The previous decade has seen 'real-time' mature from a prepaid charging technology to a powerful driver of customer experience and value across multiple segments; prepaid, postpaid, consumer and increasingly enterprise businesses. Challenged by customers' expectations of 'internet' levels of speed, innovation and personalization, CSPs are deploying real-time capabilities at the heart of charging, policy, analytics and customer interaction.
The customer is definitely benefiting through pricing innovation, improved transparency and cost control. But it all feels a bit incremental. Don't accelerate the real-time speedboat too hard and all is well. But hit the gas and...well…where's all that power going, all noise and no acceleration?
Maybe it has something to do with all those ‘buckets’ tied behind the boat?
Start with the billing bucket. For decades, a CSP’s billing system was at the heart of the customer experience and as such was considered to be a crucial strategic component. For voice and messaging services, the opportunities for innovation were limited, so pricing, discounting and bundling were center stage - all under the control of 'big billing'. Those days are over.
The billing experience needs to be simple, transparent and predictable but it no longer qualifies as the principal driver of customer experience or differentiation. In other words it's no longer strategic - it's a different class of asset and the expectations for cost and return must be adjusted accordingly. Traditional approaches to billing are expensive and can be extraordinarily complex and expensive to maintain and evolve. Such cost and complexity can no longer be justified for a non-strategic function.
Real-time charging systems track spend and usage and provide the APIs required for customers to control and view usage and spend online - at any time, from any location, via any device. Integrate real-time charging with a payment gateway or service provider and settlement is taken care of. Snip…feel the acceleration…
The next bucket is provisioning and general systems complexity. Designing and provisioning a new service on a real-time charging or policy solution in days or even hours is essentially worthless if it takes three months to build the service across other OSS and BSS systems. Collateral damage from a new service proposition can be horrendous. Many innocent systems start drowning.
So, better run a daily consistency check to make sure data stays in synch; a kilobyte on system A is 1000 bytes but it's 1024 bytes on system B; new purchases are updated immediately on the real-time charging and policy systems, but batch system X only gets updated each month so the customer receives conflicting information! Provisioning and data complexity is a bucket with some nasty properties when it comes to creating drag on innovation and service velocity.
Real-time does not exist in isolation - don't throw a bucket behind the boat by missing the opportunity to simplify integration and data design as part of a coherent real-time evolution plan. Snip…the roar of the wind…(to be continued)