Rising customer expectations, shifting business models and disruptive competitors have made service a key component and differentiator for future success and growth for the telecommunications industry. But with a lack of visibility across organizational platforms and legacy systems, telcos are struggling to deliver on their SLA’s, meet customer demand and manage operational efficiencies. This has led to what the industry refers to as ‘telecom transformation’, whereby organizations are moving away from traditional network services, and moving towards a more customer-centric model, based on services that meet, or even exceed, their customers’ expectations.
To really understand these challenges and transformations, Marne Martin, President of Service Management at IFS, was lucky to sit down with the Chief Digital and IT Officer from leading telecommunications Proximus. Antonietta Mastroianni boasts a hugely successful career as well as huge industry recognition after being awarded Telco Woman of the Year in 2022 and announced as one of the top 50 executives, technologists, and disrupters to watch in 2022.
Who is Proximus and who are your customers?
Proximus is the leading telecom operator in Belgium, and it was founded in 1930. In the beginning it was a pure telecom operator, but when we look at Proximus today, we have expanded our offering with ICT and our ecosystem, going far beyond a traditional telco. Our customers are B2C customers which are very curious and interested in using our digital solution and then of course B2B customers who are not only interested in connectivity but also in ICT services, cloud and more.
What challenges are you facing in the market and how are you adapting to those challenges?
The challenge that we are facing is that there is competition from many different angles. So it requires us to be focused on innovation, to expand beyond telco, to continuously upskill people and to be on top not only of connectivity, but also entertainment, ICT, digital solutions for B2B customers and cyber security. This shift beyond telco is essential to our growth ambitions and requires flexibility in terms of operating model, IT integrations and time to market. Over the past years we have invested heavily in our IT transformation to best prepare us for the possible scenarios the future can bring. Additionally, we have boosted our agile ambitions by adopting agile at scale, encompassing both IT and business operations.
And how are you evolving from a technological standpoint?
Coming from a connectivity history, of course we had to renew our architecture to make it more modular, and more efficient. This meant moving away from the legacy monoliths we had in certain domains. We had to transform our data architecture to make sure that our data can be easily accessible to our employees to gain relevant insights that optimizes our decision making, but also to enable innovative AI solution.
How is IFS technology helping you achieve those ambitions?
It’s extremely important because you can imagine that a big part of our field technician workforce is customer facing. We don’t want to compromise on our customer experience and with this new IFS platform, we are able to support the people that serve our customers in the best way. The platform will enable us to reach high levels of efficiency, using AI to optimize the planning and scheduling of the workforce. You should know that this workforce is becoming increasingly scarce and the automation of admin and manual tasks, based on this cloud solution, will have a big impact.
Now, what true innovations are you introducing, or changes are you making to deliver a better experience to the customer?
For us it’s extremely important to step up in customer experience. So, in order to improve that, we are heavily investing in our performance and quality. The truth is that if you don’t have performance and quality, you don’t have adoption. We are also simplifying our operation and investing in the customer journey simplification – UX, UI – to make sure that our solution not only performs, but is easy to use, easy to understand and constantly safeguarding the customer experience. By fixing this basis, we will increasingly become the trusted digital partner for our customers, who will be eager to consume more of our products. Like I mentioned, we are moving beyond telco, and are working on use cases that can solve common problems in the daily lives of our customers. Think about eHealth, where we have the app Doktr for digital medical consultations.
Looking at the markets for a tech engineer in Belgium, how is that evolving and what are you doing to really speak to that?
This is indeed a very good question because the engineers are scarce resources. When we look in particular to the pool of field technicians and splicers – which are crucial to meet our fibre roll-out ambitions – we see that pool is becoming smaller and smaller. While the competition is enormous… We need to become more efficient at deploying our engineers for these operations and on the other hand, be better at attracting these talents. We know that engineers are attracted by an environment where they can learn the technology they love and can learn from experts in the field. Our agile model that follows the Spotify model with chapter and tribes is perfect for that because it empathizes expertise and development. If we can attract talented people in these scarce areas and develop this talent, we will attract more and more talent along the way.
How do you anticipate that the AI-Enabled IFS technology will benefit the business?
It’s very important because having intelligent solutions that can steer us and our colleagues in their daily jobs is important both for employee engagement and customer experience. Our technicians will be able to work in smarter ways, spend less time on admin and overhead activities, while our customers will be served faster and better.
What benefits do you anticipate the IFS project will bring?
Again, keeping in mind our fiber ambitions and the scarcity of the talent pool, smart solutions like AI-Enabled IFS technology are a key differentiator. We will step up our operational performance, automate where possible, increase customer experience, improve productivity in the workforce, and improve employee satisfaction.
Living in a technology-dependent, highly digitalized environment means telecommunications companies are experiencing mounting pressures to transform their businesses. The key to transformation is data. Data-driven network operators will not only differentiate by improving their services and customer experience, but also gain new revenue streams, efficiencies, and operations excellence through data-driven decision-making.
To find out more about IFS’s experience and expertise in the telecommunications industry and why 20 of the top telecommunications have selected IFS, click here: https://www.ifs.com/industries/telecommunications
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