By Markus Persson, 02 May, 2017.

Why do we have so many hat racks?

In a world as complex as telecom it can be hard to see the forest for all the trees. Sometimes a look at other situations makes it easier to see what’s amiss in your own home turf. In that spirit we ask ourselves here, “Why are there still so many hat racks?” 

The History

A long time ago, hat racks were placed in the entrance of houses and apartments to show status and also as a place to hang your hat (something people wore even if it wasn’t cold, I know it sounds crazy…) Times have changed and the hat rack in the entrance as a status symbol is long gone, and though it might be useful to have somewhere to hang your jacket, coat or umbrella when you enter your home, you don’t in all honesty need a hat rack anymore.  There are now far better solutions available. 

Despite this, many newly built apartments and houses still feature a standard hat rack. It’s come to a point where you don’t even question that it’s there because it’s always been there. 

Now you could ask yourself, why does this matter? What’s the harm in having a hat rack to hang my coat on instead of, for example, a hallway closet? Well, the hat rack as a symbol is what we’re after here. It’s the concept of creating a solution for a problem and then keeping the solution even though the problem has disappeared.

Looking at IT in telecom, how many times have I heard, “We want to transform just as long as the new stack looks and acts the same as the old one.”?  This way of thinking is a stark reminder that digital transformation is just as much a transformation of people and behavior as it is a technology transformation. I would even argue that it’s more a transformation of business processes and ways of working than it is a software refresh. 

Question the Unquestionable

When it comes to digital transformation, we must ask ourselves what we really want to achieve (beyond a general goal to be “more digital”). We need to scrutinize our ways of working and the traditions we have created. The hard thing is that our traditional ways of working are so bound to our DNA that often we don’t ever question them. 

My favorite list of things that are not questioned includes: 

  • Re-rating 
  • Tiered price plans that drive re-rating 
  • Existence of customer care 
  • The 30-something lifecycle stages that a customer/product/service can have 
  • That we still think we have pre-paid and post-paid subscribers 
  • Why we need 10,000 products to serve our customer base 

The list can be made longer but I think by now you probably have gotten the point. What got us here will certainly not take us into the future. 

Hiding Behind Technology

I’ve seen requests like “We would like to have zero calls to customer care.” But if that is truly the goal, then shouldn’t the request be “we want to close down customer care”? We need to let go of our traditions and shoot for what we’re really after. It will require some decisions that might seem bold at the time, but in a few years they will be seen as no-brainers. I think the customer care example is a good one because it highlights that there’s still a belief that technology will solve an issue that is non-technical, i.e. a more advanced BSS stack will not give you zero calls to customer care. The only way to achieve that is to actually close it down.  This of course requires that you have good alternatives to offer like self-service applications which a new BSS stack might provide, but it’s still a non-technical choice to make. 

Looking Beyond Software

If we want this digital transformation wave to become more than simply a lifecycle refresh of our IT stack, then we have to look beyond software and really scrutinize what we’re doing on a daily basis. Often, we can save the most by re-working those things that we do most often. But most importantly, we have to start questioning the very foundations on which our business is run. Nothing can be above questioning and it may well be that those service providers that make the most drastic changes will be the ones left standing as the winners.

The telecom industry is merging with the Internet industry; we only have this chance to make it happen. 

Make it count! 
Dare to take the leap! 
Don’t keep any hat racks!

Written by Markus Persson

Markus Persson has worked with the strategic direction of Ericsson’s OSS/BSS portfolio for more than 10 years, both as a driver within Ericsson and externally influencing the market through industry events. Markus has been with Ericsson for more than 20 years, notably as General Manager for 3G network operations. He currently works as Business Development and Strategic Product Management for OSS and BSS systems.

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