By Martin Creaner, president and CEO of the TM Forum

Almost 20 years ago, MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte – founder of the university’s Media Lab – made waves with his influential book, Being Digital, in which he stated that in the future everything that can be digital will be.

That was in 1995, and I think we can safely say that Negroponte was correct.

While digital books, music, TV shows and movies have been the norm for quite a while, we’re also seeing many other pieces of the digital puzzle fall into place.

The healthcare, finance and automobile industries are embracing digital services, and the sky’s the limit on what can be digitized going forward.

This move toward digital services isn’t like previous changes in the industry.

It’s such a paradigm shift that in five to 10 years’ time there will no longer be a communications industry as we think of it today.

Of course, there will still be players who are offering communications services, but I don’t expect us to consciously think and talk all that much about a communications industry.

Instead, communications will be subsumed as just one of many digital services within a wider digital economy, with all sorts of companies offering services we can’t even imagine today.

So in this brave new digital world, what do we do? How can service providers change the way they work and structure themselves to remain successful going forward?

As ever, the route to success lies in being good at what’s important. To continue to have a place in the new digital services industry, service providers will need to show high competency in a number of key areas.

They may not be experts in all of them, but they certainly need to exhibit some level of knowledge to stay in the game.

Security is high on the list of core competencies because providers need the capability to secure existing customer data and deliver services in a secure manner.

Also high on the list is customer experience management. Service providers need to understand and meet the needs of their customers as well as manage their big data both in terms of volume and in terms of understanding the trends and information buried within that data.

Partnership management is another critical area of focus because building partnerships and maintaining them represents table stakes in playing in a wide-ranging digital economy that offers services so very far beyond simple communication services.

We recently launched our Digital Services Initiative to help businesses with the end-to-end management challenges of complex digital services.

The goal of this initiative is to help our more than 900 member companies navigate their way through this rapidly changing world.

Whether it’s cloud services, eHealth, Smart Grid or something else that’s being created right now in someone’s garage, we want to make it possible for anyone to come in and start playing in this space right away.

As the spotlight shifts away from the traditional communications industry and services toward new digital services and the new devices that support them, we as an industry need to embrace this shift and adapt with it in order to keep evolving and remain relevant.

TM Forum’s Management World Americas conference and expo is being held Dec. 3-6 at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla, and addresses all the key areas in digital services, including eHealth, Cyber Security, Cloud, Smart Grid, Big Data and Customer Experience Management.

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