“Digital Transformation” is an increasingly common theme in the Telco sector, but it can be difficult to get a full understanding of what digital transformation means to the business. A recent article by Huawei starts out by saying “The pressure’s on for telcos to go digital fast.” In an interview, Huawei’s SPO Lab Chief Architect Martin Creaner says the change is a necessary response to shifting business models: “Digital transformation is a huge focus for the telecom industry due to the gradual decline in revenue from traditional services…the industry needs to transform by improving efficiency, and by introducing a whole lot of new services.”
If digital transformation is so critical to TowerCos, what exactly is the change that organizations need to work towards – and what benefits will they realize? At vHive, we’re taking a long-term view of telco digitization, and working with our customers to realize their big visions for organizational change.
What is Digital Transformation in TowerCos?
For the TowerCo industry, transformation can begin with the technologies and processes available right now, starting with small projects and scaling throughout the organization. A wholistic view of digital transformation goes far beyond these near-term projects, however. The benefits of transformation will ultimately be realized in the ability to adapt and adopt new business models as they develop, surviving the shift away from traditional revenue streams and the inevitable evolution in telecom.
Digitization in the near-term includes implementing new technology solutions:
- Cloud Services: Moving from information silos to shared data structure
- Digital Twins, 3D Models and the digitization of field assets
- AI and ML Analysis tools
- Drones, robotics, chatbots, and other automated tools to streamline operations
These projects offer immediate benefits and return on investment for telcos and are some of the foundational steps for complete digitization. (See our blog post on the Top Benefits of Digital Twin Solutions.)
In the long term, a digital transformation means developing a new organizational framework by leveraging technology:
- Becoming an agile organization, moving away from more traditional centralized systems.
- Taking advantage of the innovations of ecosystem partners through open APIs.
- Utilizing tools like process mining, big data, and advanced AI to become a fully digitized organization and develop new business models.
The Benefits of Digital Transformation
Near-term projects can immediately provide:
- Optimized revenue streams
- Better customer relationships
- Data-driven insights for better decision making and long-term planning
- Streamlined operations
- Improved safety outcomes
The long-term benefits of telecoms digital transformation:
- An agile business model is future proof.
- Companies are ready to adopt new business models and generate new revenue streams as they arise.
- TowerCos become a trusted transformation partner for customers.
Now into the Future
Right now, Telcos can begin to adopt digital twin technology and execute on digitizing field assets, to utilize cloud-based systems to share information, and to apply AI and ML analysis tools to digital data sets. The vHive platform uses automated drones to enable precise aerial data gathering that can be used to produce exact digital twins of assets, providing a single source of truth and a deep visual understanding of what really exists in the field. Drone-enabled surveys are safer, easier, and less expensive than traditional means: and the resulting digital data has benefits across an organization.
Our customers can use digital twins across departments, gaining immediate insights from the platform. Aerial data and digitized asset information can smooth the way for mergers and acquisitions. (Read more about generating cross-departmental value with digitization driven by autonomous data capture here).
Accurate, inarguable data about what exists in the fields leads to better billing practices and customer relationships. AI-based analysis can indicate where towers have available space, helping sales teams to capture new revenue. A digitization platform enables collaboration: Work with customers in a 3D simulation and visualization environment to modify site change requests and improve the approval speed.
Most importantly, digital data can be manipulated and analyzed to provide critical insights and ensure intelligent and effective business decisions. Right now, TowerCos can get a deeper understanding of their business and their portfolios of field assets. Through reporting and dashboards, management teams can get the portfolio wide view that provides the basis for long term planning. Working with their technology partners, TowerCos can use APIs to connect systems and leverage data throughout their organization. Connecting a digital twin platform with a work order system, for example, could streamline the process: allowing customers and field workers to gain a visual understanding of what needs to be repaired, limiting the need for multiple field visits and enabling accurate estimates. Field personnel can perform surveys when the work is complete, providing documentation and a basis for comparison. It’s this cooperation between systems through APIs that forms the framework for long-term digital transformation.
As TowerCos implement current digital technology, they begin the process of moving away from information silos and centralized systems towards a more agile business model, a flexible organization where departments are ready to take advantage of developing technologies and evolving revenue opportunities to realize efficiencies and develop new lines of business. Customers and ecosystem partners get the benefit of digitization efforts and data products– and telcos benefit by becoming an active transformation partner as customers struggle to deal with a rapidly evolving landscape.
The Top Challenges to Digital Transformation
- It’s a Top-Down Process (CEO commitment)
- It’s a Process, Not a Product
- Change is Challenging
The benefits are clear, but digital transformation isn’t fast, and it isn’t easy. Transformation is a top-down process, one that requires a clear vision of the outcome and a commitment at the CEO level to see it through. Digital transformation cannot be achieved by completing one project or purchasing one product; it’s a process that will evolve over time and change as new technology becomes available and applicable to telco business problems. The TowerCos that are on the road to digital transformation are starting with the technology available today. The technology will assuredly evolve, but companies already involved in the process of digitization will be ready to adopt and adapt new tools as they become relevant.
Any change is difficult: but beginning the process now and making a commitment to digitization and organizational agility is key to sustainability. Despite the challenges, telcos must move towards digitization or risk increasingly tight profit margins and falling revenues from an old business model. That will work for a time, but the industry recognizes that the “dumb pipe” model is changing rapidly. TowerCos, who will be industry leaders in the next decade are getting ready now for the next stage, whatever that may be.