‘Mobility, cloud, social are primary drivers’

She has clocked over two decades of rich experience across—information, communication, entertainment, and today, is driving the IT transformational initiatives at Reliance Communications (RCom). In an interaction with Voice&Data, Alpna Doshi, CIO, RCom, talks about the significance of IT in telecom arena and the changing role of a CIO

What type of IT adoption initiatives could be seen in the telecom sector?

Digitizing the end user experience is the top priority agenda today as the aim is to see, how last mile customer is benefited with ‘digital experience’ and ‘omni channel approach’. Developing Internet-based sales channels, offering online customer care, and increasing their social media presence are helping telcos to strengthen their relations with customers. Reliance Communication should be investing 50% of time on such initiatives for next one year.

Adopting unified communications (UC), unified messaging (UM) and cloud computing are the other key areas for telecom operators. At the same time, all future communication services should continue to be available on both existing and all-IP LTE networks. RCS 5.0 can support single interface from which users can initiate voice, video, and messaging sessions. Telecom companies can also leverage RCS APIs to enhanced communication efforts, both internally and externally, through new, value-added services.

Besides, adopting cloud computing is a way of being more agile. Business agility, vendor choice, and access to next-generation architectures are all benefits of employing the latest cloud computing architectures.

Can you elaborate on the hot trends in IT adoption?

A ‘digital tsunami’ is feeding on itself driven by cloud, mobile, social and big data analytics enabling every sector of the ICT industry to rethink new and efficient ways to do business. Reliance Communications has devised a strategy to leverage these for increasing customer satisfaction.

Mobile devices are acting as a platform for effective social networking and new ways of increasing productivity at work. Organizations worldwide are using cloud to redesign their infrastructure services, provide business applications as a service and create transforming initiatives with strong organizational impact such as TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) reduction and improved scalability and flexibility. Availability of public cloud computing has created an opportunity to address small and midsize businesses (SMBs), a potentially large market. Telecom carriers are embracing the connected digital society for revenue growth. Mobility, cloud and social media continue to be the primary drivers.

As the telecom industry faces intense competition, how are the CIOs helping their companies to be more competitive?

In the realms of volatility and intense competition in the telecom space, CIOs need to collaborate with businesses to identify what are the key pillars to support growth strategy and achieve competitive advantage, for example focus on data customers, or support business in effective campaign management or improve customer churn rate. On the other hand, CIOs are constantly orchestrating plan to optimize the infrastructure resources and support cloud strategy to not only support internal applications but also align with enterprise business combined with GTM (Go-To-Market) strategy.

From a telecom perspective, how are the needs of the CIOs changing?

In the telecom market, we currently see the evolution of telco architecture from Telco1.0 to Telco 2.0 and some are already talking about Telco3.0. CIOs today are looking at more agile and flexible architecture and infrastructure to support plug and play partnerships and on-the-go business demand. Retaining customer is the key focus, besides creating customer-centric systems and culture across the organization as we are moving towards personalized era of consumerization.

CIO needs vary from optimizing IT spend to leveraging cloud computing, exploring big data use cases, driving mobile first strategy and retaining talented and skilled work force. RCom is geared up to incorporate these changes and provide best in class service to our customers.

What are the biggest challenges for a telecom CIO today?

With the proliferation of ubiquitous Internet-connected devices, rise of mobile internet data, the escalation of video and mobile application usage from consumers and enterprises, the telecom CIOs are required to wear different hats to support the overarching business strategy; current role itself is evolving from chief digital officer or chief data officer to cloud innovation officer. For past decade or so, telecoms CIOs have been expected to focus on cost, operations governance and maintenance in response to evolving technology landscape. The telecom industry is highly leveraged sector and CIOs are always under pressure to justify ROI for any new technology adoption.

With new service rollouts happening and changes taking place frequently, Telecom IT have to control the costs of the current solutions and operations so they can invest in what’s coming next.

What type of cultural shifts can be noticed in today’s ICT world? How are you managing the change with these shifts?

With a rapid adoption of nexus of forces–social, cloud, big data and mobility, we already see the changes in how the information is consumed, stored and analyzed. Affordable, consumer-driven endpoint devices of all types are entering the workplace at a rapid pace. Users want the ability to customize their technology footprints to their needs from the wide range of selection before them. We are promoting BYOD policy within the organization using MDM (Mobile Device Management) capabilities.

While BYOD bring in possibilities of improving employee productivity and optimization of cost, it also opens up challenges in securing the corporate data. We encourage BYOD as long as we have necessary, adequate and effective policies to harness its potentials. Our BYOD policy is designed keeping in view the security and risk management, network design, application architecture, employee support, and endpoint management. For example, our security policy establishes rules for the proper usage of handheld devices in corporate environments in order to protect the confidentiality, integrity of corporate information/ data. Our BYOD policy is carefully charted out with buy-in from all the stakeholders (Legal, HR, Commercial, IT and Business) within the organization.

How is analytics playing a role in your organization?

The telecom industry generates multi petabytes of data (structured or unstructured). As a telco, we are currently in phase of reorganizing, acquiring new skills and trialing new analytical techniques to extract business value from customer data. We are using analytics to support our business growth through customer churn management, better segmentation and effective campaign management. For example, we are using dark data (data collected and stored as part of archival policy) to analyze various use cases relevant to our businesses.

What are the key focus areas of a CIO?

With proliferation of smart-devices and the cultural evolution of social and mobility trends, the key focus remains ‘Mobile First Strategy’, to support our businesses in both consumer and enterprise mobility segment. Secondly, the focus is to build strong big data analytics portfolio to support our business growth by enabling our product managers with tools to analyze real time customer data. We are already in transformation phase and deploying cloud to support our internal applications and next logical focus is to extend our cloud computing capabilities to address small and midsize businesses.

This article was first published in Voice&Data