Customer Experience – The Final Frontier

Posted: September 28th, 2011 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Events, Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Day one of a well-attended OSS-BSS World Summit in London, and the talk is all about customers. Networks, even handsets, are little mentioned, and bandwidth and bytes seem like yesterday’s unhealthy obsessions—the customer experience is now paramount, and henceforward, all shall be customer-centric.

Fine words and, many would argue, not before time—but what does it all mean in practise?

It could mean, as Charlie Hunter-Schyff, new media planning head of O2 demonstrated, applying analytics to location information to derive better-focused customer promotions. It could mean more sophisticated blending of policy control and charging functions to create a finer-tuned customer experience—an approach championed by Comptel. Less thrillingly, but perhaps more realistically, it could just mean, as indicated by Matthew Mason, director of billing and collections at Du in Dubai, and a compelling speaker, getting your act together in pretty much every department and making sure every process from order fulfillment through trouble ticketing to billing is as slick, faultless and efficient as it can be. That, after all, is what makes a customer perceive a company as excellent, and what makes customers stick around, spend money and even promote you to their friends. Perhaps this is the difference between having a customer-centric organisation and applying customer experience management (CEM).

What does it mean to software vendors? Really, it means that for any product or solution—not just CEM products—to be taken seriously, they need to be couched increasingly in the context of the customer experience. Does my fulfillment deliver a slicker, more faultless and trouble-free experience for my customer? Does my charging platform allow customers the payment options they appreciate? Is my policy control focused on the network or on my customers? Do all of these functions act together to allow me the holy grail of customer management, a ‘holistic’ customer view which pulls together customer information from CRM to HLR and lets me provide a wholly personalised service?

There is a compelling sense of real possibility around the customer, as Susan McNeice from Yankee Group observed in a speech at the end of the day. This feels like a real tipping point in industry attitudes and behaviour. Many communications service providers are genuinely and rightly excited by the prospect of turning to their advantage a customer understanding which would be the envy of most OTT players, and using it to create a value proposition for which the customer would be willing to pay a premium. They are sensing the possibilities—and now is the time for vendors to step up to the plate and demonstrate how they can be realised.

Are We Already Entering a New Era for Policy Control?

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , | 8 Comments »

Last week, Comptel attended and sponsored Informa’s Broadband Traffic Management conference at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London.

To judge from the numbers and the buzz, data traffic management is a very hot topic. This was the second outing for the Broadband Traffic Management show, and numbers had more or less doubled since last year, as the eyes of the industry increasingly turn to how the undoubted boom in data services can be turned into significant revenues.

In truth, the scope of presentations was a lot more than strictly traffic management; although a significant number of speakers examined purely engineering issues (with congestion in the Radio Access Network, a particularly hot button), while others (including Comptel’s Ihsen Fekih on Wednesday’s panel discussion) looked at the crossover between network and software solutions. The overall scope was much more about the balance of traffic, investment and revenue, or as Comptel puts it: balancing revenue, customer satisfaction and resources.

It was interesting that almost everyone is still starting from the same point. That familiar slide, which shows the cost of supporting traffic volumes diverging from anticipated revenues, has become more or less iconic (to the extent that you need only to see its shape to get the point), but it came up many times, usually accompanied by a wry smile on the part of the speaker.

But across the two days it was clear that emphasis is now on using the levers of control and charge much more to encourage and allow use than to deny access—not least because traffic patterns seem to be swinging dramatically away from peer-to-peer dominance and towards a more mass-market, consumer-oriented pattern of use dominated by Internet access and content download. The real pressure on networks is from video-based services (primarily YouTube) and streaming media from providers, such as the BBC and Netflix, used by a wide consumer demographic—not just teenagers exchanging illegal games, movies and music. This looks certain to accelerate with the increasing penetration of more powerful smartphones and highly portable tablet devices.

It could be that we’re already moving from Policy Control 1.0 to Policy Control 2.0 in a way which is almost philosophical. Where the first wave was dominated by the need to control (and indeed deter) the use of data services, the second is about taking a much more liberal approach which encourages data use but aims to flatten out peaks and troughs in demand, spreading usage more evenly across networks, geographies and timespans to allow a much better return on capital investment. A number of speakers indicated how solutions to traffic management are by no means all about smarter and cheaper engineering. Good business analytics are key to a better understanding of customer behavior, and can be used alongside levers, such as variable charging, usage control and targeted promotions, to shape usage and maximise return. Taken alongside a number of parallel approaches which are finding real economies in the engineering of data networks, it’s starting to look like gold could be buried in those mountains of data after all.

Are Cloud Services a Market for Telcos to Lose?

Posted: October 13th, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

At the Comptel User Group last week, a number of the communications industry’s issues du jour were offered to the delegates for roundtable discussion. Amongst the most popular was the topic of cloud services.

It’s a subject which has not exactly suffered from neglect this year, but nonetheless, it was interesting to hear it discussed between communications service providers (CSPs) and network specialists (such as Comptel partners IBM, Cisco and Alcatel Lucent)—people who have a real and pressing interest in how cloud will play out as a credible service for CSPs as well as a possible new revenue source for equipment and software suppliers.

The attention of the group was quickly caught by the question of how big an opportunity cloud could be for telcos.

There is little doubt that cloud services are going to be big and in great demand—the business case is easy to make, in terms of both cost savings and business flexibility. Furthermore network and virtualisation technologies are making cloud increasingly viable. This will continue with the roll out of 4G, which will make access to cloud-based services ubiquitous across fixed and mobile networks.

And no one questions that carriers have some real competitive advantages to exploit in the cloud services market, particularly through their command of the communications network and their influence and control over the quality of delivery.

So cloud services for telcos—it’s all good? Well maybe.

Our delegates raised an issue which we don’t believe has been widely discussed—exactly how evident are telco advantages to the addressable market? Telcos know the value of their technology, but to what extent is it a differentiator for the average customer? After all, it’s hard to value what you don’t understand. Are SMEs aware of the difference between ‘smart pipe’ and ‘dumb pipe’? Do they know (or care) how little influence the IT- or Internet-based provider can have over the quality of service (QoS)? Do they understand the difference that QoS will make to the reliability of their connection?

Telcos undoubtedly have great advantages in the provision of cloud services, but there’s still a lot of education to be done to sell those advantages to the market. Now, as we move out of the early-adopter phase, telcos must grab that all-important mindshare.

GTB 40 under 40 Summit: Is the Way Forward Dumb or Smart?

Posted: October 1st, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

London, September 27-28, 2010

Global Telecoms Business (GTB) hosted an invitation-only summit for 40 leading telecoms entrepreneurs under the age of 40 in 2010, drawn from operators and network, software and services suppliers (including Gareth Senior, Comptel’s CTO). Most nominees presented or participated in discussion panels. Around 35 of the 40 nominated executives attended; discussions were wide-ranging and provided an interesting barometer on the state of the industry.

The forty foresee a significantly changing role for telecoms, which unsurprisingly finds itself at yet another crossroads. What’s perhaps different—and encouraging—is that the industry is starting to look outwards rather than inward for its strategic direction, recognizing that telecoms will be less an ‘endpoint service’ but will increasingly play an enabling role inside other industries and in broader service eco-systems. Telecommunications could, for example:

–      provide monitoring and metering for advanced utilities, smart grids, fleets, road congestion management and so on;

–      be built into devices, or bundled with services (Amazon’s Kindle was often cited as a disruptive device), which could point to a similar approach with gaming and other single-or limited-use Internet devices; and

–      be at the heart of ‘vertical’ applications for business, government, public services and more.

Much was made of device connections overtaking person-to-person as a point of focus. ‘Fifty billion devices’ currently seems to be the industry’s most quoted statistic, projecting the number of devices which will be Internet-connected by 2020. By comparison, the industry has just crossed the five billion mark for connected humans. No one is prepared to make confident predictions about exactly what will result from all of this connectivity (and in particular, where the new revenue will come from), but it seems fair to say that some interesting business-to-business dynamics are likely to emerge over the next few years. The outlook for telecoms may be cloudy, but it’s far from dull.

At the same time as looking for innovation, there is evidence of real focus on ‘the plumbing’, or optimising networks for the most efficient use per subscriber, service or device, largely to disconnect ever-growing traffic volumes from the costs to which they are very closely aligned today. Nominees expressed confidence in the power of more adaptable, resilient, software-driven networks to make the network more cost-effective and scalable for future services. This was reinforced by the GSMA, which believes the capacity crunch can be overcome through a combination of:

–      Effective, variable pricing—particularly tiered- and QoS-based,

–      Spectral efficiencies,

–      New 200 and 800 MHz spectrum—and the refarmed 900 and 1800 MHz range,

–      General expansion and greater sharing of networks,

–      Traffic offload through Wi-Fi and femtocells, and

–      Better traffic management—using caching and compression techniques at the network edge.

If there was a single recurring theme, it was the question of ‘smart pipe vs. dumb pipe’. Most of the 40 are predicting some flavour of smart pipe—exploiting the capabilities of advanced networks to create sophisticated and differentiated communications services—but shading into a more enlightened approach to content than just ‘becoming a media company’. This could perhaps be best described as ‘smart business’, founded on network capabilities but selling content where real advantages exist (e.g. in location services or QoS dependency). A significant number still argue for a much closer focus on the network, however, tending towards a highly efficient ‘dumb pipe’, focusing on the wholesale provision of network services to other service providers and industries.

In the end, the most compelling analysis for me is one that looks at the argument in a less ‘polar’ way than ‘dumb vs smart’ would suggest, instead considering networks-into-content as a spectrum of value, with opportunities to capture varying lengths of the value chain depending on market position, market context and technology or business advantages.  Nothing new here? To judge from this conference, what’s new is a much more realistic weighing up of those factors than we’ve seen in recent years, which should help the market open up realistic new business and resist some very real challenges from rising Internet competitors.

These are themes that will no doubt be explored further at Comptel’s upcoming Comptel User Group (CUG) next week—watch this space.

OSS/BSS World Summit in London, 8-9 September

Posted: September 10th, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

This week, OSS/BSS World hosted a conference in the Park Lane Hotel, London. I went along for Comptel, and here, pretty much as I wrote them, are my notes from the two days.

Overall Thoughts

Well-attended and heavily-sponsored conference, indicating that OSS and BSS are still hot topics in the industry. Good mix of operators, SIs and many hardware and software vendors. Full agenda (somewhat weighted to the BSS side ) with speakers limited to 20- or 25-minute slots for presentations and questions—an increasingly common (and welcome) approach at conferences. Contributions from the floor seemed to me to be relatively few; after the first three keynote presentations, there had been no questions at all. Perhaps we’re at a stage where everyone understands the big themes and is really looking for solid, proven business cases and answers. I suspect that the audience may have been looking for validation of ideas that are already well-grounded about future developments in the industry; if so, they are not likely to have been disappointed.


Common themes which prevailed across the two days included:

  • Customer experience, and focusing on the key points of customer interaction (referenced by Lois Kraus of AT&T as LB-GUPS, or Learn, Buy, Get, Use, Pay, Service, an acronym which even she didn’t seem very keen on). The frequency of new service rollout is making it harder than ever to keep on top of the customer experience. Customer data (and understanding) was regularly referenced as a key differentiator for telcos and potentially a secondary asset which could be exploited more effectively in relationships with partners. Customer retention strategy was acknowledged as more important than acquisition strategy by Emtel of Mauritius.
  • Cloud services: many of the questions which arose were of the ‘what difference will Cloud make to this?’ variety. From the platform, the general take was that Cloud was a different world—with great revenue potential but also putting very different demands on carriers. George Nazi of BT Group (President, 21CN, Global Networks and Computing Infrastructure) believed carriers saw it as their ‘single biggest strategic challenge’ but was bullish about its potential and viability. AT&T, when asked about whether its OSS/BSS platform (developed to be universal for all services) would support Cloud, stated that yes, initially it would be used, but later expressed doubt that that approach would be sustainable and suspected that the Cloud business would eventually need its own support. The idea of using Cloud services to support their own businesses (using remote infrastructure and storage as a service, for example) is already prevalent among new ’agile’ communications players.
  • Services environment complexity and how it should be handled. Convergence, transformation and consolidation were regularly referenced, as were issues around legacy IT and services and the challenges of migrating these to new platforms (it seems that some problems will always be with us). ‘Transformation’, in particular, was addressed almost as a desirable end in its own right by several speakers (particularly those with SI interests) although the nature and objectives of any transformation could naturally vary greatly. HP cited consolidation and cost reduction, customer experience improvement and the shift to new business models as common objectives of transformation exercises. At a higher level, ‘transformation’ was positioned as a key enabler of an almost philosophical shift in the business—from ‘technology to business’ (look out for T2B as an emerging acronym) and from ‘survive to thrive’. SDPs continue to be popular as a means to open up the service environment to third-party providers and developers. Telefonica are vigorous proponents of this approach and claim to have reduced service rollout time from 6-12 months to 6-12 weeks (quoted by Capgemini).
  • Revenue challenges, particularly arising from the ‘data crunch’. The end of flat-rate charging was regularly cited but with few firm theories about how variable charging would play. Orga recited what is fast becoming the industry mantra on real-time charging and policy control as the twin levers of power.
  • Machine-to-machine communications and other plays on connected devices, though with little firm opinion of the impact of this on carriers. This was part of a broader theme, however, that ‘communications services’ weren’t dead, that we would see interesting things emerge in the next few years (from the interconnection of devices, in particular) and that carriers, as masters of networks and conmmunications, had a big part to play in the transformation of society which this would drive. As Paulo Collela of Ericsson opined, CSPs should not resign themselves to just being enablers for new players, but should look for ways to be significant agents of change themselves. On day two, Sanjay Mewada of Netcracker spoke on the value of machine-to-machine communications, valuing this as already a $14 billion business—but significantly, he included handset-to-machine transactions, or mobile payments, in his definition of M2M.

New Business Models? What New Business Models? Part II

Posted: September 6th, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Part Two

In my previous post I discussed some ideas that were stimulated by a UK business news piece on Tune hotels.

The second piece in that bulletin concerned Hamleys, the biggest toyshop in London, and arguably one of the most famous in the world. The CEO was being interviewed about the impact of the recession on the store, which doesn’t discount its items. Wasn’t the recession driving their customers elsewhere, asked the interviewer – to go online, for instance, or to visit “stack-‘em-high, sell-‘em-cheap” out-of-town retailers, like Toys‘R’Us?

No, he replied, that hadn’t been their experience, and nor had they been forced into price wars with low-cost rivals.

What kept people coming to Hamleys, he said, was the unique experience that the store could offer, and the company had focused even harder on that. Rivals had a lower cost base and could always beat them on price, even on stock and range, but they couldn’t match the experience of visiting the biggest toyshop in the world, right in the middle of London and all the fun that went with that.

Again this is something that we seem only slowly to be coming to terms with in telecoms: that price doesn’t keep customers loyal – there’s always someone cheaper, and over time the price differentials get smaller and smaller. Nor does technology and products – any new product is quickly matched by rivals, particularly in these digital times, and rarely justifies switching.

What really differentiates a telco – or any other company – is the customer experience.  This is slower and harder to develop, for sure, but is also much harder to imitate, which in the long term makes it a much more effective way of generating customer loyalty and spend.

The telco’s interactions with its customers, at critical points in the customer lifecycle, are likely to be much more influential on their loyalty and their inclination to spend than a discount of a few percentage points. As a customer, how I feel about my telco is more likely to be influenced by how fast and how accurately my new handset or DSL line was delivered, whether it worked first time, how quickly customer service responded to my query, whether they knew what products I had and how I used them, whether they offered me an upgrade to a new handset without me having to ask… by any one of dozens of possible interactions where the telco has a chance to impress – or disappoint me.

So what did I take away from listening to these pieces?

Telecommunications is an increasingly open and competitive business – telcos compete not just with other telcos but with many other providers of apps, content and services. Utility-oriented business models and supporting systems won’t cut it any more.

New business models are needed if telcos are to be competitive in this new world, but maybe there’s less to fear than the industry sometimes seems to think, as whatever issues we’re struggling with, other sectors have often been there already and have found ways to be highly successful. In processes and systems there’s a lot we can learn, and maybe copy, from the wider economy.

New Business Models? What New Business Models? Part I

Posted: September 1st, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

At Comptel we spend a lot of time talking about the ‘new business models’ that telcos are adopting to face a new generation of communications, and how these are likely to affect their OSS and BSS. But listening to the UK business news this morning made me wonder how many of our challenges are actually new, or unique to the telecoms industry.

This two part series will look at some surprising similarities between the business challenges under discussion and some key issues of the day in telecoms.

The first piece concerned Tune hotels, a chain that offers ‘5* hotels at 1* prices’.  Tune has just brought its proposition to London. It consists of a basic room with a shower for a low, low price – averaging around £40 to £50 for a double room. Though you’ll pay more at weekends and other busy times, these prices are pretty good for London, where a single room in a 3* hotel would typically set you back over £100.

The rooms look clean and decent, but for your money, that’s pretty much all you get – a room. Anything extra is, well, extra – and not just breakfast. You want aircon? There’s a charge. TV or WiFi? Ditto. Towels? Toileteries? They don’t come for free either.

So it’s the budget airline model. You can keep it cheap if you’re determined and self-sufficient, but most people won’t and will rack up the bill with those many extras.

Listening to this, I couldn’t help thinking about the very similar issues we face in telecoms – in particular, how to attract and retain the customer in a competitive market, while at the same time turning a profit on our costly investments.

This seemed like a great example of a service that did all that. Customers can genuinely personalise and tailor it to their own needs and preferences, so they feel like they’re getting a good deal, a good service and that they’re in charge of their spending. Most importantly, it allows Tune to offer a great headline price while still turning a profit and to fully exploit the resources at their disposal. So how do they work this magic?

Their business model requires a flexible tariff, with many individually priced components and rates that can be easily changed, in response to shifts in the market. It requires a customisable offering – so that they can easily add or change the items available to the customer. It needs to let the customer self-configure their service and see it fulfilled on demand with minimal human intervention (got to keep those costs down!). It needs to support payment in advance and in real time – and immediate charging for those extras that suddenly seem important when you’re in the room.

As with budget airlines, it also needs to recognise and balance demand for, and availability of, resources – or ‘rooms’ as they call them in the hotel business – and control and exploit those two forces, with charging that maximises return in peak times and occupancy in off-peak times – or what we in telecoms like to call Policy Control.

So Tune seem to be well down the road towards effective control and charging which can balance the often competing forces of supply and demand, availability and price, in a way which attracts customers and turns a tidy profit. Are the legacy chains of established, incumbent hotels looking over their shoulders at Tune? You can bet they are…

In the next post I’ll look at the other item that was covered in that bulletin – what Buzz Lightyear has to tell us about how you hang on to customers and business in recessionary times… Stay tuned.

When Innovation Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Posted: July 16th, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

My eyes were opened this week by my 15 year old daughter, who drew my attention to some of life’s realities. Shouldn’t that be my job?

She’s lobbying for a new mobile to replace the high-end Samsung which has kept her reasonably happy for most of the last year. My role in this process is pretty much to fund and supply, which I don’t mind too much—seeing the way she uses mobile technology is a pretty good way of keeping in touch with what really matters to ‘civilians’ rather than we occupants of the industry’s ivory towers.

And so it proved on this occasion, as my expectations were once again overturned. I assumed that as a long-term iPod user and Apple fan, she’d be looking for an iPhone next. But no—she wants a BlackBerry.

A BlackBerry? The device of choice for the business fraternity—at least until the iPhone supplanted it in the affections of the leading-edge road warrior?

“You don’t want a BlackBerry,” I said and went on to list the many reasons why a BlackBerry was simply the wrong choice for her particular demographic. “No,” she said simply, “I want a BlackBerry”.

Here’s why:

  • Everyone else has got one (and a quick survey of other parents would appear to confirm this). More to the point, everyone else is using BlackBerry IM (or BBM), and if you’re not, you’re out (folks, this is what we used to call ‘a killer app’).
  • It’s got a great Facebook app built in (the ‘killer app one-two’).
  • The keyboard is still unbeatable for text input (and if you think the iPhone is good for texting, go ask a cold-eyed, teenage power-user).
  • It’s got a decent camera.
  • It’s cheap—around €25 / month will get you a free and perfectly serviceable BlackBerry Curve, unlimited texts and IM, 500 MB of data and more calling minutes than the average teen will ever need.

In short, it works for her (the user), and it’s not so bad for me (the budget holder).

And the lessons to be learned from this? Certainly, it’s a reminder that the fundamental things still apply—offering your target market the means to communicate in the way they prefer at a great price is still a proposition that’s hard to beat, and whether by accident or design, RIM seems to have hit on that formula with the teen market. And while style and innovation will always catch the eye of early adopters with high disposable incomes, they often count for a lot less with the budget-constrained user.

Plus, what’s true for handsets probably tells us a lot about the rest of the industry too, including OSS vendors. In really competitive spaces, sometimes the best USP is doing the basic things right, consistently and at a good price. Bells and whistles, however much we love them, often count for an awful lot less with the prospective customer.

Conference Report: IIR Cloud Summit in London, 17-18 June

Posted: June 29th, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Going by column inches alone, Cloud services are one of 2010’s hottest topics around telecoms. At this show, the quality of delegates was certainly high, and there was plenty of engagement between the stage and the conference floor.

Few delegates or speakers disputed that Cloud services will be a big part of the business IT landscape, with a significant swing to the Cloud model over the next five to ten years. Few expect the change to be to be big bang, but as physical and logical components of the IT infrastructure are replaced over time, we should expect the question of whether those functions can be performed equally well (and more cheaply) in the Cloud to become increasingly standard.

Flexibility and cost-efficiencies remain the key drivers—highly attractive to many businesses for reasons which don’t require too much analysis. McKinsey calculates the average utilization of back-office infrastructure to be as little as between 15-30%—figures which correspond to a lot of very expensive kit sitting idly around for much of the day. Key words which came up with some regularity included ‘dynamic’, ‘fast’, ‘efficient’, ‘elastic’, ‘green’, ‘optimized’, ‘minimal commitment and planning requirement’…in principle, it seems that if you can make them fit your business model, there’s not much to not like about Cloud services.

Discussion was much more open on whether, and how, telcos would fit into the Cloud services landscape. Though there was strong consensus that Cloud services were a viable offering for telcos, delegates felt that they would need to choose their roles in the model with care and that Cloud would almost invariably be a partnership play, even for tier-zero carriers.

Telcos have many strengths to bring to the Cloud market, including the well-rehearsed brand trust, broad, accessible market and communications know-how. The telcos’ capability to support utility services, consumer and SME markets, and high-volume, back office processes was also regularly cited—major IT vendors may understand virtualization and IT management very well, but managing large- and mass-market propositions is something with which they are far less familiar. These basic telco strengths could prove significant in capturing SME and SMB market share.

Though it wasn’t an OSS-focused show, natural curiosity couldn’t be suppressed for long, and I asked several carrier representatives whether Cloud services created a compelling need to buy new OSS/BSS. While some felt that modern OSS/BSS should be flexible enough to handle the requirements of Cloud services—a view that Comptel would wholly subscribe to—many others anticipated that telco-oriented systems would be tested by IT-oriented services and processes. Interestingly, more than one saw OSS confusion as an even bigger challenge, suggesting that Cloud could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of consolidating multiple silos into a more rational platform.

As the show proceeded (and a certain amount of ‘Cloud fatigue’ began to set in—does any telco subject justify a conference of more than one day?), it was noticeable that ‘Cloud’ is as susceptible to scope creep as any other telco concept, seemingly able to accommodate an almost limitless series of service offerings—application hosting, IP communications, mobile Internet…even legacy voice was at one point described as a ‘Cloud service’. As far as some analysts are concerned, if it doesn’t live in a box in your building, it would seem you’re at liberty to call it ‘cloud’. However you define it though, Cloud doesn’t seem likely to evaporate any time soon.

Q&A: Gareth Senior on Comptel's Cloud Strategy

Posted: May 12th, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Behind the Scenes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Cloud services have the potential to create a whole new line of business for communications service providers (CSPs).  Technology advances, particularly in virtualization and remote communications, are making these new offerings ever more credible, and customers are increasingly intrigued by the potential not only to save costs but also to reduce risk and increase business flexibility.  Meanwhile, businesses and enterprises are looking beyond software as a service (SaaS) and evaluating the benefits of outsourcing substantial parts of their IT environment to the cloud.

But, cloud services are not all bright new dawn and silver lining.  Hear what CTO Gareth Senior has to say on the issues these offerings create and how Comptel is applying its OSS solutions to help CSPs cash in on the cloud.

Q: What challenges do CSPs need to overcome, not only to deliver cloud services efficiently—but also to make some profit from them?

A: Moving into cloud services is not just an incremental change to the CSPs’ portfolios; they bring real challenges. Cloud services have much more in common with IT services and outsourcing than traditional communications services, and customers will view their providers rather differently, too.  For example, enterprises will need demonstrable reassurance that the CSPs can deliver quality of service, performance, security and regulatory compliance.  And of course, since cost reduction is a big driver, they will be extremely price sensitive.  So in order to succeed, CSPs will need to deliver services at least as effectively as their customers could—and definitely more cost effectively.  A tough challenge!

Q: What impact does Comptel see the sale of cloud services having on OSS/BSS?

A: As the services to be delivered are different than traditional services, it will have an impact on traditional OSS/BSS.  Resource management is going to be more IT-orientated than network-focused.  Service management will have to take place in a distributed environment, with services being bundled together from different sources and likely to include communications elements and components from third parties.  In terms of charging for these services, variants on ‘pay as you go’, combined with ‘pay as you grow’ models, are likely, even in business and enterprise propositions.  All of this means that even so-called convergent OSS/BSS could struggle to handle cloud services.

Q: How does the Comptel Dynamic OSS portfolio support CSPs and their end-customers in ‘catching the cloud’?

A: Comptel believes that cloud service providers require a comprehensive ‘concept-to-cash’ and probably even dedicated platform that can handle this very different kind of business.  Comptel Dynamic OSS is well suited to this.  Our products let CSPs:

  • Catalog and manage cloud products and services;
  • Manage the resources needed to provide cloud-based services, from servers to communication lines, to applications and more;
  • Fulfill customer orders, using automated order management processes;
  • Monitor and respond to customer activity using pre-defined policy;
  • Collect usage information;
  • Rate and charge for usage and events; and
  • Provide customer and operational visibility of cloud environments.

Comptel is partaking in a number of cloud activities at Management World 2010 in Nice next week, and invites you to join in the industry-wide discussion on making cloud service possible and profitable.  Leave a comment or swing by the company’s tradeshow booth (#21)!