Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third-party contributors to submit analysis on a key topic affecting the telco industry. In this piece Richard Britton, CEO, CloudSense argues operators today need to choose between change or steady decline.
Discovering what needs to be done is often the easy part. The real challenge is finding out how to do it. This is certainly the case when it comes to searching for new revenue streams – the major preoccupation of most mobile operators following the shift to digital.
For us, the recent London leg of the Salesforce1 World Tour provided a timely opportunity to get to grips with what businesses are really doing about this situation. We were there as a Platinum Salesforce Cloud Alliance Partner – but the event was jam-packed with both existing users of the cloud-based CRM system and those who were merely curious.
Overall, these included companies from a complete range of industries. What they had in common was the increasingly urgent need to rebuild their infrastructure for digital.
To find out as much as we could, we conducted a poll at the show. The results were revealing. Viewed from one angle, they told a story of major upheavals, lack of the right skills and confusion. Yet on a more optimistic note, the majority of respondents (67%) also believed that the integration of cloud and mobile technologies would radically impact working processes and help deliver completely new ways of engaging with customers (63%). Over half (59%) said it would force organisations to be more inventive.
This gives cause for hope. Yet, respondents were also of the opinion that they don’t yet have the right tools or skills to keep up with the new digital world, or the relevant in-house technical expertise. Over half (56%) admitted to either or both of these problems; 32% thought that they lacked skills for ongoing development and 29% believed they would find it difficult to integrate cloud and on-premise platforms in their business today.
Of course, mobile operators are in the eye of this storm. After years of prosperity following the move from fixed line to mobile, they are now having to adapt to a new world where hardware, calls and data are no longer the backbone of their success. But entering into new, less well-defined territory is risky. These markets are packed with younger, newer competitors, full of ideas and uninhibited by ageing technology.
It’s not all bad news though – mobile operators do have two things these start-ups lack; a large customer base and a trusted brand. If they can act quickly and switch their focus from the technology they offer to customer relationships, they may just regain the edge.
Creating new apps, new digital services and new tariffs is only the first step. As our survey discovered, the difficult part is adapting legacy infrastructure to fit a new template. Many mobile operators installed expensive enterprise systems during the growth years – but these can’t keep up with today’s fast changes and multi-channel customer interaction.
What can be done? Remember, nothing is sacrosanct – including those legacy systems. But previous investment in these doesn’t have to be totally wasted – new, cloud-based solutions can provide a layer on top of existing architecture. These allow the much-needed agility for faster innovation cycles. New ideas that fail to take off can be quickly replaced with the next in line.
Operators will need to adapt systems to cope with new ways of running and financing the business. For example, high volume micropayments for apps need a different process to a steadier and relatively predictable income from call payments.
It’s vital to put digital services at the core of the business – rather than run them as a separate, stand-alone arm. This way there can be a single source of information for each customer, available to the front office, enabling a far closer and more responsive relationship. One of the main frustrations for customers is when an agent doesn’t have a complete call and purchasing history in front of them. They don’t feel valued by the provider and are likely to move elsewhere at this point.
Having this knowledge enables customer service teams go beyond configuring, pricing and quoting (CPQ) – providing a complete vision of the customer journey. It allows a far more refined targeting of up- and cross-selling using ‘next best action’ techniques based on this knowledge.
The good news for those surveyed who felt they didn’t have the right tools at their disposal is that the ecosystem to achieve this new agility is expanding. So they now have far more flexibility in their search for the appropriate solutions to bring into their system. The fact that cloud solutions can be integrated, managed and maintained by the provider addresses the problem of IT skills shortages highlighted by the survey results. They are also highly scalable, with far less upfront commitment to begin with and staged growth as needed.
It’s strange that those large, costly enterprise systems that were ‘built to last’ are becoming outdated, while lighter, more affordable technology is providing the flexibility they lack. Paradoxically they are also providing the firm foundation for an ‘anything could happen’ future.
As CloudSense’s CEO and co-founder, Britton oversees the company’s technical and business strategy. A key element of his role is advising companies on how to implement holistic IT systems that deliver a single view of the customer and manage the entire sales order lifecycle – from product design and order capture to fulfilment. Since 2009, under Britton’s leadership, CloudSense has grown into an award-winning company with over 120 employees globally.