By Richard Britton, CEO of CloudSense

Which new technologies will have the most impact on telecommunications companies in 2015 or even 2020? In my view there’s no clear answer.

If you believe all the hype, you might suggest the Internet of Things, big data or even wearable technology. But so far the excitement around these technologies has not been reflected in the bottom line.

In reality, it’s more likely to be more established areas such as digital services and the cloud that deliver revenue and profits over the next 12 months. 

When we asked 330 decision makers across the global industry to make their predictions recently, the answers spanned a range of different technologies. Yet, to me, the fact that there was no obvious answer was more interesting than if one had leapt out as clear winner.

It was indicative of the current state of flux within the industry - and how businesses may well have to cope with an onslaught of new technologies next year, rather than focusing on one.

The question was part of a broader survey designed to assess the state of the industry as we enter the New Year. But despite the lack of consensus on new technologies, there was one figure that stood out from the rest.

A decisive 79 percent of those polled were in some way dissatisfied with their current IT systems. It might sound like a backward-looking observation, but these systems are leaving their legacy, in more ways than one, on the future potential of the industry.

Many communication service providers, for example, installed expensive enterprise systems during the growth years. They were a one-off investment and built to (hopefully) last. But in fact they can’t keep up with today’s increasingly diverse product offerings, fast changes and the need for consistent multi-channel customer interaction.

It’s a direct result of these systems that the vast majority (82 percent) also said that they could not easily bundle across all products and services.

Yet, with so many different new technologies potentially impacting their business next year, commercial success will be dependent upon how they sell and deliver those new technologies to customers.

So what can be done? According to Ovum, the telecommunications sector will be one of the top industries for IT spending over the next 12 – 18 months. It seems quite clear that this investment should focus on building the foundations for a broader and more flexible future.

It appears from the variety of technologies named in our survey that businesses need to prepare, not just for one change, but many. They must get ready for an ‘anything could happen’ future.

But previous investments don’t have to be completely wasted – new, cloud-based solutions can provide a layer on top of existing architecture. These allow the much-needed agility for faster innovation cycles and a single way of selling all products in different combinations.

New ideas that fail to take off can be quickly replaced with the next in line.

Then it’s vital to put new products, such as digital services, at the core of the business, rather than run them as a separate, standalone arm. Doing this means there can be a single source of information for each customer.

Having this complete vision of the customer journey enables sales and customer service teams go beyond predefined offers to configure, price and quote the right bundle as well as more easily upsell and cross sell.

2015 looks set to be a year for leaving the comfort zone and instead reaching out to less well-defined and somewhat risky territories. These markets may well be packed with newer competitors, full of ideas and unhampered by legacy infrastructure.

But getting the foundations right will help established companies compete on an even footing.

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