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CognizantiAn annual journal produced by Cognizant

VOLUME 10 ISSUE 1 2017

Telecommunications

Dial Tone Goes Digital


Telecommunications

Dial Tone Goes Digital


By Dr. Christian von Reventlow

German telecommunications map signals. It gives our business leaders


options to rehearse potential strategies to
giant Deutsche Telekom is avoid extinction.
reshaping its business to Much of what we saw in those early days was
compete in a fully digital world troubling. The world could look similar to
today but with everything coming in via over-
a future in which consumers the-top services. As a result, communications
expect persistent and free providers will be competing against others
that offer these communications and informa-
connectivity, with or without tion services for free. Google and Facebook,
a mobile device. By deploying for example, are providing services formerly
exclusive to telecommunications operators.
advanced technologies such At a certain point, DT will have a hard time
as AI, Deutsche Telekom is expanding, with industry growth rates slowing
to about 1% to 2% per year. Being a telecom
working to deliver better operator is not going to be enough.
customer experiences and
Thats the challenge ahead, and the board
gain stakeholder support of DT understood what to do. We had to
to fund further innovation challenge the status quo to avoid a slow,
agonizing death spiral.
initiatives.
Customers of the Future
When I arrived at Deutsche Telekom (DT) We decided to find out what our future
two years ago, I was tasked with redefining customers would want the kids who are now
our innovation strategy. It was a challeng- aged 10 to 16. These are the digital natives,
ing moment, as the board had just received growing up in an always-on, always-connected
recommendations from a management world. We embarked on a fun journey to find
consultant. out how they thought the world would look in
2025. We talked to more than 300 kids in five
Focusing on innovation means focusing on countries, asking them to help us understand
the future. So we embarked on a future- what will matter to them.
mapping and scenario-analysis exercise
to develop our go-forward strategy. Future What we heard was challenging: Connec-
mapping is a process where we define tivity will be a human right, and access to
different future scenarios for our business, information will be free. Our lives will be
assess probabilities and outcomes, and then fully digital. Everything will be networked.

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Robots will help us live better. And the 2. Applying artificial intelligence (AI)
biggest blow: There will be no more phones. to provide better, lower cost customer
service. The CEO of our T-Mobile
When we reported back, our board members Austria unit has championed this
were unsettled. One said if phones go away, initiative. When a customer calls, a chat
our customers will count on us to provide window pops up and asks whats needed.
privacy for their information, which made If the chatbot doesnt know the answer,
sense. The European Union has been very theres a seamless handoff to a human
aggressive in implementing new privacy agent. In fact, we have found live agents
regulations during the past few years. We sometimes use chatbots to get answers to
could help enforce those and implement the their questions, as well. Weve recorded
necessary compliance. literally millions of chats between
customers and agents and selected a
Discovering New Value subset that we use for supervised learning.
Customers will rate the quality of the
But you cant just do things that might lead
interaction.
to a better future; you also have to build
up the core and drive value. Like most We started the initiative in Austria,
executives, our P&L owners are focused on and now others within the DT footprint
short-term results. So, we also needed to want to apply AI technology in their call
focus on incremental projects that would centers and stores. For call centers that
deliver results in the near term while have been selling phones, we can now
building credibility to experiment with start reimagining the in-store experience.
more innovative models. Several ongoing These automated agents have super
initiatives came out of our future mapping, insights to answer questions. We are now
including: bringing AI into the mainstream business.
3. Creation of an internal 80 million
1. Reinventing the customer experience
innovation fund. We need to make
at our retail stores. Were working to
it attractive for our executives to think
improve the store experience by applying
about what they might need in three
technology to emphasize our ambition to
years time. We established an innovation
be the digital companion to our customers.
board that meets once a month to
consider new project pitches or review
reports on ongoing initiatives. The fund
releases money quarterly. For example,
one employee wanted to work on a
distributed robot operation system, and
we allocated 1 million to develop the
prototype. Our people have become much
more interested in talking about what
theyre working on they never used to
want to share that. The participation and
interest level have been great.

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You can do cool digitization once youve
translated these activities into a language
the business leaders understand how it
benefits the organization. Technology for
technologys sake never worked and it
still doesnt.

Encouraging a Culture Looking Ahead


of Innovation Carriers have the opportunity to play an
important role in shaping the future of com-
Its difficult to take the legacy organization
munications and connectivity. I believe the
along with you on a journey like this, but
current form of the Internet is dying or is
its key to your success. You can do cool
already dead. There will be billions of devices
digitization once youve translated these
and trillions of connections between those
activities into a language the business leaders
devices, and we need to be able to establish a
understand how it benefits the organiza-
connection between point A and B.
tion. Technology for technologys sake never
worked and it still doesnt. Stakeholders The Internet was built to assume you can
want to know, Whats in this for me? trust the identity of who youre dealing with,
but thats not the case today the attack
People in the organization need to feel
surface for security is exploding. In the
safe with whats happening, so you need
Middle Ages, distance between humans was
to do incremental things while planning
used to control plagues and wars. We need
for the future. You can move into AI and
to achieve the same level of security that
augmented reality initiatives when stakehold-
distance used to provide, perhaps in the form
ers understand that the vast amount of your
of unspoofable identities and more privacy.
activity is on the conservative side. We call
it the blue and the green world. Building a As Ive learned, agility and flexibility are
stable and reliable network, for example, is not enough. You need to be ambidextrous:
part of the blue world, but we need people innovating for the future while delivering
who think about robotics and other inspiring cost-efficiently for the business in the near
services for this network. Improving the core term. You cant have short-term thinking,
business that is 80% of what I do. But Im but your model needs to point to short-term
still looking to the future. results. At the same time, you need to be
willing to accept a little pain. If you only
do what your competition does, you wont
gain competitive advantage. Its a constant
balancing act.

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Author
Dr. Christian von Reventlow, Chief Product & Innovation Officer (CPIO) at Deutsche
Telekom AG, is in charge of the group-wide innovation strategy, product development
and partnering as well as corporate R&D. He controls the Deutsche Telekom product
portfolio and defines the product roadmap for the group, as well as implementation in
the market via systematic innovation management and corporate R&D.

Before joining Deutsche Telekom in March 2015, he held several executive positions,
most recently as SVP Core platform at Nokias map service and navigation system
subsidiary Here.com. At Here.com, he supervised the development of the first real-time
cloud backbone for high-resolution maps in connected vehicles. Previously, he worked
at Intel, where he was responsible for the software development of the first and second
generations of Windows 8 and Android tablets, and at Avaya, where he managed the
relaunch of the Avaya Flare videoconferencing solution.

Von Reventlow earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Technische Univer-
sitt Berlin, a diploma in physics and physical medicine from Yeshiva University,
and a masters degree in physics from the University of Sussex. He can be reached at
Christian.Von-Reventlow@telekom.de | https://www.linkedin.com/in/vonreventlow/.