Deciphering telecom providers' workforce management conundrum
Telecom networks continue to expand their technological capabilities to improve service for their end users. However, aside from cutting-edge advances in technology, their people are critical to ensuring resilient operations and great customer experiences.
Communication service providers (operators) are under constant pressure especially with the continuous demand for increased accessibility. A telecoms network – whether virtual or physical – depends on a large team to ensure it’s running 24/7. Virtualized network functions still require hardware, with routers and base stations running on complex software that must be efficiently and effectively configured, maintained and updated.
Given that equipment is costly, and staffing consumes the largest chunk of operational budgets, an operator’s ability to optimize schedules, routes, tasks and skills will yield major savings while enhancing responsiveness and quality of service.
Today’s telecom workforce challenges
While workforce management may seem like a common function across every industry, there are certain challenges that are specific to the telecom ecosystem. Core solutions and data models for people and equipment management may be similar, but most address only a subset of the requirements. Very few include the degree of integration and optimization that today’s operators require.
End-to-end network installation, maintenance, service activation and troubleshooting are usually provided by a mix of internal and external staff, but different departments handle very different types of orders. Workforce management relies heavily on inventory data, workflows require robust systems integration across service provisioning and assurance, and mobile apps need to work in the field. Specific requirements include managing service level agreements and the settlements between the operator and its contractors.
Adopting a centralized and integrated WFM solution
Based on extensive experience working with operators, we have seen how taking a centralized approach enables them to optimize their human resources and assets. Operators can streamline tasks by integrating their workforce management systems and personnel with existing engineering tools, operational support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS), saving significant time and money.
The right workforce management solution will work seamlessly across multiple devices, providing technicians, field personnel and support staff with the right information in the right format — anytime, anywhere.
Further, it will enable the operator to efficiently manage work orders and task schedules with skills-based dispatch and testing.
All required information can be kept current, correlated and accessible for work orders, mobile applications and access, remote assistance, asset management, preventative maintenance, stock management, real-time metrics and reporting analytics.
Working seamlessly across multiple devices, the right workforce management solution will provide technicians, field personnel and support staff with the right information in the right format, anytime, anywhere.
Choosing between bespoke and standardized solutions
When considering a new workforce management solution, there are two options— a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system or a bespoke solution. The critical importance of global telecom standards makes it essential for operators to move towards standardizing their workforce management solutions. However, the reality is that for many, this simply isn’t possible today. Even if an operator does implement a COTS solution (which can be a simpler and faster answer), they are still likely to make some modifications.
So, let’s first establish what is already in place and how generic you can be. The key challenge is integration with existing systems and tools, and the extent of the penetration of industry-specific standards, like TM Forum. Depending on the structure, function and location of systems and data, it might be too complicated or expensive to implement, customize and license a COTS solution. If you use business-specific APIs and processes, then it’s easier to introduce standard tools. The same goes for applications.
Devising the right roadmap
At Atos, we have worked on a range of scenarios with different operators. For example, we delivered a more bespoke solution for Orange after a detailed analysis of the company’s existing landscape and workforce requirements. At Austrian Telecom, we worked on a step-by-step approach, developing a data model to introduce standardization. From there, we enabled progressive adaptations for all the integration points and APIs to create a new landscape.
Another key consideration is around infrastructure, and whether and how to leverage cloud environments and software-as-a-service options. OSS cloudification is already underway, and considerable volumes and types of data already in existence may be moving to the cloud. The cloud market is evolving too. Operators need to consider their business needs and data sovereignty requirements to select and blend the hybrid environment of public and private that is right for them - with a carefully designed transformation roadmap.
Empowering the workforce of the future
Depending on existing systems (such as Salesforce), operators need to think about their product landscape and reuse or combine the functions of existing tools. It is critical to access specialist telecom integration expertise and a partner that can orchestrate workforce management solutions that are vendor-agnostic so that operators can stay agile.
IT and business teams must decide together how to introduce new ways of thinking and working, with the ultimate goal of enabling standardization and the use of open-source solutions. However, the journey may be gradual. Transformation can be challenging, and while we have observed some big bang implementations in this fast-moving industry, there is no value if it takes four years to implement.
Network components and means of deployment continue to evolve. Even as more and more tasks are done remotely, human skills and experience remain essential for physical and other high-value work. Ensuring that people are productive and effective – as well as feeling supported and empowered – should be at the top of every operator’s business goals.