Origins of the future
With Telco Solution & Services GmbH, valantic has established a new competence center for the telecommunications industry. With this center, valantic TSS wants to focus more precisely on the concerns, desires, and requirements of customers in the telecommunications sector. In this interview with our Managing Directors Roland Martinez and Stefan Michaelis, who are responsible for business development, we spoke about the background of and plans for this new valantic company.
Roland Martinez has been Managing Director of the valantic Group for six years and during the same period has held positions at valantic IBS GmbH and before that at cedros Gesellschaft für Datenverarbeitung. cedros became valantic IBS GmbH in October 2017. Roland has been a successful partner to the telecommunications industry at both companies for many years. Now, together with Stefan Michaelis, a proven expert in the telecommunications industry, and an expert team, he is starting again with valantic Telco Solutions & Services GmbH (TSS) in the locations in Siegburg and Leipzig.
Roland, what motivated you within valantic to start a separate company for customers in the telecommunications industry?
Roland: For more than 25 years, valantic has been a partner to the telecommunications industry, even if only in a small but critical area: TC compliance. With the new company, we would like to focus more precisely on this area.
In recent years, many customers have decided to use the TC compliance solutions and services we have developed. This has given us the courage to further expand our business in line with our growth strategy. With the establishment of the new company, our team and management have the opportunity to direct all their attention toward strengthening and expanding the existing solution portfolio and making available solutions and services relevant for the industry.
What motivated you personally as Managing Director to help design this step and take responsibility for it?
Roland: Above all, in addition to my professional expertise, I have a personal passion for the telecommunications industry. For me, this is one of the most interesting industry markets in today’s debate about digitalization. In recent weeks, this has become something that many people have experienced directly. Never before has a high-performance TC infrastructure been of such great significance for business and politics, and even for families’ social life.
Before I took over business responsibility at valantic, I spent eight years at Deutsche Telekom gaining a lot of exciting experience. Currently, the industry-spanning digitalization wave is being driven by the fact that new technologies such as 5G and the wholesale expansion of fiber optic technology are opening up completely new possibilities and business models for companies. In the current crisis, companies that have done their digital homework with regard to their own infrastructure are in a position to use state-of-the-art collaboration tools to maintain most of their business operations from home offices without a lot of difficulty.
What precisely is behind the new company Telco Solutions & Services?
Roland: To put things a bit generically: In Germany and German-speaking countries, we as service provider to telecommunications companies help public investigating authorities prevent and perform reconnaissance about criminal acts. We, together with our customers, assist the state in guaranteeing the security of our country. Due to the current security situation in Germany, this task is of crucial importance.
How precisely is this done? On request from investigating authorities, TC companies are obliged to provide the required information about their customers’ call and connection data electronically. For the investigation and prosecution of especially severe criminal acts such as child pornography, extremely violent crimes, terror, etc., on the basis of a judge’s order, this can mean the monitoring of telephone, Internet, and e-mail traffic by the investigating authorities. The companies’ legal obligation is regulated by the German Telecommunications Act. The requirements for implementation under high security requirements is done in the framework of technical guidelines to which companies such as valantic must adhere as certified agents and IT service providers in this sector.
What specific solution and service offerings do you offer your customers on the market?
Stefan: Three years ago, we developed a state-of-the-art authority information system that handles the relevant processes and communication with the authorities digitally. Depending on the size and quantity of information requests and measures, the system can provide the legally required information manually or via highly automated integration processes.
In the case of automation, we use existing CRM systems, data warehouse, and contract and billing systems and make the required information available via customer-specific interfaces. Companies can then fulfill the legally required information requests or initiate monitoring measures using our software solutions. Either they rely on their own employees who use our solution on-premise or via a Software as a Service model or, if as many customers prefer, they let valantic handle the entire process. This give them the freedom to perform the actual tasks of a telecommunications company.
What place do digitalization and automation of business processes occupy?
Roland: Unfortunately, provision of the required orders from authorities is still often done individually via fax and in analogue form. Our system solution has all existing input channels and digitalizes processes for further processing, including the incorporation of a fax server, for example. External communication with authorities is controlled via a standardized electronic interface, whose use has in the meantime become mandatory for providing traffic data. Thanks to as completely digital a process as possible with no discontinuities on through to billing of activities to the authorities, less time is required, so throughput times are much shorter.
Automation is especially helpful when the concern is to manage a larger number of processes. Here, time-consuming manual research in the customer’s various internal systems is frequently required and the procurement of information is therefore expensive. This is where we are developing the necessary interfaces for our customers and making the data available to the authorities through the automated information system. This helps us reduce the personnel needed for information collection and ensures the fault-free provision of data by avoiding media discontinuities.
TC compliance solutions and services made by valantic have also been available to your customers as Software as a Service (SaaS) for two years. What are the advantages as compared to an on-premise solution, that is, an installation on-site at the customer?
Roland: We decided to make the solutions and services we have developed available to smaller and medium-sized TC companies as well. They are also subject to the legal requirements. Based on the small number of processes and low payment from the authorities for these, they have to make a comparatively high investment in order to fulfill the legal requirements.
That’s why we are making the solution available as an innovative SaaS solution and business process. For our customers, this means they don’t have to make large investments in order to provide the necessary technical infrastructure and processes (24×7 operation, cleared personnel, audits, security concepts, etc.). At valantic, provision is handled by an operations center certified by the German Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) and checked in annual audits; on request, it can also make the required business process available. This allows our customers to concentrate on their core business, such as the necessary expansion of network infrastructure, and yet also to fulfill all legal requirements.
What, in addition to TC compliance topics, are the essential drivers for your business?
Roland: Another focal point of our activities is the digitalization of business processes and modernization of software applications. To the best of our knowledge, many TC companies are using a variety of IT systems to support their core processes; frequently these systems are no longer based on up-to-date software architecture. The changes that have to be made are expensive and time-consuming to make, and sometimes they are difficult to make due to lacking expertise.
Due to mergers and takeovers in the last 20 years, the industry has changed a great deal. In particular for larger providers, this means that there are frequently parallel applications for the same topic. For example, the co-existence of several CRM systems, one for mobile phones, one for landlines, and one for cable customers. This creates increasing challenges with regard to the maintenance and interoperability of the systems.
The result is risks to KPI-based company controlling, business continuity, and the ability to adapt to quickly changing customer and market requirements. The latter has a direct effect on companies’ business success in a very competitive market such as telecommunications.
The core DNA of valantic TSS is the development of sector-specific software and the modernization of existing applications. Thanks to our extensive software engineering experience also with our own products and a deep understanding of telecommunications processes, we are in a position to make transformations happen quickly and efficiently and thus to make a significant contribution to companies’ digitalization.
What other expertise may companies expect of you at valantic Telco Solutions and Services in the future?
Stefan: A good example of new digital applications in the TC compliance sector is the development of the valantic Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) solution. It will enable our customers to process automatically the daily messages received from the CERT network about virus-infected IP addresses. In this volume-intensive and Telecommunications Act-relevant process, the authorities’ notifications are checked and the affected customers informed electronically. The TC company has to check within a certain time period whether the customer has taken appropriate protective measures, which requires a resubmission. Today, this is frequently done manually without the interfaces required for automation. However, digitalization does not just mean automating processes and updating software; it also means looking beyond the end of your nose into the future.
Then let’s take a look beyond the ends of our noses. What new technologies can already be used for which tasks and therefore create added value for your customers?
Roland: An example of this is the use of digital assistants, which are familiar thanks to consumer solutions such as Amazon Alexa and Siri and are becoming more widely accepted. The technologies behind these (NLU/NLP) for voice recognition and control have improved a lot and can also be used for various business processes at TC companies. These so-called BOTs can help employees in customer care and perform simple repetitive tasks across channels (chat and voice) such as password resets and answering FAQs. This unburdens the call center, especially with load peaks and enables call center agents to focus on and specialize in valuable service inquiries. It also helps those responsible to increase the self-service rate and Net Promoter scores. Valantic TSS specializes in the introduction and operation of these digital assistants and advises companies on the selection of BOTs and the design of voice guidance.
Stefan: Interesting here is the integration into existing IT environments through the incorporation of social media channels, CRM systems, sales applications such as Salesforce, and various SAP modules. The valantic Group, a leading SAP specialist for telecommunications companies, also offers the latter for various sectors, including finance, human resources, and TC industry customer experience.
Thank you both very much for the long, detailed conversation!