Digital transformation is most certainly an industry buzzword, but one with a very real meaning. This process of digitizing infrastructure and operations is meant to allow operators to cut costs, deliver a better service and make more money. A new research report from TM Forum titled “Digital Transformation Tracker 3: Why is network transformation so difficult?“, is the third installment of the group’s tracking of how and to what extent communications service providers are planning and executing on digital transformation strategies. Spoiler alert: it’s a slow burn.

The report, from TM Forum Chief Analyst Mark Newman, is based on survey responses from 160 people working for 66 communications service providers operating in 40 countries, including mobile, fixed and converged operators, as well as IT and operations workforce. On the supplier side, there were 76 respondents from 39 companies that sell network functions software, BSS/OSS systems and network hardware.

Newman found that, since 2017, there has been a 5% increase to 45% of “CSP respondents stating their companies have now started transformation…One year is not a long time in the telecoms business, and the state of digital transformation in the third quarter o 2018 is not very different from that in third quarter of 2017,” he wrote.

So what’s the hold up? Essentially a lack of consensus on what digital transformation constitutes, what the goals are and how to align internal stakeholders, according to the report.

Although the pace of change is relatively slow right now, Newman foresees emerging technologies as potentially pushing operators in a new direction. “5G and the internet of things (IoT) may force communications service providers (CSPs) to speed the process so that they can deliver software-based network services, for example, creating network slices to support use cases with very different requirements for latency, throughput, coverage, etc…”

The analyst makes a number of recommendations, including establishing a vision, a business case, relevant KPIs and overhauling supplier relationships.

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