Telecommunication companies across the globe, up until late 90s, have largely operated as network oriented set-ups with disintegrated and at times non-existent business and operations IT support systems. Starting early 2000, there was a focused shift towards major technology investments in packaged CRM, Billing (BSS) and Order Manager (OSS) systems in telecommunication companies. These investments were necessitated largely because of expanding product lines and emergent telecom technologies. Most of these packaged BSS-OSS technologies were bought, designed and implemented on-premise. This was a welcome move as integrated BSS-OSS-Network is extremely core to the existence of any modern day telecom operator. However, BSS-OSS implementations so far have been highly technology centric with below features in common (up until the start of this decade and prevalent still specially in developing marketplaces):
Complex product structures with limited/negligible differentiation between commercial and service offers.
Hard coupling of design and systems.
Extremely long C2M (concept to market) cycles.
Maze of entitlements, thresholds and value added services often charged as different price points. This is probably seen as a revenue enhancer strategy keeping product managers busy, however one has to be mindful of the costs involved in managing order fulfilment/ and billing issues associated with these services.
Service disruption/outages owing to IT (not network) - yes, disintegrated IT systems can do enough to initiate disconnection timely but fail to trigger reconnection on time.
Extremely long lead time to deliver a relatively small change often because of hardly coupled upstream/downstream systems.
Telecom business and operations support systems have been evolving, systemically changing the role, architecture and overall placement of IT systems in telecommunications. In the very recent years, thanks to customer centricity, there has been a re-look into BSS-OSS design & implementations for telecommunications. It would be fair to state that conventional technology centric BSS-OSS is becoming more and more customer centric. Overall, majority of telecommunications players (at least in developed markets) are revamping their IT strategy to align with below imperatives.
Modular plans with a clear demarcation of a service vis-à-vis commercial offer.
Loose coupling of design and systems - doing just enough to link but avoid hard dependencies. Rightly thought through designs (especially during foundational releases) help in containing consequential impacts; makes it simpler and cheaper to deploy improvements/changes. In my previous project, to integrate a CRM system with external API to enhance basic customer delivery options, it actually eventuated into changes across 15+ systems across BSS-OSS (most of them consequential regression impacts).
Reduced Concept to Market cycle. This has been an explicit ask not only in Telcos but across industries. Product managers do not have the liberty to wait out a year to deploy a new product offer or launch a new product category.
Simple plans with unlimited entitlements (all things included) - this is a very exiting trend. Unlimited voice and text is extremely common. For a single price point, we often also see unlimited internet and so on and so forth. This in itself reduces a lot of overheads associated with maintenance and fulfilment of n-combinations of offers/services. With a single price point for unlimited entitlements, there is effectively no bill shock, no usage traction needed and no billing issues.
Eliminate any IT specific service disruption/outages - Deploy fully integrated (easy to integrate) solutions especially for critical scenarios (customer re-location, transition etc.) mitigating the probability of such incidents.
Shift towards cloud technologies is vital to realize these imperatives. While on-premise solutions have helped in establishing the relevance of BSS-OSS systems, these solutions have also introduced high entry/exit barriers and created 'non-core' tasks/operations for a Telco to manage. For a modern day Telco, short lead time to market, agility to deliver, and managing network (not IT systems) are more critical objectives and hence the move towards cloud is becoming more pertinent. At the outset, below are some (not exhaustive) of the critical success factors for cloud:
Low entry barriers - just pay for licences and commence use; eliminating unnecessary lead time for planning set-ups.
Outsourcing non-core tasks - no need to maintain captive data centres.
Shorter lead times to deliver - changes can be quickly designed and implemented in truly agile manner.
Reduced concept to market - cloud solutions are better fit for simpler and modular products, light weight designs etc.
Adaptive and easy to integrate - cloud solutions are extremely adaptive; easy to integrate using APIs and micro-services. These integrations are re-usable, scalable and much easier to change/deploy.
A case in hand would be comparison of on-premise CRM vis-à-vis on-cloud CRM system in lieu of the newer imperatives. Siebel ecommunications is probably one of the largest implemented on-premise CRM system in telecommunications industry. While no one can argue on the functional depth of this CRM system, however given the new world order (new imperatives), telecommunication players probably don't need most of its functionality. A cloud CRM system, on the other hand, could easily help deliver customer service and order management functionalities for simple modular products much more effectively and efficiently. With renewed focus on light weight design, unnecessary functions and excessive data capture/information processing can be avoided. A lot of time and efforts indeed gets saved in a cloud implementation - configure over code, direct check-ins, integrate using APIs and test/validate alongside build.
There has been a conscious shift by almost all leading BSS-OSS product companies to move towards cloud. Even the heavy weight order managers and billers are now available on-cloud; in fact cloud packaged offerings are much more optimized compared to on-premise packaged offerings. This presents a fantastic opportunity for telecommunications players to use cloud technologies as a mean to align with their new imperatives, and continue focussing on what really matters the most - 'Network'. All leading telecom and broadband operators globally are majorly measured on their network roll-out and customer reach, which ultimately are the critical factors to manage and enhance customer experience perpetually. Cloud solutions can truly become enablers for these operators. Having exclusively worked for Telcos in the last few years, I am witnessing this shift. Almost, all operators (developed marketplaces) have embarked upon cloud implementations in part or wholly.
It is also interesting to note that new operators and MVNO (mobile virtual network operators) would find it much easier to adopt cloud. Entry barriers are pretty low for new operators/MVNOs. Large enterprise operators would perhaps find it more challenging to switch to cloud primarily owing to large captive legacy on-premise systems.
While cloud shift presents an opportunity, it is not fully off the hook as yet. As cloud adopters, one needs to be aware, constantly examine and challenge cloud security, storage, licensing costs etc. to ensure sustainable long term benefits.