Innovation Is Key in a Shifting Telecommunications Market
By Dean Young, Portfolio Manager: Connectivity Services at T-Systems in South Africa
The advent of cloud computing, the digital era and the growing phenomenon of ‘Bring Your Own Everything’ (BYOx) has caused a dramatic shift in the telecommunications market.
Consumers and business alike are demanding cheaper and more ubiquitous access to communication, both voice and data, however this and a number of other challenges have put enormous pressure on telcos to meet their customers’ needs and still remain profitable.
Data instead of voice has become the top priority when it comes to revenue generation. As a result we are seeing significant consolidation within the telecoms space, with mergers and acquisitions becoming the order of the day.
Competing on infrastructure is no longer a viable option, and as the market has shifted, so too has the focus from delivering products to offering services and solutions that add value for customers. Diversification and innovation are key in today’s shifting telecommunications market.
Cloud computing and mobility have both had a profound effect on the telecommunications space, driving insatiable demand for high speed, high quality and affordable data.
In today’s world, everything is connected, digital and online, and data connectivity is the glue that holds this together. Many service providers now incorporate cloud offerings into their portfolio.
However, companies like Google and Amazon that play mainly in the consumer space have created new demand – for single providers that offer a one-stop-shop type of service, and we are seeing this filter into the business market as well. Customers, both business and consumer, want to subscribe to a single aggregator that meets all of their communication and application needs.
This demand has resulted in traditional telecoms providers looking to diversify their offerings in order to cater to the need for bundled solutions. No longer is telecommunications about who has the best infrastructure or the widest coverage, it has become about who can offer the most value to customers.
Telcos today must not only provide voice but high-speed data, cloud services, mobility and more – effectively becoming a broker of services in order to take their value proposition to the next level.
In addition, the need to rollout LTE, combined with limited available spectrum and licensing, is driving telecoms operators to buy up smaller providers specifically to access their LTE licensing. As a result we are beginning to see collaboration between fixed-line and mobile operators, as well as mergers and acquisitions cross the entire telecoms space.
On top of these changes, telcos are also looking at OTT services to push increasing volumes of content to users. While the majority of this activity is currently limited to the consumer space, businesses are exploring this option too, particularly from an educational and marketing perspective.
Convergence has truly become the way of the future, and telecoms providers must move further into the ICT space than ever; South Africa is following a global trend in this regard, as providers in North America and Europe have already made this move.
The traditional telco model is shifting from purely infrastructure-based to a hybrid service provider model with value added and bundled services. The only way for local service providers to remain relevant in this challenging and dynamic environment is to diversify their services and sell further up the value chain. Bundled offerings across fixed-line, mobile, voice, data and cloud-based solutions are the core components of a new portfolio of products.
Innovation is critical to maintaining competitive edge and profitability.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”