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Product Management Innovation & Flexibility in 5G

September 14, 2022 - Tamara Blanche

Product management & the value of flexibility to handle complexity in 5G

Product managers are expected to have all the answers. They can be an excellent conduit for sharing knowledge and expertise, especially with the sales audience. Although, in a more functional context, product management can sometimes be at a disadvantage due to insufficient proximity to the end consumer in that they are often in more back-end roles. All too often sitting behind the account and delivery architects, who themselves are behind service provider tech layers who are different from the service provider experience managers who control how consumers experience the network. It is a complex environment and confusing tier system that is dependent on the business model and scale. Despite the complexities of the job, product managers try to stay informed on product innovations, market trends and their company’s positioning in the industry. Tracking market news, and operator announcements, consuming vast quantities of industry analyst reports, subscribing to newsletters, watching webinars, reading blogs, following market commentators on social media, monitoring the competition and, most importantly, actively engaging with customers. Currently, the most posed question to product managers in the network space is: what are the most valuable 5G use cases of the very near future? The question of the single killer use case to drive 5G has evolved turned into a time-bound one with an expectation that there are several.

Mission accepted. The product management team has done tons of research and attended various conferences where any and every session has been joined which promised to discuss the application of the “5G” multiplier. Particularly attractive are the sessions where complementary technology evolutions like cloud, IoT, analytics, and exciting topics like augmented and virtual reality were part of the dialogue. These are the fuel that is powering and taking advantage of the 5G engines.

What follows is a takeaway from that journey and must come with a warning that it will not culminate in the succinct answer which you may be seeking.

By comparison, the predictions of what 4G would bring have always been tempting as the industry was often wildly misguided. At the time, 4G broadband would be ubiquitous, premiums for data usage during peak times, and unlimited text messages as a mitigation against the threat of third-party messaging services like WhatsApp are a few that spring to mind. However, consumers had different ideas.

Amdocs is very fortunate to work closely with a large group of the earliest adopters in the 5G race. At this time, its very smart customers are focused on increases in speed, coverage, and network management and utilization both at a consumer and an enterprise level. These smart people know that although most of the experimentation they are doing now is exploring the technological enhancements they have to realize vast additional revenues, especially 5G standalone, beyond speed – ultra-reliable connectivity, low latency, massive connectivity, and integration with edge services. There are very few new service providers, which means these mature organizations have highly defined and established borders within which they are comfortable. Service providers are quite specialized organisms that secure resources, improve existing products, create new ones and increase efficiencies by improving processes, all to extract the most value from their core business. Now the additional currencies or features of 5G could service a wholly new customer, or existing one, in an entirely new way. Many of these opportunities will fit quite well with the current business model and thus are often called adjacencies – which are more migratory. But others require service providers to operate in fundamentally different ways – with a new set of network assets, new processes, a new way to monetize, and a new way to control those assets to achieve radically different outcomes. The term white space has been used in business speak to mean uncharted territory or a yet unserved market.

 

The opportunity is to capture this white space although what lies within is ambiguous, as it stands. The key to capturing this opportunity will be the realization by industry participants that innovation does not necessarily start with them. Innovation in the 5G ecosystem involves sharing and collaboration. Non-telco enterprises are uniquely positioned right now. Admittedly, they are scratching the surface leveraging increased speeds, but once they experience the reality of the capabilities on offer, truly innovative use cases will be found. The rapid evolution of private enterprise networks (PEN) combined with edge cloud is only just beginning.

Service Providers must stay in the game by balancing access to ever-evolving innovation capabilities and enablers. They have to offer flexibility to enterprise users while managing their network assets.

The world is primed and on the brink of something extraordinary where imagination is key. More than ever there is a tight coupling of business and technology strategies for enterprises however by leveraging service providers’ assets. There is no longer a requirement for massive investment – and therefore risk – in technology to precede technological advancement for enterprises. This means disruption is coming and new players that enter the market should be embraced. Competition drives innovation and in turn, will drive consumption of service provider offerings. Collaboration between verticals and service providers and between enterprises too will have an amplification effect on the pace of change and the demand for technological enablers for businesses.

One other collaboration not yet mentioned is the one between service providers and their vendors. The right vendors have unique global business and technical knowledge which ensures they are informed on what vertical offerings have worked in other similar markets which can be repeated faster, more cost-effectively, and successfully enabling their customers to capture the white space opportunity locally.

In summary, the definitive list of 5G use cases is not the most pressing problem. Rather it is how to be ready as a business predisposed to opportunities as they arise. The focus of readiness should include:

  • Working openly and collaboratively with all players,
  • The realization that things will need to change internally for you to capture new opportunities
  • The knowledge that the pace of change will be uncomfortable,
  • Experimentation with business and pricing models,
  • Awareness that the destination will shift – or that it may never fully arrive, but the journey and transport might be the most important consideration and
  • Acceptance of the likelihood of disruptive entrants. Nobody likes to be disrupted.

Meanwhile, the Amdocs product management team will gladly be immersed in the complexity it uses and the flexible enablers it promotes as fuel for its engine.

 

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