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Ideas for efficiency

Mostly the Telco 2.0 initiative is about strategy and changes to business models. We look outside the telco, and focus on the interface between the customer and the network. For a change, let’s look inside at execution.

Here are some quick ideas for making your organisation a leaner, more agile and efficient place by improving the supply-side equation of labour and capital.

1. Go commodity. Put a moratorium on proprietary equipment and software.

Google delivers incredible performance and up-time on specially managed farms of commodity hardware with tweaked open-source operating systems. Iliad apply similar ideas to the French telco market. You can too. At the very least, follow the lead of EnterpriseDB and use commodity software as a pricing lever: “We don’t tell Oracle users to convert from Oracle databases to us. We urge them to get some leverage with Oracle by converting just 5% of their databases to us.”

2. Don’t just expect productivity, teach it.

A ground-up change has been occurring in personal productivity. David Allen’s Getting Things Done has seeped into the management psyche, and sports a plethora of toolsets and blogs. They don’t teach you these effectiveness skills in school, and now it’s time to operationalise it and expect “effort management” to be a core skill of every employee.

3. Benchmark your IT costs again, the world just changed.

Amazon have done what Sun have long promised, and created a super-commodity computing cycle and storage service. As Thomas Anglero puts it with only the mildest exaggeration, you can build a telco for $0.15/hour utility costs. You can be assured Skype won’t be spending millions on IMS kit, so any centralised computing facility either needs to deliver massive benefits, or be delivered with all fat cut out. Your internal IT costs an order of magnitude too much compared to the best. Fix it before disruptive new entrants come in with negligible cost bases.

4. Empower and delayer.

We carry on the theme of senior management working on the business (making processes better), not in the business (reacting to daily events). They’re old buzzwords, but if Taco Bell can eliminate a layer of management whilst making their business improve, so can you. The good news is the timing is just right, since the ease of use and availability of collaboration tools to grease the process has never been greater.

5. Go agile.

The ideas that animated the Toyota Production System for cars have been applied to software with similarly spectacular results in terms of defect rates and throughput. Every telco has a software factory, even if sometimes outsourced to an integrator. You’re almost certainly using outdated metrics and methods. If this stuff is news to you, be scared — you’re late to the party. The good news is that Microsoft’s new developer toolsets will embody the best practices from the lean/agile development community, so this won’t be too painful to adopt.

6. Remove information gatekeepers. Share everything.

It sounds like philosophy, but if a piece of business intelligence or internal discussion doesn’t have a URL, does it really exist? You’re in a competition for the best ideas, and then executing on them. Any friction to the exchange of ideas needs to be removed, and that includes nasty communications silos like email. (“The boss’s inbox is where all good ideas go to die.”) There are big, traditional companies out there that have completely re-invented how they work together, and documented the process. Now’s the time to make blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, and advanced communications tools part of your standard internal repertoire.

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