BSS transformation as we know it is over – bold statement or fact of life? It’s time to reassess the hype, mainly led by traditional BSS suppliers, that transformation of the BSS stack is an exercise of cutting and pasting legacy components with newer versions.
This is primarily because the classic BSS stack - pushed by classic BSS vendors - contains very little that is now strategic to the service provider as they shift their business from voice to digital services.
Let’s not be confused by arguments that we need to maintain archaic and complex voice mediation, rating and billing systems in a world that is becoming fully data- and IP-based.
Sure, we will be handling traditional voice for some time yet, but does it make economic sense to replicate what we already have with some hybrid systems that have been re-tooled to manage the new digital services? Or is it time to get strategic and plan for a fully digital future – and a radical rethink of the way business systems need to work.
The much-vaunted real-time argument is a major driver – but it’s not real-time in itself. The traditional communications service provider (CSP) lives with the constant threat of becoming simply a carrier of other parties’ traffic – the battered ‘fat, dumb pipe.’ Yet over the last six years there have been major advances in device technology that have been instrumental in driving similarly major advances in network technology.
These step changes have put in place two of the three pieces required for digital service providers to thrive and avoid becoming brand-less, faceless ‘access-only’ providers. The third piece is IT and what we still call BSS, but for how long?
Have there been any major advances in IT to speak of? We’ve virtualized and put things in the cloud – important optimizations for sure, but not step-changes. The pundits argue that there must be innovation at the IT layer before meaningful transformation can occur. The IT infrastructure of the CSP must also change, not just the applications in the stack.
Why? Well, mainly because their competitors (and they are coming from all sides) are getting to market very quickly with less complex, streamlined, modern IT infrastructure enabling them to launch new features, propositions and services remarkably quickly, and consequently grabbing millions of customers per month.
They are not mired in the complexity of traditional Telco BSS environments, and recognize that they don’t need, or even want, to put a traditional BSS stack in place. They have much lower operational overhead and can offer their own products along with third party margin-based products through online channels and integrated service platforms. The basic app-store model is a prime example of this ‘new world’ thinking.
So how is a soup-to-nuts BSS re-implementation of existing applications going to compete with that? We don’t think it is….in our view, there are a set of strategic functions that digital service providers should focus on building out over time to create the agile IT infrastructure they need to bring their businesses online. I like to refer to this as the Interactive Digital Ecosystem (IDE).
It is a set of real-time functions and applications that will be strategic for the shift to digital services. It’s not big bang, it’s incremental. These functions are tightly integrated but not necessarily from a single vendor. Modern, open architectures that don’t depend on customization, use standards, and have web service integration layers will dominate. But what does this look like from an IT standpoint? I’ll explore that in my next post.