“A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the speech of a diplomat,” quoted by Deep Nishar, Softbank Investment Advisers. It’s time to use this philosophy to give telco’s Concept to Market (C2M) aspects of product management a complete transformation. In a telecom habitat, it’s not just the product manager but an entire ecosystem that needs to come together to make a product creation thrive.
In a traditional telco management cycle, this takes between 12-24 months, depending on product complexity. This causes a dilemma – by the time the product launches, they are either outdated or outcompeted. We can no longer afford months or years; we need the C2M to be within weeks or, even better, days. However, this reduction of time is not straightforward since the telco landscape is very complex – to launch a product, we need infrastructure, OSS and, BSS all working harmoniously.
The actual problem is the challenges that come with intricacy and prevent us from the timely establishment of new products. The viable solution is introducing agility in the entire life cycle of C2M. This is just not a technology evolution; it’s also about facilitating an underlying cultural change across the telecom enterprise. There are two potential options to allow telcos to test the viability of a product – Prototyping and Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Prototyping is needed for innovations that have never been seen, touched, or experienced before. They are not about creating an end product but are valuable for developing further ideas or creating more options. With the invent of 5G and IOT technologies – product managers are forced to test the product’s viability in huge numbers. A prototype is the best option for them to try very innovative ideas quickly.
In the prototype approach, we advise a standalone model without integrating with their ecosystem. Prototypes often need not be developed in the existing technology delivering the end product – they can be rough and even crude. With 5G, telco’s are collaborating with many industry segments like banks and utility companies, and the use cases are very innovative. Standalone prototypes are the best tool they have to showcase the use cases at work in one form or shape quickly. The essence of a prototype is to test the ideas with minimum investment and less time.
Alternatively, an MVP allows the minimum required features of the product to be created immediately without the nuances of a larger project. It relies on early adopters providing feedback on the opportunities and obstacles of the development, then combining the response into an agile plan. MVP can be standalone, to begin with, but they need to have a long-term plan to bring the solution and integrate it into the ecosystem.
MVPs are recommended when product managers confirm the viability of products in the long term post initial market analysis. MVP is born with an agile methodology. For example, when launching a new use case in 5G with a committed banking client, it is better to start it as MVP. This use case needs to work in an integrated E2E environment both from the telco and bank’s perspectives. It will allow them to go to market with few essential features and enhance it further with the feedback on the ground – so product managers need to keep the flexibility in the product roadmap.
During your C2M, it isn’t about choosing a concrete path; it’s about choosing perhaps a hybrid approach by combing the benefits of prototyping and MVP. Fundamentally, it’s not just about the product managers forcing the change. Instead, it’s about bringing this change to the entire team and enterprise culture ultimately. It’s about a flexible approach that works best for the product, the complete process model, and the people involved. With the proper implementation of MVP and prototyping, there will come a time when weeks seem like an extraordinarily long time to let a product flourish.
Thiag leads digital transformation for various telecom companies across the Asia Pacific and Oceania markets at Infosys Consulting. He helps Telecom Service providers realize their digital strategy to deliver true value with respect to financials, customer experience, and the overall enterprise digital goals. He strongly believes that people adapting to change is a prerequisite to making any digital transformation successful.