Around the world, the way many people live their lives is changing, fuelled by the increased availability and advances in information and communication technology (ICT). Mobility and connectivity are becoming an integral part of everyday experiences. For the individual consumer and for governments and enterprises, ICT is blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds. Although telco operators across the world have been instrumental in enabling this exciting new reality, when it comes to providing a great customer experience, as an industry, telco has fallen short. A new standard has been established by internet and platform companies such as Alibaba and Amazon.
It was with the knowledge that telcos must adopt a consumer mind-set, paying closer attention to end-user needs, that Huawei identified the ROADS experience. ROADS identifies five key service elements expected by the modern consumer: real time, on-demand, all-online, do-it-yourself, and social. To help the ICT industry deliver the ROADS experience, Huawei launched the Open ROADS Community at the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Our goal is for the Open ROADS Community to be an incubator for the ICT transformation best practices required to make the ROADS experience a reality. In this digitally connected world, none of us can afford to exist in silos, so we will be vendor-neutral to share best practices within and beyond the Telco industry, and provide supporting architectures and business-oriented operating models that evolve with time. Most importantly, we are aiming to dowith reference implementations, and not just theorise with documentation.
Delivering the ROADS experience requires the Telco industry to adopt a holistic approach; both operations and infrastructure need to be transformed. Let’s look at ROADS in more detail with some illustrative examples:-
- Real-time fulfilment of requests and status updates. Shorten new service releases from weeks to seconds.
- On-demand availability of service based on actual needs, such as connectivity package customization in terms of network bandwidth, capacity and quality of service.
- All-online services that reflect growing user expectations to be able access service anytime, anywhere and on any device.
- DIY capability that allows users to easily self-serve to create a frictionless experience.
- Social platform participation to build brand loyalty, gather consumer insights and feedback. Create a more interactive customer experience and engender a sense of belonging.
Last year Huawei conducted research to benchmark customer experience satisfaction across online video, Telco service, social network platforms and online shopping. We found that of the 23,000 consumers surveyed, only 13 percent of respondents cited Telco as offering the best ROADS experience. Online shopping by far offered the best experience (49 percent), reinforcing our view that there is much to be learned from ecommerce behemoths such as Amazon and Alibaba in providing a compelling customer experience.
Consequently, as telco operators seek to transform to digital businesses, our view is that delivering the ROADS experience should be their ultimate target. Any transformation should start with a vision of the customer experience that needs to be delivered, followed by a strong commitment and flexibility to make that vision a reality. This will require operators to consider changing their business, R&D, service, and operations models as well as restructuring their telecommunications networks.
Learning from eCommerce
As an example, let’s consider online retail giant Amazon’s journey to become a 400-billion-dollar company. Amazon has a simple but highly ambitious mission: “Our vision is to be Earth's most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” This vision drove Amazon beyond the online book sales model it started with in 1995 to become an ecommerce and cloud computing company that is the industry leader in real-time order fulfilment. Amazon even designs and sells its own technology gadgets (which carefully complement and enhance its content offerings), all in the service of what is essentially the ROADS experience.
Even in its earliest days Amazon already offered a social experience – providing book reviews that offered peer-based insight and, based on individual viewing and purchasing history, providing recommendations of related products. This, of course, required a data analytics capability, and reminds us that data analytics is a fundamental part of delivering the ROADS experience, not only to better understand customer needs and behaviours, but to better drive operational efficiencies, support operational and strategic decisions, and to create new opportunities for internal and external data monetization.
Amazon’s agility to deliver new services on-demand is demonstrated by the way it has exploited and expanded its network of data centres to create Amazon Web Services. By satisfying the need from other businesses for on-demand computing power, AWS has grown to be Amazon’s most profitable business division.
The lesson we can learn from Amazon and other successful digital companies is that a holistic approach in the delivery of a compelling customer experience is essential in this digital age, when alternative choices are easily and instantly available elsewhere. To have the necessary flexibility and scalability required to offer a full ROADS experience and to successfully compete with internet companies, the Telco industry must move to an all-cloud model, with pooled hardware resources, a distributed software architecture, and with automated service provisioning, resource scheduling and fault handling.
Open is an Imperative
Last, but not least, we must be “open”. As it transforms into a truly digital business the Telco industry will encounter many challenges which no single player can solve in isolation. To successfully address the challenges we must be “open” in many senses of the word:-
Open to other industries
- The ROADS experience has global resonance and is applicable across several industries. We must be open to learning from and collaborating with other industry verticals to create and improve services and provide a better customer experience.
- At our first Open ROADS Advisory Board Meeting in Singapore we heard from transport booking app Grab. While most companies use the GPS data in their system to predict supply and demand, Grab took it one step further and provided the data for free to the World Bank-backed OpenTraffic -- a non-profit initiative set up to improve traffic conditions in one of the most notoriously congested cities in the region - Manila.
Open to millennials
- Millennials are a monolithic group of consumers, the difference between a 19-year-old and 35-year-old is often highly distinct. From their income level to consumption habits to how they connect with friends and peers to how they consume content, a vast array of differences exists within this group. To successfully engage with them, we have to consider which stage of life millennials are at and the impact their age has on his or her behaviour in order to glean key insights which will drive our industry growth
- We only need to look at companies like Netflix who not only uses social media to attract and engage them, but also enable them to share content with their friends with ease. By providing relevant and exclusive content in an easy to use manner whilst constantly upgrading applications, Netflix has been able to evolve right alongside millennials.
Open to ecosystem partners
- Many opportunities to create value will be possible by putting the systems in place to enable an ecosystem. Experience tells us that opening up your capabilities to partners via APIs can potentially create many innovative and valuable new services, well beyond what Telco can develop in isolation.
- We only need look at the iOS and Android developed communities to see how building ecosystem can fuel innovation. By providing a platform and sharing their APIs to app developers, these two tech giants have provided a system that developers and brands can exploit, and which through network effects has further entrenched the market share of these two mobile operating systems.
Open to other industry associations
- In the course of executing our initiatives we should be open to sharing the process and results with other industry bodies, and similarly we should be open to exploring and re-using as appropriate the output of these same bodies.
- A key driver in forming the Open ROADS community was realizing that none of the existing industry bodies in isolation are developing the holistic approach required to successfully enable ICT transformation. To address this, instead of operating independently, we must communicate and collaborate with industry associations such as GSMA , TM Forum and The Open Group.
Open collaborative, incubation labs
- To support the aim of the Open ROADS community to deliver reference implementations Huawei is committed to supporting the Open ROADS initiatives with the resources necessary for R&D, and will make available our cloud open labs facilities to community members. In this spirit, we also hope that service providers will open up their production environments to help further validate proposed implementations.
- This openness is also an invaluable learning opportunity for industry talent -- the people behind this ICT transformation will play a crucial role in making our vision a reality.
In conclusion, although we know that our operations and architecture needs to move to all cloud, driven from deep data analytics, we don’t know what the future will exactly look like – nobody does. However, what the Open ROADS Community must do is put the building blocks in place so that our industry can flexibly evolve based on future business needs while continuing to deliver the ROADS experience.