Cloud shift: towards a cultural transformation

Mon 13 May 2024

Softwarization of networks brings challenges in terms of change management and even cultural transformation within organizations.

The network’s softwarization is a revolution as disruptive as the shift to agility in IT projects over a decade ago. It goes beyond a significant technological evolution; it represents a paradigm shift that presents challenges in cultural transformation and change management within organizations.

What is the scope of the HR revolution linked to network cloudification?

Telco cloud transformation represents a cultural revolution on multiple levels:

  • It alters the nature of network-related roles. In traditional infrastructures, network teams work on industrial equipment (hardware and proprietary software). These teams, often specialized in various stages of the network lifecycle, develop, configure, supervise, and maintain networks during the operational phase. With the integration of IT software into the core of the network, these activities are being transformed and automated to better manage the complexity of virtualized systems. Consequently, roles related to network design, deployment, and operation are converging, with an increased focus on network integration.
  • It requires teams to constantly adjust to market shifts, closely aligning with customer needs. Technological advancements, from GSM (2G) to 5G, are occurring at an accelerated pace. The software flexibility enabled by virtualization further speeds up this process. As a result, network teams must now swiftly address the ever-changing demands of customers in real-time- a departure from the previously slower industrial updates. Engineers are now tasked with rapidly creating, developing, and implementing solutions while keeping the end customer’s experience central to their approach, following a B2B2C framework.
  • It reshapes internal dynamics, transitioning from a hierarchical model to a more collaborative and adaptable one. Traditionally, network engineers were focused on managing specific segments of the network. However, with standardized hardware and on-demand delivery of network functions, they now need a comprehensive understanding of the entire solution suite and customer usage scenarios. This shift necessitates a collaborative approach with other network teams, embracing IT methodologies and tools. This juxtaposes two distinct cultures- the academic training, skill sets, and work practices of network and IT professionals differ significantly. For instance, in IT, application development occurs in agile cycles with room for trial and error, while network investments follow lengthier decision-making cycles. Therefore, beyond the impact on technical competencies, there’s a significant shift in work methodologies and execution, affecting both engineers and managers. Leading teams that must be adaptable, open, and agile demands a new management approach. HR must oversee a comprehensive transformation toward telco cloud, focusing on knowledge, practical skills, and interpersonal abilities at both individual and collective levels.

What are the main challenges in skills management and talent recruitment?

It’s challenging to precisely identify the skills we will rely on in the future. However, some underlying trends are becoming apparent:

  • Network-related professions will remain crucial for delivering end-to-end communication (data, voice, video) focused on the customer experience. Since virtualization won’t eliminate all hardware, software, and infrastructure components, at the very least, network design will need to be modeled. Jobs will evolve to adapt to new operational modes. They will likely need to master programming languages and their interactions, especially in a context where networks are increasingly automated in real-time (leveraging artificial intelligence) and integrating network solutions (such as on-demand solutions and interoperable solutions with external partners).
  • IT skills will become increasingly important for designing, building, and operating a cloudified network. Upskilling or reskilling challenges will emerge, resulting in the need to develop cloud, big data, API, and software development skills for traditional network engineers. Our younger network engineers are increasingly being trained in these areas. Given this migration towards IT, these skill profiles will become highly sought after.
  • Cybersecurity professionals caution that virtualized networks are more susceptible to attacks, making them inherently more vulnerable compared to physical infrastructure.
  • Proficiency in green IT (network eco-design and energy efficiency) is also a valuable skill. An operator like Orange pays particular attention to the environmental footprint of its networks.
  • As traffic grows exponentially, Orange aims to control the energy consumption of its cloudified network at every stage of its development and operation.
  • The evolution demands proficiency in agility, adaptability, continuous learning, collaboration, and iterative work to meet expectations such as short cycles, customer focus, cross-functionality, etc. Management is actively engaged in fostering increased agility.

Learning to create software on a well-established historical network while ensuring its security and energy efficiency is a major challenge for the telecom industry in a tight job market. Even though schools are starting to offer academic training in cloud-related careers, companies struggle to find suitable IT profiles. They must make efforts to train their internal resources through upskilling or reskilling programs. 

How can organizations navigate, support, and thrive in this transformation?

Businesses have a vested interest in assessing the roles within their network to grasp the breadth of skills and expertise they possess and their current standing. Many operators, notably Orange, are diligently working on precisely mapping their existing skills. This task is extensive as it involves various roles across multiple facets of the network. With this groundwork, they can devise a customized training plan tailored to technological requirements. It’s imperative to acknowledge that acquiring a skill increasingly hinges on practical application rather than purely theoretical knowledge. Action serves as the catalyst for promptly putting a newly acquired skill into practice.

Establishing a market surveillance system for network softwarization is equally vital. Given the surge of new players and revitalized innovation opportunities in a more open and adaptable
ecosystem, maintaining vigilance is crucial. Only a market-responsive environment can facilitate anticipating changes, maintaining adaptability, and seizing the right opportunities for candidates eager to develop new skills within an operator.
Lastly, fostering collaboration is paramount in the age of platformization and API integration, which exposes the network to external software components. It signifies a genuine shift in approach and ethos. This is the mechanism that will facilitate crafting a distinctive value proposition on the network.

As an HR Director, how do you support Sofrecom in navigatingthis new disruption?

For many years, Sofrecom has been guiding operators in foreseeing technologicaladvancements to facilitate not only their technical evolution but also their organizational and cultural transformations. Our teams exhibit a strong interest in exploring new areas of expertise. Across various activities, Sofrecom’s network experts collaborate closely with its IT counterparts on a daily basis. We leverage this diverse team dynamic to position ourselves as the preferred partner for organizations transitioning to the cloud. Additionally, we have already embraced
agile and open operational methodologies. We possess a diverse array of tools to acquaint a broad collective and specialize in specific skill sets:

  •  Through initiatives like the Green ITN Program (Green IT for a Net Positive), we’ve raised awareness among all employees regarding the energy efficiency challenges of networks. Subsequently, we’ve developed more targeted programs tailored to the unique requirements of different roles.
  • We’re employing a similar approach for cloud transformation, offering both general orientation and specialized training (e.g., core network virtualization).
  • We actively encourage the sharing of expertise within our various units through the exchange of experiences from our missions. This knowledgesharing initiative not only elevates the overall understanding within Sofrecom’s ecosystem but also fosters collaborations and generates innovative solutions.
  • We foster a culture of agility across all our geographical locations.
  • At Sofrecom, client-centricity is paramount, and we continually enhance our dedication and responsiveness to our clients and partners.

Regardless of when an operator decides to transition to the cloud, the primary challenge remains in anticipating and effectively managing their skills and talent. Without proactive planning, they risk losing control of their cloud network sooner than anticipated.


Isild Launay Girard

Head of Human Ressources