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4 Supply Chain Challenges Facing Telecommunications Organizations

Dan O'Keefe, Appian
June 20, 2022

Over the past several years, supply chain shocks have battered organizations across industry sectors—from life sciences to retail to oil and gas. Telecommunications companies have felt the pain as well. Between semiconductor shortages, shifts in demand, and labor and equipment shortfalls, telecommunications companies face their share of supply chain challenges. 

Low-code platforms, which allow development teams to design and build applications using a visual interface, enable telecommunications organizations to quickly roll out applications that streamline their supply chains. Below are four challenges to supply chain management in the telecom industry and how low-code helps overcome them.

1. Siloed data and communications.

For telecommunications organizations, data often resides in silos. Internally, data resides across systems for procurement, customer service, or transportation management, making cross-team collaboration time-consuming. Externally, telecommunications companies often communicate with vendors and contractors manually. As teams have to hunt for information across multiple systems internally and spend extra time manually communicating both internally and externally, these data silos become bottlenecks in the supply chain process. Greater efficiency requires improving data sharing internally and automating communications externally.

Let’s take an example of keeping replacement parts in stock for field service technicians. You might build an application that connects data from warehouse management and procurement solutions. If inventory for a critical construction part falls below a certain threshold, your application could automatically order the new part to prevent stock from completely running out.

2. Significant support needed for network upgrades.

Telecommunications companies have invested heavily in 5G network upgrades. This worldwide effort requires significant coordination, planning, and effort, plus a range of supplies, from wires and chips to physical construction materials for new towers. Beyond this, COVID-19 increased the need for network upgrades in residential areas as employees shifted to home offices, requiring additional labor and money to be spent on upgrading networks. Telecommunications organizations need strong, efficient supply chains to see a return on their investments.

Low-code makes it easy to design applications that orchestrate network upgrades. Using data fabric, you could connect enterprise resource planning, field service software, and warehouse management to better ensure a flow of supplies to upgrade teams. Additionally, you could use automation features within your low-code platforms to communicate upgrade statuses to customers.

3. Efficiently tracking and handling outages.

To keep customers happy, you have to maximize service uptime. This means knowing when there’s an outage, discovering root causes, and dispatching maintenance crews or technicians to bring networks back online.

Delivering better service to customers means building out streamlined workflows and automating as much of the process as possible. For example, if an area experiences an outage, the right application could create a ticket in case management, then schedule and dispatch the closest technicians to the area to investigate. Bonus points if this includes a mobile application where techs can take photos, track time on tasks, and access knowledge base articles to solve problems easier.

Plus, outages occur frequently enough that the process to address them is a good candidate for process mining. Process mining tools, available in a best-in-class low-code platform, allow you to analyze a workflow visually to pinpoint bottlenecks or inefficiencies. If you note an outage consistently takes longer to fix in certain regions, process mining will identify where the inefficiency is occurring and provide data-backed insights on how to improve the process. 

4. Improving manufacturing and supply chain distribution of physical products.

Physical products like cell phones and tablets require a traditional retail supply chain that includes planning, material sourcing, manufacturing, delivery, and distribution to both stores and end customers’ homes. This full process offers plenty of opportunities for improvement.

For example, consider combining data connections, web portals, and workflow design to streamline fulfillment. You could connect warehouse management, transportation management, and retail systems to ensure that stores have the right number of phones in inventory at the right time. If they run low, you could have the store’s systems send demand signals back to resource planners, who can then better plan for more inventory. Additionally, web portals could allow both customers and employees to check which stores have a specific model in stock.

Enabling the telecommunications supply chains.

Customers have grown to expect maximum uptime for phone, cable, and internet services. Meeting these uptime expectations requires a strong, efficient supply chain and effective coordination between people, technology, and data. Enterprise-grade low-code platforms offer a great way to coordinate and accelerate many of the processes involved. 

A good low-code platform will allow you to discover process inefficiencies easily with process mining, design applications and processes using a workflow-based visual editor, automate workflows for better efficiency and consistency, and connect disparate systems using data fabric. With these tools at their disposal, telecommunications companies can dramatically improve their supply chains. 

To learn more about how low-code platforms can help with supply chain challenges, check out this eBook: Bringing Clarity to Supply Chain Chaos.