Understanding the Telecom Management Ecosystem
Part 1: The Value of Vendors (And Not Just Those Doing TEM / WMM)
Chances are, enterprises and vendors alike have at least heard of the Telecom Management Ecosystem. But what it is and why it matters may not be clear. Over the coming weeks, this series of articles will fix that. Readers, whether on the enterprise or vendor side, will come away with a deeper understanding of how they interact with and influence the Ecosystem.
First, however, it is important to define “telecom” because the term encompasses far more than a desk phone or a circuit. In fact, the time has come for the entire industry to toss its old view of telecom – communications technology is rapidly evolving and changing the term.
Here’s the catch: The industry must redefine and reintegrate its view of “telecom.” Enterprises regularly ask what telecom includes. The answer? Pretty much everything that encompasses telecom, IT and mobility. That’s because there is no simple substitute for “telecom,” which means
From the traditional lens, telecom includes infrastructure outside the enterprise’s walls that connects phones, laptops and so on. But cloud services and infrastructure distort that lens, highlighting that traditional telecom and IT no longer are differentiated. “Instead of trying to delineate IT and telecom, let’s create more unity,” said Timothy C. Colwell, senior vice president of Efficiency First® Adoption at AOTMP. “Telecom is the interconnectivity of all technology and everything associated with it. It’s not about what we’re not, it’s about what we are – which is everything in the communications suite.”
To that end, AOTMP has created the following resource to use any time there’s a question about what qualifies as telecom:
How AOTMP Defines “Telecom”
|Carrier / Operator / Network Services||Applications||Hardware / Equipment|
|POTS lines||Audio conferencing||Smartphones|
|PBX trunks||Video conferencing||Feature phones|
|TIE lines||Softphone||Desk phones|
|T-1 circuits||Unified communications||Tablets|
|Long Distance||Cloud software / applications (SaaS)||Mi-Fi / hotspots|
|WAN circuits||Mobile Device Management||Air cards|
|Broadband||Mobile application management||ACD / IVR|
|Metro Ethernet||Mobile content management||Conference phones|
|Cellular voice||Call center||Video conferencing|
|Cellular data||Call accounting||M2M|
|Cellular messaging||Cloud storage||Telemetry|
|VoIP circuits||Session border controllers|
|Cloud infrastructure (IaaS)|
|Cloud platform (PaaS)|
With that in mind, “Telecom Management Ecosystem” looks much broader and relevant to everyone throughout the telecom / IT / mobility industry — because it is.
The Ecosystem comprises three main categories: Vendors, the Environment and the Business.
This article focuses on vendors. That’s because, while every part affects the others, the Ecosystem will crumble without the vendors that provide the goods and services to the enterprise environment: A smartphone without voice and data services becomes a fairly useless, albeit still pretty, piece of equipment. Or, cloud infrastructure is rendered ineffective without the connectivity to the enterprise, enabling its use. And software-defined networks require vendor infrastructure and enterprise access to form a viable solution. These products and services all make up telecom and none of them can achieve their potential without vendors. And, again, the Telecom Management Ecosystem goes beyond vendors doing expense and lifecycle management. Far beyond.
To that point, AOTMP groups vendors into five categories:
- Systems Integrators/VARs
Regardless of vendor type, each one brings its own set of capabilities to the environment, as the following graphic illustrates:
Vendors of all stripes impact the performance, efficiency and cost of an enterprise’s environment, and, at the same time, that environment influences the rest of the business in numerous ways. “Telecom is the lifeblood, communications in general is the lifeblood,” Lybrook said. “The telecom environment is not just a utility to keep things going but an asset to achieve greater revenue, market share, customer satisfaction and so on.”
Therefore, the ability to accomplish this depends largely on vendor performance. “Vendors need to fully understand how they influence an enterprise fixed and mobile telecom environment to truly provide their customers with real business value,” said Scott Lawrence, vice president of business analytics at AOTMP.
In 2016, AOTMP Research identified six key criteria to use when assessing telecom/IT vendors. These guidelines help determine how well a vendor will contribute to the Telecom Management Ecosystem; for enterprises already entrenched with vendors, adhering to these recommendations can bolster the relationship and eke out more value that leads to greater efficiency and productivity.
When evaluating vendors, AOTMP Research recommends the following:
1. Know that lowest price does not mean best choice.
2. Look for vendors that really attempt to get to know the enterprise business.
3. Understand how, specifically, the vendor will support the organization.
4. Ask for case studies and references from current clients with same or similar size and scope.
5. Flexibility always stands out as a positive attribute of a good vendor.
6. If feasible, request a pilot or trial period.
“Vendors provide goods and services that must be aligned with the environment’s objectives,” Colwell said. “They must provide a customer experience in line with how the enterprise wants to engage.” Consider a typical telecom/IT/mobility management department. That group probably deals with dozens of vendors – of all kinds. Three or four may be the biggest, of course, but logistical and productivity problems crop up when the vendors all want to do business their way – not the customer’s. To best serve the enterprise, vendors should set up workflows that interact with each customer in a uniform manner. “If I have to manage 50 vendors, I don’t want to have different processes for each one,” Colwell said.
Prime examples of processes for vendors to standardize include service ordering, break/fix account management, quoting, and network design and engineering. There is no “secret sauce” involved in these operations from an enterprise interface perspective, Colwell said. Thus, removing any customization from them creates efficiency for everyone, he said. “Customers probably spend 50-70 percent of their time mired in bureaucracy rather than transacting when interacting with large telecom carriers,” Colwell said. “The point is, agree on some standards of operation, standards of interface. If every vendor gives me their report in landscape and you’re the one who gives it to me in portrait, it mucks up my works.” In other words, when vendors get rid of the red tape, customer productivity – and, as a result, satisfaction – will improve. Lawrence agreed. “High-performing vendors will always be thinking, ‘How can we influence the efficiency of our customer’s fixed and mobile telecom environment?’,” he said.
Put bluntly, true success within and extending from any telecom/IT/mobility department follows a specific recipe. And true success translates into specific, measurable results: more (and happier) customers, more revenue and profit, more market share, more competitive advantage and, maybe best of all, less expense. In AOTMP’s view, these outcomes result from efficacy in six focus areas of vendor practice:
1. Services (network/carrier, consulting, managed and professional services, BPO/outsourcing, out-tasking)
2. Products (hardware, systems, software)
3. Service-Level Agreements (SLOs and SLAs defining performance levels and measurement intervals for products and services including quote, delivery, support and incident events)
4. Customer Experience (practices and methodologies for managing the lifecycle of customer relationships)
5. Reporting & Dashboards (performance and business analytics data and information provided to clients)
6. Business Value (the measured effect of products, services and vendor performance on business results)
Above all, a vendor’s goods and services must be technically and operationally sound, and financially efficient. Enterprise leaders, then, will want to know how areas including customers, revenue, market share, competitive advantage, profit and expense all are affected. Armed with the right vendors, and operating by principles of excellence, the enterprise telecom environment will have no trouble answering those questions, and even pitching ideas for attracting and retaining more customers, gaining market share, and being more competitive. AOTMP Telecom Management Industry Update will delve into those issues on June 14.
— Kelly Teal, Editor-in-Chief, AOTMP Telecom Management Industry Update