O&M suppliers must lead or lose

Tim McElligott/Stratecast

Perspective is important when evaluating claims about what actions an industry may need to take in order to succeed. Consider the perspective of communications service provider (CSP) strategists who told Stratecast in a recent survey that their primary concerns over transitioning to the new virtual environment are orchestration and control, which are essentially management functions.

The solution to other top concerns identified by CSPs is closely related to the application of operations & monetization (O&M) solutions: interoperability, performance, and bridging legacy systems and services to those enabled by the virtual network. New systems will be built to deliver real-time, mashup services from a vast ecosystem of cloud, content, application and service providers. Provisioning, assuring, and monetizing such systems and services will require a new approach to O&M that supports emerging transaction-based business models.

With broader services and business models, special attention must be paid to partnership management, compensation, and revenue management solutions, including service and revenue assurance. Next generation rating and charging systems, for example, could become more than support systems for CSPs; they could become services unto themselves as CSPs offer them for use to partners within the ecosystem that do not have a back-office infrastructure.

While this is a future capability of a robust O&M, other capabilities are more immediate and necessary for the virtual network to work as promised. Virtualization can deliver obvious cost benefits, eventually, through the elimination of proprietary hardware, and the centralized control enabled by the decoupling of the data and forwarding planes in SDN. They can also foster much needed simplicity and consistency. However, only O&M can enable and support several essential attributes including:

  • More automated processes
  • Deeper levels of data analysis
  • An intense focus on customer centricity
  • Increased flexibility within the revenue and partner management functions
  • A keen adherence to open standards (which has been circumvented for far too long).

The shift to application-aware networks enabled by NFV and SDN bodes well for software support suppliers in terms of demand for new solutions. But the years ahead will not be all sunshine and lollipops for some suppliers.

CSPs do not believe that the majority of their installed OSS and BSS platforms can be brought forward to support the new network architectures. Half of the CSPs we spoke with in late 2013 said many core support applications would be left behind and phased out in favor of systems that could bridge the gap between legacy and next-generation virtual networks. Only 30% of CSPs said most of their systems could be brought forward and the remaining 20% were unsure. The shift to a cloud-based economy, enabled by NFV and SDN, is occurring too quickly for this much uncertainty to be lingering in the back office.

Also, suppliers that wait to see what the requirements will be as this economy takes shape will miss their opportunity altogether. They may have to trust their guts, stake out a position based on their inherent strengths and lead with it.

Two safe assumptions when staking out a position would be that (1) there is no need for CSPs to join a cloud-based economy without the systems required to monetize and operationally manage the customer-facing business processes, and (2) in a virtual network environment, the new requirement placed on any operations or business management system will be to address both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) marketing scenarios. These would involve enterprise network customers that are now also partners with the CSP in jointly providing advanced virtual services to common customers.

Note: Stratecast uses O&M to describe what used to be called OSS/BSS in order to be more inclusive of an increasingly diverse ecosystem beyond traditional telecom.

Tim McElligott is senior consulting analyst for Global OSS/BSS Strategy at Stratecast

This article first appeared on Telecom Asia Billing Insights supplement July 2014 issue

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