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Practitioner-led service innovation and delivery: partnerships are key to telco engagement

For anyone used to the old, more or less linear relationship between vendors and service providers, with highly technical teams driving decision making, the emerging world of smart cities is delivering some interesting challenges.

In this world, there is a significantly broader mix of stakeholders, bringing together representatives from key verticals, other infrastructure providers, public authorities, intra-governmental organisations and more. It’s a world that requires adaptation and a change in process.

With that in mind, it was welcome to see how this new reality was reflected at TMF Live this month. Instead of the usual telecoms suspects, leadership in smart service evolution is emerging from a new range of experts. The interesting thing is that many of these are coming specifically from the vertical fields from which the opportunities are emerging. In eHealth, for example, we heard from doctors and pharmacists who are helping to shape and define requirements. In this context, network operators may provide infrastructure but are just one element in an increasingly complex service chain.

These practitioner-led approaches are critical. It is not operators that are experts in digital medicine, smart insurance or smart grids, but rather the people from within these industries. Operators have a role to play but this is and must be subsidiary to the people who genuinely understand the needs of the services that are emerging.

This is a profound change to our industry but one that is both necessary and welcome. The key to the success of new digital services will be how closely they evolve to match the needs of their users and their providers. In eHealth, this means the practitioners and healthcare providers as well as patients. In turn, their needs may be shaped by external factors such as government policy and targets.

Operators simply cannot expect to acquire the necessary expertise in such domains but must be guided by relevant experts. Recognising this need to collaborate and the changing nature of service delivery is a critical step for operators that wish to play a meaningful role in the smart digital world. Those that do not recognise this will miss out.