How to be Agile: Agility by Design and Information Intensity

Background: The Telco 2.0 Agility Challenge

Agility is a highly desirable capability for telecoms operators seeking to compete and succeed in their core businesses and the digital economy in general. In our latest industry research, we found that most telco executives that responded rated their organisations as ‘moderately agile’, and identified a number of practical steps that telco management could and should take to improve agility.

The Definition and Value of Agility

In the Telco 2.0 Agility Challenge, STL Partners first researched with 29 senior telecoms operator executives a framework to define agility in the industry’s own terms, and then gathered quantitative input to benchmark the industry’s agility from 74 further executives via an online self-diagnosis tool. The analysis in this report examines the aggregate quantitative input of those executives.

The Telco 2.0 Agility framework comprises the five agility domains illustrated below.

Figure 4: The Telco 2.0 Agility Framework

Source: STL Partners, The ‘Agile Operator’: 5 Key Ways to Meet the Agility Challenge

  • Organisational Agility: Establish a more agile culture and mindset, allowing you to move at faster speeds and to innovate more effectively
  • Network Agility: Embrace new networking technologies/approaches to ensure that you provide the best experience for customers and manage your resources and investment more efficiently
  • Service Agility: Develop the capability to create products and services in a much more iterative manner, resulting in products that are developed faster, with less investment and better serve customer needs
  • Customer Agility: Provide customers with the tools to manage their service and use analytics to gain insight into customer behaviour to develop and refine services
  • Partnering Agility: Become a more effective partner by developing the right skills to understand and assess potential partnerships and ensure that the right processes/technologies are in place to make partnering as easy as possible

A key finding of the first stage was that all of the executives we spoke to considered achieving agility as very important or critical to their organisations’ success, as exemplified by this quote.

“It is fundamental to be agile. For me it is much more important than being lean – it is more than just efficiency.”

European Telco CTO

This research project was kindly sponsored by Ericsson. STL Partners independently created the methodology, questions, findings, analysis and conclusions.

Purpose of this report

This report details:

  • The headline findings of the Telco 2.0 Agility Challenge
  • The category winners
  • What are the lessons revealed about telco agility overall?
  • What do telcos need to address to improve their overall agility?
  • What can others do to help?

Key Findings

The Majority of Operators were ‘Moderately Agile’

Just over two thirds of respondents achieved a total score between 50%-75%. All of the twenty questions had 4 choices, so a score in this range means that for most of the questions these respondents were choosing the second or third option out of four choices increasing from the least to the most agile. The mean score achieved was 63% and the median 61%. This shows that most telcos believe they have some way to go before they would realistically consider themselves truly Agile by the definition set out in the benchmark.

Figure 5: Distribution of Total Agility Scores

Source: STL Partners Telco 2.0 Agility Challenge, n =74

Agility Champions

A further part of the Agility Challenge was to identify Agility Champions, who were recognised through Agility Domain Awards at TM Forum Live! in Nice in June. The winners of these prizes were additionally interviewed by STL Partners to check the evidence of their claims, and the winners were:

  • Telus, which won the Customer Agility Challenge Award. Telus adopted a Customer First initiative across the whole organization; this commitment to customers has led to both a significant increase in the ‘likelihood to recommend’ metric and a substantial reduction in customer complaints.
  • Zain Jordan, which won the Service Agility Challenge. Zain Jordan has achieved the speed and flexibility needed to differentiate itself in the marketplace through deployment of state-of-the-art, real time service enablement platforms and solutions. These are managed and operated by professional, specialized, and qualified teams, and are driving an increase in profitability and customer satisfaction.
  • Telecom Italia Digital Solutions, (TIDS) which won the Partnering Agility Challenge. TIDS have partnered effectively to deliver innovative digital services, including establishing and launching an IoT platform from scratch within 6 months. It is also developing and coordinating all the digital presence at the Expo Milan 2015.

Network Agility is hardest to achieve

Most respondents scored lower on Network Agility than the other domains, and we believe this is partly because the network criteria were harder to achieve (e.g. configuring networks in real time) but also that achieving meaningful agility in a network is as a rule harder than in the other areas.

Figure 6: Average Score by Agility Domain

Note: The maximum score was 4 and the minimum 1, with 4 = Strongly Agile, 3 = Mostly Agile, 2 = Somewhat Agile, and 1 = Not Agile.

Source: STL Partners, n = 74

Next Section: Looking Deeper

 

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Background: The Telco 2.0 Agility Challenge
  • Purpose of this report
  • Key Findings
  • The Majority of Operators were ‘Moderately Agile’
  • Agility Champions
  • Network Agility is hardest to achieve
  • Looking Deeper
  • Organisational Agility: ‘Mindset’ is not enough
  • Information Agility is an important factor
  • If you had to choose One Metric that Matters (OMTM) it would be…
  • Conclusions

 

  • Figure 1: The Telco 2.0 Agility Framework
  • Figure 2: Respondents can be grouped into 3 types based on the level and nature of their organisational agility
  • Figure 3: Information Agility Sub-Segments
  • Figure 4: The Telco 2.0 Agility Framework
  • Figure 5: Distribution of Total Agility Scores
  • Figure 6: Average Score by Agility Domain
  • Figure 7: We were surprised that Organisational Agility was not a stronger indicator of Total Agility
  • Figure 8: Differences in Responses to Organisational Agility Questions
  • Figure 9: Organisational Agility a priori Segments and Scores
  • Figure 10: ‘Agile by Design’ Organisations Scored higher than others
  • Figure 11: Defining Information Agility Segments
  • Figure 12: The Information Agile Segment scored higher than the others

The Digital Dashboard: How new metrics drive success in telco digital initiatives

Introduction

As core services revenues, margins and cash generation decline quickly, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are seeking to invest in and grow new (digital) services. STL Partners estimates that digital business should represent 25+% of Telco revenue by 2020 to avoid long-term industry decline. The move to digital is challenging for CSPs.  It will require large established organisations to define and implement new sustainable business models with new services delivered to existing and new customers via new channels and partners underpinned by new technology and supported by new operating, revenue and cost models. This requires a fundamental shift from a traditional infrastructure-based business to a complex amalgam of infrastructure, platform and product innovation businesses:

  • Historically, the telecoms industry has been an infrastructure business. It has invested large amounts of capital on things such as spectrum purchases, fibre and tower deployments. The result has been three largely undifferentiated services and revenue streams that have been ‘bundled in’ with the networks – voice, messaging and data. In the past, being a good communications service provider involved:
    • Making effective capital investment decisions, and then
    • Operating the network efficiently and affectively.
  • The Internet has changed everything by fracturing the integration between the network and services so that voice and messaging are no longer the sole domain of CSPs. CSPs now need to continue to hone their infrastructure business skills (in a world where every dollar of revenue is competed for hard by other operators and by ‘OTT’ players), and must also develop a range of new skills, assets, partnerships, customer relationships and operating and financial models if they are to compete in the new digital service areas.

In our recent survey (see Reality Check: Are operators’ lofty digital ambitions unrealistic given slow progress to date?), Telco practitioners were asked to comment on the importance of nine things that needed to be addressed to complete their digital business model transformation and the progress made to tackle them (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Digital metrics should be driving change at CSPs but are themselves proving difficult to implement

Source: STL Partners/Telco 2.0 Operator Survey, November 2014

Measurement using new digital operational/financial metrics was highlighted in the global survey as one of the ‘big 6’ challenges that need to be addressed for CSPs to be successful in future. However, to date, it has often been neglected by CSPs (metrics are often an after-thought and not an integral part of the digital transformation process).

In this report, we argue that the reverse is true: effective metrics lie at the heart of change. Without measurement, it is impossible to make decisions and engender change: an organisation continues on its existing path even if that ultimately leads to decline. We will:

  1. Look at why it is important to capture, synthesise and act upon appropriate metrics.
  2. Examine traditional and new approaches to the use of performance metrics and identify the factors that contribute to success and failure.
  3. Highlight ‘telco best-practice’ via a case-study from a leading Asian CSP, Telkom Indonesia.

Why metrics matter

There is a common misconception that start-ups and digital companies do not – and do not need to – measure and report the performance of their businesses and initiatives. Digital start-ups are often portrayed as small creative teams working on ‘exciting stuff’ with no sense of business rigour or control. This could not be further from the truth. Most start-ups follow a LEAN & agile approach to product ideation and development are steered by one motto… “What you cannot measure, you cannot manage”.  This is even more true if they are VC-backed and therefore reliant on hitting specific targets to receive their next round of funding.

Start-ups rely on operational and actionable metrics to measure progress, identify when to pivot as an organisation and translate strategic objectives into daily activities. By applying the “Build – Measure – Learn” concept (see Figure 2), innovators create something (Build), evaluate how well it is received (Measure), and adjust it in response to the feedback they receive (Learn).

Figure 2: “Build – Measure – Learn” concept

Source: LEAN Analytics – Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster

Metrics evolve over time. Start-ups are continuously searching for the ‘right’ metrics at any given stage of their development because their businesses are constantly evolving – either because they have just started on their journey or because they may have recently changed direction (or ‘pivoted’ from their original value proposition). Metrics are perceived as an operational toolset to quickly iterate to the right product and market before the money runs out. This ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging over entrepreneurs’ heads is a world away from the world inhabited by telcos’ employees.

Indeed, CSPs’ current approach to business targets & funding allocation is unlikely to create a sense of urgency that will drive and stimulate the success of digital initiatives. Based on extensive interviews with CSPs, digital start-ups and VCs, STL Partners concludes that CSPs should focus on:

  • Removing the Telco ‘safety net’. To succeed in creating truly compelling customer experiences CSPs need to mimic a VC-like environment and create a culture of higher-reward in return for higher risk by targeting employees more tightly on their digital initiative’s performance:

    • Reward success more heavily: this could be ‘shadow’ share options in the venture which yield value in the form of shares or cash bonus for hitting targets which would takes an employee’s overall package way beyond what could be earned in the core business.

    • Create risk for individuals: the quid pro quo of a big upside could be a reduced salary to, say, 60% of normal Telco pay (i.e. similar to what might be earned in a typical start-up) or offer contracts that only renew if an initiative hits its targets – if you fall short, you leave the business and are not simply moved elsewhere in the organisation.

  • Adopting ‘start-up culture’ and ways of thinking. For example, when negotiating for funds, employees should be negotiating for their survival, not for a budget or a budget increase. Also, Telcos should start using the vocabulary / parlance commonly used in the digital space as such burn rate, time before cash runs out, cash break-even date, etc.

  • Establishing new processes to manage KPIs and performance metrics. In the fast-paced digital environment, it usually does not make sense to use 18-24 month targets derived from a detailed business case backed by financial metrics (such as revenue, EBITDA, etc.) – particularly for early-stage start-ups.  Google actually identified a move away from this approach to one focused on a stable strategic foundation (make sure the initial proposition is viable by defining a clear problem we are trying to solve and how the solution will differentiate from alternative solutions) + fluid plans as one of the pillars of its success (see Figure 3)

Figure 3: Business plan and financial metrics are out-of-date in a digital world

Source: How Google works, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle

Metrics are a powerful tool that CSPs should use to foster sustainable commercial growth through validated learning. Unfortunately, metrics are often an “after-thought” and very few CSPs have implemented a consistent approach to metrics.  From a series of interviews, undertaken by STL for this research, it became apparent that most initiatives failed to develop regular reporting that engages (or is even understood by) other stakeholders. At best, operators are inconsistent in tracking digital innovation, at worst, negligent.

 

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Why metrics matter
  • Metrics make a difference: 3 case studies from telecoms operators
  • 3 additional reasons why Telcos need digital metrics
  • Alternative approaches to digital metrics for telecoms operators
  • Introduction
  • The corporate approach – the Balanced Scorecard
  • The start-up approach – LEAN & AARRR methodology
  • Telkom Indonesia’s approach to digital metrics
  • Background
  • Telkom’s current digital strengths
  • Telkom Indonesia’s digital metrics system
  • Benefits of the digital metrics system to Telkom Indonesia
  • Conclusions
  • STL Partners and Telco 2.0: Change the Game

 

  • Figure 1: Digital metrics should be driving change at CSPs but are themselves proving difficult to implement

  • Figure 2: “Build – Measure – Learn” concept

  • Figure 3: Business plan and financial metrics are out-of-date in a digital world

  • Figure 4: Near perfect correlation between number of agents and number of M-Pesa subscribers, R2 = 0.96

  • Figure 5: Metrics reporting by M-Pesa, December 2012

  • Figure 6: Turkcell’s Mobile Marketing Platform Overview

  • Figure 7: Turkcell’s continuous development of it Mobile Marketing portfolio

  • Figure 8: Libon single roadmap enables rapid evolution and rich features

  • Figure 9: Libon – Cost per Monthly Active Users (M)

  • Figure 10: Illustrative Net Synergy Make up (Hypothetical case)

  • Figure 11: Facebook vs. Yield Businesses: Revenue and Enterprise Value (EV)

  • Figure 12: Facebook: Monthly Active Users vs. Valuation

  • Figure 13: Different players’ metrics requirements

  • Figure 14: Balance Scorecard concept

  • Figure 15: AARRR model

  • Figure 16: Pros & Cons – Summary table

  • Figure 17: Telkom Indonesia’s Metrics Approach – Characteristics

  • Figure 18: Telkom Indonesia’s digital strengths

  • Figure 19: Telcos – slow by design?

  • Figure 20: Telkom Indonesia’s TIMES service portfolio

  • Figure 21: LEAN start-up approach

  • Figure 22: Delivering Innovation – Telkom’s internal organisation

  • Figure 23: Telco 2.0 Domain Framework

  • Figure 24: Metrics Prioritisation & Outcomes Example

  • Figure 25: Governance process – Phase 1 & 2

  • Figure 26: Innovation Governance – Case studies examples