Organizations have been working in the same way for decades. Their cultures are deep and entrenched. The broad foundational changes wrought by digital transformation therefore must be implemented carefully, according to Huawei's Vishal Augustine.
In the second part of a two-part Q&A, Augustine, the manager and lead architect for Huawei BSS, tells Telco Transformation that some organizations opt for a bi-modal approach. Companies have two groups -- one using traditional methods and one working with DevOps and other cutting edge tools -- on the same project. It can generate a lot of insight, but must be managed carefully.
In part one, Augustine spoke about the three pillars of digital transformations, which were increasing choice for consumers, improving efficiency and creating a better customer experience. (See Digital Transformation Is Built Upon 3 Pillars .)
Telco Transformation: Can you give an example of an implementation strategy?
Vishal Augustine One company I know of used a bi-modal approach to DevOps. A bi-modal approach is an approach where it is acknowledged that a company has a culture, it has a certain way of doing things. The people have been there for the past ten, 20 years.
Now you have these new technologies from e-commerce companies and OTTs such as WhatsApp and Facebook. Their approach is really different. In your old company, to launch a product, you would take two months, three months for a simple product. But in an OTT company, you do it in just one or two weeks. So the mindset is different.
TT: How do you marry both?
One way is to create two organizations. The second is more nimble. It will create APIs, have their own customer experience and bring their own products and experience to the end customer. Basically what they've said is, "Okay legacy systems, you are doing certain things, continue with it. We will reprioritize what you have to do. But ensure that your APIs are exposed." These APIs are used by the new guys who come in and try various things using those APIs and they build their own layer and roll out products and services to customers. The new guys handle DevOps.
The old guys do it in the old way. It's a mixture. It again comes back to the question, how do I run it? DevOps, BSS/OSS, everything is impacted by digital transformation. The questions are which one to start first and how you go about it.
TT: Is that common? That sounds like a very clever way to do it.
VA: It is a clever way to do it, but there is criticism. The danger is that the moment you do it, what happens is that there's going to be my good child and my bad child within the organization. Or my favorite child. Then there is competition and then what happens is the legacy guys will not cooperate.
TT: Does the bi-modal approach extend to the C-level, too?
VA: The point is both the kids need each other. If the C-level doesn't manage people properly, then it can become kind of a turf war and it can fail. The loser will still be the people who initiated it. Finally, the buck stops at the C-suite. That has to be carefully handled.
There are some operators that come up with a branding strategy for each. That's not something new. They try it and then they absorb it if it works. These are some of the ways in which they can do it. DevOps is not easy. DevOps has multiple interpretations, but if you really want to make DevOps possible in the telecom industry then try to push that concept into a legacy set of applications. That's not that easy, when you're dealing with Windows and all those things.
TT: How can a telco figure out its status?
VA: To use the analogy about going to the gym, the question is first I need to see how healthy I am. Am I a fat guy whose priority is to lose weight? Or am I a skinny guy whose priority is to build muscles? It varies from operator to operator. This is why there are tools called digital maturity models. You assess what maturity level you are at. Then we try to tell the operators that this is your maturity level. We would then recommend some of the priority areas.
Because even within those three pillars you can again subdivide it. If we are talking about operational efficiency, am I talking about the efficiency of just the back end stuff? Am I talking about productivity enhancement of the front end stuff? We can go into specific sub-areas and say where do you want to do it? And then comes a budget. Because finally at the end of the day, it's about how much budget you have. You have to think about all these things. Plus on top of it some operators if they have not rolled out their LTE, then their focus obviously will be on the rollout of LTE.
TT: Do you feel the telcos are getting more serious about digital transformation, however they define it, and giving it a higher priority?
VA: It's a mixed bag but mostly it is that they know that they have to transform. They don't have a choice. If they don't do it, they know that they will perish.
A simple example is the apps. Now I can't really say apps are 100% digitally transformed. But the way the app is being designed in terms of cost bundling and adding new services has changed. They recognize that there is a need, but the urgency varies from operator to operator. And then there are places where people have burned their fingers, so there they become more cautious. In some countries bundling the cloud service has been very successful. In some countries they were not successful.
There are cases where they have to rethink and relook, but overall they acknowledge that if they don't change they will just become a utility company. They recognize that part. The moment that they become a utility type of company then shareholder value will no longer be that high. Pressure is there for sure. The need is known for sure. The amount of urgency and the pace at which they want to transform, that varies depending on various factors of that particular country and geography.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation