One of the hottest topics under debate in telecom these days is the emergence of "triple" and "quad" play service providers that provide a full suite of communications, information and entertainment services via a fixed or wireless network or even both.
To capture new customers, retain existing customers, grow revenues and maintain shareholder value, service providers are moving beyond their comfort zones to compete in new markets against new and different competitors.
As voice tariffs continue to plummet and basic broadband connectivity becomes an ever-cheaper commodity, service providers have to find a way of crossing the revenue chasm that currently confronts them.
The really tricky part involves building value for the customers to make them want to use and pay for all the new services now on offer and ultimately stay loyal to the provider.
As each service provider gears up for this shift in the telecom terrain, long-term commercial success will only be realized by coordinating an increasingly diverse and complex set of services and focusing on the personalization of offerings to targeted customer segments.
To succeed, communications companies have to adapt to an integrated operational environment, managing an increasingly long and multi-dimensional logistics and distribution chain, a host of new partners and complex value chains.
They must segment and target the customer and, ultimately, extract maximum profits and brand value from services delivered.
Customers demand simplicity and transparency across all aspects of the supplier-user relationship. They are unaware of the complex activity of managing the provisioning and charging functions for a much larger array of services.
This rallying cry of simplicity and transparency also applies to the internal operations of a service provider and to its relationships with the increasing number of third parties involved in creating services.
Internally, the unrelenting drive to roll more services out to market in shorter timescales also places increasing pressure on the back office, especially in the field of product life cycle management. With service and application development moving towards "Internet time," where product lifecycles may be measured in weeks or even days, it is essential that service providers have ready access to the relevant data on the success or failure of a particular offering.
As customers themselves become truly mobile and the value of service and content transactions starts to rise, any vulnerability will hit the confidence levels of customers and business partners and ultimately the bottom line.
Graham Carey is Oracle director of product marketing and Global Billing Association president