The role of IT has never been more important for a service provider than it is today.
The definition of Information Technology in the past was the internal functions to make the company work like billing systems, operation systems to provision and assure services, and the network and desktop infrastructure for employees. Today, however, in the on demand, always available world, Information Technology for a service provider has evolved into a customer facing role and also how service providers will differentiate from others going forward.
A CIO's challenges were already pretty hard, but another level of complexity has been added these past few years. Not only does the CIO have to support the existing set of applications and infrastructure, generally, with a decreasing budget, the role now includes an expectation to expose some of that application functionality to end-users to enable them to self-provision, self-order, and monitor the services they receive from the service provider.
Also making this easy to do, the look and feel, and the overall user experience is now venturing into the marketing domain. This is another way a service provider can differentiate its service offerings.
These are some serious challenges and here are three areas to consider on how to address them:
- Work on the organisation. Specifically, break down traditional functional roles in the IT organisation and in the product organisations. There will always be a need for the deep functional expertise in both these teams, but you have to develop some team members who understand both domains relatively well to get the right product definition.
- The relationship between the CIO and the CMO has to be stronger than before. Again, some cross-domain expertise should be the goal where the CIO can learn more about the marketing and product strategy to add more value in helping to differentiate the service offering. The CMO can learn more about the capabilities the IT systems provide to help focus on the areas that can bring the greatest differentiation.
- Really focus on the user experience. Making technology solve hard, complex problems in an easy to interact with manner is the Holy Grail here. Allowing users intuitive, easy access to their services and also the right level of configuration and customisation capabilities to handle a range of users from the novice to the power user will drive good adoption, high usage rates, and a differentiated user experience.
For most service providers, the core service components will be purchased from the same set of vendors yielding limited differentiation opportunities. Going forward, this limitation will create a great opportunity for how a service provider utilises its IT assets to the best competitive advantage.
John Hayduk is president, Product Management and Service Development, Tata Communications.
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