Automation in Telecom Industry: How to Leverage the Key Differentiator

13 min read
Automation in Telecom Industry
Automation in Telecom Industry

Are you familiar with this scenario? Your company specializes in providing tailored telecom solutions to clients, and your sales team is responsible for creating proposals that include customized tariff plans. However, the process involves multiple steps, including calculating tariffs with variations for different types of clients, importing and exporting data, building reports, and navigating a complex system of discounts. All of this is done using Excel spreadsheets. Not only is this process time-consuming and tedious, but it's also prone to human error and technical difficulties. For example, the Excel document could crash, preventing salespeople from quickly recalculating tariffs based on specific customer requirements during live consultations.

With more than a decade of working with automation in the telecom industry, we at Flyaps can confidently say that such a scenario is quite common. But our practice shows that an automation solution can solve this problem and become a life-saver for such resistant to change industries as telecom.

In this article, we will showcase real-life examples of how telco automation is shaping the future and transforming businesses. But first, let’s reveal what specific benefits your telco can get from business process automation.

Why do telecom need automation?

The telecom industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to take the road of transformation. What’s more, a recent study from STL Partners reveals that around 70% of surveyed telcos are now seeking new options to increase revenue growth. They plan to use emerging technologies like 5G and edge computing to offer differentiated solutions to customers, particularly in the B2B2X space.

As the survey from STL Partners highlights, telecom automation is going to be a key enabler for all companies in the industry to address increasing revenue growth, regardless of their strategic approach. So, let's see how exactly automation can help telecom providers.

Benefits of automation for Telecom
Benefits of Automation for Telecom

Efficient data flow

Let's say a telecom company is struggling with collecting and analyzing customer data to provide better services and personalized offerings. This process involves manual data entry and analysis, which is time-consuming and leads to occasional errors. Thanks to business process automation, however, the company can create a system that automatically collects and organizes customer data from various sources, such as social media, call records, and website interactions. As a result, it can accelerate the data analysis process, eliminate the risk of errors, and improve customer experience.

Network monitoring automation

Since the number of devices communicating within the Internet of Things (IoT) is increasing and 5G technology is spreading rapidly, relying solely on traditional data collection and analysis solutions is not enough to ensure a basic level of quality.

By using automation tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA), telecom operators can monitor their networks in real time and quickly detect and respond to issues. For instance, if there is a sudden increase in network traffic, automation tools can detect the anomaly and take necessary actions to ensure the quality of service. Moreover, by finding patterns in historical data, AI algorithms can even predict possible failures before they occur.

Streamlining applications and infrastructure

Telecom companies use different software solutions to keep their networks running smoothly. Sometimes these solutions don't communicate well with each other, which can make things complicated. But automation can address this challenge. Business process automation (BPA) tools act as a bridge between different systems, so that they can share data more easily. Simply put, automation in telecom is like having a team of digital assistants who can take care of tasks like transferring data between different tools, without the need for extra code or application programming interfaces (APIs).

Let's say, a telco uses Cacoo for process mapping, UiPath process mining tool to extract process data, and GNU Octave for in-depth analysis. These systems are powerful individually, but integrating them and sharing data between them is a complex task. However, with the help of BPA technologies such as RPA, the company can streamline their applications and infrastructure effortlessly. All they have to do is deploy RPA bots (or as we called them, digital assistants), seamlessly transferring data between different software systems. The bots follow the same steps a human worker would take, eliminating the need for coding or creating new APIs. For instance, when a network map is created in Cacoo, an RPA bot can automatically extract the relevant data and transfer it to UiPath Process Mining. The bot then applies process mining techniques to uncover insights and patterns in the network data. Once the analysis is complete, the bot effortlessly transfers the refined data to GNU Octave for further numerical computations.

Complying with regulations

Telcos need to stay on top of antitrust, licensing, and pricing laws to maintain compliance. But the process of collecting and compiling all the necessary compliance data can be extremely time-consuming and require a lot of effort.

This is when RPA bots can come in handy. Companies can schedule bots to regularly collect the relevant compliance data from different systems and store it in one central spreadsheet. This way, the organization always has updated compliance information at their fingertips. Such data is more likely to be accurate since RPA doesn't make transcription errors. All in all, it's an easy and efficient way to stay compliant without adding to your administrative burden.

Enhanced customer experience

Customer satisfaction is paramount for most industries, but in telecom the traditional problem resolution process often falls short. Let's consider a telecom provider facing a common challenge. In general, it takes 4.1 days on average to solve a customer's problem, which is a lot of time in today’s world. But such a delay not only frustrates customers but also leads to a significant 30% drop in their satisfaction levels, impacting both B2B and B2C relationships.

To address this issue and improve the customer experience, the telecom provider implements automation solutions. They deploy AI-driven chatbots that are trained to understand and respond to frequently asked questions promptly. Customers can interact with these chatbots through various channels, such as the company's website, mobile app, or social media platforms. By instantly addressing common queries, the chatbot reduces the need for customers to wait for human assistance, resulting in quicker problem resolution and increased customer satisfaction.

What’s more, automation tools can be employed to streamline email management. Instead of manually sorting through a high volume of incoming emails, these tools can utilize machine learning algorithms to categorize and prioritize them accurately. Based on predefined rules, emails are automatically routed to the appropriate departments or employees, ensuring efficient handling and timely responses.

The automation-driven improvements in customer support enable telecom providers to deliver a more personalized and timely service to their customers. As a result, both B2B and B2C customers experience improved interactions with the telecom provider, leading to stronger relationships and increased loyalty.

But telcos don't usually stop at automating just one process or focusing on one goal. It's more common for automation to be a big effort that affects many different parts of a company to achieve the best result. To better understand the role of automation in the telecom industry, let's explore a real-life example from Flyaps practice.

A success story: how Nextgen Clearing automated invoicing process with FC Hub application developed by Flyaps

Nextgen Clearing is a leading provider of global roaming services. Operating across 13 countries, their expertise in facilitating seamless communication between mobile operators made them a key player in the industry. As the telecom landscape changed over time, the number of strategic hubs and agreements between them began to increase. These hubs, which combined multiple operators, presented a new challenge for Nextgen Clearing. Instead of having separate agreements with each individual operator in a hub, they now had to make agreements with the hub as a whole. This meant that every invoice they sent out had to show the total amount for the entire hub, but also break it down to show how much each operator within the hub had to pay.

Though Nextgen Clearing had a well-established financial clearing application that allowed them to effortlessly create invoices for their solitary clients, when dealing with hubs, the process became more challenging. They had to use their old app to generate invoices for each operator within the hub. Afterward, they painstakingly compiled all the invoices into one joint bill. Extracting data from their system, performing calculations, generating PDF invoices, and sending them to clients became a difficult and labor-intensive endeavor.

As the number of partners and operators inside hubs continued to grow, Nextgen Clearing realized they needed a solution to automate this cumbersome process. That’s why they turned to Flyaps for help.

As we mentioned before, the existing financial clearing application worked well for invoicing individual clients outside of hubs. However, we needed to develop an add-on application that would make invoicing for hubs just as convenient and automated. Both systems should be connected and work together seamlessly.

We built an FC Hub application - the solution that automated invoicing with hubs. But to make sure the solution fully meets client’s expectations, we had to deal with several challenges. Firstly, in each invoice displayed amount can be in different currencies. This includes the agreement's currency and partners' local currencies. To make this possible, our system had to convert the SDR amount stored in the database into multiple currencies and incorporate it into the invoices.

FC Hub automated invoicing dashboard
FC Hub automated invoicing dashboard 

Next, we tackled the challenge of processing the diverse PDF invoices received from clients. As each client had their own way for generating PDF invoices we developed parsers for FC Hub tailored to each partner and clearing company, enabling the app to extract the necessary data and accurately allocate values among affiliates.

Another crucial feature for the app is seamless integration with other systems the company uses. For instance, Nextgen’s clients use Oracle Fusion for reporting purposes. Therefore, we had to ensure that the system can convert invoices data in the format required by Oracle Fusion.

Last but not least, the system we built was designed to integrate with Qlik, a powerful business intelligence tool. This integration empowered Nextgen Clearing to leverage the analytical capabilities of Qlik, enabling them to gain valuable insights and make data-driven decisions.

Thanks to our collaboration, Nextgen Clearing was able to automate their cooperation with telecom hubs, relieving their financial department from the burden of manual tasks. The streamlined process, encompassing currencies support, PDF parsing, and seamless integration with various systems, ensured efficiency, accuracy, and improved productivity for Nextgen Clearing and their clients.

Ways to automate telecom operations

In general, there are three types of telecom automation solutions to streamline your business operations: ready-made horizontal systems, RPA low-code platforms, and custom development. Let’s explore each of them to see which one is right for you.

Ready-made horizontal systems

The telecom companies are often relying on ready-made horizontal systems to simplify and automate their operations. Popular solutions such as Salesforce and HubSpot have become commonplace among telcos. These tools are cost-effective alternatives to custom-built solutions, but integrating them with existing software can be a daunting task.

Source: HubSpot
Source: HubSpot

Nevertheless, horizontal systems can help streamline many aspects of telecom operations. For instance, Salesforce provides powerful customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities that allow telcos to manage their client interactions, from lead generation to post-sale support. Similarly, Hubspot offers marketing automation tools that help telcos create and execute targeted campaigns, monitor performance, and optimize their strategies.

When considering adopting a horizontal system for telecom automation, you should carefully evaluate your existing infrastructure and workflows. In some cases, one may need to modify their existing systems to make integration possible, which can require additional time and resources.

Low-code RPA platforms

RPA low-code platforms have become increasingly popular in the telecom industry. These platforms allow developers to create automation workflows and bots using visual, drag-and-drop interfaces, without the need to write the whole code from scratch.

Low-code RPA platforms offer several advantages for telecom companies:

  • streamlining processes and reducing errors by automating routine tasks such as data entry, customer onboarding, and billing;
  • scalability, as telcos can easily expand and adapt their automation efforts as their needs change.

UiPath and Automation Anywhere are two leading providers of low-code RPA solutions. Both platforms can be used for telecom-specific purposes. Let’s look at two RPA use cases in telecom and how they benefited from low-code platforms.

How Orange Robot Factory leveraged UiPath to transform business operations

Orange Spain, the second-largest mobile telephone service provider, and the third-largest fixed telephone service provider in Spain, was looking to transform the company into a digital, human-centric, and agile business that fosters teamwork and individual talent. To achieve this, they founded the Orange Robot Factory, a department aimed at automating internal processes to enable employees to provide more value to customers. The company chose UiPath as their primary automation provider to democratize the automation process, making it accessible to everyone.

The Orange Robot Factory began with just 13 team members and grew to 100, creating over 400 robots across the company. The first robot deployment was for a Quality Control engineer who was spending an hour and a half each day launching and processing client satisfaction surveys. With the robot's help, the task was completed in two minutes, freeing up the employee's time for other tasks.

Within three months of launch, robots have automated 17 different processes, resulting in more than 34 million euros in savings. Today, Orange Spain continues investing in RPA and expanding the use of automation across the company.

Source: UiPath
Source: UiPath

How Hitachi Vantara improved procure-to-pay process with Automation Anywhere bots

Hitachi Vantara is a data storage systems provider, a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd.

Their goal was to free up team members from routine, low-value tasks, so they could focus on more challenging and engaging activities in their daily work. This would allow the business to reach their full potential and minimize employee turnover. The company decided to leverage RPA to achieve this goal.

After evaluating various low-code RPA vendors, Hitachi Vantara chose Automation Anywhere. In addition to its standard RPA solution, they chose to use Automation Anywhere’s AI-driven cognitive automation solution, an IQ Bot, which could extract semi-structured data from documents and process it effortlessly.

Hitachi Vantara started its RPA journey by automating 10 distinct processes in IT and twenty processes in the finance department. But their main target was procure-to-pay. Previously, employees had to manually read information from vendor invoices, such as the PO number, date, service or product procured, and amount, and enter it into an Oracle ERP system. Thanks to Automation Anywhere’s IQ Bot, Hitachi Vantara now has 35 bots in production that can intelligently extract information from all these invoices, regardless of vendor, format, or language. What’s more, these bots can also do 75% straight-through processing of invoices.

Custom solutions

The telecom industry is complex and rapidly evolving, with unique business processes and requirements that may not be fully addressed by off-the-shelf software solutions. Custom telecom automation solutions allow telcos to tailor their automation efforts to their specific needs, improving operational efficiency and driving better business outcomes.

What’s more, custom solutions also offer a high degree of flexibility and scalability. Telcos can work with software vendors or developers to create automation solutions that are tailored to their existing infrastructure and workflows, allowing them to integrate with existing systems and applications. Additionally, custom telecom automation solutions can be designed to grow and adapt with the needs of the business, providing long-term value and ROI.

Remember the scenario we’ve mentioned at the beginning? A similar situation happened to NetSpark IP & Telecom – a US-based telecommunications consulting company. As the company didn’t have any automation solutions in place, they had to perform each task manually. One particular challenge that plagued them was determining the optimal tariff plans for each client. This endeavor required the simultaneous involvement of up to 10 employees, and even then, there was no guarantee of an error-free outcome.

As their business began to experience rapid growth, NetSpark IP & Telecom recognized the need for an automation solution. Ready-made CRM applications available in the market failed to meet their specific business requirements, so the company set out on a quest to build a custom CRM/ERP system. But there was a problem — they lacked in-house technical expertise. That’s how the company turned to Flyaps to help them automate their manual workload.