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
- 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)
- Vision stories: Getting the most for transformation
- The state of telco transformation
- Making big beautiful: Multinational operators need the telco cloud