May 20, 2019 | Written by: Rob van den Dam
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In a hugely competitive global industry, telecom operators must balance ongoing customer satisfaction against reducing operating costs. Too often, subscale technology investments are made for meager benefits, and automation is bolted on cumbersome processes supported by decade-old systems. Worse still, automation is often implemented without revisiting the underlying customer experience or evaluating what artificial intelligence (AI) could do to improve productivity.
The telecom industry runs rife with highly manual, voluminous, repetitive and complex rule-based transactions – things such as order validation, service fulfillment, service assurance, billing, revenue management and network management – and closely coupled with multiple legacy systems. With as result rigidity and lack of transaction visibility. In traditional lead-to-cash processes this has often led to poor service and customer dissatisfaction. Slowed by the process, customers are disincented to stay loyal, looking for a better offer elsewhere.
Reimagining the customer first
Companies are increasingly using robot process automation (RPA) to automate routine tasks. RPA’s potential benefits are manifold. They can include reducing costs, lowering error rates, reducing turnaround time, increasing the scalability of operations and improving compliance. By moving beyond basic robotics to intelligent interaction by combining RPA and cognitive technologies, telecom operators can replace tedious tasks and deliver costs savings and greater workforce productivity by:
- Striking a better balance between the front and the back office, while becoming faster and more reliable
- Enabling customers to self-serve so that sellers can focus more time on complex orders
- Cross-selling and up-selling through assisted sales and creating recommendations that all sellers know what the best sellers do.
The integration of cognitive technologies and RPA (see Figure 1) is extending automation to a new level, in this way helping telecom operators to become more efficient and agile and delivering more consistent services to the customer which is paramount in the current digital economy.
Figure 1. Moving beyond robotics to intelligent interactions
Entirely new user experiences can be achieved by taking an over-the-top (OTT) approach. The idea is to preserve the legacy system’s (also known as systems of record) capabilities to be the custodians of the business transactions. By interfacing with the “systems of record” through existing APIs or microservices, one can redefine the user experience more freely and use a combination of capabilities ranging from business rules engine, business process and management (BPM), AI, RPA and blockchain.
Using these tools in conjunction, and playing to the strengths of each of them, business benefits are amplified beyond what is achievable by overextending a single technology. This enables transparent and flexible automation of the business process in response to business needs. Technologies embedded with RPA can provide autonomous decision making, enable reasoning and remembering, and provide new insights and data discovery. For example, using AI and RPA technologies as part of a sales order management process can guide the seller to improve data accuracy by making recommendations that improve over time.
A process automation platform that sits “over the top” of existing IT interacts with IT but doesn’t require significant change. It lets telecom operators design the customer experience they want, then implement the transformed process to support that experience. Since intensive manual intervention isn’t required, the benefits of creating the process and experience supported by a process platform have positive impacts on productivity, cycle time, cost and customer satisfaction.
Massively reducing operational expenditure
Faster order fulfilment at half the cost, more self-serve options so sellers can pay more attention to complex orders and intelligent lead-to-cash processes that steers the back-office towards more areas of value are key to change telecom (see Figure 2, a tier 1 telco).
Figure 2. Example of operator transformation business case
Dramatic cost reductions can be realized in incremental sprints, with significant meaningful change possible in just months. It requires focus on the following areas:
- Build a business case with the line of business or shared services that will see the greatest gains and align incentives to make collaboration happen. Start with relieving pain points and improving the user experience.
- Decouple legacy from a new user experience. Don’t rebuild IT but breathe new life into interactions with older, legacy applications to provide the much-needed budget relief.
- Create a center of competence that includes design thinking approaches and build AI and robotic content libraries and extensive industry-specific process flows and business rules. Consider AI process platforms to automate perceptual and judgment-based tasks through the integration of capabilities such as natural language processing, machine learning and speech recognition.
We’re at a key inflection point, moving from a world of processes run by humans supported by technology, to processes run by technology supported by humans. Where are you in seizing the opportunities that cognitive RPA offers?
To learn more, download the full report from: ibm.co/telcoautomation