Consultant calls for considered approach to simplifying and digitising business processes.

A bad business process is a bad business process, irrespective of whether it is digital or not.

That is just one tip of the huge, many-tipped iceberg that is digital transformation, which was the subject of a Total Telecom Breakfast Briefing hosted in London in partnership with Telstra this week.

The key message, and it probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise, is that digital transformation for any big company, including a telco, is a complex task that can easily go awry if the company doesn’t have a clearly-defined strategy and the competence and leadership to see it through from start to finish.

How you go about simplifying and digitising business processes is one of the most important aspects of a digital transformation.

"Is the digital process you’re building the right process for your customers, yes or no? Many companies struggle here," said Volker Glaeser, managing director of Twice Reply, a consultancy specialising in digital transformation, and a partner at its parent company, Reply.

"If you are not able to manage your processes, to simplify them, and then to digitise them, then your digital transformation will fail," he said on Wednesday.

For telcos, this means overhauling OSS/BSS and deploying virtualised network infrastructure to give the end user – whether it is a consumer or an enterprise – not only the ability to design a service that meets their individual requirements, but also the ability to adapt that service on the fly, should their requirements change. Interaction with the customer again is determined by the customer, whether that is an app-based self-service portal, an instant messaging client, or a phone call.

However, "it’s not about making any process digital, because if it’s a bad process to start with, you will end up with a bad digital process," said Glaeser, who has previously worked for E-Plus, KPN and Vodafone. "It is about thinking about the right process.

"It is not a case of taking what is already there and just putting it in the cloud either," he said.

This is why digital transformation done properly is such a fundamental change to go through, because it requires a thorough evaluation of existing processes to see whether their digitisation will achieve the objectives set out in a digital transformation strategy.

Adding further complexity, is the fact that telcos that want to evolve into digital service providers that operate more in a Web-based, cloud-based environment, "automatically become part of an ecosystem, where maybe companies are working together that have never worked together before," Glaeser said.

Telcos will have to decide when to partner and when to build in-house, depending on their scale and their strategy.

Managing all this complexity requires strong leadership.

"It comes down to being very top-down in your strategy to hold the framework together," Glaeser said, adding that staff competence is also very important. "Do you have the right people, the right DNA in your company? Before you can transform into a digital company, you need digital competence."

Then, when the infrastructure, processes, corporate culture, and systems have all been transformed, all that remains is the not-so-simple task of using them as a platform for constant innovation.

"You need to exploit the new technology and digital processes you have established to innovate in an ongoing fashion. Bring new services to life and launch them very fast," Glaeser advised.

Digital Transformation is a key topic on day one of Total Telecom Congress, which takes place in London on 31 October-1 November. Click here to learn more.