TM Forum: Strategies and tactics for tough times

The European TM Forum Management World conference begins today in Nice. Here’s what the its chair and CEO, Keith Willetts, had to tell Annie Turner about the market and this year’s event, which is entitled Strategies and Tactics for Tough  Times.

“In 2002, we experienced a CAPEX freeze, resulting a consolidation among equipment vendors. The time service providers aren’t cutting CAPEX programs, but the key message on what service providers need to do to survive is:

• work to cut costs;

• improve customer loyalty through better customer experience;

• offer new services.”

He added, “You can’t just slash jobs to cut costs, because that inhibits your ability to offer great customer service and launch new services: the answer is about changing the way service providers do business. The need to be leaner and more agile. This means getting rid of silos in the back office and ubiquitous IP. The need to get rid of replication and introduce automation wherever possible.”

Willetts insists that while long term transformation of the back office remains key to operators’ future as multiple service providers, “We are working on the short term project that will take effect quickly. Many answers lie in supporting software developers’ productivity and software integration.”

He argues, “There is and should be a high level of interest in the industry in customisation through software. Service providers need to get rid of stove pipes and instead provide self-service customer care and automation, which customers like and it cuts costs. Google introduces four or five new software releases on its platforms daily: for most service providers that’s more like an annual event.

“There’s a long way to go before most service providers have completed the transition from being a phone company to providers of a whole range of services and drivers of the digital economy. They shouldn’t simply be transporting bits but providing the underlying enabling technology such as authentication, billing, cloud computing and storage as well.”

He concludes, “We need to avoid hard wiring because that leads to inflexibility through initiatives such as the TM Forum Developer Network, which will function like Cisco or Microsoft developers’ networks, providing test tools and enabling engineers to pick each other’s brains and use their experience, by sharing code, software and ideas to drive up productivity.”