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Prediction 2021: Few telcos will Keep Up with the Elite Adopters of AI

It’s not just AI, of course. It’s the effects of the combination of the intertwining of analytics, automation and AI (A3) and the different ways and paces various telcos experiment with and embrace the revolutions that A3 will bring. The differences in ways and paces will create three new and different classes of telcos – the elites, the lagging masses and the refuseniks.

Who are today’s elite? Who will remain an elite? Who will become an elite? What happens to the rest of the crowd (lagging masses and refuseniks)?

There are two main sections to this analysis: the six different ways new A3 technology can change telcos and the emergence of three new telco classes.

Six Major A3-driven Telco Changes

1. Humans and Machines Working Together

Humans will work alongside machines and deal with non-standard problems that require their decision-making skills.  They will also become increasingly involved in the development of machine reasoning for these machines.  In turn, machines will support humans with routine task completion and will augment human decision making with data and intelligence.  All parts of the telco will be impacted, particularly the large customer-facing teams that a telco requires as a service business – where we already see RPA and simple expert systems.

2. The Use of AI-aided in Design

Telcos will begin to use AI design technologies that reuse existing text and images to generate new content for their internal marketing, finance, sales and legal teams.  Over time, AI-aided design will speed up innovation, reduce cost and could possibly be used by telcos to create products that they could not have developed efficiently without the help of machines.  It will also impact the design and architecture of networks and other systems used by the telco.

3. Increased Use of Detailed Customer Understanding

Machine learning will enable easier ingestion, management, and exploration of increasingly diverse data types – increasing the depth of the customer 360 data sets already collected.  This improved data will be fed into a variety of telco systems which need customer understanding to take action.  This understanding will be held within intent-based systems and digital twins, as well as being “baked into” business policy, to be used in decision making, to better run networks and interact with customers more intelligently.

4. Customer Use of A3

Telco deployments of A3 will be increasingly driven by the take up of A3 among its customers, suppliers and ecosystem partners; as these parties will require telco capabilities to interact with the A3 in their systems.  The general adoption of A3 will also provide opportunities for both telcos and their customers to develop better, new products quicker which will enable all parties to compete in their own and new markets more easily.

5. Management of Humans and Machines

The Chief Data and Analytics Officer and their team will become a central resource for support and knowledge with the rise in the democratization of data science. They will need to manage the various issues that will arise from putting algorithms in the hands of less skilled staff.  In addition, managers across the telco will find machines taking over routine tasks which will allow them to spend more time in creative and decision-making activities.

6. Machine Speed

The speeding up of decision making by A3 will accelerate the speed of doing business.  Problems, choices and opportunities will arrive faster than management can make decisions and they will need to rely on machines to help with their decision making and execution.  One of the issues arising will be that managers will have variable understanding and intuition about the technology, its inputs and calculations – and will find it difficult to judge the quality of the machine’s suggestions and the downstream impact of implementing them.

Three New Classes of Telcos – Elites, Lagging Masses, and Refuseniks

If telcos are playing in a new world where:

  • business decisions are speeded up
  • product delivery cycles are reduced
  • customers require more speed and automation from the telco
  • competitors are also able to compete more efficiently.

They will need to:

  • create excellent human and machine assets that work alongside each other
  • evaluate and incorporate new A3 technology at speed
  • efficiently roll out new A3 beyond their walls: into ecosystems, supply chains and customers
  • respond swiftly to new A3 technologies with necessary changes to culture, processes, policy and management style
  • while anticipating and responding appropriately to changes in regulation and societal attitude.

In the last 10 years, telcos have not been the poster child for moving with speed and agility – and the combined effects of the six trends above will create considerable headwind.

The Elite will be larger, richer telcos with a Chief Data Officer and capabilities that enables them to brace themselves against the headwinds – for example, good-quality trust and risk programs.  They will offer world-class training to their employees (both human and machine) and bring in experts on an as-needed basis to bridge gaps that appear.  They will play in multiple ecosystems and bring expertise around trust, risk, complexity reduction, A3 technologies and managing data marketplaces.

The Lagging Masses will ensure that humans and machines in the organization can access, understand and use the data that is available.  They will manage this data efficiently and will also manage their broader automation programs to ensure that complexity is reduced and not increased by the addition of new technologies.  Their managers will be trained in the very new environment which these technologies will create and be happy to be supported by machines as well as humans.

The Refuseniks will have good reason for scepticism.  There are telcos which are less focussed on delivery digital services and more about managing large physical-infrastructure projects which are, by their nature, non-standard – and therefore do not necessarily lend themselves to automation or machine learning.  They will choose to undertake the most valuable A3 projects such as automating customer lifecycle management and network virtualization.

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Disclosure

The views and opinions in this analysis are my own and do not represent positions or opinions of The Analyst Syndicate. Read more on the Disclosure Policy.