The MoU Factory

Quite often when interacting with the Executive Teams of Communications Service Providers, we come across titles like “Chief Technology Officer“, “Chief Information Officer” and “Chief Operations Officer” or some other variant that I would call a CxO.

IMHO these titles are anachronisms.


Fully conscious of the fact that the above statement lends itself to interpretations, I would like to clarify that I am not talking about the persons who bear these titles. These are typically experienced veterans whose knowledge and maturity are needed the most to steer the choppy waters of telecom, without a doubt. I am talking about the title and what it paints as a vision about their work.

Scientific Management

I believe that these titles are reflective of a hangover from Scientific Management principles that have been adapted to run the business of providing communication services. An early mass-manufacturing principle that emphasized on, well, “mass-manufacturing”.

Mass-manufacturing aims at well-managed sub-assemblies that would then be pulled together at a main assembly. The idea is that well-managed sub-assemblies will provide repeatable and predictive quality, which in mechanical assemblies imply lesser manufacturing defects. The mechanism focuses on stability in the  production setup.

Was it ever relevant in telecom?

There was a time when toll-ticketing mechanism was the singular revenue model wherein the minutes of usage (MoU) was unitized and a rate per unit was applied. A minute of disuse was a loss to the operator. In other words, minutes were a perishable commodity that was being manufactured as if on an assembly line’s conveyor belt. We needed well-managed sub-assemblies: one sub-assembly looking after the operations, one sub-assembly looking to plan and design the network, one sub-assembly to have billing cycles run smoothly etc. The whole operation was, what I call, an MoU Factory!

Are they still relevant?


With the smartphone era and the data traffic explosion, the rate plans have changed dramatically. One could still argue that network availability is still a major requirement to monetize the data traffic with whatever rating mechanisms were used.

However, the carriage is as commodity as a safety-pin – one does not find any differentiation in a multi-operator market and it is not going to deliver profits.

So, what would I recommend?

Though I have some ideas, I do believe that there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. I believe that there should be greater focus on agility than on stability – and, these titles don’t seem to reflect that value.

Change Planning, Incremental Change Execution, Incremental Automation, New Value-chain Creation and Continuous Learning would be main roles that executive teams of CSPs should be playing, and are, perhaps, already playing.

So – It is time to come up with new titles that take us into a new era and not let us linger back in the days of the MoU Factory of old!


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