I have worked with telecom companies long enough to have participated in several cycles of next-gen transformations. Each change presented opportunities and contributed ‘golden nuggets’ to the communications service provider’s (CSP’s) business model, which enabled leaps in technology and operations once properly implemented and duly adopted. The latest such evolution is the virtualization of the network, and I prefer to look at this one in the bigger context of digital transformation affecting businesses of all types and sizes. According to David Rodgers of the Columbia Business School in his book The Digital Transformation Playbook, digital forces are reshaping five key business strategy domains: Customers, Competition, Data, Innovation, and Value.
These domains all impact the operations support systems and business support systems (OSS/BSS) and must be considered as CSPs develop strategies that will get them ahead of the digital wave sweeping the world of business. Questions such as examining the extent of impact on each domain, how to go about the transformation, what will need to change, and when it should all be done, constitute pondering, deliberations, and lively debates in the industry.
Going back to network virtualization, this network technology evolution will occur gradually as CSPs move from proprietary hardware running proprietary software and firmware, to software-based and often open-source implementations of network functions running on general-purpose compute resources in a provider-owned data center or in the public or private cloud.
The resulting complexity for OSS/BSS is not so much due to the ‘new technology’ which may simply be managed by yet another silo promulgated by the mushrooming solutions targeting the SDN/NFV space. Rather, in order to fully realize the value of this latest transformation, the new virtualized network functions must coexist and supplement the legacy networks and various iterations of next-gen that had been deployed over the last several years. This requirement is at the core of the real challenge for OSS/BSS to support, manage, and monetize all the network assets, old and new; virtual, logical, or physical.
Every previous network evolution added more complexity to the OSS/BSS. Some providers opted to create additional system silos for the new technologies, and others undertook big bang transformation programs. However, while the number of systems grew linearly, experience shows the complexity and direct and indirect costs of operations increased exponentially.
The forces confronting industry as a result of digital transformation are compelling CSPs to seize the opportunity presented by virtualization, and use this latest network transformation to propel their business toward the digital future. In order to do so, the OSS/BSS ‘engines’ powering the CSPs must be reimagined to achieve higher business value, drive innovation, and enhance customer experience. This would also allow incumbents to combat the competition from adjacent or yet to be discovered quarters. In addition, as network virtualization is a ‘native’ digital technology, it is exposing the severe shortcomings of legacy OSS/BSS implementations, such as the lack of agility, missing functional service-oriented integration, limited or closed APIs, and fragmented data models.
Given the compounded complexity of existing OSS/BSS, where does one start this journey of transformation? In my ongoing discussions with telecom giants the world over, I often advocate a few simple approaches that can aid in developing an effective transformation program and that must address the four dimensions of process, data, applications, and people.
To find out more, attend our webinar on Rebuilding OSS for NFV and the Digital Era. We will have James Crawshaw, a Senior Analyst with Heavy Reading, and Mounir Merhi, OSS Segment Head from TCS discussing some strategies for successful and effective OSS/BSS transformations. Click here to register.