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Digital Transformation World Series 2021: The Rise of the Digital Service Enabler

With Digital Transformation World Series 2021 just around the corner, the TM Forum’s recent ‘satellite’ meet-up in London proved to be very useful in providing an early taste for the main event. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tone was upbeat for an industry which, if anything, has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic with its position as an enabler for personal and business communications stronger than ever, in the face of numerous operational and commercial challenges.

As head of the TM Forum, it was incumbent on Nik Willetts to strike an optimistic tone. But it is also difficult to argue with his view that the communications industry is looking to the future from a position of relative strength, as we move toward a world characterised by the need for flexibility and agility.

“Our success as an industry going forward depends on us keeping the obsession with customers,” he said, reflecting a new realisation of what customers demand from the industry as it grows and adapts to the world in which we live. This is accompanied by the need to be “fit to compete”, building on transformation efforts started in the before times, which have “suddenly been put on fast forward”.

Indeed, the communications sector has seen numerous changes in the way it operates in a short period. Almost overnight, service providers found themselves in a world where they needed to keep networks up and running, while a significant portion of their own staff shifted to working from home, and as customers moved from predictable, office-based operations to flexible and distributed working – with demand patterns changing almost without warning.

DTW London 2021

DTW 2021, London

Cloud-Enabled Agility

A key enabler in providing the agility needed to support changing demand patterns is cloud-enabled software. Stephen Reidy, CIO at 3 Ireland, pointed out that not only does this provide the flexibility needed for existing products and services, but also delivers benefits when it comes to solutions enabled by new network capabilities – such as those around 5G and IoT.

“Going to cloud can often make you more agile and you get to try things and test them a lot more easily than you would if you were using different technologies. You can test with trial and error a bit more, test and learn, see if customers are interested, get feedback, and then if you feel you have something that is going to have the outcomes you desire, then you can grow and build out more rapidly,” he said.

Something we’ve talked a lot about at Hansen are the challenges around monetising new network capabilities – take a look at our thoughts about 5G here and IoT here. This was also touched on by Reidy: “In the telco industry, we still tend to sell the same things. It’s handsets, it’s voice, it’s data. But certainly with the advent of 5G, I think we could be operating with a more complex business model, whether its B2B or B2C or B2B2C, and we need to be able to adapt and embrace those new use-cases and take advantage of the technology we have.”

Lester Thomas, Chief IT Systems Architect for Vodafone Group, built on this theme, stating that “the real goal of our digital transformation is to become a platform business, a digital service enabler working across all the different industries, with 5G and IoT services, with services beyond connectivity.” But while highlighting the role the TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture is playing in this, he noted that technology only forms part of the picture.

“We knew we had to build a completely different mindset. Our digital transformation started with us building what we call a digital accelerator organisation. We needed a completely different relationship with our business stakeholders, and we had to move to this agile, iterative relationship,” he said.

As Lindsay Rodgers, Head of Digital at KCOM, noted: “You can’t just do it in isolation. You can’t just transform systems, otherwise you just end up with new systems. You’ve got to build the systems, the people, the processes and the data, all at the same time.”

Back to the Future

I won’t dwell on the return of physical events – the last one I attended prior to this was MWC Shanghai way back in 2019 – but on a personal note, it was also nice to be back in a room with other human beings. Hopefully 2022 will see the return of an in-person Digital Transformation World Series, but in the meantime, Hansen has a lot lined up for this year’s virtual event.

We’ll be talking about leveraging opportunities in IoT and the transformation programme underway with customer Telefonica Germany, as well as participating in the usual mix of meetings and briefings. If you’d like to find out more, drop us a line – we’re always happy to talk.

Steve Costello
Senior Manager, Product & Solutions Marketing