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Challenges and opportunities: The future of communication services with generative AI

By: John Hearn, Managing Director, AI and Data Practice, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Kris Tzankov, Managing Director, Customer & Marketing Practice, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Some wisdom lasts far beyond its time. A quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (first published back in 1979) can apply to many situations, including the adoption of (and reluctance towards) generative AI in the communications industry today. Here’s the quote:

“It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopaedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper and because it has the words 'DON'T PANIC' in large, friendly letters on the cover”

Douglas Adams, Author, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1979

And here’s why it resonates

As the critical link in the chain between consumers and data/services, communication service providers (CSPs) are facing two conflicting truths on the road to generative AI. On one hand, AI is creating exciting opportunities to transform business models, reduce operational costs, develop competitive advantages and improve profitability. On the other hand, these opportunities are offset by concerns with the brand risk of inaccurate output, data privacy and the long-term costs of managing and maintaining customised models. 

That said, it almost always all comes back to data; and when compared to other industries, CSPs have one of the highest volumes of it.

Coming round to the idea that the underlying data architectures that got us to where we are today are not going to be enough to get us where we’re going in the next 12 months can be a process. And the first step? Reassuring leaders that while the challenges of utilising generative AI may seem as daunting as the opportunities are enticing, they need not panic.

We repeat: DO NOT PANIC.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the various opportunities and challenges generative AI presents through the lens of CSPs’ critical priorities and goals. We’ll see how with the right alliances and advanced technology like Salesforce Data Cloud, industry leaders can harness their data and build the confidence to navigate the shifting landscape of generative AI.

For many CSPs, a wide gap exists between the usability of their data and their AI goals for the future. Between inconsistent and complex lead-to-cash processes, evolving regulations, mergers and acquisitions and other economic challenges, it’s easy to end up with siloed systems and disconnected data — which often make useful applications of AI feel out of reach…

If this sounds like you, you're not alone. Business leaders like Chief Digital Officers and Chief Administrative Officers are looking for ways to improve their company’s data integration, hygiene and governance. They want clean, harmonious customer data gathered into one place and available across sales, marketing, ecommerce and customer service.

As the Vice President of Industry Advisors for Communications and Media at Salesforce, Kishore Sannidhanam has a lot of ongoing conversations with companies within this space and tells us, “It has become clear that managing and making most of the data they have is now a priority for CSPs. In fact, the new wave of excitement around generative AI has provided a boost when it comes to getting data projects off the ground, because data is at the heart of everything we do and companies can't truly take advantage of the AI wave without having a solid data strategy at the core of it.”

Generative AI has the potential to both directly contribute to these goals and unlock more value from the centralised data at the same time. By improving data quality and making it more accessible with accompanying cyber security protocols, CSPs see huge opportunities for generative AI to transform their business.

“Managing and making most of the data they have is now a priority for CSPs… data is at the heart of everything we do and companies can't truly take advantage of the AI wave without having a solid data strategy at the core of it.” - Kishore Sannidhanam,  Vice President of Industry Advisors for Communications and Media, Salesforce

Closing the gap on all that potential can feel like a daunting task and Deloitte Digital and Salesforce are here to help. But more on that later — let’s first look at another critical goal for today’s leading CSPs.

The idea of optimising specific moments in the customer journey — providing the right offer at the right time in the right channel, for example — can feel like an immense challenge on its own. To develop a seamless, holistic, integrated journey for every stage of the customer experience can certainly seem like an intimidating and expensive task. For business leaders like CXOs, the key step at this stage of their AI journey is to prioritise the use cases with the highest potential for return on investment.

You might think that's easier said than done — especially with talent scarcity in AI and machine learning. But CSPs like yours can partner with subject matter specialists like the team at Deloitte Digital to advise, implement and operate your generative AI initiatives. Often, by implementing innovative technologies like Data Cloud, you can accelerate your ability to leverage AI that upgrades personalisation, optimises messaging across channels, improves customer engagement and ultimately drives revenue growth — to help you to develop the competitive advantage you need to retain and upsell clients while solidifying your place as a data-driven CSP leader, rather than a laggard.

The final critical goal we should explore is developing a digital infrastructure and architecture that is robust and scalable enough to support future capabilities in AI. Many CSPs have been so busy navigating change and prioritising subscriber growth over the last 5 years, that keeping their architectures up to date just hasn't been as much of a priority. In most cases, they may not have their architecture integration and progressions clearly defined for the next six months — let alone two or three years. And for all of those understandable reasons, it's hard to justify investing in upgrades.

However, the truth is that CSP leaders like Chief Technology Officers and Chief Information Officers can set themselves up for future success with modernised architectures. With a platform like Salesforce Data Cloud, they will be much better positioned to navigate the quickly evolving landscape of generative AI. And when it comes to things like optimising workloads and data storage, their ability to enable AI capabilities while limiting costs will likely have enormous benefits and returns.

However (and we can’t stress this enough) DO NOT PANIC.  We are not talking about a complete overhaul or big “T” transformation of your architecture stack.  This is purely about augmentation, focused on speed and impact; i.e. get to the insights faster.

Unlocking AI’s potential for your business is no small task. With the right support and technology, it is not only possible, it can also be practical and cost-effective. You just need a transformative mindset, a clear future vision and strong programme leadership.

As a world-leading Salesforce alliance partner, proven industry specialist, tailored-to-use case accelerators and talent hub for data, AI and CRM technology, Deloitte Digital is uniquely positioned to help CSPs accelerate their journey and unlock the potential of AI.

We have the unique blend of cross-functional skills and industry solutions and accelerators to help clients move from whatever challenges they face today to sustainable competitive advantages with efficiency gains and significant returns for their shareholders.

If you’re interested to learn more about Deloitte Digital and our offerings or the capabilities of Salesforce Data Cloud, come speak with us at Mobile World Congress Booth 4D60 in Hall 4.

Managing and making most of the data they have is now a priority for CSPs… data is at the heart of everything we do and companies can't truly take advantage of the AI wave without having a solid data strategy at the core of it.

Kishore Sannidhanam,  Salesforce Vice President of Industry Advisors for Communications and Media