We’ve all heard that digital transformation is coming and that we should be getting ready for it, but really it’s been happening incrementally for years.
We all use the internet every day to connect to the bigger world, but with the advent of more complex technology, I think many of us are wondering what digital transformation really means or how it will change our business day-to-day. Technically, the definition of digital transformation would sound something like: the merging of detailed, real-time data from our smartphones, connected devices, smart appliances, wearables, mobile commerce, video surveillance etc. with modern technologies like cloud native apps, big data architectures, hyper-converged technologies, artificial intelligence or blockchain and then using it to enhance products, processes, and business strategy as well as customer, product or operational insights.
Needless to say, that is a huge concept! So, putting it more simply: Digital transformation is the application of digital capabilities to processes, products, and assets to improve business efficiency or enhance the customer experience. I think an easier way to understand the impact on business that these transformation efforts have, is to look at a real-world example.
So how does this digital transformation affect your customer or your business? Let’s use the example of a retail setting: if you look at digital transformation from the customer side, it can allow for a more streamlined, more personalized customer experience. Using apps or software to support customer engagement can provide new ways to interact with the buyer and better information on their buying habits. Often that kind of specific understanding of your customer can give you the ability to change how your customer thinks about your brand. Imagine the impact it would make if your customer could shop more easily, buy more quickly and resolve their concerns faster. And of course, there would be real benefits to the retailer, too. You can expect:
- Improved customer insight with more detailed customer engagement data that can lead to optimized planning, procurement, logistics, inventory management, merchandising, marketing, sales, and support processes
- Better customer lifecycle management (from acquisition, to maturation, to retention, to advocacy)
- Reduced inventory costs through predictive product, market, seasonal predictive analytics, and real-time data feeds
- Potentially less product shrinkage with customer, product, and operational predictive analytics
- Increased flexibility with the ability to identify shifting customer demands and predict the resulting customer, product, and operational impact
To truly utilize digital transformation to its upmost in the environment, telecom teams will find that the components are varied and can be specific to both the organization and the industry vertical. But, there are three functional areas that all telecom teams need to be well-skilled in to support a digital transformation effort, before bringing in any new technology or infrastructure.
- Inventory Management
- Contract Optimization
- Telecom Security Management
Inventories are an essential part of every telecom environment; they allow you to track the services you already have implemented within your organization, and act as a baseline for a variety of different activities.
An inventory is the aggregation of telecom and data services, assets, locations, invoices, contracts, and related documentation to gather a clear and accurate picture of these elements in your environment. A comprehensive and accurate inventory can provide your organization with useful information, including the ability to validate against contracts; a baseline for invoice audit, supporting evidence for disputes, and optimization opportunities; as well as a tool for real-time MACD management and visibility.
Your telecom team should be trained to maintain an accurate inventory. This is key to being able to bring in new technology; if you can’t track what you have, you run the risk of creating problems with legacy equipment not being able to function in tandem with something new.
Telecom contract optimization
As mentioned, there are basic ways to be sure your contracts are in good shape, but a great next step to truly optimizing your telecom contracts is to do an invoice-to-contract analysis. Learning the main components of how to perform a validation in your environment will put you on track to moving forward with new technology implementation.
Invoice-to-contract validation establishes an optimization baseline. By performing a validation process, an organization will have a better understanding of how much is being paid vs. how much should be paid, which will enable the company to review opportunities to cut costs or optimize spend by making changes.
While going through this analysis, be sure to validate the voice and data plan accuracy separately as each could potentially have information pertaining to different rates and types of plans. It is also important to make sure employees are assigned to the correct plan, especially after new contracts begin or services are added or removed. Be aware that wireless invoice errors can be common since fluctuation in services can prompt errors in invoicing. Of course, wireless usage will fluctuate depending on many factors, so it is important to validate regularly.
Telecom security is an enormous concept ranging from the simple: don’t leave your phone unattended in a public place, to the complex: how to configure your encryption levels based on industry vertical.
AOTMP University offers over 25 different courses on telecom security. But a good place to begin is to understand some of the essential elements for maintaining information security. In our AOTMP Efficiency First Tools portal, we have created a checklist to verify, identify, and evaluate common areas in telecom security. Today, let’s walk through just a few of those steps to get a better understanding of where to start when learning key elements for telecom security.
- Identify relevant telecom information systems that contain confidential data. This also includes listing all relevant regulations.
- Develop/implement a security plan. Ensure that the information security plan is reasonable and in compliance with all regulations required in all geographical locations. Be aware and plan for all potential financial, regulatory, and reputation risks
- Adopt transparent reasonable processes. Ensure the business departments adopt the policies and that the policies are transparent and reasonable.
- Categorize and prioritize telecom information and data.
It is important that your team understands how emerging technology will be used in their environment and are completely comfortable with how to mesh existing knowledge with new concepts. Let’s take a high-level look at some innovations in technology that will impact any digital transformation.
- Blockchains are “Intranet-based infrastructures” by nature (similar to LANs/WANs &/or ERP systems, they function w/in a specific domain. A blockchain is “an enabling infrastructure template” that requires a plethora of Applications, Processes, Solutions and layered-services to drive those templates). This is important to understand as blockchains could be set up to help telecom management in many ways, from smart contracts to better supply chain solution support.
- As we move forward into an “always connected” world, understanding how 5G will specifically impact your business is something every telecom team should consider. A good example of a major impact we’ll see with 5G is the change in non-networked areas, 5G (with satellite backhaul, mesh-configured devices powered by solar panels designed for low-power wide area networked devices) will be able to provide the information needed for environmental monitoring and agri-business applications of the IoT.
- AI is a broad concept and something we deal with every day, in your car on the way to work today or sitting at your desk using the internet. But, true machine learning is also becoming more used and making a larger impact for many organizations. An example of how this technology is truly changing the way that business operates can be seen in the area of NLP, where we are starting to find machine learning used to allow systems to read and interpret text for outcome prediction and real-time issue resolution.
- Unified endpoint management (UEM) is the consolidation of management of all IT owned “connected” assets. Although the final definition of UEM is still out, and most enterprises are still trying to figure out their existing management structures for their connected devices. The biggest problem UEM looks to solve is disparate management systems within a single IT organization. Today, you’re likely using more than one tool to manage the various types of hardware in your environment, even if the same software licenses are distributed to all those types of hardware. Those pushing for UEM feel that business can restore critical support time to other areas of the business by centralizing these controls and driving efficiency.
All of these new technologies and more will combine to allow for true digital transformation. It can be a lengthy, expensive and complex change for your enterprise. While the concept seems overwhelming, hopefully some of the information and ideas covered by this article can help your team start the journey into transformation and you can lead your telecom organization toward becoming a center of excellence.