Delivering on the promise of digital

The communications industry is at its biggest turning point since mobile, according to Nik Willetts, the newly appointed CEO of TM Forum. He said, “We’re at an inflexion point – a point of no return.”

Willetts, who was speaking at TM Forum Live!, continued, “We’ve connected the world, enabled the digital economy around us…now telcos are not just telcos – we do so much more and are capable of yet more.”

Download Nik’s keynote presentation from TM Forum Live! 2017

Indeed, as he went on to say, the industry has an imperative to do more as its share of the digitally-enabled, growing market is shrinking, falling from 58 percent in 2010 to a predicted 45 percent by next year. He asked, “On the current trajectory, where will we be in five years’ time? Now is the time to seize the opportunity beyond connectivity, to seize the unique capabilities of our industry.”

“Switching from a twentieth to a twenty-first century business means looking at every aspect of operations and how we do business,” Willetts said. “Customer centricity, innovation, data, creativity and agility are causing us to rethink business; we are on a complex journey with many possible paths.”

His argument is that the communications industry needs to progress along the horizontal axis, running today’s business more efficiently, leaner and more focused on customer experience. This is a “red ocean” strategy [see graphic below], where telcos “compete in old battle grounds, and where we are likely to see a smaller number of very big companies over time.”

But this is not the only change and challenge. “We can move up beyond connectivity to become ecosystem curators and enablers for so many other industries from which, according to the World Economic Forum, our industry could make an additional $650 billion in profit,” Willetts said. “The big question is how to make it reality as we’ve been talking about it for so long?”

He cited the drone economy as an example of the current inertia saying, “This sector is predicted to be worth $150 billion by 2020, which is small by telecoms standards, but which telco has a drone strategy? And if they had, what would it be? Stick a SIM in it and charge for connectivity? Even though the deep analytics, service assurance, data, etc., are all up worth up to 50 percent more – and you can see in the Catalyst demonstration at the event.”

He said the next 12 months will determine the fate of many companies in this room for the next decade. Those embracing digital will succeed; those still pondering will start to lose ground, although only one in five companies is embracing the potential of digital. Willetts stated, “It’s not the why or what, but how we do digital transformation quickly and comprehensively.”

How does collaboration make us smarter than going it alone? Collectively TM Forum’s members have 5 billion customers and around $2 trillion in annual revenues, plus a rich history of common tools and consensus. Willetts commented, “We have faced many waves of transformation; the biggest wave yet we can ride through co-creation and innovation, and we’ve identified a roadmap for the Forum to help its members”. Following are some of the key parts of it.

How mature are you?

This week the Forum launched the Digital Maturity Model to help its members navigate the digital transformation maze. It has been created over the last six months, taking the best from existing models, with input crowdsourced from vendors, operators and others such as management consultants.

The model comprises five dimensions and 175 sub-dimensions each with precise criteria. Crucially, it takes input from right across a telco, not just the C-suite, which is often isolated from the daily realities, so it will reveal where the disconnects are. Willetts noted that there is a high level of frustration among leaders that the technology is changing fast, yet the business remains highly resistant to change.

How are you feeling?

The Forum is running a Digital Transformation Tracker, designed to be the largest survey of its kind, to track who is succeeding at what, where, and how companies feel about their progress or lack of it, over time, and their views on key trends. The Forum’s new Chief Analyst, Mark Newman, will be working on this and the results of the first survey will be shared later this year.

The future of OSS

We need to shift to automation to reduce the cost of serving customers. For this, we will need new architecture and systems. What does this mean for operational support systems (OSS)? A more modular, microservices-based approach. In the cloud-based era, what is the new operating model and new requirements? TM Forum has published a draft white paper that sets out our initial thoughts, which will be refined in line with input from members. We welcome all input. Contract Barry Graham directly if you’d like to share your views.

Beyond transformation to digital ecosystem management

Transformation is only a means to an end – a way of reaching the blue ocean of uncontested markets through digital ecosystem management (DEM – see graphic), instead of fighting to survive in old, highly competitive markets. DEM is all about blending different businesses to create new services, which is very hard to do within one industry, so we’re putting together a common language to help us do it across other industries too. This week the Forum released CurateFX, which enables people to dig right into the Forum’s treasure trove of proven templates and tools, without requiring prior knowledge of them. CurateFX was used by many of the Catalyst projects demonstrated at TM Forum Live!

Speeding up progress though collaborative innovation

Catalysts projects are the Forum’s open innovation engine and we had the largest group ever showcasing their efforts this year, with professionals from over 100 companies involved in 32 collaborative R&D projects. Seven received awards for their outstanding efforts. The Forum’s largest members reckon that using a Catalyst project to develop a solution is four or five times faster (the projects typically run for between three and six months, although many are multi-phase) – and very much cheaper – than anything they could do themselves in-house. The Forum is now looking at how it can help members gain far greater commercial impact from this work.

Profitable reasons to use Open APIs

The Forum’s suite of 31 Open APIs is of critical importance, with many of the world’s largest service providers and their technology partners committed to using them. A survey of 200 leading companies run by Boston University found that companies that deploy open APIs have a market capitalization of 4 to 10 percent higher than those that don’t because of the changes they enable in operations and execution, and the adoption of platform-based models. The Forum’s Open APIs are deployed in 14 service providers’ markets, but this will doubled by the end of this year. We’re offering training and certification in using APIs to accelerate progress for everybody.

Willetts concluded his keynote saying, “My vision for TM Forum is that it is the place for co-creation and collaboration in the industry – we will all succeed together.”

Watch Willett’s entire keynote:

Download Nik’s keynote presentation from TM Forum Live! 2017


    About The Author

    Snr Director, Research & Media

    Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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