Telecom reverse logistics management has evolved significantly over the past 20 years. Once focused primarily on returning devices to manufacturers, reverse logistics now has a much broader scope. It’s also fast becoming a critical part of telecom’s strategy to drive revenue and customer satisfaction.
While there are many reasons driving RL’s expanded role, three stand out:
Buy-Back and Trade-in:
A used wireless device is no longer considered a paperweight with little market value. It can now realize significant dollars in secondary markets. So, carriers are fine-tuning their RL processes to efficiently collect their subscribers’ used devices and resell them in global and domestic channels.
Churn & Competition:
To prevent churn, carriers must handle warranty repairs with record speed, while keeping their subscribers in the loop. If the repair isn’t executed flawlessly, or the loaner experience is under par, subscribers can port-out their number in a flash, as well as detail their experience on social media.
New Opportunities with IoT:
Car companies, manufacturers, and others are partnering with wireless carriers to provide IoT services. It’s not a big leap to think that these same partners/carriers will leverage telecom companies’ existing RL processes to manage the return and repair of IoT monitors and devices.
This new landscape is putting pressure on telecom (telco) companies’ underdeveloped reverse logistics processes. Many telcos are finding that their old processes aren’t fast nor agile enough to keep up with the changes required - from accommodating new recycling and repair vendors, or properly handling replacements, to fine-tuning trade-in processes. To take advantage of new markets and opportunities, telcos need to make significant improvements, and do so fast.
Moreover, months or weeks of RL processing delays can hurt devices’ resale value, especially for the latest (and highest values) devices.
Thus, to maximize revenue opportunities and respond to market changes, software agility and change management have become critical to RL success.
Software Agility is Needed
Today’s telecom companies have multiple return processes including: repair, recycle, warranty return, buy-back, and others.
New dispositions are likely. Just consider, many carriers didn’t collect used devices and resell them 10 years ago. Now almost all telecom providers have buy-back and trade-in strategies and processes to support them.
With IoT now and 5G on the horizon, it’s likely telecom companies will handle an even broader range of returns. Beyond smartphones, modems, and set-top boxes, they are now likely to handle sensors, cameras, transmitters, smart home panels, and other connected hardware for home, commercial, and industrial equipment.
Thus, to address more dispositions and different types of returns, agile software must be implemented. Processes, sub-processes, and data streams all must adapt rapidly to the changing requirements. Time is of the essence.
So too is money.
Telecom companies have to continuously optimize processes to maximize the value of returned devices, as they represent real hard dollars. But even the most well-honed processes for sorting and processing equipment, real-time exception handling, and dispositioning can hit snags, because there are so many variables (including the condition of used devices).
Also, processing some returned devices may require special steps, care, settings, or even parts before they can be redirected to secondary markets, salvaged or disposed.
At the same time all this is happening, regulations change. Personal data protection is a must, and other regulations, like environmental, are rapidly evolving. Regulations are also different for each country.
These reasons, as well as others, like secondary markets’ dynamics, are pushing reverse logistics processes to change continuously.
Low-Code Drives Agility
LOW-CODE SOFTWARE LAUNCHES UP TO 5X QUICKER THAN TRADITIONAL SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT. ALSO IT’S SIMPLER TO EXPAND AND SUPPORT
Companies that use traditional, software –with customization through hand coding, or even worse, a waterfall approach– put themselves at a distinct disadvantage because they can’t move fast. Software changes or enhancements take months to deploy. Requirements have often changed by the time new software is launched.
There is a better alternative for complex enterprise software applications. Many companies are choosing low-code software that is designed visually, instead of hand coded. Visual models, using a common graphical language, are faster to build and change.
They also improve collaboration because reverse logistics business and IT teams can work together to visualize how changes affect processes. Many changes can be made with drag-and-drop or point-and-click tools, not code. Teams can refine catalogs, user and data interfaces, business rules and processes quickly and efficiently, meeting the needs of the organization.
Visual Model to Build Applications
Per Forrester, “Faster delivery is the primary benefit of these application platforms; they also help firms respond more quickly to customer feedback after initial software releases and provision mobile and multichannel apps.”(1)
Some other important characterics of low-code reverse logistics applications include:
- Quick integration – via drag-n-drop data mapping and transformation tools - to legacy systems, like inventory management software, ERP, etc as well as external systems of RMA sources, repairers, suppliers, couriers, and other partners
- Intelligent, “on-the-fly” changes to catalogs, business rules, process workflows and even graphical user interfaces of both operating screens and dashboards
- Easy automation of critical business processes, using BPM capabilities. For example, creating automatic notifications, automatic control dashboards, automatic data interface executions, and other automatic activities, based on specific criteria
- Ability to work on cloud or on-premises, or both
Change Management is Crucial for Adoption
Since low-code enables fast changes, there’s no long lead times to prep employees. And, it’s very likely telco employees will have to change the way they work. For example:
- Retail store employees may have to fill out new or different fields for RMAs
- Warehouse workers may have to follow different steps for sorting or repairing devices
- Management may have to look at different screens to create their dashboards
And the list goes on. Not everyone will be on board with every new change.
That’s why change management is critical. The people and the processes must be addressed for every software deployment. In fact, when organizations ignore or minimize the needed changes to processes and how their people work, change initiatives are destined to fail.
Moreover, all new processes have a cycle. Initially, there’s great excitement about the change. But as time goes on, enthusiasm wanes. Productivity is negatively impacted, as workers plunge into what’s considered the “Valley of Despair” where they are questioning the value of the change.
The Valley of Despair
To mitigate the “Valley of Despair”, it’s important to:
• Engage senior leaders early in the process and make them champions of the low-code software initiative. Explain the benefits of the change and how it will positively impact the business as well as their roles
• Create quick wins and share with the entire organization
• Measure improvements in productivity or other metrics
• Focus on adoption of new platform and not the “go-live” software deployment
This helps drive successful adoption.
Enabling Telcos to Address Expanded Roles
By implementing low-code software, telecom companies can move far faster than their rivals using traditional software development. They can adjust any process in weeks (if not days): whether it’s changing the valuation of returned devices, adding return sources, supporting additional vendors, or retooling repair processes, or safely recycling devices, or any other disposition.
Yet, for telcos to be truly successful with low-code software, they need to bring everyone on board, every time they implement new RL processes.
Otherwise, reverse logistics will not be able to adequately address its expanding role in telecom companies.
(1) Forrester, “New Development Platforms Emerge For Customer-Facing Applications, June 9, 2014
Authors: Gustavo L. Merchan, CMO of Beesion and Joe Crandall, Partner of Greencastle Consulting
Gustavo L. Merchan, a graduate of Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires in industrial engineering, has built software and BPM solutions for many industries in the US, Mexico and Argentina. Since 2010, he has concentrated primarily on the telecom industry and helped pioneer a low-code software platform, using pre-built software modules and visual modeling. He has served as CMO of Beesion since 2016.
Joe Crandall joined the Navy as an Electronics Technician and ultimately earned a commission through the Naval Academy in 1996 with a BS in General Engineering. After graduation, Joe went to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School (BUD/S) training, ultimately being assigned to SEAL Team 5, where he served until 2003. A year prior to departing from the Navy, Joe was diagnosed with colon cancer at 30-years-old - thankfully he beat the disease. He became a director at Greencastle in 2012 and is now part owner. Joe earned his Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification from Villanova University 2015. Joe is on the board of The Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network (GPVN) and the Liberty USO.