User experience is critical to retaining users, attracting new users, and increasing their lifetime value. In the future, from the user's perspective, the difference between services offered by carriers as opposed to those offered by Internet companies will be negligible. In terms of experience, however, there will still be a massive gap.
Changing Mindsets: Operating Models Based on User Experience
We talk about user experience every day, but what exactly does user experience mean? It can be broken into two different types: the experience of using a service, and the experience of obtaining it. Making phone calls, sending text messages, and browsing the web are all experiences related to using a service. On the other hand, user experience while obtaining a service includes factors such as how a user found and purchased the service, how the transaction was completed, and the quality of after-sales service. To an extent, user experience while obtaining a given service can often be more important than the experience of using the service itself. Tedious transaction processes and lengthy provisioning can scare users away.
In order to benchmark user expectations for service acquisition, we developed the ROADS concept: as we move forward, users will want an experience that is increasingly Real-time, On-demand, All online, DIY, and Social. ROADS aims to capture the consumer behavior of a generation that has grown up with the Internet over the past twenty years. They are the digital natives that are shaping the future of commerce, and meeting their expectations for user experience is necessary to ensuring sustainable business in the digital era.
When we look at the operating models of telecoms from the perspective of consumer behavior and desired user experience, we find that their IT systems (OSS and BSS) are in need of major transformation; they need to transition from mere internal support systems to production systems that convert operators’ networks, services, content, and other assets into compelling products and service offerings. Furthermore, these products and service offerings must be both accessible and user-friendly. More than simply updating their IT systems, delivering a strong user experience essentially requires a transformation in telecom operations. Starting with user experience as the end goal, they will need to harmonize their operations across organizational structures, processes, IT systems, and infrastructure.
Carriers need to leverage the advanced design principles, operating models, and technological architecture adopted by Internet companies to drive operational transformation in the telecom industry. To begin with, the focus of operations needs to evolve from network-based experience to service-based experience. Second, operating models need to be built on real-time, autonomous systems, rather than manual systems. Finally, carrier's IT systems need to transition from closed architecture to cloud-based Internet architecture.
Infrastructural evolution and operational transformation are highly interdependent. Software-defined infrastructure of the future will set the stage for operational transformation, but will also unearth new challenges. Software-defined architecture will make cloud data centers become the foundation of telecom networks, and also change the way that networks are deployed—from node by node, to layer by layer. These developments present unprecedented challenges to the ecosystem and to existing operating models.
Re-architecting Infrastructure and Operations to Enable New Growth
Infrastructure and operating model re-architecture is driven by user experience, and improved user experience is the most direct form of business value that will result from these efforts. Improving user experience is not an overnight task, however, and re-architecting operations and infrastructure is not a one-off job. Improving overall experience is an accumulation of every single instance of improved consumer experience, and the changes they drive in operations and ICT infrastructure.
The purpose of infrastructure re-architecting is to provide end-users with ICT resources and services that are fast, flexible, and scalable. However, re-architecting is not the same as re-building: while meeting business and customer demands, it's essential that we maximize the use of existing network assets. Based on actual business demands, we have to apply virtualization and software-defined networking in stages to requisite network resources.
When re-architecting ICT infrastructure, cloud data centers (DC) will serve as the foundation. We believe that building a cloud DC is about hybrid management, meaning that we need to build unified cloud management platforms and integrated services that can manage legacy IT resources, as well as DC resources and public cloud IT resources, thereby providing more flexible and resilient IT services.
Using virtualization and software-defined networking to improve the scalability and flexibility of resources, however, cannot take precedence over service continuity, nor can it be done at the price of longer fault resolution times. This introduces new requirements for operation and maintenance. Our goal is to achieve a zero-fault customer experience, real-time service recovery, and fault resolution through rapid, multi-vendor collaboration. Re-architecting infrastructure and operations to achieve a ROADS experience will be a challenge for carriers. The transformation process is extremely complex, and no single vendor can deliver a complete solution. Carriers need a long-term partner that will work with them, adapt to their strategy, and through integrated services provide solutions that support their current operational needs while paving the way for their mid- to long-term objectives. Working closely with other partners across the industry ecosystem, a long-term partner can help carriers successfully transform to meet new user experience requirements, and create business value.