As the hype around AI snowballs, IBM’s Rob van Den Dam writes about how CSPs are using it to stay a step ahead. He will be speaking at TM Forum Live! Asia in Singapore next week about how to build a cognitive telco.
While becoming digital is critical for communications service providers (CSPs) to stay relevant, this digitalization is not a destination. After all, once all CSPs have become digital, who wins? And what next?
There is a path for CSPs that is more transformative and more disruptive. It is what we call ‘cognitive business’ – taking digital business and adding digital intelligence to it. This is what we see as the ultimate destination. Competitive advantage will go to those who can extract actionable insights from all the data they have access to and make the best use of it; this includes unstructured data such as social media, video and sensor data.
Only artificial intelligence (AI) systems can extract the deep insight hidden in all that which is essential for automation in both virtualized and service/customer centric networks.
AI is typically impacting organizations in three ways:
- Reinventing customer engagement
- Digitizing and streamlining processes
- Deploying disruptive business models
Digital engagement in particular is the future of omnichannel customer services, with self-service channels becoming increasingly important. A number of CSPs are therefore focusing on cognitive chatboxes, improving customer experience by providing innovative AI-based self-service capabilities, while also reducing operating expenses at call centers. An example is TOBi, an AI engine within the new My Vodafone in-app messaging service that can handle a range of customer queries, including device troubleshooting, usage and order tracking (among others).
Intelligent customer focus
Other AI focus areas include understanding and creating automated processes around:
- Proactive care – to anticipate customer needs
- Marketing – to understand customer buying behaviors
- Personality insight and recommendations – to deliver personalized content
- Cognitive network operations – virtualized network and service technicians
Intelligent actions for intelligent things
For CSPs that are interested in the Internet of Things business and look to offer IoT platform to ecosystem partners and developers, cognitive capabilities are indispensable. With most IoT data being unstructured and the IoT having too many variables to be able to program all possibilities, traditional systems are inadequate. Many CSPs – such as AT&T, Vodafone and Tele2 – are already developing cognitive IoT platforms. Tele2, for instance, offers a cognitive IoT Starter Kit enabling customers to quickly start Internet of Things projects. And MTN South Africa is even using cognitive IoT capabilities to protect the endangered African rhinos.
In Q2 2017, we surveyed 3,069 CxO executives across multiple industries about their current use and planned future investments in AI technologies. In the survey, 169 CxOs were CSP executives. We identified a group of high-performers (the ‘reinventors’) who have already deployed AI capabilities in their business operations and are planning significant further investments in the next two to three years. This group – which makes up 8 percent of the CSP CxOs we surveyed – is solving more complex problems, infusing more intelligent capabilities into their business processes and investing more to create a new and preferred future when compared to the other CxOs.
Reinventors’ sharper focus on AI clearly distinguishes them from other segments in the study (the ‘tacticians’, the ‘aspirationals’ and the ‘observers’). They are thinking as well as acting differently. It’s these characteristics that can show other organizations how to increase their efficiency and competitiveness.
Using AI as a catalyst to spark enterprise transformation is a hallmark of the reinventor’s business strategy. They are making AI technologies a cornerstone in their organizations. Once in place, they’re in a better position to leverage the full array of technologies coming into play such as blockchain and robotics, and established ones such as mobile, cloud and IoT. Those that haven’t yet leveraged AI are missing out on insights and opportunities that could help transform their business.
The Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA), formerly known as ODES, is tackling many of the architectural issues that come with developing AI. Read more.