Telecoms Opinion South Africa

Rebuilding telecoms for digitally-driven, integrated operations

Despite telecommunications being considered a building block for a digitally transformed world, many operators and businesses in the sector struggle to modernise their legacy applications effectively. These have become an interconnected patchwork of systems integral to supporting operations. Telecom companies do not have the luxury of switching everything off and rebuilding from scratch. Instead, they need to balance integrating digital solutions with existing ones in ways that do not negatively impact their ability to increase wallet share, reduce customer churn, and accelerate network roll-outs.
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Adding further complexity to this is changing customer expectations. Following an enforced self-service approach over the past two years, telecom companies must now deliver an authentic omnichannel experience. This sees the provisioning of engagement channels that span email, SMS, phone calls, or even social media platforms.

Throughout this customer journey, the data must integrate with agents, have complete visibility of all touchpoints, and be updated on all interactions if service levels are not to be impacted. But customer service is just one piece of an increasingly complex puzzle.

Network foundation

The driving force behind telecoms is the effectiveness and reliability of its network. With the likes of 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and edge computing growing exponentially in recent times, the network must be robust enough to deal with technological changes while still meeting customers' voice and data needs.

Network capacity must increase, and the continued energy crisis adds pressure to operators in the South African environment. Rolling blackouts are putting strain on network towers, with battery theft on the rise. And now, securing infrastructure is also taking on new importance when consumers and organisations rely on communication for all aspects of their daily lives and operational requirements. Networks going down are simply no longer options for the modern operator.

Asset management is therefore critical in this regard. Fortunately, software-driven solutions support the capital investment in the construction and build-out of networks and equipment. These also function as platforms to manage the complexities of telecom assets regardless of their geographic location.

More importantly, the right software can take care of the intraday servicing needs resulting from break or fix callouts. It is critical for a telecom provider to have an effective maintenance strategy in place. Given the vagaries of the operating environment across Africa, this planning must also account for unplanned outages that can significantly disrupt operations and result in potential regulatory penalties and fines.

Growth platform

Integrating all this into a blended resource optimisation engine is essential for a telecom business to operate as efficiently as possible. It boils down to faster scheduling of field service activities, increasing the number of work orders that can be completed daily, and doing so faster than the industry average to create a competitive advantage.

A golden thread running throughout this is having a service-driven approach, whether external-facing or focused on optimising internal efficiencies.

Service centres on the quality of the product and network infrastructure, the uptime of that product, the way all of that is serviced, and the need to keep any disruptions such as outages to a minimum. Failing in any of those elements will likely result in customer churn and a hit on the average revenue per user.

In the pressurised telecom environment, to keep competitive, there is always a degree of risk when it comes to consumer and enterprise systems becoming isolated from one another. And yet, these must link together if telecoms companies are to provide an integrated value proposition.

Whether field service management or customer relationship management, all operational components must provide visibility for the right decision-making. This can only happen if a software platform is implemented to help drive growth opportunities while managing the day-to-day of the company.

Service enhancements

Typically, traditional telecom platforms are spread across service and asset management solutions. Integrating these to enhance product and asset use cases becomes a critical business enabler. Just consider that in a complex telecom network infrastructure environment, there are hundreds of thousands of components as well as systems and subsystems.

An integrated software platform that can natively model this complex structure via an object hierarchy and address each element specifically will be instrumental for future business success. Planning and performing service in this environment is an order of magnitude more complex than something like a visit to repair a router.

Modern software that can overlay and enhance existing systems will be fundamental for those operating in telecoms to enhance their businesses.

About Heman Kassan

Heman Kassan is chief commercial officer of Technodyn.

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