Management World Dublin Part 3: The Telco industry is in challenging shape – it is up to us to change it!

Sitting on the plane after two and a half day of keynotes, conference meetings, exhibitions and talking to many old and new acquaintances, I try to draw a conclusion from all these experiences and discussions. This year, more than ever, the return is accompanied with mixed feelings that I share with most of the participants I talked to on my trip back.

On the one hand, the conference gave a good impression on the current status of the Telco industry across most major operators and IT vendors, on the other hand there are far more challenges than ideas and visions how to overcome them.

As a manager at one of Cirquent’s most important and loyal customers put it – not  without sarcasm: “Now we have a good overview on where the competition is currently standing – that’s kind of a comforting thought…”.

One of my conclusions directly draws on the takeaway from social media (link to Part 2): Instead of (only) getting bogged down with large-scale transformation initiatives the telco industry needs to create a realm of agility where it is really required – namely in supporting new forms of customer interaction.

Therefore I advocate a new term: In addition to BSS and OSS domains let us create on equal scale an ISS domain – Interaction Support Systems – which is the home of agility. This is not to say that BSS transformation need not occur – but while that happens, creation of new ways of customer interaction shall be built. In accordance with the requirements of the “outside-in transformation” described by Yankee Group on TMForum’s web site this should include cross-channel integration and tight links into social media management.

For the TM Forum standards this might mean a substantial reconsideration: instead of hiding customer interaction within the details of the general operations domain, it should be given an independent existence of its own. This would reflect the observable fact that customer interaction management addresses all vertical domains (fulfillment, assurance, billing) and horizontal areas (customer, service, resource, partners) and this integrated view is key.

While the standards might be considered just a model on paper with ample space for re-interpretation, the impact on enterprise architecture for Telco operators and the role of the IT-vendors is clearly tangible: Instead of subjecting customer interactions to implementation within the flagship ocean steamers of BSS/OSS (be it Amdocs, Oracle, Huawei or other vendor-based) a complete new realm of interaction management systems could be created relying on business services offered by BSS/OSS in a loosely coupled manner. These interaction systems then could be implemented using agile approaches fully exploiting the benefits of the well established technologies in the areas of BPM, SOA, Web 2.0, Business rules engines and real-time decisioning for example without the burden of legacy transformation. This way, CIOs can offer agility and IT quality features at the same time to business as opposed to the home-grown solutions in business departments.

A final word on the Telemanagement Forum itself: A certain lack of vision on the future on the business side (e.g. innovation and marketing) cannot be denied, the forum reduces to providing enablers for that. A tighter link with other organizations addressing this – as well as specific mobile focus topics – seems indispensable. Else TMForum might become part of future initiatives on Business-IT-disalignment  as well as Fixed-Mobile-Divergence. Let’s join forces to address this.