Sharing 3.0 – Real-time and the Rise of Social Everything

April 24, 2013 by Nigel Back

Business organizations are becoming flatter, more fluid and increasingly dependent on the rapid capture, sharing, analysis and response to huge amounts of information. In many respects they share characteristics of highly collaborative social networks. Their organizational and communication models must evolve accordingly to ensure creativity and value, rather than chaos, is unleashed.

Examples are emerging of organizations being started on a social, collaborative model, for instance in the battle against fraud. Others collaborate over a broad range of functions. Consider giffgaff™, a UK MVNO engaging deeply with its customer base in product definition, support and marketing - a process they refer to as ‘co-creation’.

This blog considers the role of real-time BSS in allowing Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to support and profit from the growth of increasingly collaborative and social models. In the best traditions of the IT industry, we would be deeply remiss not to refer to this evolution in terms of 1.0, 2.0…..

Sharing 1.0 was a golden age of not being in too much of a hurry. Community collaboration tools included e-mail, walled garden forums such as AOL, and some specialized bulletin boards. Participants fired in a message and checked back from time to time for an answer. The “Crackberry” obsessive e-mail compulsive disorder and the bedside-table-as-a-high-bandwidth-communication-hub were unimaginable. For the CSP, real-time BSS was limited essentially to prepaid charging to ensure accurate accounting, and a limited number of Intelligent Network services such as Freephone and VPN. It played no significant role as a community enabler.

Sharing 2.0 broadly reflects the current state of play, characterized by a richer collaboration experience for a wider range of communities. giffgaff™ is a good example of enhancing customer experience through deep community collaboration. Other examples include shared tariff plans and T-Mobile™ Germany’s ‘Spotify™ Premium Included’ offer. It’s early days, but there is evidence that these offers are seeing higher than expected success rates in addressing KPIs such as churn and ARPU. A reflection perhaps of the latent value of community, and an affirmation of a strategically important new direction in CSP thinking.

But what does Sharing 2.0 mean for real-time BSS. Rather a lot actually!

Shared tariffs typically demand multiple ‘balances’ on the charging system that track consumption of ‘allowances (e.g. 1GB data per month)’ and current spend, potentially for each member of the group. The ability to view spend and enforce credit limits in real-time not only has market value, but is increasingly a regulatory obligation.

Consider an enterprise shared tariff with several thousand employees from multiple departments and hierarchy levels, with each member using multiple devices running multiple services concurrently, all being shared and accounted in real-time from a single corporate balance. This would reduce most real-time charging solutions to a smoking pool of liquid silicon. So while real-time BSS will be an important enabler for many community oriented services, significant BSS innovation will also be required!

Not to mention the requirement to implement QoS policies in real-time to ensure high quality audio for service such as Spotify, and the streaming analytics required to trigger promotion of new services to customers in a contextually optimized (time, location, connected device, …) manner.

Charging, policy, analytics - integrated seamlessly and supporting huge and complex transaction loads in real-time. That is what Sharing 2.0 means for real-time BSS. Not an insignificant challenge for functional elements whose differing evolution paths typically results in them being owned and operated by different technical departments in a typical CSP.

Sharing 3.0 will continue the transformation, ultimately recognizing that CSP customers can no longer be segmented only by traditional demographics and relatively static communities. The challenge for CSPs will be to increase value to traditional communities while offering the agility and flexibility to address dynamic communities that constantly emerge, collapse and re-orientate themselves?

Extending the earlier example, CSPs could analyse Spotify users in much more depth, perhaps offering High Definition Audio for Premium Spotify users with discounted high quality headsets, or loyalty points towards concert tickets based on most listened tracks. The prevalence of MP3 and low quality audio generally is a deep cause of pain for this blogger - does anyone under 40 know how good music can actually sound!

Similarly, shared offers aimed at families could be enriched with parental control-type capabilities and ‘holiday special’ roaming discounts when analytics detect all members of the family are roaming in the same location.

There is also a tendency to focus the benefits of real-time on the consumer vertical. Sharing 3.0 must broaden its horizons to create value in other verticals. Communities around health care (high reliability remote health monitoring), smart metering and energy efficiency etc. will become increasingly important, representing new sources of growth for the agile and innovative CSP. Immediacy, transparency, and therefore real-time, will remain at the heart of these propositions.

Welcome to Sharing 3.0.