Future of Telecom Application Development: Day 2 Work Streams, Closing Panel and Wrap-up

closing panel future of telecom application developmentWe wrapped up Day Two of TADSummit with three work streams, a closing panel focused on “The Future of Telecom Application Development and Commercialization,” and a glimpse into the TADHack, TADMeetup and TADSummit plans for 2015.

All three work streams have the same format of a panel discussion followed by work tables addressing specific questions on the work stream topic.  You can see more information about the panels and questions in the TADSummit agenda.  The three work streams addressed the following challenges / issues:

  • Work Stream 4: Innovation in legacy consumer services. A misconception is that innovation is only associated with new services. There is still much innovation possible within the services customers consume today. This stream will dive into ways to improve margin and maintain revenues across all legacy services.
  • Work Stream 5: Processes for successful new service commercialization. Service innovation isn’t easy within a telco, but we must never give-up else resign the business to just being an ISP. This work steam will be a frank review of the barriers and how people are finding ways to force action, and even when service innovations get launched how to protect them from the anti-bodies in the rest of the organization.
  • Work Stream 6: Reviewing how TADHack can create a service innovation pipeline.  TADHack proved to engage developers beyond anyone’s expectations with 700 registrations and 500 attendees. But how can we harness this service innovation pipeline into telcos? The innovators are there and willing to hack on telecom APIs, the technology is mature, but there is a gap. How do we close it with specific steps that deliver business results.

Work Stream 4 Summary: Innovation in legacy consumer services

Some of the highlights and ideas generated through the work stream included:

  • Regulation is one of the prime service innovation killers.  For example, a USSD API did not happen because of lawful intercept requirements.  Click-to-call applications get delayed because no one will talk to the regulator about the service.  The conclusion is regulation needs to get out of the way of new services and come in retro-actively when issues arise.
  • Contextual calling is a theme that came up several times during TADSummit.  For example, sharing the purpose of the call, adding callee information around the call.  Its not new, but the technology for it has become much easier in the past few years.  At TADSummit 2015 we’ll be trying this out in the online speed networking.
  • Improving dialer experience – Talko is an interesting example of improving the experience and adding threaded conversations across voice, SMS, IM and even email.
  • Adding personalization such as automated, rules-based and on the fly communication treatment options such as SPAM protection, send to voicemail, recording calls, temporary numbers, you pay me to talk to me, etc.
  • With the roll-out of HD Voice, expanding the use cases for calling beyond simply person A calls person B, perhaps even back to some of the original use cases envisioned on live music.

Some of these ideas were demonstrated at TADHack, others have been around for quite some time.  The key issue is the industry needs to get the regulator up to speed on the emerging environment where the network is an application platform – perhaps this is something the GSMA should be doing?  But, regulation MUST NOT be used as the universal excuse for inaction.  Telcos must be prepared to take risks and have the regulator catch-up with the telco and its customers (the voters who will let their representatives know how they feel, as we see in the US with Net Neutrality).

Work Stream 5 Summary: Processes for successful new service commercialization

An important point was the dichotomy that exists between telcos and developers.  Telcos want developers to use their enablers and then sell the services directly, while developers want telcos to be a channel to market, and in that case are happy to use the telcos’ enablers.  The Go To Market challenge came up in Work Streams 1 and 2 yesterday.

While we focus on technology and customer behavior; we often ignore the impact of organizational investment and career.  Many product managers are mid-40s with families and few other employment options, hence have a significant fear of failure.  This leads to inertia, where the best will from CxO’s endorsing action hits a quagmire.

Some of the recommendations to solve this issue were:

  • Have a portfolio of new services as most will fail (obvious but rarely done under the mantle of – focus); and
  • Bring in customers to find out how communications can solve their problems.

 Work Stream 6 Summary: Creating a service innovation pipeline

This work stream generated many excellent recommendations on how to build broader telecom application developer success, as a rising tide raises all boats:

  • Sand-box on a real network so services are real, several of the telcos attending TADSummit indicated they are willing to support that. So the services have a place where they can be demo’ed all year, beyond the TADHack event.
  • Guidance and support to developers in getting to the right people within telcos on particular new services.  This ingress remains challenging for many small companies.  Helping make it more efficient on both sides can reduce today’s highly wasteful process with respect to time.
  • Guidance on telcos’ needs, the types of APIs they offer, the impact of the local markets (slow or fast), the vendors they have in their networks, the services they are currently investing.
  • Regional champions to raise awareness on what TADS has to offer.  Perhaps a demo event focused on telcos so they get to experience all the services first-hand, and with adequate context on the services to understand which they can get to market fast.
  • Demo events associated with other big events like TechCrunch and  enterprise focused events to get the innovative services out to a much wider audience.
  • Mentorship and virtual incubation from the shared knowledge and experience in the TADS community as telecom application development is a low priority for many incubators and developers.

Closing Panel: The Future of Telecom Application Development and Commercialization

Thanks to those who completed the pre-conference questionnaire, we had some excellent questions for the closing panel.  We split the closing panel into three sections given its length, see end of this weblog:

  • Introduction, Telecom App Development by 2020
  • Audience questions
  • Closing Comments

Its well worth your time to review all 3 segments of the closing panel, its an excellent review of the event, with some important insights I can only briefly mention in this weblog.

On where will telecom application development be by 2020, it will be part of general web development.    And all the aspects that make web development successful such as design and experience will be components.  However, real-time communications is hard, so service providers that wrap things up into an easy to consume service for developers will remain an important component of the market.

Go to market, a common theme through the event is being addressed in a number of ways as discussed in the panel.  However, enterprise opportunities are easier and telcos have a track record in partnering.  Though in fast (emerging) markets, Dialog’s IdeaMart has shown it is possible to engage with partners in the consumer segment.  In the limit if telcos do not find a way to be a channel, they will be bypassed in their markets.

The cannibalization discussion was very interesting with important contributions from Amos from Axiata and Karel from Libon, on how to manage the issue.  In the limit any new service has some degree of cannibalization, the key is showing the overall gain as a business, as Libon achieved.  The ideas on new telecom APIs were interesting, particularly on presence that includes how the customer is connected to the network(s) and the quality of the link(s).

In the closing comments the panelists felt an energetic TAD ecosystem is emerging, with surprising consensus across all members.  The key for 2015 is expanding the ecosystem to make more people aware of all the innovative services and capabilities, possible and helping many more telecom application developer achieve successes.

Looking to 2015

TADSummit 2015 will be a hybrid in-person / online event.  Many people wanted to attend and especially take part in the networking, but they simply could not get travel approval.  With an event in Europe we could have online speed networking in the morning with Asia, middle of the day with Europe, Middle East and Africa; and Americas in the afternoon/evening.  And broadcast the event live globally with global live Q&A like we did for TADHack. The tentative location and dates are: Lisbon, 17/18th November 2015 (final date to be confirmed so Karin has some wiggle room for negotiation.)

TADHack (Global) on the 13th and 14th of June, with a number of centers around the world. The current list of centers includes Madrid, Toronto, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines, Mexico, Chicago, Bay Area, Tel Aviv, Australia, London, Paris, Amsterdam, South Africa, and of course remote entry. TADHack keynotes will be distributed across these centers. One of the keynotes already signed up will be Henning Schulzrinne of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), Colombia University, and renowned RTC (Real Time Communications) expert.

We’re planning a couple of mini TADHack events:

  • Mini-TADHack in London on the 11th and 12th of April focused on WebRTC and other topics to be determined just before the WebRTC Global Summit in April; and
  • Mini-TADHack IIT RTC on the 3-4 October, which runs just before the IIT RTC Conference in October with a focus on IoT (Internet of Things) and other topics to be determined.

TADSummit, TADHack and TADMeetups have much to do in 2015.  Our objective remains building an essential yet missing component of the Telecom Industry, the telecom application developer ecosystem that creates new services and customer value.