Next generation networks are not all about software and bots – Part 2
In the second part of their article, Chris Gilmour, the technical practice lead, and Mark Holder, an account director, at Axians UK, outline a five-step approach to next generation network success.
Do more with what you have, a five-step approach
Step 1 — There is expertise everywhere. As the cliché goes, you don’t know what it is that you don’t know (or, for those who remember Donald Rumsfeld, there are known unknowns), but the chances are that somebody else does know. Somewhere, probably closer than you realise, is somebody who can get under the skin of your network, ascertain its potential and explain how you can turn that to your advantage. Perhaps you can programme the network to automate certain tasks, or tweak a product to provide that little extra something that your competitors don’t have. You won’t know until you ask your expert. If you can then build that expertise into the ecosystem of your network, you probably have a solid recipe for growth and future-proofing.
The obvious place to look for expertise is with your trusted suppliers. After all, who is likely to know your own particular network any better? A further advantage, as we shall see, lies in that provider’s winning combination of expertise, connections and objectivity.
Step 2 — Take control of your data. Of course analytics are key to success, that’s a given. But if you are using reasonably standard data analysis, are you doing enough? The better your understanding of customer use, engagement and uptake, the more advantageously you can configure your offering to the market. You can use data to identify new revenue streams, trouble-shoot, inform product development and establish likely ROI for new concepts. Whether this is through enhanced network monitoring, the use of network management support and/or network telemetry, data combined with expertise is a powerful tool that will greatly extend the potential of day-to-day analytics.
Step 3 — Use automation for cost per gig saving. Using the programmability of your platform to automate takes you a step closer to next generation networks. But remember, just because you can automate (and industry wisdom claims that you can automate anything that you do more than once) doesn’t mean you have to: use your analytics (see step 2, above) and expertise to build a case for change and quantify your expected ROI first. Then, when you know what you want to change, have a chat with your local expert (see step 1); chances are that they have seen your automation done before and will know the likely pitfalls and if not how to avoid them, then how to tackle them. Typical of services that can be enhanced by automation are self-service portals for customers, and templates to expedite and enhance the design of processes and systems in house with accompanying audit trail.
Step 4 — Envisage and design new services. This is where the flexibility and programmability of modern platforms really give businesses power. In a typical CSP, departments tend to work in silo and focus solely on their own area of expertise; it’s very rare to find a business that has people with enough spare time to sit down and imagine new products. Many don’t realise that if they bring in their supplier partners, not only can they share expertise gained from experience with a wide range of customers and tell you what your network is capable of, they are also objective enough to gather feedback from multiple areas of the business and share learning and insights in exactly the same way, effectively integrating product and network teams. At Axians we have seen great improvements come from workshops that integrate consultancy and data intelligence, as they tailor services with the benefit of increased experience and exposure to comparable scenarios, free from the restrictions of silo working.
It is easy, but dangerous, to underestimate the value of learning from others’ experience (dangerous because if you don’t, your competitors will). If you consult with a top-flight network integrator partner, the chances are good that they will have encountered similar scenarios elsewhere and know the challenges (and solutions) that others have deployed. They may also suggest ways of tweaking a solution into a bespoke fit for a given CSP, or even possibilities for creating an entirely new product. Sometimes, leveraging the power of the network, even in relatively minor ways, can transform a workaday product facing massive competition into something else entirely.
Step 5 — Test concepts in the most appropriate places. This may seem obvious, but a surprisingly large number of CSPs fail to leverage the resources that their partners can offer. For example, do they have a test rig or replica network that can be used for proof of concept? Communications service providers often forget that their partners are partners in network design and architecture as well as straightforward provision, tending instead to consider them merely fellow members of a supply chain and missing out on substantial resource as a result.
Get it right
Getting the basics right might seem obvious, but it can be all too easy to overlook those basics when customers and colleagues are crying out for ‘the latest thing’, today. Automation and AI have the potential to set CSPs apart from the competition and provide innovative new services, but this is pointless if there is not a good, future-proof network underpinning it all and driving the business forward. The seeds of tomorrow’s networks have already been sown in today’s: the network of today is the workplace for future success.