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Sep 21 2018

Just in digital time: the future for CSPs

We’re living in unprecedented age of opportunity for communication services providers (CSPs).

Those that are customer-centric, data-driven and agile will seize the day and break through their legacy barriers. Brian McCann, CTO of the Nokia Software Business Group, discusses the future for CSPs and how they can compete in the digital economy – in other words, how to act in ‘digital time’.

Different dimensions of time

Our concept of ‘digital time’ is dynamic. It evolves with each new idea, innovation or service that uses technology more intelligently to meet customers’ needs. Today’s digital leaders – companies and entrepreneurs – know the critical importance and value of digital time.

It’s evident in how they constantly ask ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ – simplifying, automating and augmenting how things work, pushing what’s possible and rewriting the rules of any given industry. For them, the definitions of the customer, moments that matter and windows of opportunity are not set in stone.

When speed is not enough

Faced with declining traditional revenues, CSPs need to increase customer mindshare and share of wallet. Customers are looking for something new, bold and differentiated, but that doesn’t mean CSPs’ focus should be the speed of bringing digital services to market. Yes, they need to move fast, but speed is not enough; agility is key. Without agility, speed to market is the same outdated ideas spun out faster.

Agility and data often go hand in hand. For instance, most CSPs are sitting on a goldmine of data. Instead the approach to data should be more proactive and reactive, creative and innovative. It’s about being data-driven in their decision-making – connecting insights with actions and predictions with personalization. And this needs to happen within a fabric that combines the intelligence of technology and people to enhance each other. The totality is what we call ‘connected intelligence’.

Today’s reality for many CSPs, however, is quite different. Data isn’t instant insight until you ‘close the loop’, revalidate and continue that cycle. Technologies and teams are often siloed. Legacy systems and processes are unable to cope. Risks are commonly avoided. Just some of the reasons why many miss out, compared to how digital leaders use data analytics and act with agility.

Agility. Check. Data. Check. Anything else?

Many companies have a culture that’s resistant to change – 46% according to the latest State of Agile survey. For CSPs, cultural change is on the agenda. It’s key to nurturing a bold, never-afraid-to-learn attitude, but this kind of change doesn’t happen overnight.

For example, it takes time to change the way companies approach problems. Thinking of everything as a technology problem instead of connecting technology, data and people is a common flaw of many digital transformation journeys. Only by walking a mile in your customers’ shoes will you see their problems clearly – and then arrive at the right solutions. This top-down way of thinking is still nascent in many CSP cultures, but workforces are changing fast. There’ll soon be five generations in the workplace. By 2019, millennials will outnumber baby-boomers and many are already becoming business leaders.

These new workforces might be catalysts to ‘transform from within’. In common with many CSPs, we are transforming too. And we always have been – from riverside paper mill to becoming a leader in network technologies and now software. Our journey shows we share the telco industry challenges because we’re walking the same path.

People, process, technology and…

So, let’s assume your culture is changing. Agility is present in everything you do and you’re making the most of your data. Are you still missing something to be able to operate in digital time?

Partnerships could be your missing ingredient. Except for webscale companies, few can muster the skills, experience, innovations and systems required to compete in today’s global markets. New partnerships and alliances could well be crucial for CSPs to carve out opportunities in a matrix competitive environment. Especially as CSPs find themselves up against webscale players, media and entertainment companies, software houses and established IT providers, plus startups we don’t yet know about.

Don’t forget the wow factor

Some CSPs will transform, enter new markets and even develop an ecosystem. They are trusted by customers which is a solid foundation to build on. But customers overall don’t yet associate them with value-added services. Tapping into customers’ wow factor – new ways we use technology to enhance all aspects of our lives – is the next level.

This takes us back to digital time and what it means for the customer. Immediate, intelligent and intuitive services will create time by helping people and businesses achieve more. These will deliver the novelty and creativity that customers are not currently seeing. It’s the unexpected reaction: “Oh wow! Now I can get this from my CSP.” And it’s down to CSPs to make this unexpected reaction the new normal.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #digitaltime #digitaleconomy 

About Brian McCann

Brian is CTO for the Nokia Software Group, having previously worked at Alcatel-Lucent, which he joined in April of 2015. His role encompasses portfolio & technology strategy and management, common software foundations, DevOps, and central engineering services such as Performance/Reliability for Nokia Software.

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