You Say You Want a Revolution?

July 01, 2014 by Dave Labuda

BSS is truly revolting. I don’t mean it’s ugly, although some might argue otherwise. I mean it will have to go through a period of serious upheaval if it’s going to deliver what is needed in today’s digital marketplace.

I know we have been talking about transformation for what seems like eons, but this has amounted to, in most cases, simply being a newer iteration of the same old systems - sometimes with improved processes. The telecoms industry, in particular, is coming to the realization that a whole new business model is needed to survive in the digital marketplace, let alone compete.

Historically, networks, IT and the business have operated in silos across different systems that don’t talk to each other and don’t even have the same view of the data. With smart devices and 4G networks, customer behavior is changing before our eyes. Consumer choice, immediacy and expectation drives the need for the business, IT and networks to work in a much more integrated fashion. So any new vision of BSS must support an infrastructure where these disparate processes and systems are brought together.

Consequently, any type of legacy application that supports part of this old way of working has likely been overly engineered for only one of these silos and will, over time, become less and less important to the overall IT environment we need to achieve.

It must be apparent by now that the customer is the center of the universe and not merely the concern of the business. Any failure to deliver quality service from any part of the operation will have a negative impact on the customer, and that has a habit of impacting the bottom line.

Historically, CSPs provided a limited number of services, with a low level of interaction with customers - at a high cost-to-serve. Acquisition occurred through a brick and mortar retail outlet. The only regular customer touch point was via a post-paid bill or a reminder to top up a prepaid account. And any other service issues or changes were handled by a high cost phone call to a CSR, supported by an unwieldy CRM system. But the likes of savvy OTT and digital service providers have turned that model on its head. When was the last time you called Amazon to purchase something or received a bill from Apple iTunes in the mail?

The conundrum at the core of the revolution

CSPs are becoming DSPs and therefore moving to where they need to supply a more diverse set of services and products. The concept of one big bundle that must be paid for up front is quickly unraveling as DSPs realize that this strategy does not enable them to drive value out of their LTE investments nor deliver perceived value to their customers. However, the app store or iTunes model is not sustainable or supportable within the existing infrastructure of selling primarily through physical retail stores, deploying massive call centers and depending on a monthly bill to communicate with the customer. To make the shift to Digital Service Provider, there must a much higher level of customer interaction at a much lower cost to serve. There lies the conundrum at the core of this revolution.

So what pieces of the classic BSS are truly revolting? The ones that don’t support a high-touch, low cost-to-serve model. More specifically, we think CRM, batch billing/invoicing, dunning/collections and mediation will go through the biggest revolution. Additionally, stand-alone solutions for roaming settlements and other partner management (wholesale, content partners, etc.), fraud analysis, churn analysis, and of course separate pre-paid systems will slowly become irrelevant. Many of these functions are becoming or will become outsourced and/or moved to a lightweight cloud replacement, or go away altogether.

The new Interactive Digital Ecosystem

The new Interactive Digital Ecosystem (IDE) that will eventually replace the old BSS silos and will have functions that include:

  • Single online product catalog and point of sale (POS) component;
  • One set of customer care functions that serve online, mobile app, and CSR requirements;
  • Partner enablement (API access to key business functions, multi-tenancy), and partner value distribution across roaming, wholesale, reseller, content, OTT, M2M partners;
  • Real-time policy, charging, and balance management;
  • Digital rights management (DRM), content management and delivery;
  • A single, dynamic set of customer profiles;
  • Online analytics and promotions/offer management

Fraud detection, revenue management and churn analysis will still occur but as part of the online analytics function rather than downstream after the fact.

Things like dunning will also occur inherently through policy management and notifications sent direct to one of the customer’s connected devices rather than being sent by ‘snail’ mail.

All of these functions, like the services they support, are real-time and serve the entire business. The IDE together with virtualized/software-based operational stacks will serve to bring the business, IT, and network organizations and systems together so that they are all working across a single real-time IT infrastructure.

The ultimate goal is to flip from a low-touch, high cost-to-serve environment to a high-touch, low cost-to-serve real-time infrastructure. Will an industry rooted in historic siloed divisions be able to handle the revolution or will it be challenged or even threatened by green field players that introduce IDE from day one?