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Digital transformation in telecommunications

Digital transformation for telecoms - All in one place

Mats Vilander
28-May-2021 12:26:08

Over the years we´ve seen new and revolutionary technology alter the way we live and work. Think smart phones, electric cars, digital payments, IoT and more. The current Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the adaption of these technologies even more by forcing us to work and communicate daily without any physical interaction. The world is changing, and companies need to meet these changes by establishing a digital transformation strategy.

In short: Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It's also a cultural change that require organizations to plan in detail and map out processes, and most importantly educate people in the organization.

I won’t get into the details on how to implement an entire digital transformation strategy, since there is a lot of material written about this already and too much to cover for one article. I do, however, have a long background in the telecommunication industry and want to talk about how they are doing on their digital transformation journey, and how new and unforeseen headaches have been created.

For a while the telecom industry lagged behind when it came to implementing digital technology, but the industry is now embracing change and come a long way on their digital transformation journey, some great examples of this is:

  1. The use of drones to automatically create digital twins as part of digital asset management and digital maintenance programs in order to increase the accuracy of as built info on sites and towers. The accuracy of as built information is becoming a necessity for infrastructure owners.
  2. The increased use of workflow tools to geofence sites and plan Co-Location of sites to rent out tower space to other mobile operators and uploading status on modernisation of sites to replace manual handling using XLS spreadsheets.

Changing the nature of document management

As the Telco industry is getting more and more digitalized new challenges emerge. In order to support digital transformation, telecoms have to keep investing in new software solutions. These systems are amazing and packed with features; however, you rarely find one that covers all your needs, which means you have to get multiple systems and are left with fragmented documentation as a poor side effect.

Today, information needs to be accessible anytime anywhere, and as technology advances, workflows and processes gets more and more complex. There is an exponential growth in both structured and unstructured data. Once physical documents are replaced by digital ones and at times new file formats are created. Documents are essentially any form of media, including “old formats” like pdfs, images and videos, as well as new formats like emails, chats and more. Digital transformation is changing the nature of document management.

Shared drives and folder structures seem like a quick and easy spot to store your digital documentation and make them accessible.  And sure, folders are great, but the organization gets heavily reliant on what is called ‘titling conventions’ to enable the information to be found. That is, the names of files, folders and documents follow a pre-defined model. When this isn’t maintained, duplication of information in folders are unavoidable and one day you will experience the inevitable clash of versions. Shared drives eventually turn into graveyards, where no documentation can be found.

This leaves the question; is anything archived at all?

Considering multiple systems, fragmented documentation, folder chaos and an increasing amount of data, this leaves the question; is anything archived at all?

 

Digital transformation involves a lot, but it all starts or ends with documentation. I would argue that documentation might be one of the most important and overlooked assets that a company owns. Which is why it´s surprising that in today´s companies systems are neither interconnected nor integrated.

 

Digital transformation is difficult, but let’s make document management simple. In order to get organized you will need a document management system with the sole purpose of making it easy to find and use documentation across your organization. The system should have few features, but some essentials are:

 

  1. Open API for integration across platforms and systems
  2. Classification - built-in processes to ensure proper metadata
  3. A robust search function, ideally a combination of filters and full text browser
  4. Cloud based for web access
  5. Permission and access levels
  6. Scale as your organization grows

The document management system also needs to be able to receive migrated legacy data without compromising its integrity or accessibility. Most companies maintain legacy systems to ensure access to important documentation required day to day business or compliance regulations. Legacy systems are usually not supported by the vendor or use old infrastructure, making them expensive to retain and represent a security risk. A document management system can eliminate this risk and expense.

With an increasing focus on mobility, digital disruption and advanced workflows, I urge all telecoms entering their digital transformation journey to take a closer look at the entire document management lifecycle. It’s not enough to create a document and find it the next day, your colleague must also be able to find and use it five years from creation. Only the ones that leverages the full potential of their documentation will be able to deliver value to internal and external customers.

With that said, I´ll leave you with these questions until next time.

  1. Do you archive?
  2. If so, where is all your site related documents, as build info and landlord and tenant contracts archived?
  3. How do you manage uploads from service companies sitesurveys and pictures from sites?
  4. How much time do you spend on searching and retrieving documentation?
  5. What is the cost of not being in control of expiry dates of contracts?

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