Debra Hamilton worked in telecommunications from 1985-2002 and witnessed first hand many many shifts as technology changed at an accelerating rate
Before the Agile Workforce in Telecom
Once considered a monolithic behemoth, the telecommunications industry has leapt to the forefront of the unprecedented technological change we now take for granted. Fettered by archaic, monopolistic and often heavily unionised environments, this mega-industry was once about as agile as a beached whale.
I recall thinking the last thing I wanted to do was become an operator at the telephone company as some of my relatives had done right out of high school. No siree, not me, it was off to Journalism school for me! And suddenly, while I was at uni, personal computers invaded every industry, including newsrooms and … well it still took awhile longer for telecommunications to climb on board.
After several staff writer positions in publishing, I was drawn to telecommunications as it struggled to find itself in the already fast-paced changes of fibre optics, satellite systems and digital everything. They needed communicators who could translate engineering-speak into English for documentation, training and marketing and I found this infinitely more interesting than daily news.
An early personal dilemma was who, really, would actually NEED a cellular phone? Initially cell phones were barely portable, made only phone calls and were wickedly expensive. However, after initial markets confined primarily to real estate and construction, as it turned out, everybody needed a cell phone. Trimming down substantially in size and expanding vastly in functionality did the trick.
That move carried me into a tech communications and marketing career that has spanned cell phones, designer pagers, satellite communications, fibre optics, that newfangled internet, broadcast-quality streaming video, APIs, successive generations of wireless technologies (now 5G), cloud services, AI, ML, IoT, unprecedented levels of data consumption at faster and faster speeds, and acquisitions and mergers of truly epic proportions.
The Telecom Journey Into the Future
But there have been epic battles to bring the behemoth into the future. Many of them were based on the workforce. When I was first hired, telecom companies did not allow non-clerical staff to type and I had to write everything out longhand and hand it to my clerk to be typed. Yes, really. Job protection. Even our SAP system could only be interfaced with by one job classification in Admin.
For a long while, there were endless “outsourcing” debates and grievance meetings as the new skills needed could not be trained on-the-job. Even the best in-house training programs were unable to transform installers into developers. The concept of a contingent workforce or the gig economy was still well in the future.
Fast forward to that future. According to a recent Forbes article, 57 million Americans are now employed in the gig economy with forecasts for significant growth to continue. Ironically, smart phones and unlimited data plans are a huge enabler of this economy.
The benefits for telecom companies to leverage the new paradigm are vast – for both the organisations and the workforce. Companies will gain access to the best talent, maximise operational efficiencies, reduce costs and stay ahead of their competition. For skilled workers, the freelance model offers the freedom to work on the projects they want to, where and when they want to work, increasing job satisfaction and remuneration – increasingly important with millennial workers.
SAP FieldGlass: Telecommunications and Agile Workforce
SAP Fieldglass is helping some telecom clients take giant leaps forward. From outsourced IT contractors, client services and R&D to corporate and network maintenance, SAP Fieldglass allows organisations to better procure and manage services and diverse flexible talent.
SAP cites an example of one global telecommunications manufacturer that connects nearly a quarter of the world’s population through its infrastructure, requiring thousands of external workers in dozens of countries to support its business. The company implemented SAP Fieldglass to create an end-to-end platform and a uniform process to manage its flexible workers with a country-by-country deployment strategy. Today, the company benefits from full visibility into its workforce as well as streamlined, automated and consistent processes.
The pace of change is definitely not slowing down. The telecom companies that will succeed going forward are those that continue to create and embrace new technologies, while adapting their business processes — and workforces — to keep pace with the rapid transformation.
Written by Debra Hamilton