I had the pleasure to be invited by Huawei, TS Forum and Light Reading to take part in the Digital Transformation Summit for Telcos at this years Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The session kicked off with John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President, AT&T Technology and Operations at AT&T Inc. giving one of the most candid and insight interviews about the transformation of communications networks I’ve heard. AT&T has vowed to have 30% of its network virtualized by the end of the year, with plans to reach 70% by 2020. He recognises the speed inside the company needs to keep pace with the speed of change outside it, and the associated impact that has on the workforce.

At AT&T, a company of 250,000 plus employees,  they encourage people to re-skill across the board, providing countless training and new work experience opportunities. For those not opting in? Well they’re opting out by default. If that is the case, their aligned to systems on a similar runway for sunset in the businesses future architecture.

I joined a panel (and subsequent CXO round table) lead by Caroline Chappell from Heavy Reading which included;

Dong Sun, Chief Architect of Digital Transformation at Huawei
Harmeen Mehta, Global CIO at Bharti Airtel
Navneet Vasishth, Group Strategy Director at Vodafone
Radhika Venkatraman, SVP & CIO Network & Technology at Verizon
Maurice Ma, CMP Carrier Software at Huawei and
Crawford Del Prete, Chief Research Officer at IDC

We covered the key challenges and obstacles to be addressed by large organization as they continue their journey to digital transformation. The main points distilled to;

  • Inability to identify and rapidly test new business model or product hypotheses
  • Difficulty competing for talent and/or evolving their current workforce skills based on market needs
  • Misalignment across the organization through competing priorities, silos and poor collaboration
  • Limited (if any) data-driven decisions to provide meaningful insight and remove subjective opinions to investment decisions

My challenge to the group to become a Lean Enterprise was to leverage the triggers of;

  1. Seeing technology as a strategic capability
  2. Support a culture of experimentation and learning
  3. Adopt iterative and adaptive practices and processes
  4. Reduce learning anxiety across the organization by creating safe to fail experiments for employees to try out new ideas, processes and methods
  5. Scale learning across the organization

The example I shared with the panel was from my blog ‘Blow Up The Business Case‘. I encouraged them to use the same amount of funding invested in getting groups of executives together to ideate, discuss and review business cases, and battle over who’s pet project wins to invest in small cross functional team to explore problem domains at speed. Give them a limited scope, timeframe and budget to test out new ideas to see what works and does not. Stop writing documents and start testing ideas… thus acting your way to a new culture. Not talking your walk to it.

This is what we do at ExecCamp. We take leading executives out of their existing business for a few weeks with the mission create a new business to disrupt their existing business and drive a path to an alternative future. Executives engage and test business hypotheses with real customers and users from the start. Then use their feedback and validated learning to improve the products and ourselves.

Innovation collaboration sessions

It’s high intensity and high tempo as we seek out options to succeed and . Get outside your comfort zone and take part in a transformational experience with a lasting impact for those involved, and their businesses.

Find out more at www.execcamp.com