Editor's note: As service providers roll out next-generation networks and services, they need next-generation operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS) to go along with them. The introduction of more complex service offerings on multiple platforms, and the sheer volume of services rocketing across multiple carrier networks, means more complex revenue tracking, too.
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In this series, OSS expert Jeff Cotrupe looks at meeting next generation-network and service challenges with next-generation OSS/BSS. For more information on next-gen OSS/BSS, check out OSS service delivery platforms: New services launch pads, and Wireless OSS includes quality testing and location-based services. At the end of this article, check out Cotrupe's expert podcast, From NOCs to ROCs: Helping service providers monitor business operations, to listen to what it takes to establish a revenue operations center to track complex service revenue.
Not that long ago, whenever someone started crowing about "next-generation OSS," listeners could have been forgiven for wanting to administer truth serum or to try to decode what was really being said. Next-gen operations support systems (OSS) means managing IP networks. When you got right down to it, that's usually what was meant.
In other cases, the speaker was trying to use "next-gen OSS" to differentiate the glistening first fruits of his or her hot new software shop from "legacy systems," the old workhorse systems that had been chugging away for a decade or two in the back office.
To be sure, there was some truth to all of this. The rampant ramp-up of IP networks around the world calls for a new generation of support systems. In the old days, when the PSTN was as good as it got, circuit-switched networks ruled the day. To win the OSS game, you had to be able to pave the highway and prove you had a capable highway crew ready to be dispatched to the farthest mile markers to patch the road when potholes inevitably developed along the way.
In today's packet-switched, content-driven, multi-network, multi-technology world, you not only have to pave the highway, you have to manage the traffic that's screaming down that highway, ensuring that vehicles of every type flow smoothly to all destinations. That means supporting Voice over IP (VoIP), high-speed data, unified communications (UC), video, and an ever-growing lineup of digital media applications. Legacy systems were simply not equipped to keep up with the pace -- or to continue the auto analogy, if they were up to speed, they were built to recognize only one vehicle, while new ones rocketed past undetected and unmanaged.
Today's high-speed power users demand ever-more-cutting-edge communications services. And service providers shouldn't expect a hero's welcome or an ounce of slack for introducing each new service in record time. You must wrap at least five-nines of availability and comprehensive customer care around every call, text or download.
Tired of trying to keep up? No problem -- the next carrier invading your space, probably from overseas or maybe just from across town or across the broadband divide, will be happy to take your problems (and customers) off your hands.
Your mission as a surviving service provider is to leverage your assets to bring customer-winning products to market faster and better than your competitors at a price point that will keep customers "sticky." That's another way of saying: persuading them to stick around awhile.
Doing so means providing and maintaining ubiquitous connectivity and service delivery to a burgeoning lineup of consumer and business devices -- laptops, TVs, mobile handsets, PDAs, MP3/personal entertainment units -- each with an array of functions that grows with each new model introduction. Providers must enable users to mix, match and bundle services -- whether that includes voice, video, data, wireless, entertainment, hosting and messaging or premium/lifestyle content -- at home, at work or in transit, and be ready to receive orders however customers wish to place them.
Next-gen OSS addresses industry challenges
So how can next-gen OSS meet so many challenges on so many fronts? It can arm you with capabilities you may still see as "nice to haves" today but will learn to view as survival tools tomorrow:
You must wrap at least five-nines of availability and comprehensive customer care around every call, text or download.
- Service velocity: The ability to quickly deploy any service to any customer over any network over whatever device or interface he or she is using at that exact moment.
- Automated service fulfillment: This includes user self-service, which slashes both capex and opex. A zero-touch, flow-through environment with almost no human intervention fulfills users' need for speed and virtually eliminates day-to-day human error from the revenue chain.
- Competitive differentiation: In the coming age of IP ubiquity, soon virtually every competitor will be reaping the cost and flexibility advantages of a core IP network. But you can stand out by provisioning users and services rapidly and accurately, and giving them a greater hand in controlling their own services and features.
- A tax break: According to a number of industry observers, most notably the TeleManagement Forum, for every dollar spent on OSS software, another $1 to $5 are spent on "the integration tax," integrating software into existing environments. Properly implemented, next-gen OSS can slash integration costs; reduce capex by leveraging more commodity hardware and software; and reuse processes, architecture and components.
- Death sentence for software silos: Perhaps the best thing is that next-gen OSS can eliminate the time-dishonored OSS "silos" formed over the years in every service provider environment when the urgent need to bring services, network integration and management software deployments in on time trumped any concerns about integrating the rush project with surrounding systems in one's own department.
So while next-generation networks were writing checks that legacy OSSs couldn't cash, next-gen OSS can help service providers bank on a lucrative new generation of services. New service delivery platforms (SDPs) are the ground troops you'll need to put this bold strategy into action.
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About the author: Jeffrey Paul Cotrupe is the CEO of MarketPOWER, LLC. Cotrupe is a former practice leader at Gartner and director at ADC Telecommunications who helped relaunch an OSS/BSS research practice at RHK (now Ovum). Cotrupe has provided analyst services to Yankee Group and strategic consulting services to a variety of companies, relaunched companies and helped others win venture capital funding.