Telecom Leanhacking: How Can Carriers Move Faster?

There are more reports showing en-masse partnerships with OTT providers that show significant revenue potential with billions of dollars annually in some markets. The opportunity is significant, yet, many operators remain hesitant (understandably so).

Stakeholders are hesitant over the right platforms and the IT investments required. The uncertainty in assumptions behind the business case, further increases the complexity of an already complex IT ecosystem. Let’s not forget the failed examples of carriers who got the formula wrong.

But the opportunity is there. The trend isn’t subsiding as 90% of operators still recognize the need to partner with the OTT community.

Techniques for Being Lean Within Telecom Carriers

My colleagues have written at length around early product validation and applying those principles in the enterprise. Here are some of the techniques that have helped us validate product and OTT partnership concepts for our customers early-on, within the network operators segments.


Carriers often maintain a high standard on feature set, finish and testing to avoid disappointing customers. All of these requirements, unfortunately, also reduce the ability to validate concepts early, be agile to changing requirements, and maintain customer centricity.
  • Keep trial services unbranded to help protect your firm’s reputation until they are fully baked. This can also have the benefit of reducing the number of internal stakeholders you need to consult.
  • Clearly mark trial services as such and target them at customer panels who know what to expect from your early product release.
  • Use outside agencies to also trial and test services at arms-length.

Billing & IT

Many projects don’t advance until receiving a detailed schedule, cost and approval for implementation, including the I.T. estimates for  OSS and BSS integration, that is necessary to operate at scale. Lean practitioners however, within operators work to avoid this complexity and help further manage their stakeholder list.

  • Manual processes and imports- even as simple as a CSV export, can be far more cost and time effective when there is still a small number of subscribers.
  • Make the service complimentary in the earlier days-  until you validate demand, the investment needed to bill subscribers is often greater than your early revenue.
  • Concierge services for test users - offer access via chat, email, and phone to a direct operator for testers to subscribe and update settings that are not yet automated.

Concepting & Validation

Replicating the desired product experience enough to validate that customers will use and pay for it, can be more art than science. We have used a few techniques at our own company to help reduce the time it takes to produce test artefacts.
  • Concept at different fidelities - from paper pamphlets, clickable prototypes, to app mockups with fake data sets, there are a variety of tools to help provide validation on the timeline and budget you have available.
  • Producing a reusable development sandbox- sampling the customer data can be worthwhile. Look to extend this to live data once prototypes are at a certain level of progression. Consider narrowing support to customers from just a targeted geographic region or service category to simplify this process.
  • Use manual processes - avoid complicated recommendation algorithms, integrations and content sources wherever possible.
  • Begin making your test groups reusable - Fielding and conditioning target users groups can be a significant time sink if they can’t be re-leveraged. You can also outsource this to outside UX or market research firms who maintain these lists.
Also having the right partner strategy will allow you to make partnership models repeatable. There are many lessons that can be learned on how to market and sell these partnered products, as well as attract future partners. Here are some things to consider for operator partner strategies:

Attracting Partners

Beyond the top names for OTT partnerships, understanding the long-tail of where to identify and nurture new partners can be daunting. As you move from a one-off to a more platform based approach, more confidence gets built with the following: 
  • The tools, documentation, API structure and data availability that your partners need to be successful, and to prioritize supporting your subscribers over alternative partners.
  • Support you can provide to develop solutions hand-in-hand;combining their agility with your reach and market insight.
  • Whether physical space, incubation facilities and co-investment can provide a business return.
  • Sources to potentail partners can be found through industry and community events, that will help attract strong partners, along with the developer communities that work with them.


Leveraging your scale to bring partnered products to market faster is one of the next key learnings. An earlier, hands-on approach is needed to inform the right techniques to deploy at scale, including:
  • How to market to your existing subscribers.
  • How to enable trial and subscription in a way that maximizes adoption.
  • How to manage and support the product experience.
  • How to access the existing subscribers of each OTT service.
  • How to incentivize your OTT partners to provide that access.
  • How to bundle or cross-sell your complimentary carrier services.

Let’s not forget the budget process. As you begin to understand reasonable time and budget estimates for completing this early validation, building those into upcoming budget cycles helps provide you with the necessary resources you need for future opportunities. Don’t wait until your organization has a fully defined plan to operate OTT partnerships at scale to begin learning these lessons. You can reduce your risk in your OTT strategy, and demonstrate early success so that operators don’t feel the hesitancy due to such risks. 

Some questions to ask yourself: Have you been championing Lean approaches in your organization? What have you done to simplify your initiative? Are you able do early validation within weeks or months?  Let's chat!

Written by

Jason Cottrell

Jason Cottrell

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