A talent war is raging in The New IP era, and it's about to get even more intense.
Participants in the "Era of the Software-Defined Operator" panel at the TM Forum's Digital Disruption event in San Jose, Calif., last week agreed that competition for the kind of talent service providers need today is tough and getting tougher.
"The greatest challenge is, of course, the problem of increasing the skill of the people and the community of developers, increasing the know-how in the right way, with the right rules in an affordable and secure way," said Luigi Licciardi, head of Standards, IPR & Research Coordination at Telecom Italia Group.
The competition for talent is not only intensifying among the telecom carriers, it's also coming from other industry sectors, such as oil and gas, according to Brian Baird, former CTO, Sasktel, and CIO, Cloud Infrastructure, co-founder at Anera. "It's quite feasible for large companies to become [mobile virtual network operators]," he said. "If you are having trouble finding staff now, just wait until every large oil and gas company is a MVNO. There will be war for talent."
Vendors are also feeling the pressure of the talent wars, according to Ray Bariso, VP, Operations and Business Support Solutions, Ericsson, who said utilities are also having trouble finding the right people. The aging workforce, culture and organizational politics are barriers, he said. "People can't run their businesses the way they have always done," he said.
Indeed, the retraining and communications mindset change has to start at the top. As Bethany Mayer, president and CEO, Ixia, noted, much of the communications' industry senior leadership has not been through this experience before.
"There is a lot of skepticism, and how to go about making the transition is a big struggle," she said. "Some verticals have embraced it, like cloud and financials, but for network operators, very few have started thinking differently."
Solutions to the challenge include embracing open developer ecosystems that invite new talent, improved communications and a broad understanding of the changes needed across organizational boundaries.
"The restructuring that operations are going through requires retraining and communications up and down the organization," said Bariso. "New thinking and collaboration across industries are important."
Service providers must think about who they hire, the services they put in front of their customers, the environment they create and how it enables the services of today and the future, and recognize the world of The New IP as an opportunity and not a threat, according to Mayer.
In fact, Baird summed it up perfectly: "You are going to blow your war chest if you continue doing things the way you did."
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Editor, The New IP