Once a streamlined avenue for communication, the telecommunications industry has morphed into a labyrinth of products and services, akin to a cluttered hoarder’s house. Let’s delve into the roots of this complexity and explore why the telecom sector has amassed such a messy array of offerings. More crucially, let’s examine how telecommunications companies can extricate themselves from the tangle of convoluted integrations, inefficiencies, and declining customer service levels these issues create. The imperative for product rationalization has never been more pressing as this offers a lifeline for companies seeking sustainable growth amid the whirlwind of technological advancements and shifting consumer trends.

How did we get here?

The telecommunications landscape stands as a testament to the industry’s journey through decades of innovation. The evolution from a simple communication network to today’s complex array of products and services reflects progress but has also given rise to a hoarder’s house of accumulated offerings. 

The increasing velocity of innovation is not the only contributor to the telco hoarder’s house of offerings. Just to add to the fun, the telecom industry has an insatiable taste for mergers and acquisitions. Driving this M&A hunger is an unprecedented industry transformation driven by emerging competitive threats. Traditional integrated telecommunications offerings are now facing disaggregated, narrowly focused competitors.

For 2023, global telecom M&A activity has been relatively light for the industry. Only $49 billion has been spent during the first three quarters of the year. But… if you look back over the past five years, the annual average deal value has been $135B. That is A LOT of transactions, and with each deal comes the integration of a huge variety of products, services, business rules and business models. Note that this year is probably a blip caused by expensive money (high interest rates) and large internal investments in network upgrades. 

So, what’s the problem again?

The proliferation of advancing technologies and the surge in mergers and acquisitions have led to a substantial surge in operational inefficiencies, heightened operational complexity, and a significant decrease in agility.

Analogous to a hoarder amassing possessions without a structured approach, telecommunication companies have introduced numerous offerings over time without adequate consideration for their long-term impact. Unfortunately, this offering accumulation has culminated in a convoluted portfolio, posing challenges for telcos in effectively managing, updating, bundling, and optimizing their offerings. Consequently, the unintended outcome has been the formation of a complex and unwieldy product portfolio. This intricacy impedes operational efficiency and complicates the strategic decision-making processes for telcos.

Product rationalization, save me from my clutter!

Product rationalization is the treatment for the hoarding dilemma. This strategic process involves systematically evaluating and optimizing a product portfolio, aligning it with strategic business objectives. Yes, we know that it is easier said than done, but stay with me.

The most critical imperatives for product rationalization are:

  • Operational Efficiency: A streamlined product portfolio eliminates redundancies and complexities, fostering internal efficiency and reducing operational overheads.
  • Improved Time to Market: A streamlined product portfolio facilitates faster decision-making, product development, and implementation, enhancing business agility in response to market demands. This, in turn, reduces the time to market for new products and services.
  • Reduced Costs: By eliminating underperforming or redundant products, telcos can significantly reduce costs associated with product maintenance, support, and marketing.


Following are some key near-term advantages for how product rationalization will directly impact your near-term bottom line and your competitiveness:

  1. Operational Efficiency:
    • Reducing the gross number of products in the portfolio simplifies operational processes.
    • Streamlining operations leads to more efficient resource allocation and utilization.
  2. Cost Savings:
    • A leaner product portfolio can result in lower operational costs, such as inventory management, marketing, and support.
    • Eliminating redundant or underperforming products frees up resources for more strategic investments.
  3. Improved Customer Experience:
    • Average call handling time can be reduced by the removal of complexity of expansive product portfolios, thus, in turn, contributes to enhanced customer satisfaction and improved operational effectiveness.
    • Customers benefit from a clearer product offering, making it easier for them to understand and choose the solutions that meet their needs.
  4. Enhanced Marketing and Positioning:
    • With a reduced and more focused product lineup, marketing efforts can be concentrated on key offerings.
    • Clearer messaging and positioning in the market help to strengthen the brand and attract target customers.
  5. Agility and Innovation:
    • A streamlined portfolio enables quicker decision-making and adaptability to market changes.
    • New offerings and bundles can be brought to market in days rather than months.
  6. Strategic Focus:
    • Product rationalization allows the company to concentrate on its core competencies and strategic objectives.
    • Aligning products with the company’s long-term vision ensures a more coherent and effective business strategy.
  7. Simplified Operations:
    • Reduction in the number of products simplifies supply chain management, distribution, and support systems.
    • Operations become more manageable, leading to better overall organizational effectiveness.
  8. Financial Performance:
    • A focused product strategy can positively impact financial performance by increasing sales of key products.
    • Investors often respond favorably to companies that demonstrate a strategic focus on high-performing products.
  9. Competitive Advantage:
    • By concentrating on a smaller, more targeted product range, the company can become more competitive in specific market segments.
    • The ability to respond quickly to market trends and customer demands enhances the company’s competitive positioning.
  10. Risk Mitigation:
    • Reducing the number of products mitigates the risks associated with managing a large and diverse portfolio.
    • It allows the company to better control and understand potential risks in the marketplace.  


In essence, likening traditional telcos to hoarders emphasizes the critical importance of product rationalization and simplification. These initiatives are not just strategic necessities but crucial prerequisites for thriving in the dynamic and competitive telecommunications industry. Adopting these principles is not merely advantageous; it becomes a survival imperative in the ever-evolving telecom landscape, positioning the business for sustainable growth in the digital era.

Not sure where to start? Let Owls Head help you take your first steps to product rationalization. Our team has been part of some of the largest product rationalization projects in the telecommunications industry. Drop us a line to learn more.

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