the same time, and that they could have brought down the network again the next day.

It shows what can happen if you don’t have a solution that looks across all functional groups. You miss opportunities to address service disruptions, conduct root-cause analysis of outages, and risk negatively impacting customers. Which creates churn.