Spotlight on Tech

It’s time for a people-first approach to telco transformation

By
Kunal Khanwilkar
Senior Director, Account Management
Rakuten Symphony
July 27, 2023
5
minute read

How to get started on rapidly retiring legacy tooling and automating operations

Technology-led strategies for solving telecom’s most complex challenges are rarely successful. Innovative tech can be the catalyst, but the teams implementing them must be primed to win.

We are seeing this play out in real-time with a number of customers focused on putting legacy IT operations out to pasture in favor of automated approaches that leverage common data to augment existing capabilities.

It helps to understand the environment these teams are grappling with today. They are often using dated tools like shared spreadsheets that rely on manual input or homegrown web apps for coordinating workflows and sharing info. If a new need occurs? Just create another process and add a bit more tooling. Eventually, a hodgepodge of solutions with varying levels of committed usage by employees and contractors becomes the foundation for a best-effort strategy. This makes it virtually impossible to run a report based on real-time data to understand if a project is running according to plan and budget. 

There are some with a vested interest in maintaining networks in this manner. Often they are external contractors and may comprise up to 80% of the total headcount cost. They do not include people whose job it is to reduce costs and get networks deployed faster. 

A core group of maybe 20% of internal people that care are battling this inertia. 

Again, this is a people problem. Or opportunity, depending on your perspective. That 20%, which includes leaders across the C-suite, are focused on how to retire legacy tooling, automate processes and pull the other 80% forward. The teams that can do this successfully will wield a new power within the organization. 

Going all in to make big strides

Taking timid half-steps toward solving these challenges will never work. Teams must be all-in, or the legacy part of the processes that remain will ultimately prohibit transformation. 

Telecom is a unique, highly-distributed industry that must employ unique business processes. In other words, generic tooling need not apply as it ultimately struggles to scale. In the work we’re doing with customers, automation based on centralized data repositories and real-time auditing capabilities is empowering teams to do more faster and for less. It is the second-order capabilities of having centralized data that often prove most valuable. For example, system-wide automated program audits and project status reporting.

When we engage with customers, our work toward transformation begins with an honest conversation about business goals, existing processes and where improvements can be made. These conversations lead to the identification of the most valuable processes and which legacy tools should be modernized or retired first. 

We are uniquely qualified to have this conversation given Rakuten Symphony’s heritage and expertise in software and digitalization. It’s also about what we don’t have, namely legacy telecom knowledge that blurs thinking. The combination of our naivety and belief is sometimes our greatest asset. To create a mobile network from scratch in record time, we needed an easily configurable business process platform for planning, building and operating telecom networks with optimal efficiency. 

A modernized approach to transformation

Today, existing and new operators alike are using this same approach to shift towards self-dependency and vendor-agnostic operating engines. The tool of choice is a self-service telecom domain-specific business automation platform that already contains program and project auditing capabilities and provides a flexible, traceable hierarchy for managing complex workflow orchestration. 

This modernized approach empowers customers with a self-manageable, easily configurable, and reliable framework to rapidly transform legacy tools and business processes. Business savings become tangible as data management occurs naturally. Furthermore, centralized license management, usage billing, and access control add to the efficiency of the transformed operations.

Each operator’s journey for modernizing legacy tooling will be different. Some of the most common workflows to tackle early on in the transformation process include: 

  • Planning
  • Design
  • Zero-touch provisioning
  • Auto-healing
  • Site acquisition
  • Site commissioning
  • Equipment logistics
  • Construction and implementation
  • Optimization and integration
  • Consolidated inventory management across physical and virtual
  • Project close out
  • Documentation management
  • Service assurance
  • Contract management
  • Financial (capital funding, PO management, payments)

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll share insight about what the journey looks like to replace these tools and the outcomes that can be expected. 

This includes a focus on speed and proof of on-time execution, the importance of a one-team mentality and why teams should never deviate from the goal of streamlining operations, management and control as they swiftly and efficiently pursue a new possible.

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