Alphonzo Samuels discusses Openserve’s digital business operating model – TM Forum Inform

Alphonzo Samuels, CEO of Openserve, discusses the company’s digital business operating model and the imperative for developing markets to keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution How would you describe your organization’s enterprise-wide digital transformation strategy?

Digital transformation is one of the key initiatives that we kicked off a few years back. We looked at our network, IT platforms and technology ecosystem holistically and initiated a program of moving towards an all IP-led digital platform which enabled an innovative digital business operating model. We immediately unified the IT and networks groups under a single entity, reporting to me, to ensure that we start the cultural journey to SDN [software-defined networking] as soon as possible.

What targets does your organization have to guide this strategy?

  • Cost Transformation: To reduce large capital expenditures, reduce risk of investing in less productive assets and focus on optimizing operating costs for better profitability.
  • Agility Improvement: To reduce IT provisioning time significantly and improve process efficiency through standardization as well as allowing the ramping up or down of IT activity to follow business intensity, thereby aligning closer to real demand.
  • Innovation: To drive disruptive change in operating and business models, enable entry into new markets or customer segments and create a differentiated technology platform.
  • Security: To transform IT and network security to protect the ever-increasing threat footprint resulting from the all-IP network and to build security in from the start when designing and implementing SDN.

What’s the biggest ‘win’ you’ve achieved so far?

One of the biggest wins for us at Openserve is The Digital Technician, which is powered by our new Workforce Management (WFM) Field-staff dispatching system. It uses off-the-shelf Clicksoftware that leverages automated scheduling and sophisticated algorithms to dispatch our technicians. As a result of the implementation, our technicians no longer have to use their laptops to check the jobs which have been assigned to them; they now have the ability to check their tasks on our new app, C2C. Use of the tool also drives increased productivity per technician which is clearly measurable through data obtained from the app.

What are the biggest challenges you face in achieving your digital transformation aims?

There are many challenges that we are actively addressing, such as the significant associated costs, legacy systems and processes (reliance upon and migration plans) as well as dealing with the activation of cultural changes required to support the new way of working. At the heart of any transformation lies the adoption of change. However, transparency and open communication is crucial. Celebrating successes while acknowledging difficulties were key contributing factors in the successful implementation of the Digital Technician initiative.

Leadership is clearly paramount, but what makes a good digital leader?

As digital disruption or transformation becomes ever-increasing in everything we do, it is critical to ensure that the digital leader leads by example. A good digital leader has a mindset that thrives on innovation and consistently embraces the need for change. Digital leaders are visionaries who obviously need to have good ICT skills. A disruptive digital leader is a risk taker and understands and embraces the idea that uncertainty is inevitable. The digital leader usually explores what is technologically possible, how changes will disrupt the markets and the risk/reward trade-offs. Digital leaders also need to be change champions.

Digital transformation is not just about changing processes and technology; it also involves a shift in organizational culture. How is your teamwork changing and what’s your role as a team leader?

Changing systems or technology is relatively easy to achieve compared to getting people to change the way that they work and the use of new systems. It is important to ensure that the benefit of the new system is clearly articulated. It is also critical to have employee engagement and involvement from the onset of any project to ensure that the new solution caters for their requirements and that the process is logical to them.

Critical for success is to have our executive team lead Openserve through the process of digital transformation by adopting a digital mindset. We have redesigned our operating model to ensure continuous engagement with customers, employees and suppliers.

In terms of the wider societal impact of digitization, what are you looking forward to over the next decade?

Enablement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is something that developing markets absolutely need to get right. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

(OECD) clearly warns that the digital divide will only widen if developing markets don’t seize the opportunities that digitization brings. We are therefore excited, but also understand that we must get this right. It’s a call to action that is founded in our desire to develop Africa.

Something to look forward to is the opportunity related to the use of robotics, machine learning and AI. Companies that deploy automation technologies can substantially increase their productivity and performance.

In terms of the wider societal impact of digitization, what concerns you?

Digitalization always raises the concern of privacy of data. Some also view the introduction of the digital era as one that may cause the loss of jobs and create a further divide in society – ongoing dialogue should be encouraged to define the philosophical and societal guiding principles that are required. Digitization also encourages a ‘winner takes all’ scenario so it’s imperative that developing markets keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

What is the next big idea you are working on?

  • Big data analytics, especially as it pertains to squeezing efficiencies from our operations
  • IT simplification and optimisation, where we are looking to transform the way that we do business internally and externally
  • Supply chain transformation
  • Customer experience transformation

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