Digital transformation in the telecom industry

Digital change is happening in entire industries, transforming them from incumbents to innovators.

The telecom industry is one of these industries that has undergone fundamental change with the shift from ISDN to SIP trunks. “During this shift,” explains Myles Leach, MD at NFON UK, “many organisations kept their on-premise telecoms platforms, but in the last five years there has been a marked adoption of cloud hosted telephony solutions. Put simply, just as cloud computing has changed the world of data, it is now doing the same with voice. The cloud makes it possible to streamline delivery of data and voice and crucially enable organisations to have what they really want – one supplier for their voice and data.”

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A digital drive

There is a drive to digitally transform the telecoms sector. This was, arguably, initiated during the switch to ISDN lines; as previously the industry was dealing in analogue.

The adoption of the cloud technologies is also, usually synonymous with any digital drive. And, this adoption is being “driven by the end-user organisations, not the vendors of technologies,” says Leach.

“Cloud computing has changed the world of technology forever – gone is the hardware heavy business; we are now living in a software world where only few of us can remember the pain of back-up tapes and floppy disks to transfer and store information. From many conversations with customers of every kind, we know that the majority of organisations are somewhere along their digital transformation journey.”

Indeed, the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that 83% are currently on this journey, with the remainder having arrived at their destination (10%) or not yet departed (7%).

[I would say that these figures are dangerous, because it’s important to never rest on your laurels or ‘arrive at a destination’. Digital transformation in the telecom industry, indeed any other, is a constant journey, because innovative customer products and services are being delivered and created all the time. If you stop you die.]

“What’s clear is that digital transformation offers tremendous opportunities, provided you prepare for it,” explains Leach.

“Whilst digitalisation sceptics still think that voice communications volumes have peaked and will eventually decline, the raw statistics say the opposite. Technically speaking, all forms of communication will be digitally transformed by the change to the all IP standard. At the same time, all IP provides the foundation for new cloud services that facilitate but do not dehumanise the new world of work. Whilst it is quite undisputed that digital transformation leads to a change in our communication behaviour, traditional and human communication channels such as voice becomes yet another application in the IP world.”

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The tech behind the digital transformation in the telecom industry

It’s all about the cloud. And, in telecoms, all cloud communication services are brought together under one umbrella: UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service).

“Small and large companies can achieve cost savings and productivity benefits from a variety of cloud service options,” continues Leach.

And, because of advances in technologies, “business communications have never been this diverse or easy to manage. In terms of the future, AI is already powering intelligent personal assistants and chatbots that are well on their way to becoming virtual team members,” says Leach.

“Another big trend is the rise of omni-channel contact centres – interacting with customers beyond voice, to include web chat and social media channels. Multi-channel, big data and the integration of the Internet of Things also pose new opportunities to the visibility of customer related data.”

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Embracing the digital

The key to embracing the digital, according to Leach, is getting the most out of the benefits that technology can bring. This means embracing new and different work methods.

“A pro-flexible working culture needs to be led from the top to be successful – it’s not enough to simply talk the talk. The new world of work is changing fast, driven on by the millions of millennial and Gen Z professionals entering the workplace. Our colleagues of tomorrow will be the first generation to have grown up in a fully-connected world, raising expectations for a high level of digitalisation at work. Their outlook demands a step away from legacy and a step toward the next wave of technology, and the wave after that. Progress shows no signs of slowing down and neither do the potential benefits.”

How important is remote working in today’s digital economy?

You would be hard- pressed to find a business in the UK that doesn’t offer some sort of ‘home’ or ‘mobile’ working option for office staff. According to the Office of National Statistics, it’s expected that half of the UK’s workforce will be working remotely by 2020. But just because it’s now much more common doesn’t mean that it’s effective or that business leaders feel positive about it.

The vast majority of workers do not feel comfortable asking to work remotely. There is a huge stigma attached to it – for many people home working is synonymous with workers opting for an ‘easy’ day when they are expecting a delivery; sat in their pyjamas eating cold leftovers from last night’s dinner. With such a negative stigma, businesses cannot and will not get the most out of mobile working.

It’s time to move out of the dark ages and take a fresh look at the benefits that mobile working can bring. It’s no wonder that the lean, mean of startups today begin by gathering talent from all parts of the UK and start by collaborating online, before taking small office space with hot desks. They see and recognise that in these days of digitisation, business should not be restricted by borders – locally, nationally or internationally. Work is what do, not where we are.

The telecom leaders

Digital transformation in the telecom industry — it’s spurred by competition, the move to the cloud and the advent of new technologies, such as AI and chatbots getting more and more advanced.

“Vendors that have always been cloud-based naturally have the edge – as they don’t have migration and legacy issues,” says Leach.

“GDPR has also created a big advantage for European cloud communication companies, as US competitors (by design) are not able to prevent the exchange of customer data between the European branch and the US headquarters – this has been exacerbated by the US passing the CLOUD act.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...