Business demands are changing rapidly and communications service providers (CSPs) are struggling keep pace. In order to manage keep on top of and manage the demands of their customers, CSPs require automation of service and network operations.
As we’re catapulted faster than expected into a digital-first future, CSPs can’t afford gaps and broken areas within their infrastructure that were previously addressed by humans. Automation will be necessary for areas like the move to the cloud for network functions and IT systems, managing complex 5G networks, and allocating resources on demand. The good news is many already understand this. Analysys Mason found that network automation is a top-five initiative for 75% of the 52 CSPs that they recently surveyed.
Which begs the question; where should CSPs start to accelerate their automation journey?
As CSPs put far-reaching automation strategies in place before technology’s demands outpace what the business can handle, here are three practical starting areas they should consider:
The automation journey starts with the workforce
Above all else, CSPs need to ensure their workforce has the right skillset in place. Building a team of automation embracers and enablers, including those who openly embrace a cloud operations mindset, will set them on the right path. This will require, not just recruits, but reskilling your current workforce on the latest technologies and practices to work alongside automation (including cloud, DevOps best practices, microservices, machine learning, and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) tools). But this cannot be a one-time event; it must be something that becomes part of your company’s employee journey.
It’s also important that automation is not just a business shift, but a mindset change for employees. It involves continuous education of the workforce, so they understand how automation allows them to focus on other, more substantial complexities.
Implement the right foundational technologies
CSPs need to introduce the technology platform, ecosystem and process for incremental automation at the heart of their networks. Just like the critical technologies your workforce must be familiar with, the same goes when transforming your operations support and network management systems.
For example, Amdocs’ plan to move towards a more open, modular, standards-based and cloud-centric approach for our product portfolio began already many years ago. This is because we knew technology was changing quickly, and our customers needed to be able to update their operations and use automated systems to address their specific requirements and priorities – all within a much tighter timeframe. To prepare for this change, we began adopting open development approaches via software, using industry-standard APIs, microservices architecture, embedded AI, CI/CD tools and testing automation.
Telecoms businesses must be prepared to introduce the foundational technologies that will enable them to introduce automation, when it’s required.
Identifying quick wins
Right from the start, CSPs must define what exactly they want to gain from automation. Some of the most prominent use cases relate to addressing the incredible pressures CSPs are under to deliver cost savings. For example, CSPs are moving operations systems and network capabilities into the cloud in a phased manner, to drive efficiencies and total cost of ownership savings. Automation can help transition the manual tasks involved with this migration into standardized, repeatable practices. This can help CSPs achieve co-existence between traditional and cloud-based systems and networks, much more quickly.
Automation can also ensure that networks can deliver the QoS to power new services, such as those powered by 5G. For example, opportunities arising from the new work-from-anywhere and network-on-demand mindset, such as for robotics in hospitals. 5G network slicing will be a critical for these new services, ensuring that they have the allocated the capacity and to meet expected performance. It creates a wide array of service orchestration and management complexities that automation can help make sense of.
In today’s dynamic and uncertain environment, service providers can’t continue managing service and network operations as they have in the past. To keep pace with evolving expectations and network demands, automation strategies will be one of the most critical enablers. By preparing your workforce now, implementing the right technologies and identifying opportunities for quick wins, you’ll be far well-positioned to capture any potential value, as it becomes available.