Investment in an Operator Corporate University is an asset for developing countries

Tue 10 Jul 2018

While the Corporate University concept has become perfectly integrated into the landscape of telecommunications operators in Western countries, it is still not widespread among incumbent operators in Africa. The creation of a Corporate University is a real innovation accelerator for the operator and for information technology players. Experiments carried out in this area confirm the benefits of the approach in fostering a successful digital transformation.

The Corporate University is a response to the indispensable transformation of telecom operators

The business models on which operators, and in particular incumbent operators, have based their existence are being challenged by the explosion of OTT (Over The Top) players and data at the expense of voice. Adaptation and transformation are inevitable. They are also often difficult for the incumbent operator, though, which is also faced, in developing countries more than elsewhere, with additional constraints such as:

  • Lack of skills
  • Lack of customer culture
  • Lack of attractiveness
  • Delay in innovation.

A Corporate University is much more than a training institute: it is an accelerator of transformation and innovation. In contexts where change is often seen as a threat, the Corporate University enables operators to turn this threat into an opportunity to grow and improve. Managers are trained to better anticipate transformations and become key players.

Distant relatives to traditional universities, they implement original teaching methods, based on games, creativity and collaboration. These methods reflect the Company values. They help explain the issues at stake in the proposed change.

The creation of the Corporate University at an incumbent operator in East Africa helped bring out a common managerial culture

8.30 a.m., somewhere in the East African highlands... in premises freshly painted in the colours of the "Telecoms Academy", all the rooms are occupied. In one, a group is making a spaghetti tower, in another, people are clustered together around a paper board, in yet another, small groups are engaged in vivid discussion... All the participants are executives at the operator organisation and have come to take part in leadership and management training....

Games as a replenishing detour and spontaneous discussion form integral parts of the educational system. And the feedback has been distinctly positive: A satisfaction rate exceeding 90% and a management culture based on solid foundations. The main outcome is the emergence of an ability to take the initiative at an incumbent player's organisation, known for its highly hierarchical ways.

The trainers are in-house trainers, and the standing team that supervises comes from the ranks of the operator. They are all extremely enthusiastic and proud, confident that they are part of an adventure that will transform their company for many years, and pioneers in the country.

By training the operator's managers and helping them take ownership of their company's strategy, we saw the company's transformation speed up and a new management culture focused on human development, empowerment and collaboration emerge. The programmes defined for these managers, as well as the educational mechanisms implemented, which give pride of place to interaction, collaboration and creativity, translate the operator's strategy into leadership and management practices, and are aimed creating a managerial foundation in line with the vision.

Contrary to what is commonly seen in Europe, the management school is supplemented here by two trade schools, one dedicated to technical jobs and the other to commercial jobs to close the participants’ skills gap in these areas and enable the operator to make a real leap forward. There is a clear desire to train employees in the technologies and methodologies of the future, and develop their skills so that they can meet the future needs of markets and technologies. The same teaching principles are applied in these schools.

The Corporate University becomes a place of exchange, innovation and co-construction

Infused with a special identity, the Corporate University is designed to be a place where skills and profiles cross-fertilise, with spaces designed to encourage informal interaction and trigger spontaneous encounters in a context very different from the professional environment. The structuring of the premises is therefore particularly important and must reflect the University's strategy and philosophy. For this historic African operator, the Corporate University's premises symbolise the future and innovation and starkly stand apart from the operator's premises.

Initially a place of training, it is also a place for reflection and innovation. It is a place where teaching does not always head down the same beaten track, and where the emergence of ideas and innovative practices is encouraged through interaction with the outside world: external speakers, start-ups, and more.

The first results of this experience are particularly encouraging: all the managers have taken part in at least one training course each year, the catalogue has been considerably enriched and the trainers have all been certified. The objective of the first phase has been achieved, and employees experience the training provided at the Corporate University as a form of reward and motivation. In the medium-term, this will become a factor of attractiveness and will strengthen the operator's employer brand.

It benefits the entire digital eco-system across the country

By gradually transforming the operator's culture and working methods, the Corporate University is also changing its relationship with the outside world: an example for the development of the public sector, it will eventually become an important element in the digitisation of practices. By promoting digital uses (teaching methods based on digital channels, training in digital tools, etc.), by capillarity, it enables their development within the company and beyond. A unique experience in the country, it has become a benchmark and an example for the development of State-owned enterprises.

This project, which Sofrecom has supported over the past two years, has enabled us to measure the impact of such a system not only on the operator itself but also on the entire Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) ecosystem. By developing the skills of the employees of the incumbent operator, the Enterprise University is leading the entire ICT sector in a move toward improvement. In the long term, it will open its training to the outside world, to other players in the field but also to government institutions to support the country's digital transformation.

An entire sector is modernising at an accelerated pace and encouraging the adoption of new collaboration and management practices, magnifying the attractiveness of the operator, the sector and the country.