The need to evolve

We know that today's telecom service providers are facing unprecedented change. There is a plethora of new services arriving by the minute and customers are more than willing and able to switch service provider at the drop of a hat. 


However, the majority of the new services on offer are disconnected from other existing services and most are offered in isolation. These disjointed services are made available to the whole consumer market without focus because service providers actually know very little of the consumers, their interests and habits, even though they have a unique billing relationship with each and every one.


Today, the majority of intelligent consumer data is simply thrown away at the end of the billing period and not used to future business advantage. Some providers are realizing that, unless they connect the dots for the consumer and offer full end-to-end service delivery and support, they will be relegated to being carriers or bits pipes only.


The more enlightened providers can see that if they offer both a rich set of services and superior end-to-end support and customer care, they can fight the turning tide of declining revenue and win the consumers' respect and longer-term custom.


There has been much talk recently of the need to understand and monitor next-generation events as they take place, to charge the consumer and then appropriately share that revenue with the whole value chain.


These are significant and critically important issues and areas of BSS functionality that need to be addressed in an error-free and auditable fashion. We are all aware that the value chain is expanding and growing ever more complex for telecom service providers.


However, we must also consider how these new services and their delivery impact the consumer and the service providers delivering them. When the customer has a problem or complaint, who is really responsible‾  Does responsibility translate to accountability‾  Does accountability translate to the real ability to affect change‾ If there is a billing enquiry from the consumer, who has authority to answer or to make changes if a refund is required, for example‾  


With the loosely integrated systems and even less integrated business processes, you would want to contact the help desk with a significant level of trepidation. 


The service delivery systems used by the telecom providers are evolving to address the technical issues of interoperability and data/information exchange.


However, we are now at the point where a wholesale change of both business systems and processes is required to ensure that both customer needs are met while simultaneously delivering profit to the shareholders. 


Slow evolution and individual system upgrades will not lead to success. It will only lead to a painful and slow demise for many service providers. Service providers need to reconsider the whole of their business strategies or they could be left behind.  


We are no longer a business sector focused on technology and the next new technological innovation. Our industry has matured into a commercial, consumer-orientated, market-driven business with true competition, where systems and processes all need to be geared to deliver competitive customer value, while sustaining and growing business value.


The simple change or upgrade of one system or process is not enough. A major re-think of the interaction between billing, revenue management, financials, customer relationship and business analytics must take place.


It is also important to consider what data is actually visible to different business processes as they occur. For example, consider the power of a CSR who is given access to the partner service data, including real-time service status, complete with intellectual property contract knowledge. Reducing the delays in the order-to-cash or event-to-cash process for both the consumer and the value chain providers is critical to tomorrow's success. 


Automating the errors and processes of today is not a long-term solution.  Radically reconsidering the interactions and critical business performances of the whole is the only way forward. 


Our telecom world is at the point of change. The business partners for service providers are growing exponentially, competition is arriving from multiple directions, and the customer is very much on the driver's seat. We must re-think our systems, our processes and how we do business.


Billing and revenue management will always be mission critical, but moving forward, it is these same functions that will enable us to monetize the new service offerings and maximize the true value of the fast-growing digital assets that new parties are bringing to the table.


This transformation will be a long, hard journey. But let us ensure that we chart our course carefully to deliver the true objective and not be distracted en route by technological short-term wizardry.


Graham Carey is director of product marketing at Oracle