There was a familiar feel to the latest installment of TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World event, with operators once more urging vendors to get their act together.
In a keynote session focusing on network transformation for the 5G era Elisabetta Romano, CTIO of TIM, Nikos Katinakis, Head of Networks & IT of Telstra and Luc Noiseux Chief Technology and Strategy Officer at Cogeco talked about how their companies’ own IT systems are adapting to the 5G era.
Romano reiterated a point she had made in an earlier keynote in which she expressed frustration at the speed with which vendors deliver solutions to emerging needs. Having been at Ericsson for years before moving to TIM last year, Romano is in a great position to comment on that dynamic, but doing something about it is another matter.
Her view was echoed by the other speakers and have been a consistent theme of the show for years. As ever the sheer complexity of all the clever stuff that needs to be done to make 5G work is at the root of it, but this is hardly a new thing and, if anything, should present a great opportunity for vendors to increase their value to their operator customers. Opensource was also mentioned as a bottleneck when it comes to the development process.
TM Forum also used the first day of the event to publish some research claiming the telecoms industry costs itself a billion dollars a year by using 30-year-old procurement practices. The research specifically identified the RFP (request for proposal) process as a bit of a liability, with two thirds of CSPs and three quarters of vendors surveyed agreeing that it’s no longer fit for purpose.
“There has always been criticism of the use of the RFP for IT procurement because it glorifies the process rather than the outcome,” said TM Forum’s Chief Analyst, Mark Newman. “But what has now changed is the desire to transition to agile IT development and the need for a more flexible, iterative procurement process.
“This poses real challenges for the procurement function. First, it’s likely to shift the balance between capex and opex budgets. Second, CSPs expect to get more bang for their buck if vendors partner with them on agile development. However, CSPs don’t necessarily know how much a project or solution created with a vendor partner will actually cost in a year’s time.”
TM Forum reckons the agile IT approach could cut the procurement process down from the current average of 12-18 months to just 2-3 months. Just as with the perennial call for vendors to raise their game, however, this would require the kind of cultural shift that is so often the biggest obstacle to successful digital transformation. So we wouldn’t be surprised to see this issue crop up at future events too.