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For CSPs, IT digital transformation requires having a workforce that's ready for 5G
Fifth-generation (5G) mobile communication networks are set to change the world, promising to enable transformation across nearly all sectors of the global economy. As a communications service provider (CSP), you're key to this impending 5G revolution. You'll provide the technologies that underpin it all.
But to successfully deliver on the promises of 5G and compete in this new hyper-speed environment, you must undergo your own IT digital transformation. A critical part of that process is arming your IT employees with the necessary skills, and building the right team, to work in this new technology ecosystem.
Shortage of skills could stall IT transformation
Already, there's a shortage of critical skills within CSPs—and it's a known obstacle to future success.
The 2017 EY report Digital transformation for 2020 and beyond: A global telecommunications study found that 65 percent of respondents listed the "burden of legacy IT platforms and architecture" as one of the greatest barriers to their organization's digital transformation journey. It was the most common challenge for the responding 39 CIOs and CTOs at 35 operator organizations.
Coming in second was a "lack of skills and expertise in digital domains," with 51 percent of respondents listing this as a barrier.
CSPs aren't alone in the struggle for talent. The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2018 found that a majority of the responding 3,958 technology leaders said there's a consistent skills shortage; 65 percent responded that the lack of talent is holding back their organizations.
The bottom line: Expect field competition when it comes to recruiting and retaining tech talent.
Success means having an adaptable IT workforce
The EY report challenges executives to "develop a more experimental culture that accepts failure as a vital element of successful innovation and transformation in all areas of the business." EY also urges companies to cut through "the traditional silos among the network, IT, and business-information functions."
You must develop an IT workforce that can evolve as their networks fundamentally change, first due to upgrades to the latest 4G technologies, followed by 5G innovations. They must have the technical skills to work with virtualized IT processes, NFV-based networks, and software-defined networking (SDN), and be sufficiently trained to design, install, and monitor this modern IT environment.
You also need a workforce that's equally capable of agility and creativity, and one that can work collaboratively with internal units and external partners like HPE.
Employees must be equipped with new skills that will support your company as it transforms into an agile operator capable of quickly launching new digital services, creating new revenue streams, and competing directly with over-the-top (OTT) players. They must be able to work with service-oriented architectures, automation, APIs, and distributed architectures. They need to know how to monitor hybrid IT environments and manage vendors, as well as migrate applications from legacy hardware to the cloud.
The most in-demand skills range from the ability to work with DevOps and agile methodologies to knowledge of automation and AI systems, traditional business acumen, and even interpersonal "soft" skills.
Each organization's plans should be customized
Although such skills are commonly cited as the most desirable, you should assess exactly what skills you need within your organization. Then, tailor both your talent acquisition and learning and development strategies to meet those needs.
To do this, determine whether your employees already possess most or all of the specific skills you need, or if you need to add new skills to your IT team. Then, consider whether it's more effective to retrain your own staff, hire new talent, augment your team with outsourced providers, or use a combination of all three to usher your operation into the future.
Many of your peers across industries are in the same position: The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2018 found that more than half of respondents plan to add more positions, and nearly half (46 percent) plan to use outsourced talent to access key skills. Additionally, 67 percent of respondents plan to use automation for tasks such as testing and development to help their organizations move ahead.
New tech will help you cash in on the 5G economy
As you plot your own digital transformation and road to 5G, consider what's at stake: The annual GDP contributions of 5G will total $3 trillion from 2020 to 2035, according to the January 2017 IHS Markit report The 5G economy: How 5G technology will contribute to the global economy.
5G will also enable new products and services across industries, such as:
- Mobile, remote health care solutions through guaranteed and secure connections
- Connected cars and automated driving
- Expanded media and entertainment offerings
- Energy and utility grids that can be monitored and controlled remotely
- Smart cities, where buildings and infrastructure work together in a connected ecosystem
Before you can power such transformations in the economy, however, you must build the 5G network of the future. And before you can do that, you must plan the IT digital transformation within your own organization. A 2016 article from McKinsey & Co. titled How telecom companies can win in the digital revolution lists the five steps that operators must take if they want to stay competitive in the future; overhauling IT and building talent and digital capabilities are two of those critical steps.
As part of that overhaul, you need to move from your legacy systems to digital infrastructure solutions that offer the flexibility, scalability, and security needed for both the latest 4G technologies and the coming 5G innovations. HPE, in its Digital Transformation Telco Playbook, considers a modern CSP IT infrastructure as one that includes virtualized IT processes and networks based on network functions virtualization (NFV), software-defined networking (SDN), cloud-based platforms, and as-a-service concepts.
HPE's portfolio supports IT digital transformation
HPE offers these critical technology components as part of its portfolio of digital infrastructure solutions optimized for telco workloads. HPE believes that a modern IT environment is essential for handling the future data capacity demands spurred by the expanding use of augmented- and virtual-reality applications, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, streaming-media services, vehicular automation, and all things "smart."
Before those can all become reality, however, it's critical to remember that IT transformation isn't only about the hardware and software you implement to support all those new services; it's also about building a team talented enough to operate the infrastructure that powers your future success in all those areas.
Learn more about HPE's portfolio of telco service provider solutions.
Mary K. Pratt, Technology journalist
Mary K. Pratt is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes extensively about enterprise technology. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including newspapers, magazines, and trade journals. In addition to her work, she enjoys spending time with her family and engaging in outdoor pursuits, including running, skiing, and snowboarding.