Digital Transformation & Maturity

Information oils all the wheels: No rules and the right tools

This is the first in a two-part series by TM Forum’s Managing Editor Dawn Bushaus which originally ran in its entirety in our Digital Leader Network newsletter. In this part, Bushaus writes about what the industry has been saying on the operational and strategic side of things. In the next part, she focuses on people.

Not so long ago, there was a joke that CIO stood for ‘career is over’. Now nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to digitalization, the role of the chief information officer (CIO) has become pivotal, providing the critical link between the business and the underlying technology.

The key word in the title is, of course, information. Simply put, information is data that has been captured and put into context, and as Clive Humby, a UK mathematician and architect of Tesco’s Clubcard, so aptly observed back in 2006, “Data is the new oil.”

But oil is a crude resource and so is data – it’s what you do with them that matters. In telecom, it’s the automated, intelligent analysis of data that turns it into actionable information and intelligence to improve customer centricity, reduce operating costs and develop new revenue streams. This is where the future lies, and today’s CIO is poised to take us there.

Keeping up with the digital natives

Perhaps the biggest challenge telco CIOs face is the radical cultural and organizational change necessary within their businesses if they are to compete in the digital world; something their fiercest competitors don’t have to go through because they’re digital natives.

Telcos aspire to be like agile, software-based unicorns – that is, companies that have achieved billion-dollar valuations within a short period of time (think Amazon and Alibaba) – but they can’t get there with a culture that separates teams responsible for technology from those running operational and business support.

The CIO’s chief responsibility has become bridging the two worlds. The big question is: How?

Forget the rules

During a wide-ranging interview (you can find the full interview here), I asked Harmeen Mehta, Group CIO, Bharti Airtel, about how her company is approaching cultural change. Her answer may surprise you.

“In the digital part of our organization, there are no rules; it’s completely non-hierarchical,” she says. “People associate themselves with the platforms they are building, and we literally have no rules: They do what they want, wear what they want, come and go when they want. Sometimes they ‘binge-code’ and then disappear for 48 hours. It’s a very, very open environment and you have to allow for that. You can’t attract the level of talent and build the right open-minded products for your consumers without it.”

About half of Mehta’s organization (IT & Engineering) now focuses on building digital platforms and services, and almost all those employees come from an internet background. The other half concentrates more on the operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS) that support the core fixed-line, digital TV and mobile businesses.

“They are completely distinct skillsets,” Mehta says. “Interestingly, there are very different age dynamics as well. The number of millennials on the digital side is almost 80 percent, whereas they number less than 20 percent on the core telco side.”

Use the right tools

At Orange, IT is at the heart of the company’s Essentials2020 strategy, the goal of which is to become a “digital, efficient and responsible company,” according to Pascal Viginier, Special Advisor and former Group CIO. That means delivering a superior digital customer experience by focusing globally in five main areas:

  • offering enriched connectivity;
  • reinventing the customer relationship;
  • building a company model that is both digital and caring;
  • supporting the transformation of business customers; and
  • diversifying by capitalizing on company assets.

Orange’s IT organization contributes to these focus areas through seven different streams:

  • IT for customer management and diversification;
  • big data;
  • application program interfaces (APIs);
  • IT excellence; secure IT, skills; and
  • best-in-class IT for support functions.

As part of the transformation, IT leadership is aligning all the groups in an Agile way of working, according to Viginier.

Orange is using TM Forum’s Digital Maturity Model (DMM), which is a survey-based tool that involves people right across organizations describing their company’s level of maturity/digital capability, set target maturity levels and benchmark against peers. TM Forum has teamed up with The GC Index to help with the Culture, People, Organization dimension of the Model (see below) – recognizing both its importance and difficulty.

The dimensions and sub-dimensions of TM Forum’s Digital Maturity Model, shown below.

If you’re a C-level executive and would like early access to content like this, join our Digital Leader Network. Contact Arti Mehta via [email protected] to learn more.


    About The Author

    Managing Editor

    Dawn Bushaus began her career in technology journalism in 1989 at Telephony magazine, which means she’s been writing about networking for a quarter century. (She wishes she didn’t have to admit that because it probably gives you a good idea of how old she really is.) In 1996, Dawn joined a team of journalists to start a McGraw-Hill publication called, and in 2000, she helped a team at Ziff-Davis launch The Net Economy, where she held senior writing and editing positions. Prior to joining TM Forum, she worked as a freelance analyst for Heavy Reading.

    Leave A Reply

    Back to top