Understanding the Culture of Telecommunications Legacy DNA

By: John Locke, Consultant, MD, JCL Technologies Ltd

The telecommunication companies we know today are very different than the old world of legacy monopoly organizations from many years ago – a time when monopolies ruled the landscape. Telecommunication companies were the only option if you required telephone or fixed line services. It was even more challenging when you had to work with multiple telecommunication providers, not to mention the levels of complication if international services were required. These issues required customers to act as intermediaries when stitching services across multiple carries or dealing with service issues, and generally resulted in the customer taking a considerable amount of time to resolve the issues.

A brief look at the history of the telecommunications industry

Culturally, telecommunication companies rarely had to consider the threat of competition or the competitive challenges that the private industry would normally have to consider. Since the early 1990s the telecommunications industry has gone through monumental changes:

• Monopolies were removed,
• New carriers appeared, and
• Competition increased, possibly being classified as a utility company.

Over the last 25 years we have seen the telecommunications industry margins erode due to fierce competition and massive technology changes. Additionally, the industry was required to quickly deliver new competitive solutions to increase revenues if they were to maintain any advantage over competitors.

It’s easy to see how the past has such an impact on the ability to generate the momentum and mindset needed to transform the business. This is not an easy proposition. It typically requires cohesive engagement to support any technology upgrade program that may include all Lines of Business (LOB) – which can include business process, organization structure and people.

Being successful in your transformation approach

So how can you approach the problem of transformation and be successful? One option is to not get bogged down with the legacy environments. These normally suck up 90% of the effort, cost, process and people to achieve the point within the legacy that would be used to begin the transformation process or program. Due to the complexity and time to deal with the legacy component, is there another approach?

Approaching this transformation as if it were a new program – with legacy components removed – could be a possible answer in achieving the focus required to bring new technology to bear fruit quickly. It would certainly change the mindset of the team assigned to the program and they would now be 100% allocated and committed to its success.

Another option may be to obsolete all or part of the legacy environment; however, I suspect that some integration will be required in maintaining business continuity. But the point here is that in general, there is a fixation on the legacy. Whatever the issue, the cord will need to be cut if the burden is to be removed.

Transformation is like any other program. It requires:
• The right approach,
• The commitment of the business, and
• The mindset of the folks.

It is important to note that the legacy element will always be underestimated, resulting in the overall program overrunning. From what I have seen, what is required at the start of the transformation program is very different than what the finished article is. This is because normal changes are required during the lifecycle of the program.

However, more importantly, what was perceived to be brought forward from the legacy into the transformation is considerably lesser than what was necessary at the start of the program. I believe as the business process evolves around the transformation, the business process will naturally become simple, ending with better alignment to the new business design – reducing product catalogue, improving efficiency and improving automation.

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About John Locke:

John is a highly motivated and genuinely flexible CIO/CTO demonstrating over 25 years of experience driving game-changing technology-driven and business-centric transformations within multi-national organizations. In his role, he helps formulate and deliver effective strategies facilitating increases in business performance in terms of capability, efficiency, customer satisfaction and profitability.