As technology users rejoice in the emerging era of unlimited bandwidth, connected applications, devices and endpoints have made the “Internet of Everything” (IoE) almost a reality. The Communications and related IT industries are moving fast to implement the ideas developed in the labs in the real world, embracing SDN/NFV, 5G and other new media to create the backbone of the connected world and meet the technology and cost challenges involved in realizing the dream of the IoE.
From case studies readily available showing the enablement of more complex partner-based ecosystems, this evolution is already disrupting the existing business models of various services offered to the customer. Whether it’s telematics in cars creating data points for car manufacturers, or cable providers expanding business models to let internet sourced content into their once closed system of video delivery, the IoE has forced many providers to move quickly.
Disruptions created by digitization have not only introduced new players to the market, but have also created opportunities for customers to look beyond conventional ways of getting the services such as through web portals, mobile apps, etc.
Disruption in the traditional flow of offerings to the end customer is forcing the service provider community to innovate across its entire IT landscape, with increased transformational focuses on the who, where and what of content and service consumption, delivery models, monetization and customer experience across the lifecycle. If the overall customer experience remains fragmented, the revenue upside for the service is adversely affected. As such, the increasing importance of aligning service provider operations and business support systems to support this new ecosystem becomes a central issue. But where should an operator start and what is the eventual outcome of all this investment?
First and foremost, it’s clear that any service provider’s IT infrastructure should evolve in lock step with the networks as service providers embrace network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). The back office needs to be just as flexible and programmable as the network and have the ability to capture any chargeable event in real time. After all, if an operator can’t identify or process an event, then it can’t charge the customer for the service, which would lead to lost revenue.
Secondly, a service provider’s OSS and BSS infrastructure will also need to support many more complex, third-party billing relationships. This includes the ability to offer virtual networks functions from third parties, mobile operators enabling in app ordering and billing for third party applications, cable providers embracing partnerships with over-the-top (OTT) and digital service providers as well as other network operators, and undoubtedly others that will emerge over time. Service providers may already have a myriad of billing relationships with partners for wholesale, interconnect and roaming services, but these new business models will lead to more innovative engagements with even more ecosystem players.
Lastly, a carrier’s IT transformation should be integrated around a customer experience strategy that will evolve over time. As part of this, service providers will need to invest in new systems or integration points with existing systems and processes that support the following layers:
Device Management –management of all connected devices of the customer and support for the lifecycle of devices owned/leased by the customer as well as device connectivity management.
Security- of critical importance in a complex ecosystem, where customer security and privacy of customer information is configured, managed, interactions are kept secure and relevant data is encrypted.
Partner Orchestration and Management – where interaction with business processes of the partners take place. This includes the enablement of the partner, including end-to-end flow of partner orchestration and partner lifecycle management.
Event Orchestration – where events from the customers, partners and devices will be managed and policies set in place, for both offline and online events.
Enterprise Product Catalog Upgrade - since offerings will be composed of products and services from various partners, the catalog becomes an integrated part of the onboarding, pricing and lifecycle management of these newly complex services.
Billing and Rating – at the core of all monetization aspects, the service provider’s billing system will be required to support complex rating schemes, flexible pricing models, real time discounting, revenue sharing, and the ability to bill on behalf of the partner, if so required.
Customer Interaction Management - where customers will interact with the service provider in real time to review and order services, and present any queries where necessary.
Customer Management – where both customers and partners would leverage data from the customer profile, order or usage, including the management of customer information, customer services, device information, and any specific priorities.
Ultimately, the end goal of any back office transformation, whether tactically or strategically approached, is to make this new digital ecosystem model work more effectively, make new services available more quickly, decrease time to revenue and drive growth. For smaller content providers or digital service partners, the transformation at the service provider level should actually provide the ability to reach a broader audience more quickly. Service providers who embrace this transformation can and will reap the financial benefit as well as create a controlling position for themselves as a leader in the digital ecosystem. With this enablement comes the “go to” position for business partners looking to enhance their market position. Plus, every service delivery-based relationship becomes a revenue sharing relationship, increasing the top line revenues for the service provider.
What is the eventual outcome of this investment? It’s quite simple…control, at a time when many have written off the service providers as “dumb pipes.” The service provider that takes on the role of managing these increasingly complex processes in this new IoE era ends up in a formidable position. They become a driving force in centralizing the business processes, creating a repeatable framework for partner onboarding, service orchestration, security, revenue management and customer care. These frameworks can be solidified into more effective standards that help create a structured path for each of the above mentioned areas. Standardized processes make it easier to bring on new partners, and the service provider becoming the central point for service access makes them the primary choice of the end customer. In today’s complex IoE world, a controlling position is an enviable position, and something every service provider should be striving for.