Monday, June 22, 2020

Of exploring, planning and executing in Telco

Over the last few years, I have embarked on a journey of discovery to create sustainable value in telco and cloud environments. Spurred initially by my boss, David del Val at Telefonica, then by Susana Jurado, I slowly learned the basis of lean startup applied to large telco businesses. Then, helped by colleagues such as Carlos Gonzalez, I learned how to apply design thinking and lean UX to the creation of products. Further on, I discovered Wardley's mapping and became an instant enthousiast and timid practitioner. I have been inspired by my teams that have put these methodologies in practice, particularly Juan Campillo with Internet para todos, David Artunedo with Onlife and David Lopez Meco with the first iterations of network as a service.

Be it the world's first implementations of Open Ran or of edge computing in a commercial telco network, or the first implementation of an open source SDWAN in a hybrid telco / commercial cloud network, I have learned much about the methodology and the state of our industry.

I have learned so much, and at the same time, I feel so humbled by the progress of others. There is so much more to learn. Here are a few nuggets I still use in my day to day work.

  • Telcos are excellent at planning and executing iterative organic improvements. Their capacity to plan, operate, execute incrementally is second to none.
  • Telcos are not so good at disruptive innovation. Having a large part of the organization trained to make sure things don't break doesn't lend itself well to the necessary risk taking of exploring high uncertainty opportunity.
  • Lean startup and Telefonica's Lean Elephant is a practical step towards managing this uncertainty.
  • Telcos desperately need to understand that the value to capture in 5G is not in the "plumbing" but in the services enablement.
  • Granular, stage-based, project funding and validation with end customers is key to identify and understand value for customers.
  • Being customer centric is key, but customer centric is not what you think the value is to the customer and is not what the customer thinks you should do. There is no substitute for testing live with real customers.
  • To find one successful service, you might have to test 20 or 50 of them - that's 150 telco years...
  • It is possible to compress discovery and innovation through a process of setting objectives, listing hypotheses and systematically designing experiments with customers to validate them with explicit success criteria and expectations
  • Such a process allows to adjust, validate, pivot, accelerate or kill projects 
  • It is much better to make a lot of imperfect decisions fast, with the ability to measure and adjust than having one very detailed master plan, greatly executed, leading to a product nobody wants
  • Have a doctrine, people need a true north star and tools to help decision making
  • Challenge the status quo and be bold
  • Recognize and empower pioneers, settlers and town planners. Apply the right mix at the right product phase