Since the pandemic, many organizations expanded their horizons (literally), riding on the wave of digital transformations, AI/ML, 5G, Blockchain, are already hitting the wall by now. As pandemic is subsiding, the realization is real for many of them; we can ride the wave successfully, if we can build the team of people with right skill sets.
Is that something Organizations didn’t realize before they started surfing the wave of opportunities?
Let me talk about Telecom for the sake of this article.
Telecom is one of the most complex and tech savvy industries out there. Believe me, tech stack is enormously complicated, legacy, spread across multiple domains (many of those domains you haven’t heard outside), and old fashioned to significant extent. I don’t know if there’s any telco who can proudly claim that they are 100% digitally transformed or have successfully obliterated legacy stack and adopted modern technology fully. The transformation is on-going and will continue for many years and by the time it reaches the destination, there will be a few more destinations already available to climb. This will continue forever for many of them.
Which brings down the question- what’s the plan?
I believe there’s some plan but it’s in beta mode already. Many of them are riding on the new wave of digitization of telco stack, moving away from legacy architectures of their existing product portfolios to new agile built microservices architectures. Everything is at stake and the path forward is riddled with many challenges.
But the biggest question is, who will do this for Telcos? How will Telcos find skilled people to get transformed?
Will telcos be doing this on their own or their cloud partners or their ISV partners or OEM partners or …? The list goes on and there is no definite answer to the question. But one thing is sure, telcos won’t be doing this without support from external stakeholders, be it Cloud or OEM or ISVs or managed services partners, many of them will win the big pie of business.
The question remains, how these partners will build a fully Cloud-Native Digitally transformed Telco, who is making AI driven decisions day in day out and what Telcos will gain out of it?
First, Cloud is new to Telco world (not that new but still quite new). Telcos, despite being the most tech savvy industries, are one of the least cloudified industries as well. There are many reasons for that, including closed ecosystem of vendors/products, legacy Hardwares/software, domain level challenges and others. Not all telcos adopt or adopted Cloud but many of them are on the path.
And one of the biggest issues is lack of talent to solve complex domain level issues with software.
Telcos, since their existence, adopted software, built on proprietary stack, provided by their OEM partners. They always relied on OEM to solve their problems. Only handful of them continued to innovate generations after generations but many of them just asked their OEM Partners to solve problems for them. It’s a well-known model and it worked quite well, until the cloud reached the tipping point.
While many other enterprises adopted cloud and benefited from them enormously, Telcos saw the transformation from outside. They were curious, but knowing that, it wouldn’t be easy for them to adapt to Cloud. Among many reasons, less knowledge of software development processes of products is one of the key reasons. Telco relied on OEM partners to build solutions and products for them. They hardly built anything in-house.
But now Telcos is planning to move to cloud and ready for transformation, with external help, many of the Telco partners scouting for solutions are looking to hire skilled professionals.
But where are the skilled professionals fitting the bill?
There are hardly any! Telco is always a telco product and moving to software-based products would require many of the companies to hire people, with both telecom and software domains expertise. E.g., many of the Radio vendors, jumping on O-RAN bandwagon, building Radio Products (software/containerized), need radio experts who had expertise in building software products or engineering. It won’t be easy because there are very few skilled people who already know both.
What’s the way forward?
It’s a challenge as well as an opportunity.
While many organizations will never be able to build such products/solutions, telecom professionals can upskill themselves to meet those demands and move to a different world altogether. It won’t be easy for many of them, as I see, many of them dreaded coding/programming in their college days and now will hesitate to upskill.
Reality is quite hard. Companies will continue to build software telco products; telcos will continue to transform themselves and telecom professionals will have to adopt the path of continuous learning to ride on the wave of opportunity.
The current crisis of talent crunch in many industries, including telecom, who are riding the digitization wave is purely man-made, driven by ambition of telcos/end customers to adopt cloud, AI, and digital technologies. As a professional, you can only ride the crisis by upskilling with continuous learning cycles. There’s no other way out!