Dave Labuda, Founder, CEO & CTO, of MATRIXX takes a robust look at BSS transformation.
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Homem Velho e seu Neto, c1480
An Old Man and his Grandson
It’s time to reassess the hype, mainly led by traditional BSS suppliers, that transformation of the BSS stack is an exercise of cutting and pasting legacy components with newer versions.
The classic BSS stack - pushed by classic BSS vendors - contains very little that is now of long-term strategic importance to the service provider, as they shift their business from voice to digital services.
Let’s not be confused or distracted by arguments that we need to maintain archaic and complex voice mediation, rating and billing systems in a world that is rapidly becoming fully data and IP-based.
Sure, we will be handling traditional voice for some time yet, but does it make economic sense to replicate what we already have with some hybrid systems that have simply been re-tooled to manage the new digital services? Surely the time has come to get strategic about planning for a fully digital future and rethink the way business systems fundamentally need to work.
The much-vaunted real-time argument is a major driver – but it’s not real-time in itself. The traditional communications service provider (CSP) lives with the constant threat of becoming simply a carrier of other parties’ traffic – the dreaded ‘dumb pipe.’
Yet over the last six years there have been major advances in device technology that have been instrumental in driving similarly major advances in network technology.
These step changes have put in place two of the three key elements required for digital service providers to thrive and avoid becoming brand-less, faceless, ‘access-only’ providers. The third piece of the jigsaw is IT and what we still call BSS – the question is: for how long?
Have there been any major advances in BSS to speak of? We’ve virtualized a few components and put things in the cloud – important optimizations for sure, but not step-changes. The pundits argue that there must be innovation at the IT layer before meaningful transformation can occur. The IT infrastructure of the CSP must also change, not just the applications in the stack.
Why? Well, mainly because their competitors (and they are coming from all sides) are getting to market very quickly with less complex, streamlined, modern IT infrastructure enabling them to launch new features, propositions and services remarkably quickly, and consequently grabbing millions of customers per month.
These companies are not mired in the complexity of traditional telco BSS environments, and recognize that they don’t need, or even want, to put a traditional BSS stack in place. They also have much lower operational overheads and can offer their own products along with third-party margin-based products through online channels and integrated service platforms. The basic app-store model is a prime example of this ‘new world’ thinking.
So how is a soup-to-nuts BSS re-implementation of existing applications going to compete with that? We don’t think it is.
In our view, there are a set of strategic functions that digital service providers should focus on building out over time to create the agile IT infrastructure they need to bring their businesses online – I like to refer to this as the Interactive Digital Ecosystem (IDE).
It is a set of real-time functions and applications that are strategically focused on the shift to digital services. It’s not a big bang scenario, rather it’s incremental.
These functions are tightly integrated but not necessarily provided by a single vendor. Modern, open architectures that don’t depend on customization, instead using standards and web service integration layers will dominate.
You may ask what does this look like from an IT standpoint? And that is exactly what I will explore in my next post.
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Portrait of Jimi Hendrix,
oil on canvas,
by the Swedish artist Tommy Tallstig