The astounding success of Telcos over the couple of decades has mostly been built on the consumer market. Serving Business to Consumer (B2C) customers meant building vertical back-end systems to sell and bill for products.
Achieving similar super-growth in Business to Business (B2B) continues to elude most Telcos though, because businesses want more than just products – they want solutions. Telcos have typically organised their offers into several separate product categories. There is no common solution catalogue, making it difficult to bring everything together in a smooth digital user experience. This complexity forces Telcos to manually assist business customers in many of their interactions. That’s not the kind of smooth digital experience that companies want today.
An added complexity is that the IT solutions and services required to maximise B2B potential are also managed in different systems. Bringing it together for business customers then becomes almost impossible, and adding the specialities required to properly serve industry verticals makes it even harder. Furthermore, customer data often sits deep within legacy systems making it extremely difficult to extract a single, 360-degree view of the customer.
Business customers are also more complex in their needs than consumers. Getting the basics right for small and medium business can be difficult, because there are differences between choosers, administrators and users, and the needs are different across the industry verticals. Meanwhile larger businesses have many different people involved in decisions, at different levels, with different authorisation responsibilities and different needs, even more so as they grow larger.
The upshot is that delivering the right business solution in a seamless digital experience with unassisted sales and services is complicated.
Don’t replace legacy, build on top
How can Telcos address these difficulties? The answer is certainly not to just replace legacy systems - that has been tried by many Telcos without success because of the sheer complexity involved and the time it takes.
Instead, the answer lies on multiple levels - commercial, operating model (way of working), data and technology. Rather than replacing legacy systems, it is better to build one front-end that serves customers, partners and employees. This front end sits as an overlay on top of the legacy and provides a single view using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), microservices and the surfacing of data from the depths of the legacy architecture closer to the front-end.
This will help Telcos to become far more open and allow B2B customers and partners to connect with them through the APIs to create much more transparency and simplicity of interaction. The approach is similar to that seen in other industries that have become more open. Banking is a good example with the rise of open standards that have driven innovation the FinTech industry, as well as making the financial administration of all firms far easier with accounting systems integrating directly with bank accounts.
For those who may say all this is too difficult to achieve, just think how the business environment at the end of 2020 has been utterly transformed compared to the start of the year. Organisations that were only testing the water in terms of digital trends have since jumped in with both feet. Using digital solutions, people have been working from home in ways that successfully overcome many of the technical obstacles that were previously viewed as insurmountable. This is leading companies to reconsider their approach to digital services in other ways.
At NTT DATA, we have helped several clients implement strategies to open-up their platforms for partners, developers and engage with business customers more effectively via digital services. Find out more about NTT DATA’s B2B magic by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.