Bridging the work skills gap

20 July 2018 | Natalie Bannerman

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Capacity speaks to Cartesian's Massimo Fatato on the cultural shift the wholesale industry greatly needs and how employee evolution is key to virtualisation.

These days the conversation around staff training and bridging the skills gap seems to be at the forefront of the wholesale telecoms market and certainly a hot topic for the c-suite executives from some of the world’s biggest telcos.

Speaking to Massimo Fatato, managing partner of next generation network practice at specialist consulting firm Cartesian, he explains how best to bridge this gap.

Massimo Fatato 200x291As someone who has been active in the industry for over 30 years, Fatato says he is noticing a major change. With OTTs like Google, Amazon, Facebook and more, that are capable of providing a competitive offering to a telecoms customer much faster, better and in a more flexible and agile way, he says that service providers need to not only match these offerings but also surpass them to regain their market and revenue share.

“To the rescue of the service provider comes a number of innovations mostly driven by the virtualisation taking place in the telecoms environment,” explains Fatato. “On one side there is the increased complexity that comes with operating this new technology and on the other side the separation between the software and the hardware presents an opportunity for service providers to become more agile in providing services to their customers.”

Fatato regularly consults and advises some of the world largest telcos and knows first-hand the challenges these new opportunities present.

“Telecoms service providers naturally start their business approach from technology and hardware, and then the application will run on top of it, then to the service that will be provided to the customer,” he says. “But now this is reversed and they have to think about the service they want to provide and how they can deliver that in an agile and flexible way similar to how the OTTs are doing it.”

His biggest idea is that telcos are missing a big step by not sharing the knowledge it has across the business to new areas to maximise skills and bringing the generally overlooked operations side of things into the development process.

“Telcos should be transferring the IP knowledge that they have to the network side and merge the two. If you look at operations and you're looking to operate your network in a software-based environment rather than a full stack hardware-based environment, you need to know how to deliver these services.”

“It’s not just about the technology - it’s the operations that also have to be taken care of and delicately balanced. And telecoms service providers have to make an effort to bring the operational community up to the level and speed needed to effectively manage the new virtual environment without neglecting the current environment that still needs to be operated for business reasons.”

But he has clear direction on how telcos can practically implement these changes.

“Training is an element, but we’re not talking about learning a new technology, we’re talking about a cultural shift,” explains Fatato. “It’s a matter of transforming your operational people to think in a different way.  And while training is one way to do this, the other is learning on the job. Most importantly you need to involve operational people upfront when you are going through this kind of virtual transformation.”

Fatato says that the process of implementation is also flawed and because of the shift to virtualisation, operations have a bigger part to play and so should have a bigger say.

“Traditionally in the telco game you create the technology, build the infrastructure, engage vendors, field trials and then finally implementation, it is only then that they call operational people. Because of the new change from physical to virtual you have to involve operational people upfront, early on,” says Fatato.

One particular bone of contention is the fact that telcos are losing a lot of young talent to the seemingly trendy and exciting OTT companies, a fact that Fatato says has more to do with shared objectives than money or job perks.

“OTTs are more aligned in terms of mentality and the way they gear the business to the mentality of the younger people. Its not a matter of training people or offering perks. What I see is that they’re not very motivated in the same way I was motivated, they are more motivated by the mission of the company. So if telcos continue operating the way they’ve been operating for the last 20 years, not only will they not attract young talent they will really disappear.”

Moving forward he says telcos should implement transformation “gradually” and through things akin to 'greenfields' trials to recruit young talent. “Lets create this spin off and have business units looking at the future in a practical but very compelling way,” he says.

Going against the grain undoubtedly comes with its share if resistance and hesitance, but the key, Fatato says, is to start small. 

“What I’m witnessing is that all telcos are aware that change has to happen and some of them are investing in making that happen,” he explains. “But while its pretty clear in some instances, turning that in a reality is where the challenge is because it’s so much ingrained in the culture.”

“They need to start small, bring all the players of the company, not just have it led from a technological perspective. Transition all these players them from spectators to actors, so they can start having their voice heard and the advantage is that implementation will be much smoother, because everyone has been involved from the start.”