Breaking down silos for telco adaptability

Dismantling silos and going agile

Traditionally, telcos have been managed top down and organised around the main functional units of network, IT, marketing, sales, customer care, finance and shared services (e.g., HR, legal, facilities). Each unit (silo) has had its own objectives, budget and systems, which may have come into conflict with those of other units from time to time and/or resulted in overlapping efforts and duplication of work. More recent thinking shows that there are benefits for those that can break away from siloed structures, but telcos have struggled to do so.

This report looks at the ways in which some telcos have approached the task of dismantling silos and going agile. The researcher was not an agile specialist but has experience of such transitions from a strategic perspective. For the purposes of this report, agile working is defined as a system of work where cross-functional teams are formed around critical tasks. Team members work towards a common purpose and are autonomous, allowing for fast decision making. A typical agile organisation structure comprises tribes, chapters and squads. The nuances of different agile models are not discussed in depth. The focus is to identify lessons and recommendations based on real-world telco experiences.

In each of the five case studies we address these questions:

  • Why was the action considered? What was the rationale for the telco to embark on the transformation? What were the key strategic drivers?
  • What was the process of change? Over what timeframe was the transformation implemented, and how was it achieved?
  • What was implemented? Which structures were used, and which parts of the organisation were impacted?
  • What were the outcomes? What were the successes and challenges faced?
  • What lessons were learned? What should other telcos consider when looking to breakdown silos?

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The silo situation

Traditional telcos divide employees into functional silos, grouping them based on their job titles, responsibilities and skills. These groups focus on group goals and tasks which can result in a “silo mentality” where information, resources and skills become trapped as there is limited incentive for communication. Figure 2 shows a typical silo organisation structure.

Typical silo organisation structure seen in telcos

Silos can inhibit organisational productivity and innovation, as many critical activities fall across multiple functional areas. For example, customer proposition development includes the activities of identifying needs and developing products, pricing, advertising, sales strategy, customer experience and care, subscriber acquisition and retention costs (device subsidies) and overall business casing/budgets (see Figure 3). Each activity requires collaboration between different functional teams, who may have different agendas – it also results in confusion as to where responsibility for customer proposition development lies overall.

Cross silo inputs for customer proposition development

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • The silo situation
  • Benefits of breaking down silos
  • Why should telcos break silos now?
  • What prevents telcos from breaking silos
  • Case Study 1: Going agile in commercial teams in a medium-sized opco
  • Case Study 2: Going agile in part of a large multinational telco
  • Case Study 3: Deploying agile at scale at Telstra
  • Case Study 4: Deploying agile working in a separate entity (TELUS Digital)
  • Case Study 5: Deploying agile working in stages (Swisscom)
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations
  • Index

Related research

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Enterprise networking challenges: How can SD-WAN help?


This document is the first in a mini-series of three reports which seek to explore SD-WAN technology from an enterprise perspective, covering the challenges that SD-WAN is designed to address, the differing types of SD-WAN product on the market today, and how we envisage SD-WAN-type services evolving in future.

The next two reports in the series are:

What networking challenges are faced by today’s digital enterprises?

Enterprises throughout the world are rapidly digitising their operations. Increasingly, the digital strategies they are adopting include the transition of business tools, applications and processes to a ‘multicloud’ environment: involving a hybrid combination of applications and data hosted in one or more public clouds alongside the company’s own private data centres.

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/>Digital enterprises require secure access to their applications and data from any location, at any time, via any device and over any network. At the same time, they need to ensure that their end users – both employees and customers – have the same application quality of experience as they did when the tools, applications and processes were hosted in the company’s own private data centre.

Unfortunately, existing WAN architecture models often do not provide the scale, flexibility or agility required to support this transition. These legacy WAN architectures typically leverage a hub and spoke network topology, where the hub is in the corporate data centre and static, point-to-point circuits that often require manual provisioning for deployment, moves, adds and changes connect the hub site to the branch offices. As these organisations transition to multicloud, the corporate data centre, hub site, becomes a bottle neck. Additionally, their static, manually provisioned circuits can’t keep pace with the dynamic nature of multicloud traffic flows.

Consequently, these businesses need to look for a new, simplified and automated approach to managing and transforming their WAN. Additionally, as enterprises look to leverage broadband internet to simplify and manage the cost of the WAN, they need to maintain the same SLA levels, ensure application quality of experience (QoE), and to be mindful of the security implications and risks in doing so.

SD-WAN platforms and services represent a response to these networking challenges that is being adopted more and more by enterprises of all sizes – from SMBs through to the largest multi-nationals – across all regions worldwide.

In this report, we highlight the main networking challenges that SD-WAN is designed to address, and outline in brief some of the ways it does so.

In a subsequent report, we will discuss the main types of SD-WAN platforms and services available on the market today, along with the leading vendors and communications service providers that provide them. And in a third report, we discuss some of the ways in which we expect SD-WAN technology and services to develop over the next few years as it expands to encompass more and more aspects of enterprise information and communications technology, and to meet the needs of new applications and automated processes

Which networking challenges does SD-WAN address?

In this section, we discuss the main problems faced by network engineers and operations personnel managing the WAN, and evolving its architecture and functionality, in response to the rapidly changing, digital requirements of their enterprise. At the same time, network operations are under increasing pressure to reduce costs while maintaining, and indeed improving, quality of service and experience.

With these pressures in mind, we have identified seven key networking challenges faced by enterprises:

7 key enterprise networking challenges

7 enterprise networking challenges

Source: STL Partners

In the rest of this report, we explore each of these challenges in detail, and how SD-WAN helps to address them.

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