The cost of anti-agility

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the cost of anti-agility/

The global telecom world has been Shaken & Stirred!

insight the cost of anti-agility/ If ever there was a year to talk about the need for agility to handle unexpected events, it is this one! I doubt if any of us can think of a year with more upheaval and change. The reaction of governments, businesses and ordinary people to the pandemic has caused most managers in all industries to think deeply about their business and how best to organize and maximize success going forward.

In an environment where we estimate total international call revenue for carriers to be around US$11 billion per year, shaving costs from an increasingly pressured low margin business is not easy. Even less so for companies that are perhaps constrained by complex, expensive and not very flexible systems and processes.

The international telecom world has been shaken and stirred (yes, watch this space!) more than most, as the high early peaks in telephone traffic and internet usage caused many to scramble for incremental capacity.

We are therefore entering a phase in the business where international carriers require approaches that combine the surety of historical methods, with the flexibility to handle rapidly changing needs. Modern carriers must be agile in all things: technology, intelligence and processes.

Now volumes are perhaps back to normal, but the organizational impacts will be with us for a long time to come. Now more than ever, the reaction to complexity and the ability to handle volatility needs to be baked into all our plans. For many reasons, the complexity in what is, at a top level, such a simply defined business, has continued to grow. The role of an international voice wholesaler is to take a call from a service provider and terminate it with high quality and realistic costs to the destination service provider. So why the complexity – we have been doing that for 50 years or more? As with most things, the constant escalation of customer requirements to more flexibly manage their business is playing its part, but compounding this is the equally constant demand for lower costs.


Technology Agile in systems able to handle the routing changes at the depth of digit analysis necessary to find the best interconnect partner.

Intelligence Agile in information analysis to track and manage these deals and ensuring that they are met to the letter and not a minute more.

Processes Agile in processes to be able to handle all this complexity with the bare minimum of human resources, now often working remotely.

tier-1 challenges/ Unfortunately, larger Tier 1 carriers have issues in this space, partly to do with their history, partly to do with their approach and partly to do with their conservative outlook to how their business and networks are organized. Most of the largest carriers have developed from the monopoly international telephone company in their home country. While it is unlikely that any of the current employees were around at that time, the culture and approaches are somewhat set in stone and passed down through the years. This rather conservative approach to their business is hard to shake off – they may, in some cases, be constrained by local regulators who insist that every service that used to work internationally (faxes perhaps, if not Telex) must work in the modern environment. Equally engrained is the concept of network ownership. The network is the core of carriers’ businesses and obviously a major network outage is not only a revenue hit, as it can cast serious doubt about how well the company is being managed. Systems are often home-grown and have been developed and modified over the years with the result that they are very difficult now to update for the latest requirements. It is unfortunately the case that the systems and processes to maintain those applications tend to be cast in concrete, along with the attitudes of some of the people charged with maintaining them. Of course, most large carriers have obviously evolved over the years, but many have not capitalized on the rapid developments that have occurred over the past few years with the virtualization and cloudification of network and systems. Something that many Tier 2 and 3 carriers have been able to utilize and benefit from to save cost and generate new revenues. So, to a large extent, Tier 1 carriers are perhaps the opposite of agile. They are closer to the definition of what we call “Anti-Agile”. This has a significant cost on their business, not only in terms of missed financial and operation efficiency, but also in terms of missed revenue generation and innovation. This is not by the choice of any individual manager in the company, at whatever level. It is simply the accumulation of years of decisions in business culture, investments in

networks and systems, investments in people (including the recruitment of new employees). Whichever way they look at responding rapidly to these changing demands from customers and the environment they work within, they see constraints. Almost as though they are handcuffed to their history. As an ex-CTO myself, I can feel the deep desire to keep hold of that core network as the “only” way to keep control of the basic quality and reliability of the service being offered. However, as with all things, the world is moving on apace and the flexibility and reliability of the offerings now coming from innovative and established application and system developers, such as Digitalk, cannot be ignored. There is no shortage of desire in these larger carriers to change and perhaps the upheavals of the past year will be the catalyst to finally make that change. As Digitalk’s CTO, Neil French, confirms ‘Tier 1 carriers certainly recognise the operational agility and flexibility of newer entrants in the industry, but they struggle to adapt. Nevertheless, with the right tools and deployment models, there is absolutely no reason why Tier 1s cannot benefit from the same levels of agility.’ The next article in this trilogy will outline and describe the journey that carriers must take to throw off this mantle of anti-agility and truly benefit from their newly found agility.

Anti-agility is beyond

rigid. The rigid organization resists change and stays the same; the anti-agile organization gets worse with change.


the author/ Steve has a lifetime of experience in designing, engineering and operating networks, both domestic and internatonal. With leadership experience in small technology start-ups through to global service providers, he has deep experience in a wide range of products, technologies and geographies. He has the rare skill of being able to explain complex technical issues in easily understood concepts and uses that extensively in his consulting work with HOT TELECOM.

Steve Heap


Digitalk is an agile, experienced provider of innovative, cloud-based real-time communications platform-asa-service solutions. We are a reliable, trusted partner that works with customers in the long-term.

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