Why “Big” Does Not Always Mean “Good”: Importance of Field Experience in Consulting for Telcos
As a whole, the telecom sector is facing significant challenges:
- The need for greater product development speeds
- Rapidly evolving cybersecurity threats landscape
- Complex technology vendor selection process for legacy products’ updates
- Limited in-house experience, resources, and competences.
For many, the optimal solution to the above issues is turning to external consultants, who have deeper expertise in problematic areas and proven frameworks for facilitating the adoption of advanced technologies. The choice appears to be frequent as the global telecom consulting market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 11.8% between now and 2030.
Nearly every consulting company now has a dedicated division for CSPs, specializing in IT & telecom focused advisory, as well as operational, financial, and human capital consulting. This makes the choice harder, especially since most consulting services drastically vary in scope and promised outcomes.
Defining the Scope of Consulting Services for Telcos
“Consulting” is a lofty term. It can cover anything from expert advice on high-level issues to multi-stage, in-depth audits, and solutions design.
Among prospective customers, such broad-stroke definitions of telecom consulting result in deep confusion. Specifically, many fail to understand the difference between doing a formal audit — an evaluation of the company’s performance and weak areas — and commissioning hands-on consulting services, specific to a certain area of business (e.g., digital transformation, finance, security, quality assurance, technology acquisition, etc.) with subsequent assistance in implementing the recommendations.
Big consulting firms tend to gravitate more toward auditing as it is closer to their historic line of business: offering accounting and advisory services to a wide range of industries. Whereas smaller domain-specific consultants specialize more exclusively in one domain (telecom) and tailor their advisory to specific issues that market participants face.
At Infopulse, we focus our consulting services specifically on technologies. Our goal is to help clients better understand the capacity of their current IT environment and business workflows. Then maximize their operational efficiency by modernizing legacy systems or adopting new solutions.
Our services include:
- Project feasibility assessments
- Preliminary Solution Selection Assistance (RFI)
- Conclusive Solution Selection Assistance (RFP)
- End-to-end solution implementation, testing, and post-deployment support.
As part of the engagements, we often assume the role of a coordination center — a cross-functional unit that assists your business through complex digital transformation processes both through advisory, strategic planning, and execution.
Over the years, our Telecom division has helped global carriers achieve a competitive edge through the progressive digitization of core business processes and adoption of emerging technologies that included:
- BSS/OSS platform modernization with new modules for billing, invoicing, financial reporting, and other processes designed and implemented.
- Legacy CRM system modernization and adoption of business process automation tools for higher workforce efficiency.
- Replacement of multiple VAS platforms such as SMSC, PCEF/PCRF, USSD, Service Delivery Platform (SDP) with more competitive alternatives.
- Integration of a new IoT technology standard to support modern networks of smart devices (meters, monitoring sensors, object tracking systems) for utility services.
Separately, we have helped others improve their cybersecurity posture by building better defenses against common telecom threats (SIP hacking, DNS and DDoS attacks, RFIDs spoofing in IoT networks, etc.) and establishing SOC.
A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a separate unit in charge of threat monitoring, analysis, detection, and prevention. Threats can include:
- Unauthorized access and use of networks or corporate services
- Accidental or purposeful subscriber information disclosures
- Man-in-the-middle attacks against IT systems
- SMS/Call inceptions via SS7 protocol
- Attempts of fraud (e.g., IRSF, traffic pumping, subscription fraud, etc.).
Infopulse assists telecoms with remote SOC establishment and operations via competitive service models.
For every client, our scope of consulting services is targeted toward specific issues the company is facing. It includes hands-on involvement in solution deployment rather than cursory advisory and top-level recommendations, which telecom leaders should then figure out how to implement on their own.
Multi-line advisory firms have a global presence and undisputable excellence in strategic assessments. However, most lack hands-on experience with niche telecom technologies and systems — in-depth familiarity with the complex world of telecom technology (hardware and software), standard processes, security requirements, and “under-the-hood” application design.
Respectively, large advisory firms can locate promising opportunities for:
- Cost optimization (e.g., by pointing out ineffective business processes or cases of overspending)
- Revenue generation (e.g., by drawing the scope of new revenue lines from deploying network slicing).
Yet, far fewer consultants can help with the implementation side. That is modernizing complex OSS/BSS layers without causing disruptions to service delivery.
Apart from limited exposure to narrow-focused telecom processes, there are a few more reasons why global accounting networks do not always deliver the best outcomes for their telecom clients.
Top consulting firms deserve credit for developing “classic” consulting frameworks, which many other players have since adopted. However, their value is more modest when it comes to technology advisory, especially in telecom.
“Classic” frameworks are handy in customized consultancy on complex IT portfolios, but there are more details to be taken into account for industry-specific cases. Therefore, consultants often struggle to deliver a tailored approach to each client. Domain-specific expertise and deep knowledge of telecom IT systems are a must for impactful consulting.
Big firms employ a lot of staff. However, a vast majority of partners hail from top management, accounting, or financial programs. Far fewer have prolific industry experience or backgrounds in software development, cybersecurity, or digital experience design. With a handful of veteran domain-experienced people doing the audits and advisory, few (if any) “spare hands” are available to help with the execution.
Big firms can advise on the right course of action, but their consultants cannot fix existing tech issues or help with digital solutions development, while in-house telecom teams remain swamped with ongoing work.
Top firms charge a premium price for their involvement in the project. Senior consultants can command daily rates north of $13,000 with extra personnel costs ranging from $3,000 to $9,500 per day. The costs can become prohibitively expensive for smaller telcos.
With no guarantees on ROI or specific outcomes, the above raises the question of cost-efficiency: Is paying for the brand truly worth it? Passing an audit from a big-name firm certainly is a “status marker”, lending extra credibility to your business. However, as telecoms pursue digital transformations for the sake of achieving specific business outcomes, the allure of being audited (but not helped) by a big name fades away.
Telco Expertise: Key Advantages of Tailored Consultancy
Hands-on experience in developing, modernizing, and supporting telecom digital solutions is integral for successful consulting outcomes.
The sector’s technical estate is a collection of legacy core applications, more modern software sub-systems, and critical hardware. Many companies are now looking to adopt modern OSS architecture patterns to deploy new products, minimize service level disruptions, and enhance workforce productivity.
Yet, telecom is a technically challenging landscape where a change in one area can have a cascade effect on other systems down the line. Hence, the risks and trade-offs of implementing new telecom technologies should be well understood and managed.
Even minor glitches in software can result in major reputational and compliance damages, as was recently the case with Orange. A bug in the call server software disrupted call routing to French emergency routing for over seven hours with 11% of the total calls failing to go through.
To transform sustainably their operations, telecoms need consultants with expertise in:
- Solution architecture
- System integrations and customizations
Telecom-focused consultants already understand the standard business processes and critical components’ role in your operations — and, subsequently, can design plans for new technology adoption by taking into account existing constraints, compliance requirements, and the overall IT infrastructure complexities.
In practice, the above translates to progressive modernization of corporate operations without any disruptions to service levels or revenue lines.
Over the past ten years, Infopulse has been supporting BICS in its ambition to become one of the leading players in the EMEA region. Our partnership involved ongoing consulting and solution design and resulted in:
- Deployment of 60+ new OSS/BSS applications
- Ongoing network service fulfilment services
- Network quality of service monitoring
- Network services assurance.
The impact of these investments, in turn, has contributed to BICS revenue growth across all product growth, as well as substantial cost containment.
Another of our clients, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT), approached us with a more concrete task: assistance with new billing systems selection. To help LMT select the optimal solution and minimize the risks during adoption, as a part of the wider Tietoevry team, Infopulse experts conducted:
- Project feasibility analysis
- Preliminary Solution Selection Assistance (RFI)
- Comparative analysis of shortlisted technology vendors.
The client received a detailed snapshot of their current IT landscape and listed the shortcomings of the exisiting solution. We also advised them on the optimal strategy for moving forward with the new system implementation and managing organization-wide change. At present, we continue to collaborate with the client on Conclusive Solution Selection Assistance (RFP).
Determining the optimal trajectory for your business has never been an easy task. Technology has added a new layer of complexity to this decision. Telecoms now need to strike a balance between maintaining and modernizing legacy software components and investing in new business areas to harness growth. Big consulting firms can give you a set of wide directions to optimize your business, but when it comes to hands-on involvement in setting up the processes, they might fall short of expertise.
Telecom-focused consultants, in turn, cover the subsequent steps of the consulting process — solution architecting, implementation, and maintenance. Ultimately, the direct involvement of professionals in the deployment of new systems will determine whether your business could reach the target outcomes.