Swisscom on a roll down elastic path to digital transformation
Communications service providers (CSPs) in mature western European markets face intense competition, substantial legacy to manage and maximise and the continuing requirement to bring innovative new services as well as new infrastructure to their customers. However, as George Malim finds in an interview with Sven Friedli, the head of architecture management and technology transformation at Swisscom, these experienced CSPs are neither unarmed nor unaware when it comes to the battle for success in digitally-transformed telecoms.
Swisscom has been engaged in a programme to simplify its operations and prepare itself for digitalisation, targeting greater flexibility and reduced IT costs. “When we started the whole programme our top line was under pressure, in common with most telecoms providers,” says Friedli. “In Switzerland, we’re number one with 50-70% market share so it’s both hard to find new business opportunities and quite a fight to keep our customer base. For sure, we’re looking at new business opportunities but, on the other hand, we’re focused on maintaining our customers.”
Friedli adds that he has been given the goal of reducing complexity in IT and reducing costs by Swisscom’s board. “My strong belief is that to reduce cost in IT the question is not about technology one but a business-focused question. I therefore asked the board to detail their vision of what we needed to focus on it future. I wanted to know what business cases we will have to support so we could plan for them.”
Swisscom is focusing on three key areas. It wants to take a mobile and online-first approach with all new use cases accessed online and able to be managed with mobile devices. In contrast with a previous focus on contract owners, it now wants to support service users themselves, recognising that the user experience extends beyond the contract owner in the B2B and parts of the B2C market. Finally, it identified that one of its major areas of IT spending in the past was on order entry processes. There was a very tight coupling between the front end and a monolithic customer experience system which was not only costly but also inflexible. Friedli says the need to change that to get efficiency and flexibility was easily recognised.
“The whole Swisscom omnichannel vision came out of these three key goals,” he explains. “If you want to transform you must have a clear vision, it’s not about replacing system A with system B.”
An request for information (RFI) was therefore created with the aim of focusing on wireless first and then expanding the footprint to other channels such as fixed line, retail shops and customer care. “The RFI was quite broad but the outcome for me was that none of the big vendors really fitted our needs so I tasked systems integrators to focus on the best of breed approach. We went with Accenture and, in its proposal, was its digital omnichannel platform (DOCP).”
Swisscom worked with Accenture to assess the available products, selecting Elastic Path Commerce as its new commerce platform and customer experience architecture. Friedli says the Elastic Path proposition best fits the CSP’s criteria, citing a series of reasons. “Firstly, the product is headless so there is no restriction on what type of experience you can build on it. The experience online must also be the same for other channels such as integrating into a chatbox, for example. We also wanted a model architecture that can be managed and accessed by application programme interfaces (APIs) so a headless tool like Elastic Path was ideal.”
“In our view, Elastic Path is a very good size of organisation,” he adds. “For them, we are a flagship customer and that means we have the ability to influence their product roadmap which maybe we would not get to do with others.”
Having been in development on this programme for nine months, the wireless and online aspects of the project are completely deployed. “All our customers use it and we’re now introducing the capabilities to other channels,” says Friedli. “We’re on the roll-out for our shops and customer care now and, in parallel, we’re focusing on the wireline as well. We expect the deployment to be completed by the end of 2019.”
The timing is good as early digital services start to mature and come to the telecoms market. “We’ll certainly keep our Swisscom inOne quad play bundle that we have today but to find new growth, you really have to have the flexibility to offer all kinds of new things,” confirms Friedli. “These range from tangibles to IoT use cases and some will be parts of a bundle while some will be sold as single products. We have the flexibility to do that in future and provide services that have very short lifecycles.”
“One of the most important KPIs for us is net promoter score (NPS) because it gives the view of whether the users are happy and it’s very important in enabling us to keep our position in the market,” he adds. “We are in a situation where we have a price premium today and we want to keep it but to that it’s vital that we deliver excellent service.”