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The Illuminator

APRIL 2021 EDITION

A look into communications & media industry trends, news, and updates from the Lumine ecosystem. This month, we also hear from Collab’s Executive VP of Global Marketing, Carlos Vasconcelos, on CX in the Augmented Age.

Spotlight

CX in the Augmented Age

Welcome to the Augmented Age! Maurice Conti, a TEDx speaker/tech authority/moonshot expert introduced us a couple of years ago to this concept. The premises are compelling: In this era, there are computational systems that will help us create, cognitive systems that will help us think, and a digital nervous system that will connect us to the world far beyond what our natural nervous system can offer.

According to Maurice, revolutions are happening with much faster cycles. The first was hunter-gatherer, and lasted millions of years. The agricultural revolution arrived and imposed itself for thousands of years. The next disruption was the industrial age, which lasted centuries until the information age arrived. The information age has been around for decades and introduced computers in the weave of our lives and economic activities. This age has come to an end.

We are in the dawn of the Augmented Age. We took evolution a step further by making the machines not only performing repetitive tasks and calculus but also by augmenting our capabilities. It is about empowering human capabilities, not replacing humans with machines. (If you’re interested, Mr. Conti’s full talk is found here.)

Collab – AI & customer support

As a next-generation contact center software provider, Collab places itself at the forefront of innovation and disruption. Ten years ago, when I began at Collab, artificial intelligence was a buzzword and some people were skeptical of our strategy to embed artificial intelligence in our products. Nowadays, no one questions the purpose.

AI provides quick and immediate responses, allows companies to reduce costs, and deliver consistent interactions in any language at any interaction touchpoint. AI can write,

speak, video call, understand our intents, analyze sentiment, vocal tone & facial expressions, mine data, and much more

These systems, once trained, will not search for work somewhere else, so there is zero churn. They ensure 24/7 availability and minimal error margins. They enhance human productivity, augmenting its capabilities.

At Collab, we are keen to explore paths to deliver great customer support and AI plays a major role, especially in three key vectors: Bot Flows, Speech Analytics, and Live Agent Assistance.

Bot Flows

Customer service and bots walk hand-in-hand. They account for most of our self-service engagements with companies. By 2025, 40% of customer service engagements will be handled in the first contact through self-service or assisted service, forecasts Gartner, and the trend is to grow exponentially.

With our software, building bots is done on a drag and drop interface, with no code. People from business and functional teams can adjust these scripts via OneContact Flows. Recently, we have made it possible to integrate with cognitive services to deliver Intelligent Bots, that learn with each interaction, understanding customer intents, and improving the best way to solve them. For an end customer to deploy these bots, they simply add a widget to a webpage or social media channel. It sounds simple – and it is – but feeding the bot with the information it needs to reply to customers is the real challenge.

Recently, we have boosted our bot intelligence capabilities with an innovative offer from WDS, a fellow Lumine company, specializing in device knowledge and intelligence. Our cooperation resulted in BotExpert, a new and differentiated offer on the market that delivers ready-to-use bots.

BotExpert allies our contact center & bot technology to a cloud-based knowledge base (provided by WDS). The use cases are numerous. For Telcos, the knowledge base is pre-loaded with the comprehensive knowledge of over 16.000 devices, each with up to +450 different characteristics. Any question about device usage can be quickly solved by the Bot, which understands the customer inquiry via Natural Language Processing, queries the knowledge base, and composes the answer-back.

We are currently in the process of expanding this to other knowledge areas, such as being able to respond to billing inquiries (integrating with VAS-X, another company within Lumine). These group synergies are taking BotExpert to a whole new level, and the business possibilities are impressive.

Speech Analytics

Vocal or text-based conversations with customer support contact centers generate Terabytes of recordings. How do you learn from that huge dataset? In the past, a quality monitoring team would carefully select a sample of which recordings to listen to.

Today, an AI machine can listen not to a sample but to all of these recordings and identify relevant outliers. These interactions are automatically identified based on indicators, such as their volume variation (someone started to yell), abnormal silence (someone hesitated for too long), overlapping streams (speaking over each other), use of improper language or even a simple mention of a competitor.

Better than this, these systems can now estimate sentiment in each phrase that was said (or written), both by the Customer and the Customer Service Representative (CSR). So, if an interaction starts with negative customer sentiment and ends with a positive score, it should be analyzed and perhaps considered as a best practice. The opposite is also true, and like a growing child, many of these systems learn even better from negative experiences (ex: what you are not expected to do, do!).

Live Agent Assistant

Glad you have read it this far! Kudos to you. Our third pillar is where the first two technologies merge.

Imagine a conversation where a customer is speaking with a human CSR. We keep the bot in the conversation, like if it was a conference between the three parties. The bot is carefully listening. When he finds an intent he recognizes, he will suggest a recommended action to the human CSR. Look at this example, in which a customer is trying to solve a bill shock:

“Customer: I cannot understand how I spent +100 USD this month vs previous?”

“CSR: One moment, while I fetch the relevant info”. The bot listened and instantly pulls up consumption history, newly activated services, roaming charges, etc. Also, automatically detects it was a roaming abnormal variation, and it displays the pricing plan for international extra charges, with relevance to the newly visited country. It can also suggest the CSR a recommended course of action: upgrade to the “International Traveler” tariff, with a 2-year contract and include this month’s invoice in the new plan.

In this example, the bot provided guidance to the CSR, and not to the end customer. It was up to the human to decide on how to use this extra intelligence.

Closing Thoughts: The Reuters Story

Did you know that Reuters started with pigeons? It first used carrier pigeons to deliver stock market prices in 1850. A major disruption occurred: the telegraph. Reuters had to decide whether to raise more and better pigeons or to change. They started investing in the telegraph and expanded beyond Europe into the Far East.

Then a new disruption happened – the internet. Reuters again reinvented itself and dropped/sold all the cabling infrastructure they had in place.

Today, Reuters has bots writing news stories. Bots that at the speed of light, search the Internet for events and giving them to journalists with a confidence score associated. It is up to the human journalist to decide if he wants to pursue the story or not as if his skills are augmented.

Welcome to the Augmented Age… Hope to take this illuminating journey with you.

Trend Updates

CSPs Migration to Cloud Native OSS / BSS

Communications service providers (CSPs) are embracing cloud configurations for their operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS). According to this TMForum report, the surge in the use of telecoms IT is driving Vendors in these sectors to redesign their solutions from the ground up, in a cloud native form. They list several advantages of a cloud native BSS, including:

  • Available for multi-tenancy use, so the software and its supporting infrastructure has the ability to serve multiple customers
  • Hardware not required
  • Can be implemented efficiently within days or weeks
  • Facilitates regular software updates
  • CSPs pay only for what they use
  • Supports multiple devices

The Status of CSPs on Cloud Adoption

There are patterns around the types of applications that are best suited for migration to the cloud. Digital systems such as chatbots and web portals are less complex or mission critical, compared to other BSS solutions. These systems are a preferred starting point for transition to the cloud. However, CSPs are now moving to the next phase, which is migrating core OSS/BSS functions.

A cloud native revenue management platform would enable handle of rating, charging, billing, and partner management in a more dynamic way. Customer management and sales functions like CPQ, service order management and centralized product/ service catalog are the important candidates for cloud migration within BSS. These functions play a critical role in the lead-to-cash process, as well as the increasing focus on customer experience.

What are the strategies telcos can use to migrate to the cloud?

Certain methodologies and decisions are essential to enable communications service providers (CSPs) to thrive in a cloud-based market. CSPs’ software development methods have undergone vast change in the last decade.

“DevSecOps” techniques have become the norm with CSPs striving to move to those standards to gain benefits in their own operations. DevSecOps combines software development, IT operations and data security to enable the development of high-quality software. Adopting DevSecOps methodologies can help CSPs move to faster deployment cycles, scale their operational resources to increase accuracy and flexibility, and enable a non-hierarchical decision-making process.

The following methodologies can be used to facilitate CSPs to thrive in a cloud-based environment:

  • Establishing close technology partnerships : DevSecOps ensure closer working relationships with CSPs’ technology suppliers and systems integrators.
  • Adopting a digital-first mentality : Automation should be used to get rid of repetitive work. CSPs that are digitally transforming their BSS operations can measure the benefits of doing so by using certain systems that better inform their cloud strategy.
  • Learning from legacy problems in the cloud : The shift to cloud is an opportunity to fix systems issues. Modern IT methodologies can help drive out error-prone processes.
  • Flexibility : Different applications and customers need different blends of solutions. CSPs and their vendor partners need a flexible framework in place to quickly establish a specific cloud environment based on customer requirements.

Read more from the source.


The Rise of TowerCos

An emerging trend over recent years has been the purchase of cell towers by companies, usually from large telcos that originally built them. These companies that are focused on infrastructure are known as TowerCos.

The surprising part of this trend is not the fact that companies are interested in purchasing cell towers, but that large telcos are interested in selling them. Until the 2000s, cell towers accounted for a significant share of telcos portfolios and the corresponding valuations and were thereby not considered a sellable asset.

This shift in telco infrastructure management has been influenced by several different circumstances. Various factors such as changes in the financial needs of the large telco providers, technological advancements, and consumer demand have all been driving forces in the emergence of TowerCos.

The rise of tower companies has been facilitated by an existing business model, called the colocation data centre model. Within this model, telcos sell data centre infrastructure to TowerCos and specialist operators and leaseback only the capacity required. This enables telcos to reduce costs and improve efficiency, as well as eliminate waste. This allows a telecom company to transfer expenses from CAPEX to OPEX, as well as allows them to reduce overall costs, including maintenance and site upgrade expenses.

TowerCos purchase the cell infrastructure from telecom companies and lease the space back to them, or to many customers, at a profit. They benefit from this model, since they lease capacity to multiple tenants, and take advantage of economies of scale, as well as ensure high operating efficiencies.

Tarantula, a Lumine company, empowers TowerCos to increase the value of their tower business by achieving operational efficiency and monetizing their assets.

This is facilitated by providing them with Tarantula’s telecom asset management software, currently used across 15 countries and 350,000 mobile towers.

The rise of TowerCos represents a shift in the way that large telecommunications companies are operating, and how they are moving forward. By re-evaluating infrastructure, such the network of wireless towers, telcos are causing changing cost structures and improving efficiency.

TowerCos offer scalable, flexible, efficient connectivity services to telecom companies, while improving tower operations by narrowing their focus to site acquisition, management, and improvement.

Read more from the source.

Industry News

VMware aims to serve the work from home demand

VMware predicts that work-from-home will persist long after the pandemic. In preparation for this trend, VMware is combining three of its products to meet the needs of customers and is calling the combined trio VMware Anywhere Workspace.

One of VMware’s customers, AMTI, began their work-from-home program two years ago to address the worsening traffic in Metro Manila. This initiative was further accelerated by COVID-19. VMWare’s technologies enabled them to deliver a productive work environment for their employees. Another VMware customer, Deutsche Telekom does not expect to see a dramatic change in the current distributed work situation. They are of the opinion that employees are not likely to return to the office five days a week.

So what? VMware discovered that many employees would work in a hybrid mode — part-time remote and part-time in the office — moving forward. Based on various studies conducted, 61% of people feel that remote work should be a permanent fixture and no longer view it as a perk. In addition, the majority of employees are of the opinion that employers should be responsible for providing appropriate access to the necessary digital tools to enable remote work. Solutions like VMware Anywhere Workspace will make it easier for organizations to support employee choice while maintaining productivity and preserving its collaborative culture.

Learn more here


Growth in the Nordic video market

The Nordic video market is one of the strongest and most progressive in the world. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland enjoy high penetration and wide adoption of superfast broadband, as well as a high level of disposable income and an overall thirst for entertainment.

Interest in subscription video on demand (SVoD) has grown in popularity amongst older demographics. The stay-at-home measures during the pandemic and growth in transactional digital video spend was led by Sweden. Although Norway and Denmark also witnessed growth, the lack of newly released content led to a more muted performance than anticipated. Momentum on catalogue and new content is helping drive the overall sector growth.

So what? 2020 saw the Nordic region consolidate its position as one of the most advanced digital markets globally. The transactional video market in the Nordic region remains ahead of other European markets in terms of engagement. Increasing broadband speeds and high penetration of smart TVs have also played a key role in accelerating the transactional video market in the Nordic region. 2021 is forecasted to witness 85 percent of households having a smart TV in the Nordic region. This would be the highest level of smart TV ownership in Europe and would provide a seamless way for consumers to view premium streamed content.

Learn more here.


Augmented Analytics is likely to be a key for telco transformation

Augmented analytics is one of the latest data and analytics trends, that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques This is causing a wave of disruption within the market. Many processes remain largely manual, including managing and preparing data for analysis, building data models, interpreting results, and creating actionable insights. The outcomes of the current approach to data analysis are that business users and data scientists need to explore their own hypotheses, which leads to overlooking key findings.

Augmented analytics provides numerous benefits, such as automating data preparation, reducing time to insights, eliminating human analytical bias, mitigating the risk of missing important insights, and providing actionable insights to the executive team. As the amount of data continues to rise, telcos will increasingly see the need for an augmented analytics platform to connect disparate data sources. This would help find effective relationships within the data, create visualizations, and enable personnel to effortlessly share their findings.

So what? Telcos are increasingly realizing the importance of Big Data and its role in the process of decision making. The ability to effectively use data that is collected is set to become even more challenging. IoT devices are likely to lead to an explosion of data which is likely to increase the demand for augmented analytics adoption. This would increase productivity and efficiency, improve accuracy, and deliver faster insights.

Collab, one of Lumine’s VBUs is exploring ways of delivering customer support using AI to reduce churn and enhance human productivity through the concept of the augmented analytics. Collab is also delivering Intelligent Bots and is collaborating with WDS, another VBU within Lumine to boost their bot intelligence capabilities and to differentiate their market offering.

Learn more here

Lumine Business News

Insights: How OSS and BSS are shaping the present and future of the Telecom Infrastructure Industry

The need for effective telecom site management software has grown due to demand for personalization, seamless service usage, and the drive for diversity across communication industries and platforms. OSS and BSS enable telecom infrastructure providers and operators to meet the demands of this networked society. Tarantula dives into this topic further in their latest research article.

Learn more here.

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Video: Velocix Transformation Journey

James Brickmeier, Chief Product & Marketing Officer at Velocix, speaks at a recent Hewlett Packard Enterprise “Accelerating Next” event. Hear from Jim as he discusses insights learned during the Velocix transformation journey, and how HPE compute technology helped along the way.

Watch the interview here.

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Video: TMD Discusses the Business of Media

Tony Taylor, TMD Executive Chairman, discusses various topics around the business of media with IABM. This interview covers managing and delivering content with TMD’s media asset management content management solution, global client case studies, as well as innovative solutions for intelligent media. Tony also shares insight into why Lumine was the right acquiring partner for TMD.

Watch the interview here.

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