The communications industry is at a critical juncture. Changing customer expectations and competitive OTT (over-the-top) services from digital-native providers are just some of the tectonic forces threatening the existence of traditional communications service providers (CSPs).
In order to combat external market forces, CSPs have embarked on a transformation journey — often with an IT mindset to replace obsolete systems. However, transformation in a digital economy requires a change in how all members in the ecosystem work together to leverage digital technologies in a cohesive fashion.
Digital transformation requires foundational changes in business processes, organizational structures, and business and customer engagement models. Just adopting digital technologies such as social, mobile, cloud, analytics, IOT, cognitive computing, and biometrics will not take CSPs to the finish line.
Though enterprises may differ on how they start their digital transformation, most agree on the final objective of this journey: delivering an enriched, personalized, and seamless customer experience. Until now, successful service organizations have modeled their transformations on three economies:
1. Sharing and Crowd Economies
A Sharing Economy relies on the concept of sharing access to a resource or expertise in a peer-to-peer model. Service providers can share expensive resources (such as fiber) instead of installing and owning it exclusively. For more on what this looks like in the communications industry, this blog discusses possible options for subscribers to share telecommunication resources, such as unused data or airtime. A crowd economy takes this notion a bit further with practices such as crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and collaborative consumption. For example, enterprises have taken advantage of Salesforce Community Cloud to create a vibrant community who can help one another by delivering answers to questions and collaborating as a Tier 1 support channel.
2. API Economy
An API Economy, also referred to as a Platform Economy, has gained momentum among service providers with the adoption of platform ecosystems from Apple, Google, and Salesforce. CSPs see value in building an API-based ecosystem with their partners to offer products and services from multiple players. TM Forum’s Open API Program provides a suite of standardized REST-based APIs to enable the rapid creation of ecosystem-based services and the flexible integration among operations and management systems. Hackathon participants in TMF Open Hack 2016 leveraged TMF Open APIs (exposed by Salesforce and other partners) to build new applications for smart cities and connected customer experiences.
3. Algorithm Economy
According to Gartner, an Algorithm Economy allows algorithms to be brokered so they can be used as “building blocks within tailored solutions.” Algorithms are indeed the building blocks of all software components; however, the Algorithm Economy has been largely used in conjunction with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Klaus Schwab from the World Economic Forum characterizes it as “ubiquitous and mobile Internet, by smaller and more powerful sensors, and by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.” Salesforce Einstein is the AI product built into the core Salesforce Platform. Enterprises are using these AI functionalities, such as Lead Scoring and Einstein Data Discovery, to deliver a more personalized, predictive, and an engaging omnichannel service to their customers.
The influence of customer-driven services has given rise to a new form of economy — the Personal Data Economy. Also known as the “Internet of Me,” it’s a novel idea: let individuals control and take ownership of their personal information so they can share it with service providers on their own terms and conditions. Personal data can include a myriad of valuable, and intimate, information like health and biometrics information or financial records. This is a new concept, yet one that already influences business models and invites regulatory attention.
For the communications and media industries, it would include the usage history of communications services, social media activity, and advertising preferences. Companies who openly enable this transaction will succeed in building trust and creating customer connections that can withstand whatever disruption is on the horizon.
The Personal Data Economy should not be considered mutually exclusive to the three forms of economies discussed above. Rather, think of it as an economy that can encompass and co-exist with all of them. CSPs are gradually getting comfortable with this new lens — and not just for compliance with regulation. For example, the EU’s GDPR is viewed as a compelling business strategy to improve customer trust, leading to higher customer experience. Control of personal data is just a stepping stone on this journey. In the long run, customers would like to play a role in defining product and service designs and choose consumption patterns on their own terms.
There is no silver bullet approach for a digitial transformation. In fact, most CSPs have embraced digital transformation as a motif for every new solution being deployed — however small or disruptive.
The upcoming TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World (May 14-17, 2018 in Nice, France) will feature Salesforce Trailblazers from Verizon, Telefonica, Vonage, Vodafone, and Telus, who will share stories on how they are transforming the communications industry. We invite you to join us for a meeting at the Salesforce suite to discuss your digital transformation journey.
Abhi Sur is currently a Solutions Director at Salesforce Communications and Media Industry Business Unit. A communications industry technologist with over twenty years of experience in technology strategy and enterprise architecture, Abhi is currently engaged in leading transformation projects for enterprises using Salesforce solutions.
Jonathan Miranda is currently a Director of Strategy, focused on the impact of technology in the long view. Through his work at Salesforce, Jonathan engages with corporations, governments, and institutions to create alternative perspectives on the future, and develops robust strategies for Salesforce customers in a changing and uncertain world.