One of the terms that’s been emerging from service providers in the last year is ‘fail fast’ (but obviously not too often). Telecoms service providers have traditionally been terrified of failure. And with standard product development timescales of six to nine months with multi-million dollar price tags, you can see why. But now, with telcos being encouraged to be more ‘web scale’, one of the first things to go is the fear of failure. This sounds great on paper, but if the underlying BSS and OSS stacks still need three to six months to implement new products, then … well, you know the score.
One of the phrases I’ve seen been kicked around when talking about digital transformation is that platforms should support experience, engagement and enablement. You can add experimentation to the list. BSS has undergone massive changes in the last few years, and there’s a lot more changes coming down the line. Industry level projects like the TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture are examining how OSS/BSS stacks are changing to be ‘digital-ready’. Analyst firms like Analysys Mason have called the next evolution of BSS ‘digital business platforms’, and are mapping out what these new platforms look like. With microservices, APIs and an open architecture, and having AI driven customer engagement engines, digital business platforms are a million miles removed from the traditional closed-shop billing systems that have provided the foundation of telco BSSs for the last 25 years.
At a high level, the ‘Four Es’ of BSS transformation are:
Engagement: This covers functions that help service providers be more relevant to their customers. It can help sell more services through personalized, contextual real-time offers, as well as offer automated and AI driven next best offers and notifications.
Experience: This covers AI-driven self-care/ digital journey management, omnichannel care and customer experience management, loyalty management, always best connected.
Enablement: This covers the business functions such as real-time charging, policy management, billing, digital mediation and offer management. As the name suggests, enablement is about building new functions, and in the IT stacks this contains a library of microservices to enable fast builds of new solutions.
Experimentation: Service providers want a sandbox as part of a digital business platform to try out new stuff like new business models, and to quickly build offers and use a combination of business rules with existing data to test the potential impact of new offers and ideas.
Sounds great … but there is a slight problem with getting existing BSSs to provide this ability to experiment. The change-request-driven cultures of some vendors means that changing the BSS to enable service providers to quickly try out new ideas is a major blocker to innovation. As for a fail fast/learn fast culture, if system changes require a six-month change with an exorbitant services bill, then it’s not just the time, but also the cost and overall risk that increases. This is hardly in the spirt of ‘fail fast’.
But as discussed, we are seeing a significant change in BSS. Open, API-driven architectures are enabling a plug-and-play approach to digital business platforms. This, along with pre-configured use cases, is driving a much faster approach to implementing digital business platforms, which is focused on quickly delivering value to the service provider. This evolutionary approach in delivering BSS is being picked up by digital-first sub brands. It’s also gaining traction with large service providers who have started large transformation projects. Implementing digital business platforms as a Plan B, to run in parallel to the legacy systems as they undergo their five-year digital overhaul, is providing the lower-risk way to get service providers digital ready. It also lets them continue with their large-scale BSS transformation project in the knowledge that all new digital offers can be built on the parallel system.
For more information, Openet has just published a white paper on this very topic. Check it out here.