Social networking pervades industry in 2011

At this time of year, there is no shortage of predictions on how 2011 will unfold and what we, as an industry, can expect. I am always amused by the pundits’ ‘crystal ball gazing’ and wonder why they put us through the agony of being wrong so often. I’m certainly not going to put anyone through that, but I have spent some time asking others what they realistically see coming in 2011.
 
My colleague, and head of our revenue management initiative, Steve Cotton, is certainly no dreamer and feels that as major world economies dig their way out of debt and spending holes, it will be better if CSPs are prepared to hitch their wagon to these recoveries rather than chasing growth with the hobbles of outmoded business models and management practices. He believes that heightened emphasis on data analytics to ensure customer satisfaction and to attract the right partners is the starting point.
 
Steve is a great believer in the use of best practices from Lean Value Stream Management to deliver the seamless customer experience necessary for achieving customer satisfaction, and adding high growth/high-margin new revenue streams is the heavy lifting management will have to embrace to reach the goal.
 
This ties in nicely with some announcements we will be making at Team Action Week in Paris this month with regard to the TM Forum’s BSS strategy, or should I say BSS/OSS integration strategy, but more on that in the next issue of this newsletter.
 
Of course, cloud services will continue to be on every CSP’s agenda as will monetizing bandwidth, providing more services to their customer base and working out how to live with the myriad of over-the-top (OTT) players using their networks but contributing little to their maintenance. Nothing new there, right? But there is another sector seeing massive and almost uncontrolled growth, and it is one that relies on the CSPs and their networks for their success and survival. Here I speak of social networking.
 
Towards the end of 2010, it was revealed that Facebook had generated more hits than the mighty Google! It seems that everyone is using Facebook for almost everything, and businesses are jumping on the social networking revolution hoping to benefit. If you can’t get the customers to come to your corporate website, then why not go to them?
 
 
Rich Harris, writing for ZDNet puts it best when he says, “if a customer wants to see what a company is actually doing and/or selling every day, they will go check out their Facebook pages and online communities to get the latest news, videos, photos, contests, events and more. Customers will be able to interact with real people from the company 24/7. As an everyday consumer, they may even get to have real influence on product roadmap decisions for a company by providing meaningful feedback and engaging with the brand (which is already happening).
 
2011 will be an era of Generation Z scoffing and shrugging and throwing their arms in the air if they have to go outside of Facebook to do anything. We may soon all expect that if a business is not bringing itself ‘to us’, then why the hell should we care?”
 
How scary is that? Well, those very same ‘social networkers’ are our customers as well, and we will have to learn how to address them, market to them and provide them with customer care that is likely to be equally ‘non-traditional’. These customers are averse to picking up a phone to call anyone and will want to be able to find answers via Twitter, Facebook or online, instantly.
 
As a result, I suspect we are seeing the end of the big CRM era. Forget those bulky, arduous, clunky, expensive legacy systems. CRM and customer care will move to the IP world this year. A browser-based query, some intelligence to help find the customer details and where they are present across the whole network and one view of all services presented in real time. Any changes then only need to be made directly to those systems that host the relevant data.
 
I’d better stop now. I’m starting to predict, and next I could be hallucinating! Who knows what disruptive technology will turn up? Nobody anticipated the effect the iPad would have on networks at the beginning of last year, and who knows what lies in wait to trip us up this year. Predictions aside, 2011 is definitely shaping to be a year of change. Will you be ready?
 
Tony Poulos is a BSS Evangelist at TM Forum
 
This article originally published in TM Forum’s Revenue Management newsletter

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