Telecoms operators in Asia Pacific (APAC) don’t think they are transforming fast enough to meet the demands of today’s digital era and are rightly concerned about being left behind by more nimble rivals.

Nearly half of operators’ C-level and senior-level decision makers predict that it will take their companies more than five years to transform, according to a survey conducted by IDC for Amdocs. The concern is this is not fast enough given that 76 per cent of APAC respondents believe the communications industry will be outpaced by other industries.

The survey found that 33 per cent of operators in APAC don’t have a digital strategy in place, and while 90 per cent highlight the importance of having a chief digital officer to lead and drive such a strategy, only 29 per cent have one. In addition, 85 per cent of operators in the region are still executing digital projects as stand-alone initiatives without alignment to a broader technology roadmap or business strategy.

Two-thirds of those surveyed in APAC believe that the communications industry has strong technology capabilities but admit they will find it difficult to implement and launch digital projects quickly enough because they lack the skills to create and implement digital transformation strategies.

Although the majority of operators are working to deploy digital technologies to improve their businesses, this is being implemented without a unifying top-level vision and strategy, said Andy Hicks, IDC’s research director for telecoms and networking in EMEA. “They are telling us they are struggling to re-align processes and re-train staff at the same time.”

To develop digital capabilities and accelerate the move to digital services, operators are looking for partners with a wide range of expertise, the study suggests. In the next 12 months 43 per cent of respondents in APAC say they will invest in managed services as part of their efforts to launch digital services.

While operators may be able to keep up with other service providers, they don’t think they can keep up in the broader digital world unless they address gaps in digital strategy, skills and leadership, Hicks said. “Our research suggests they will source professional services to bridge some of these gaps.”

According to respondents in APAC, providing an omni-channel experience across all services is the most critical capability for surviving in the digital age. Business agility ranked second together along with the ability to drive business innovation. Business agility also ranked second in terms operators’ digital transformation business priorities in the next 12 months (57 per cent of respondents), with revenue from existing services ranking first (71 per cent).

IDC surveyed executives at 81 service providers around the world, with 26 per cent in Asia Pacific. Nearly half of the respondents (46 per cent) were C-level executives.